Will a head and cab be better than a combo

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jack gilmore, Apr 2, 2020.

  1. jack gilmore

    jack gilmore

    Mar 11, 2020
    Hey guys I've been playing in my band for the past six months or so when I started out I bought a Fender BXR 330c combo amp for like $100. My band plays alternative music kinda like the Clean or American Football and I like to use drive pedals in my playing.

    I've always had issues with this amp. Firstly it is just so loud, I find it hard getting it on a volume that doesn't deafen me while not sounding a bit lame. Two it has no DI out so that means I can't shape my tone when playing live gigs to what i'd really like it to be. Three it doesn't have any gain to speak of its really clean and a bit boring sounding. But the most difficult thing about it is the fact it is soooooo heavy. I was playing a gig and threw my back out taking it up like three steps (it weighs an absolute god damn tonne).

    I've got a bit of money together and i've been looking around at other stuff. I am more inclined to get a head and cab just because I think they look a bit better and as far as I can tell they sound better.

    The things I've been looking at are the Peavey MiniMax 500, the markbass nano 300, and the Orange Bass Terror 500. The cheapest cabs I can find is either a laney 1x15 or a 2x10.

    But the question I have to ask is will I really worth selling my combo and buying a head and cab or will I still have the same issue?
    bordinco90 likes this.
  2. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    It's worth it.

    Based on my experience, I would advice spending more money on cab than on amp...if you want to enjoy your sound...
  3. lowphatbass

    lowphatbass **** Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2005
    west coast
    On paper the only difference between a head/cab setup and a combo amp is the fact that the head/combo are two separate pieces and the combo is a single piece.
    The actual differences are in the details of the individual pieces.
  4. oldfclefer

    oldfclefer low ended

    May 5, 2005
    Southern Ohio
    In my experience, combos are fairly clumsy to lift and carry. I've never owned a combo that had the handles at the balance point so they're just a pain in the , um, back to move. Some are set up for casters, but that doesn't help on stairs. Now I have separate heads and cabs. Class d heads are very light. My Rumble has a nice carrying case. My cabs all have casters on them, and the handles are installed at balance points. I've played some really nice sounding combos, but I'll never go back to them because they're so difficult for me to transport.
  5. Redbrangus

    Redbrangus Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2018
    Under The X In Texas
    A head/cab rig is a lot more versatile; you can have a couple of cabs, including different cabs, but only bring what you need for a particular situation. The upgrade path is easier and less costly. And a combo big enough to hold it's own starts getting big enough to be heavy and cumbersome. Plus, although there are some great combos available, the tendency is for there to be more options and better gear in the amp/cab category.
  6. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Gold Supporting Member

    i've played a lot of both: i like the idea of the combo pieces and would ordinarily prefer a good one to the 'separates' but a good amp can make the cabs more of a 'modular' thing so that various gigs can be treated differently if need be.

    for most of my playing (not all) it has made little difference = samey same! depending on the gig i've preferred one over the other, so: nice to have both options. if i was forced to choose i'd probably prefer a lightweight combo these days...old age stuff. :D
  7. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic

    Another advantage of having separate amp and cab is that most solid state amps can be operated without cabs these days. So one can use an amp as a preamp when FOH is available… No need to spend money on pedal preamp.

    Edit: it comes handy with IEM or when going to studio...
  8. Bassdirty


    Jul 23, 2010
    Well, I think it is worth it. However, if you are just looking at the "cheapest" cabs, you may not be better off than you are now. Too many people buy the cheapest, (insert whatever speaker size) say, 12" speaker cab, and it sounds like doodoo, or cant handle low freq, at "band volume". Now Joe six pack thinks 12" speakers don't sound good for bass. (because he bought the cheapest POS cab he could find - NOT because 12" cabs cant handle bass.)

    The heads you mention are perfectly fine, just a matter of your preference in tone.

    When looking for cabinets, do the research. Maybe even buy used, that's where you get the best bang for your buck.
  9. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Ok. Lot's of good advice so far. Welcome to talkbass.

    Combo's have their advantages, as do modular rigs.

    When evaluating an amp (combo or modular), be sure to spend a lot of time playing it clean without any effects. Only then can you really hear the baked-in tone and overall performance. Then, add the effects.

    This problem exists with all rigs, to some degree. I'm sympathetic, but since your instrument, your amp, and likely all your effects have volume controls, spend a little more time exploring how to manage the gain at each stage in your signal chain.

    Buy a DI. It's a lot cheaper than a new amp. Get a Countryman type 85 or a Radial JDI.

    Clean is not boring in my humble opinion, but tastes vary, don't they? There is clean and there is full-range clean. In other words, your clean signal may not have any apparent distortion, but if your speakers lack full response in lows, mids, or upper mids, they MAY sound wimpy and boring compared to a more full range representation of your playing.

    Weight and power are much less of a trade off now than they were 10 years ago. New combos can be extremely light, but as the performance demands increase, that route is less certain, just look at some of the gigantic stacks of two 410 combos some people adore (see the combo cult thread, LOL!).

    Disclaimer, I have owned over half-a-dozen combos, and regularly used another ten or so. Some weighted over 70 lbs. I have no desire for a combo.

    I've come back to something I learned in 1973 when I started lugging a huge Acoustic (ACC) 301 118 cab that weighed 125 libs: Wheels!

