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What matters more: The bass/guitar or the amp?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Lex Slade, Mar 9, 2014.

  1. Lex Slade

    Lex Slade

    Jul 16, 2013
    We all know that the instrument and the amp need one another in order to make sound. But which part of the equation do you put more stock in for making the instrument really sing?

    I ask because I was recently doing some research on the bass I play in my band. It was given to me by a friend and it plays well and I can get it to sound good with the right EQ and amp, so I figured it must be somewhat decent. But I looked on EBay for this model and found that they usually only sell for $75-100 used and $125 new. I was pretty damn shocked that it's a lower-end model. A couple weeks ago I had it plugged into an Ampeg 8x10 and it gave me the kind of rumble and snarl I had always wanted out of a bass and had usually associated with higher-end P-Basses.

    I also noticed this with my guitar collection, too (I'm mainly a guitar player). I have tons of crappy Harmony and other Sears guitars in my collection, and through certain amps they sound like ****. But a few months ago I decided to play a few through my pretty decent Fender half-stack and with the right EQing they were able to really shine. One guitar in particular I got for $50 off EBay and it had this clear, chimey tone I never would've expected it to have since it sounded really muddy and gross through my smaller combo amps.

    I'm looking for a secondary back-up bass since my band is going to start gigging soon and I just want to come prepared. I was initially thinking of getting a better quality bass and using my current one as the back-up. But I'm wondering if, while using the right amps, I could just buy another $75 bass, either the same model or a comparable model, and just use that to switch as a main or use as a back-up. It won't play as well as a better quality bass, but I care more about sound since I don't play the most technically proficient music.
  2. Gab124

    Gab124 The path is greater than the destination Supporting Member

    Dec 30, 2006
    Within reason if a bass is setup well and in the hands of someone who knows what to do the amp and sound reinforcement is more important. YMMV
  3. When it comes to bass vs. amp, it's the bass. I can get my basses to sound nice through any amp.

    Now guitar vs. amp. It's the amp. The amp makes the world of difference in guitars.
    Case and point: Played many nice guitars (at guitar center) through cheap amps, sounded bad.
    Play a low end squier affinity tele through a vox tube amp and it sounded amazing.
  4. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Amp. Any cheap but playable bass will sound good through a good amp.

    No bass, no matter how expensive, will sound good through a cheap amp.

    Squier/Ampeg > Fodera/Behringer
  5. Amp is much more important. But I also think pickups and pickup placement is pretty important just no where near as important as the amp. And even more important than the amp is how the musician plays. A great bassist can make a $100 bass sound amazing, and a crappy player can make a $2000 bass sound like crap.

    If you are looking for a new bass, I would recommend finding a Squire VM/Used MIM fender if money is tight. What about amp? What are you currently using? If you don't have a gigable amp I would recommend that over another bass. A good ampeg can be had for pretty cheap if you are patient.
  6. I follow the idea that both are as important as each other. For me my current amp cost as much as my guitar.

    But I also acknowledge certain points you raised and agree it is more likely that a cheaper instrument can sound better through a better amp

    I know for example that my Washburn rb2000 sounds ok through my momark but my Mia p and j sound better

    Not just my opinion, it's people in the band who listened and said yay or nay

    I have also tested the same guitars and compared through a Mesa walkabout and roland combo

    Again the higher end amps got the nod from the band I was in

    A problem with comparisons like this is the subjective nature of it

    As an example Is that I have heard an rb 2000 live that sounded amazing through a foh set up...

    I also recently saw an expensive Mia deluxe and it sounded terrible foh

    Two completely different basses and situations but if you went into a shop the fender, on price alone would be deemed the better instrument

  7. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
  8. Alexander

    Alexander Supporting Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
  9. Zanzibar Delgado

    Zanzibar Delgado Supporting Member

    I agree with the general consensus here in that the amp generally outweighs the quality of the bass's electronics in terms of tone, but I would add the caveat that I feel that it's more important to have a well-playing bass than it is to have a good-sounding amp. If you have a cheap bass that plays well and is solidly constructed, but doesn't have the greatest electronics, I would definitely prioritize getting a new amp. On the other hand, if your bass's neck is prone to warping and there are dead spots on the fingerboard, I would rather drop the cash on a new instrument.
  10. experimental bassist

    experimental bassist

    Mar 15, 2009
    Amp. By a long shot.

