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What makes a guitar amp good for bass?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JELIFISH19, Nov 25, 2012.



    Jun 7, 2012
    I love tube amps but it's hard to find the perfect one made for bass. My key concern is portability. That means light weight and small package since I'll also need to carry a cabinet and the instrument too. I notice a lot of people recommend the micro heads made for guitar for people looking for small tube amps, but what makes certain amps for this application good? Do you think a Carvin V3M work well?
  2. What makes a guitar amp good for bass use is usually just a bass speaker cab. You know that Carvin is only 50 watts right? Not much power for bass guitar use. Think 100 watts minimum.
  3. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Ashdown Little Bastard is small, valve and good for bass, don't really see what a guitar head would have over it.
  4. soulman969


    Oct 6, 2011
    Most guitar amps simply don't have the power required to be used for bass. Also in most cases the warmth and ability to break up early to provide overdrive and/or distortion is just the opposite of what players are looking for in a bass amp where clean headroom is important in order to avoid distortion.

    I'm sure there are a few that will work but overall the micro heads designed for bass will far outperform any guitar head. Maybe that in combination with a pre-amp or pedal designed to provide more tube like characteristics is a better answer.

    I'll let some guys who may have tried on chime in but from my point of view a small 5w micro guitar amp isn't gonna handle what someone needs out of a bass amp and if you begin to loo at 50w or 100w tube heads they're not very light. JMO
  5. IMO, Nothing makes a guitar amp good for bass. It will be underpowered, and/or it will sound horrible. I had an AIMS (all tube) guitar head, about 120 watts. For the time relatively powerful for a guitar amp,but with bass, it sounded like crap when I had it at a semi-usable volume.


    Jun 7, 2012
    The Carvin has about twice the power. Plus it's smaller and lighter. It's less expensive. In addition to that, it has overdrive channels.
  7. Lighter may also mean under-sized output transformer (big weight factor) than will leave the bass output highly lacking.
  8. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    To make overdrive channels not go muddy, you use a high pass, easy way to do that with valve amps is dinky output transformer. High pass removes low end, that means a fail for bass. But dinky OT makes it light.
  9. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Supporting Member

    I think you're mistaken. People (myself included) recommend micro heads, but those are BASS heads, not guitar heads. I'm a big fan of the Genz-Benz Shuttle heads, which are wonderfully light and powerful.

    The best head for bass is one designed, eq'd and powered for bass.

    I'm sure there are many guitar heads you can get away with using for bass, and your particular tastes might even run to the sound that a particular head puts out. But that doesn't mean it's a great head for bass, and in most cases it will be underpowered for bass performance.
  10. christw

    christw Get low!

    May 11, 2008
    Dayton OH
    I want to be Tesla (tinkerer at Dayton Amp Co)
    I ran a Marshall JTM-60 (2x EL34) which realistically only puts out around 30-40w RMS into a CTS/SVT loaded Marshall 410 for my basement jams for a long while. Then again, our drummer was the softest player I know and we ran guitars through two Valve Jr head + 112 stacks with them still running in the clean. Pedals supplied OD and reverb. Would I recommend it for use with most any band? Not even close. It just happened to fit that niche at the time. I really liked an old Elk Miyuki Custom Amp 30 I had run into an E-140 loaded TL606 cab but again, it wasn't really usably loud.

    My favorite guitar/bass heads are Hiwatt and Sound City amps run through vintage Ampeg 810's but that's me. :cool:
  11. Gab124

    Gab124 The path is greater than the destination Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2006
    This would be the last thing I ever spent money on for good bass reproduction at live volume levels. Bedroom jamming, well maybe on some but the tone shaping is very much lacking for the bass guitar IMO, YMMV
    If you just want light and tubey and have good monitors or IEM then a good DI will take you there, i have never heard anything as good as the REDDI for this application.
  12. Tuned


    Dec 6, 2007
    The Reddi box outweighs most micro amps though :p

    The Genz-Benz Shuttle 6.0 is probably your daddy, tube preamp, 600W class D power, 7 lbs or so. You'll never get an ample tube poweramp under 60lbs. Guitar amps cut off lows or they'll fry guitar speakers, and they do it in both the preamp (input bias) and output transformer.

    If the Shuttle isn't "tubey" enough, you'll have to get a better preamp and separate class D poweramp. I use an Ampeg SVP-CL preamp and Peavey IPR 1600, case weighs ~20lbs total, tons of power and fat tone, actually paid about what the Shuttle 6.0 costs, but I got a deal on the preamp used.

    But anything past 300W will need a bigger cab than you can carry up stairs alone. No way around that except multiple cabs.
  13. IMHO, I must agree with those who advise against using a guitar amp for bass. As was mentioned, most guitar amps are designed to give that wonderful overdrive/overtone sound without a lot of volume, so they will definitely start to break up and distort probably a lot earlier than you'd like for most intents and purposes. There are a few......perhaps very few guitar amps (mostly larger heads - - say 100 to 120 watts) which will provide amp/cabinet samples for clean output up to full rated power, but then this appears to go against your search for a small, light-weight combination. Here's what I'd suggest - - I just picked up one of the new MarkBass Micro Bass 108 units and am blown away by its power output and sound quality for its size. It's rated at 50 watts RMS into its included 8 inch neodymium speaker and weighs 11 lbs total. It also has an additional speaker output if you want to drive a larger cabinet. Also, if you are looking for "that tube sound," consider using a tube DI box or preamp with it. Best of luck with your search.
  14. soulman969


    Oct 6, 2011
    These are the best answers I can give you for these objections.

    1) It only has 20w more power (50w vs 30w) if you run it at 4 ohms. At 8 ohms it only runs 22w. And a 30w head designed for bass would outproduce the guitar head even at 50w through any 4 or 8 ohm bass cabs.

    2) It's less expensive because it's a guitar amp and Carvin sells direct rather than through dealers. They make great products but their guitar amps don't make great bass amps. Besides that Ashdown bass head would run you right at $595 if you bought it on a 15% off sale which happens about once a month at MF so their goes much of the cost difference too.

    3) Overdrive designed for handling a guitar not a bass. The kind of over drive that amp produces you don't want for a bass. Get a pedal built far bass if you like that and an amp made for bass not a guitar.

    Tube heads for bass are only lightweight if they have less power and if 30w isn't enough I'd follow some of these other suggestions and go with a SS micro amp and a pedal or preamp that will give you a more tube like sound. Good Luck to you.
  15. Making big bass noises uses up a lot of wattage. Bass amps must be more powerful than guitar amps, with high power speakers to do the work.

    The sort of power you need to keep up with rock drums and guitars is found with a tube preamp and a light micro power stage or heavy tube power stage.
  16. "What makes a guitar amp good for bass?"

    The fact that you can sell it and put the money toward a proper bass amp.
  17. LOL.

    It depends how loud your band is and whether or not you have PA support and a good mic with a soundman prepared to use it. It's not your everyday band that can pull it off with 30W of bass amp.
  18. xroads


    Nov 6, 2012
    I don't think so. Guitar amps have a specific low frequency rolloff built in to their design. It's not a full range amp, and therefore doesn't work for bass. It might be good as an addition in order to boost the upper mids or add distortion in a bass rig.

    The other way round it works much better from my experience.
  19. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    A bass head is best for bass, no doubt about it. But, you can play guitar through a bass amp, and do fairly well, if you don't put too much bottom through it (the bass player will slap you if you do).
  20. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    The output transformer is a lot lighter than the power transformer, so an OT for guitar vs one for bass won't make much difference- maybe a couple of pounds.