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Vintage Fender Bassman 50 ?'s

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by brotherdoc, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. brotherdoc


    Oct 26, 2008
    Found this on Craigslist. I know they make a pretty good guitar amp, but how do these things do on bass? The price sound pretty sweet if it's the real deal and works. This is on my drive home from work.

    What's the experts here say?

    Fender Bassman 50 amp - $350
    Had it for the last 15 years or so but its from the 50's or 60's, works great. 50 watt tube amp "silver face" head with 2 x 15" speaker cabinet, original "Fender" speakers. the body is in fair shape but not perfect. Got it when i started playing bass, played guitar on it too, sounds great either way. Got a banjo now, dont need the amp anymore, wife says Im loud enough. Price is firm. Local pick-up only.
  2. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    By the time they called it the "Bassman 50", it wasn't a great (nor, in my opinion a very good) bass amp, nor a decent guitar amp. The revered Bassmans for guitarists are generally the old 4x10 tweed covered combo Bassmans from the '50s, and for to a lesser extent the black-faced piggy-back 45 watt heads from the '60s.

    The Bassman 50 had the power rating upped to 50 WRMS, still used a pair of 6L6 power tubes, but had a lot of changes in the other circuitry, especially the pre-amp that cleaned it up- exactly what guitarists don't want. These have the master volume control which SHOULD allow you to push the channel volume for some overdrive, but it's pretty lack luster.

    If the cabinet is the very shallow 2x15 that's about the same size as a modern 4x10 only not as deep (front-to-back) it's a particularly putrid sounding box for bass. The box just isn't big enough for a pair of 15" speakers. But the $350 price might make it more attractive. If you play pretty quiet gigs, you don't slap, and you like an old-style sound with a bit of mush instead of a precise attack, it might just be perfect for you. BUt, I was a Fender dealer from 1977 -1988 and I hated having to try to sell 'em.

  3. johnk_10

    johnk_10 vintage bass nut Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 16, 2008
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    John K Custom Basses
    IMO, for $350 for the head and cab, as long as it works properly. you can't go wrong. i have one of the small 2-15 cabs (4x10 size) loaded with NOS JBL K140's (but i'm powering it with a 200watt super twin head, and the amp and cab sound awesome.

    McCartney used a 50w silver faced bassman with the tall 2-15 cab on the 'let it be' recordings and i always thought it sounded cool. however, the 50w bassmans just don't have that much power or headroom that we've grown accustomed to with modern amps.

    2 cents..........
  4. poppinsmac


    Aug 10, 2007
    I totally disagree with JTE.
    My neighbour has a Bassman 50 with the 2x15 and it sounds fantastic. I would grab that up right away.
    But, it is only 50 watts and overdrives really quickly. I really do like the distortion it produces, but you can't get a clean sound at very high volumes.

    If it's on your way home, just go plug in and see. If it was me, I'd do it sooner or later.
    keyofnight likes this.
  5. When I returned to playing bass, from a 10 year hiatus, I picked up a Bassman, but a 100, not a 50. Played bass thru the guitar channel, using a outboard bass eq & compressor. It did ok, using a 2 x 15 with JBL K140's. Kept up with a rather loud classic rock band, the guitarist using a 100 watt Marshall stack. But I have since moved on. Today's amps, even 90's bass amps, are so much better...my Bassman 100 now occupies a place atop my 4 x12 guitar cab (I sold the 2 x 15, too big to lug around), and is seldom, if ever, used.

    For guitar, the Bassman is a loud, clean (very clean) amp. It does not give a Marshall growl when pushed, even with Celestions. Use of a Line 6 or other modern pre-amp will improve it's personality & usefullness in a modern setting.
  6. Beltdrive


    Jul 16, 2008
    I use a BF Fender Bassman combined with a Sansamp for practice and small gigs and it sounds great! When playing big shows I use a Crown power amp in a rack system for stage volume and mike my Bassman for tone. The Bassman not being a good bass amp is just not true, plus you can use it for a guitar amp when needed, try to do that with an ampeg or mark bass.
  7. esoxhntr

    esoxhntr Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2007
    Markham, Ontario
    If it works reasonably well, $350 is a good deal. The cab is not great, but if it's included what the h***. The bassman 50 is a good amp for classic tone on quiet gigs. I use mine on jazz gigs and for recording, and it works like a champ. Warning - the tone shaping is not the best on these, and most modern amps handle this way better. However they cannot produce the same tube warmth. Also, for best use as a bass amp, you will want to retube this thing, probably cost you about $100.
  8. jimbilly


    Apr 19, 2006
    "you will want to retube this thing" -not if it has good tubes in it, hell no. I had a '68 (silverface, silver trim) that I paid $250 for, it came with RCA greyplate 6L6GCs (they tested excellent and were a good match), USA RCA's everywhere else too, all good. Name a modern 6L6GC that's better than a '60s RCA. That's why God made tube testing equipment.
    If it works even moderately well, that is a very good deal. I used mine pretty often through a modern 8x10 cabinet, I thought it sounded really good. It didn't get very loud, but I really liked the tone. I kind of forget why I sold it now, I got a '66 Dual Showman with vert 2x15, I guess I didn't think I'd need the Bassman. I sold the Bassman head all sorted out (3 prong, recapped, but with all new Sovteks, -I'm setting those RCAs aside for my 'real' bassman), I got $500 without too much trouble.
  9. RobinG

    RobinG Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 24, 2007
    Washington State
    K140's VS stock Fender speakers in a shallow cab.. That's an unfair.

    Likely the cab in question has jensen speakers. IF they are K140's, GRAB IT! (moulded frame, not stamped). They could also be D130's..

    And the amp too. The Bassman 50 is a pretty weak amp on it's own, but it can be driven hard on the front end with good results.