    My fEARful 12/12/6/1, a 212 cabinet weighing less than 65 lbs (IIRC), has tilt back wheels and a handle, just like my old ACC301. Side handles make stairs easy with a bandmate, though I often do them by myself, and I'm an honest to goodness old guy! :roflmao:

    What is your budget?

    I recommend AGAINST the "cheapest cabs" approach. It is a formula for wasting that hard-earned money.

    No. Keep the combo as a spare! All amps break down.

    If you get a cab with better speakers than your combo, and a good reliable head to drive it, you will probably then be stuck in the endless cycle of, "Gee, since that helped so much, I wonder what that head, cab, preamp, power amp, etc., will do for me?" ;)
    Last edited: Apr 2, 2020
    Al Kraft, SJan3 and jack gilmore like this.
  10. jack gilmore

    jack gilmore

    Mar 11, 2020
    I have about 1600 New Zealand dollars which is about 900 usd. The issue is that things cost a lot more in New Zealand like a Bass Terror head is 1300 bucks and like the cheapest bass cabs are about 500 but I make about as much as an American student so it's kinda a rub.

    It's interesting that most of you say against buying more expensive head, cheap cab I was always lead to believe that any cab would do by my friends in touring bands so its good to get a second opinion.
  11. Ggaa


    Nov 26, 2018
    Short answer, yes with a good cab(s). I run a Rumble 200 with 1 or 2 GK 115s.
    jack gilmore likes this.
  12. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    Little amp rig - grab and go combo is convenient.

    Big rig - components are easier to carry and give flexibly.

    If I only had 1 rig I'd get my favorite head and a variety of cabs that suit different scenarios
  13. MrLenny1

    MrLenny1 Supporting Member

    Jan 17, 2009
    New England
    Head and cab all the way.
  14. Al Kraft

    Al Kraft Supporting Member

    May 2, 2016
    Northern Virginia
    There are pros and cons to each and you'll find great and poor sounds from each. In general I think the amp and cab approach sacrifices very little convenience over combos and gives you much greater flexibility today and in the future. I own a Mesa Walkabout 112 as my only combo (and there is no sacrifice of tone with that rig), but find that my amp and cab options give me the opportunity to optimize my rig for a gig and aren't that much more difficult to carry and set up.

    The goal is to find a sound that works for you and meets your criteria for overall flexibility, convenience, size, weight and budget. If a combo gets you there, then there's no compromise compared to going with amp/cab components for you.
    mesaplayer83 and jack gilmore like this.
  15. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    You should probably look at the pot on your bass if you can't control the volume.

    But as other have mentioned, Get yourself a good pre-amp with a DI out.
    But the pre-amp will let you control volume, and give you a DI to the FOH when needed.
    And to the studio console.
    Get all your tone out of the pre-amp.

    Then try some IEMs with the pre-amp. You may find you don't even need a amp at all.
    You can keep the amp as a monitor if/when you ever need it.
  16. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    A head and cab can be much much more than a combo. If you're going small, and permanent, than a combo will be the exact same thing as you would buy individually. Just, in one heavey unit. They make amps, they make cabs, they make the same amps attached to same cabs, they also make different amps attached to different cabs. But a combo is a combo. A head makes whatever you want it to be.
    imabuddha and jack gilmore like this.
  17. It’s not really a matter of combo vs separate head and cab. There are high quality combos and separate heads and cabs that are garbage out there. It’s true that most pros use a separate head and cab but a good combo is better than a cheap head and cab imo. But I would definitely look for something with a good xlr out that also performs the way you like. So many shows these days I run the xlr out of the amp and often times at the venues I play if bass players amps don’t have an xlr out they end up getting a cheap generic DI box. Because a lot of the soundguys around here don’t want to spend a ton of money on nicer DIs
    whatsgood, imabuddha and jack gilmore like this.
  18. I know you like a different bass tone than me, because it appears you like a dirtier tone than you're getting with that combo...I agree that a head / cab scenario is the way to go easier to upgrade with different cabs, versatile because you get a 2-10 for smaller gigs, or 4-10 for bigger ones, or what ever various configuration you want..as for the DI, you probably want to get a separate DI box..honestly most on here rave the radial one or some other high dollar ones, but since you don't have a lot of loot, even a simple whirlwind does the job well and the are very affordable (cheap)...they have been making and selling them for decades that's for a reason, they work..

    Lastly I had the BXR 300 and I gotta say, I loved the tone that amp had and it was loud but I'm a guitar > cord > DI> amp guy, clean tone only so it suited me very well, however I wanted something more versatile and I didn't like the size of that amp and hauling it around so I did buy a class D mini max and a Trace Elliot cab 15", now after gigging with that for awhile, I'm ready to add a 2 X 10 cab to the mix, and that's the versatility that I'm talking about...
    jack gilmore likes this.
  19. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    I'm a little uncertain about your meaning. My apologies if I have posted something confusing, lol. Like as if that doesn't happen. LOL. ;)

    I oppose poor quality cabs as a way to get a better result than what you now have.
    The amp head, while important, is secondary, primarily because as long as you have enough clean power and good cabs, getting a usable tone is usually easy.
    jack gilmore likes this.
  20. jack gilmore

    jack gilmore

    Mar 11, 2020
    Oh I meant like my friends have always told me buy an expensive head and just run it through anything but a lot of people have said to buy a better cab than just the cheapo one
    Jim Carr likes this.