    A guitar, speaking of bass or regular, needs to be set up properly for playability, and most importantly, be RELIABLE, speaking manly of electronics, wiring, jack, etc. Everything else is icing on the cake. These goals can be achieved pretty easy with an inexpensive instrument, and even to bring a substandard instrument up to these goals is not that difficult.

    An amp needs to be reliable and be able to deliver the proper tone at the proper volume. It is more difficult to make an unreliable amp reliable, and very difficult to make a small or underpowered amp sound like a larger more powerful amp.

    In short, guitars and basses are adjustable, relatively simple, and easily improved.

    An amplifier for the most part "is what it is"
  11. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    It's a bad question. The answer will be different depending on how you play and what you want to sound like.
  12. dStar


    Mar 1, 2012
    IMHO the amp is ultimately what produces the sound, we are not playing acoustic instruments, However, garbage in, garbage out...
  13. Boom762

    Boom762 I AM the one who Booms! Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2013
    Lubbock, TX
    I say Amp. You can put some really crappy instruments through the ringer on pedals, EQ, and all that and make it sound decent. You can have the greatest bass in the world but if your amp sucks, thats your limit.

  14. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    I say bass. If you are playing a large gig, the PA is more important that your amp. You may also have to play through a provided backline. But you always have your bass.
  15. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    If you stay home, bass. If you play out, amp.
  16. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Amp. Even inexpensive instruments can sound good out of the box and very good with the right tweaks, like a new set of pickups. Cheap amps, especially cheap cabs, just sound cheap.
  17. Lex Slade

    Lex Slade

    Jul 16, 2013
    I've found it's the opposite with me. With my guitars I can get a much better clean tone out of my tiny 25 watt practice amp than I can with my 100 watt combo or my half-stack. In fact, I've heard some of the best sounds for things like blues and standard rock n roll stuff from other players come from relatively small amps.

    With bass I've found that the amp matters more, especially in regards to low end response. In my punky sleaze metal band, I not only have to play the notes but also add another level of "heaviness" via the low end on the amp. My 15 watt practice amp is great for giving me the punchy tone I like, but there's no rumble to it. Same for the 50 watt combo I used before we upgraded to a practice space with better amps available for rent. In my opinion, good bass is both heard and felt, and that "feeling" all depends on the amp.
  18. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    Assuming the bass isn't total crap, the amp is more important. Speaking from experience: My $150 Squier with Dean Markley rounds sounded amazing through a Crate head and an Ampeg 810 cab (unfortunately not MY Ampeg 810 cab). My >$600 Ibanez 6-string with DR's sounds like crap through a crappy amp, particularly when I try to tap.
  19. If the water upstream is polluted, so too will it be downstream.
    If freshwater becomes polluted downstream, the result is the same – undrinkable H2O.

    I'm in the "both bass & amp must sound good" band-camp. Up to a point, good tone has nothing to do with cost of equipment nor even quality to some extent, but rather aural predilection, which is subjective.
  20. conqr


    Feb 16, 2009
    Depends on paradigm, yours or the audience. I remember a gig some years ago where the bassist was playing a nice Fender J through a loud but not very good sounding amp/cabinet. It was muffled and at least one driver rattled - crowd loved it. Why? Because he was a killer bassist, chops for days and soloing over jazz standards like nobody's business. Plus, the other two pieces of the ensemble were equally hot.

    Said it before and I'll say it again - your average crowd could not care less about the gear/sound of a bass player unless it is jarringly bad. It is WE who fiddle about that stuff. So from a real world perspective, I'd focus on myself, the bass, then the amplification.