  10. johnk_10

    johnk_10 vintage bass nut Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 16, 2008
    Thousand Oaks, CA
    John K Custom Basses
    here's a couple of pics of my 2x15 Fender cab. its a sealed cab and although it doesn't have alot of volume (as in internal cubic inches) i put two NOS JBL K140's in it and it has ALOT of volume (as in SPL) and sounds awesome.


  11. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    The amp is all I'm writing about. I don't have much experience (or love) for old Fender speaker cabinets.

    I used to use a Fender Bassman 50 blackface. I completely disagree with JTE and agree with everyone else. It is potentially a dynamite sounding amp, but will not push loud volume without breaking up. If you push it a little and get just a little break-up, it sounds great. It is generally considered to be a better guitar amp than a bass amp.

    The one you're looking at appears to be a '67+ silverface. Same circuit as the blackface different front panel. If it has been modified to include a ground on the power plug, and has been thorougly gone over by a tube amp technician, assuming the cabinet doesn't sound like mud, it is a very good price.

    If it is completely original with the ungrounded two-prong cord, the price is not as good. In that case, you'll need to put some money into it to make it work acceptably. If the tubes are shot, don't sweat it, these things love cheap Sovtek tubes.
  12. pgk


    Aug 19, 2007
    yow that super twin/double 15 rig is making me drool

    now THAT'S what i'm talking about! absolutely gorgeous rig, hat's off sir. i really love those shorter fender 2-15 cabs, yessir. a friend had one and added a couple round 4 or 5 inch ports on the front baffle, sounded great with a pair of ev 15b's. he used an svt head with it and it sounded the balls. that is until the particle board baffle (blech) imploded from many years on the road, but that's another story. he had a wordworking friend make another cab of the same size with proper wood and it's even better

    bassman heads are killer old school bass amps, don't believe the naysayers. with a few simple mods they can be quite surprising. there's a few threads here devoted to this subject, do a simple search and earn all about 'em

    those who get it do, and those who don't probably never will....
  13. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    I still stand by my assertion. Once the master volume was made a feature, the amp had changed enough that they're of really limited use unless you desire a certain kind of low volume tube sound. The Bassman 50 is NOT the same as the Bassman. Despite certain physical similarities, they're quite different sounding amps. And even worse is the Bassman 70 with the ultralinear transformers.

    If it does not have the master volume, and the front panel merely says "Bassman" it's a much different amp than one that says "Bassman 50". Do not confuse them.

  14. The early Bassman 50's have no master volume.
  15. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    Correct. The early Bassman 50s were exactly the same circuit as the 50 watt Blackface Bassman. My brother, a guitar player, used to have a '67 blackface bassman, he had a '68 silverface as his backup. The insides were 100% exactly the same. The early 50 watt bassman amps are identical to the blackface amps. I bought my brother's blackface and used it as a bass amp for years, with a great deal of success! Recently I've been gigging so I replaced it with a solid state modern amp, as I needed more headroom and was nervous about gigging an antique in dives. But I kept it close - sold it back to my brother.

    My old bassman, which sounded tremendous with the Eden 210 cabinet:

    Silverface version of the same amp - says "Bassman AMP" not "Bassman 50":

    The blackface versions are more valuable because they look so much cooler. If the amp you're looking at actually reads "Bassman 50" and has a different knob configuration it will be a completely different circuit, of which I am unfamiliar. That would be what JTE is referring to (with the master volume).

    If the amp you're considering looks like this:
    I would suspect it's the same circuit that I am in love with.

    More info here: http://www.ampwares.com/amp.asp?id=28
  16. Blues Bass 2

    Blues Bass 2 Supporting Member

    Oct 3, 2001
    Davenport Iowa
    I saw a band at a local bar last week that played mostly 60's rock,Animals,Creedence and even Cream. The bass player plays a left handed Jazz though a Bassman 50 head and an Ampeg classic 410 cab. I was very suprised how loud he was and what a decent tone he got. His tone wasn't clean,clear and tight but that wasn't what those old songs needed. The note definition was good and it had a lot of low end,that's what suprised me the most. They were a three piece band so he wasn't competing with another guitar or keys.

    Back in the late 60's and early 70's I couldn't get a usable tone with a 50 watt Bassman no matter what cabinet or bass I used. The Bassman 100 I had was another story,it worked pretty well but none of my bassplayer buddies or I ever had much luck with the little Bassmans. Maybe we just needed a good 410 cab to make it work but there weren't any back then. I think it would be worth the money to buy If you play old school tunes at not too loud a volume,the way that one sounded at that bar changed my mind about them.
  17. RocketGuy


    Mar 8, 2009
    I have been using bassmans for about thirty years now, both for guitar and bass. I really prefer them for guitar on a marshall 212 there is nothing better. I just have to add that yes the early silverface ones do have the same AB165 circuit as the the later blackfaces but its the earlier AA864 (or pre CBS) ciruit that are the true coveted ones.
  18. pgk


    Aug 19, 2007

    absolutely gorgeous, said it twice!
  19. Your Super Twin is very pretty John, but I fell in love with the Blonde cabinets. I owned a Blonde 50W Blackface in the sixties - for two gigs! It really was a terrible bass amp. I took the thing back after one week.

  20. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    They aren't the same as the original 64 Blackface. When CBS took over Fender they used the same circuits but made some 'improvements' in the wiring and components, which ruined the amps as far as afficionados were concerned. That's why pre-CBS models have real collector value, post, not so much. Some of the later Blackfaces were produced by CBS, and incorporated their 'improvements', so it can be difficult to tell which is which without looking inside. If your brother's '67 and '68 were identical then the '67 was a CBS.

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