Bass Guitar Amps Buying Guide

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Bass Guitar Amps Buying Guide

Built to address the different needs of bass guitars, Bass Guitar Amps are specialised versions of guitar amplifiers. Bass Guitar Amps are specifically tuned to produce the best sound from a bass guitar, which works in very different ways to that of a normal guitar.

About Bass Guitar Amps

Electric bass guitars are a relatively young instrument in comparison to many other contemporaries like guitars and drums, so Bass Guitar Amps were late arriving too. The first dedicated Bass Guitar Amp was the Fender Bassman in 1959, a 50-watt 15-inch speaker set-up. Rapid developments soon followed; the 60s and the 80s were very busy times for the inventors of Bass Guitar Amps.

With a huge selection on the market today, opinion has always been divided between which set-ups produce the best sound for which type of music, gig, venue, and atmosphere. Arguments between tube and solid state, between large and small speakers, tone and gain, the list goes on. A Bass Guitar Amps is an essential requisite for any band who hope to hear their bass line above (or alongside) that of the lead and rhythm guitar.

Choosing a Bass Guitar Amp

The fast rise and innovation of Bass Guitar Amps has resulted in a huge amount of variance for players to choose from. There are a number of different technologies, sizes, and power ratings involved, and each of them have their own specialities. Choosing the right Bass Guitar Amp is essential to being able to produce the perfect sound for the artist or band.

Type of Bass Guitar Amp

Whilst Solid State Bass Guitar Amps came a long time after Tube Bass Guitar Amps and are largely seen as an improvement, many artists still choose to use the Tube technology.

Type

Description

Solid State

Solid States were developed in the 1980s and had its motivation in cost, size, and weight. Solid State Bass Guitar Amps can be cheap and high powered but can fail to sound as good when they reach the limits of their volume. It is worth mentioning that these amps are smaller and cheaper than their Tube-driven predecessors.

Tube

Many artists still stick by the original Tube powered amps, which are more expensive and more fragile. Tubes, being an analogue set-up, will produce the best sound even at the very limits of the volume. Tube amps are heavier and more difficult to transport safely but are popular with professional musicians who play large venues.

Setup of Bass Guitar Amp

Type

Description

Combo Unit

Combo units consist of the amplifier and speaker(s) in a single unit. These are more economical and suitable for studios and small venues along with "bedroom" playing. These are suitable for most bass players, only professional musicians tend to reach the limits of these set-ups. Modern innovations in combo units from the larger manufacturers have allowed for extra cabinets to be connected and make them viable for larger gigs.

Stand Alone

Stand-alone amplifiers are the original technology and are still favoured for their customisation today. Having separate amps and speakers allows for mixing and matching between the head and the cabinet to produce a more targeted sound. Talented musicians will often experiment with different configurations to produce the best sound for a particular venue or song. Powerful stand-alone set ups with cabinets are essential for large gigs to get a clean sound across all strings of the bass guitar.


When buying stand-alone amplifiers and configuring a set-up of heads and cabinets, always check the cabinet impedance (ohm capability) and the power required by the head for that figure. Heads and cabinets need to be combined with the right ratings for the right sound.

Power Rating of Bass Guitar Amp

Bass Guitar Amps need a lot more power than electric guitar amps when played in a band. The deep tone needs a clean sound to allow for differentiation between similar notes, and without a suitably powered Bass Guitar Amp, the bass line will almost always be drowned out by rhythm guitar and drums.

Watt Measure

Specs

< 15

Bass Guitar Amps of less than 15 watts are rare and are only suitable for headphones or very small rooms for practicing. These are popular novelty items but will not have the power to fully output to range of tone produced by a bass guitar.

< 30

Combo amps of 30 watts or below are the most common "starter" amps for those who plan to practice alone in a small room. Often coming with an embedded speaker of ten inches or less, 30 watt bass amps are perfect beginner models.

> 60

When practicing with a band, Bass Guitar Amps need to be above 60 watts; particularly if the band includes a drummer. The deep tones of drums tend to override underpowered Bass Guitar Amps, so artists should look in the 60 to 120 watt range for practicing in a band set-up.

> 400

Bass Guitar Amps up to 400W are suitable for small or medium sized venues and gigs with a full band. Generally this power range is where guitarists choose to opt for stand-alone configurations for true customisations though modern combo units are more than capable of dealing with the output.

>400W

Bass Guitar Amps of 400 watts or higher are rarely used outside of large gigs and venues by professionals. When dealing with the volumes produced by these units, it is often thought best to go for Tube amps and use a configuration of half-stack - head and cabinet combined.

Differences Between Guitar and Bass Guitar Amps

Using a guitar amp for a bass guitar can be done in amateur practice but will be unsuitable for anything larger than the smallest of venues. Choosing the right Bass Guitar Amp is the only way to achieve a full range of tone when competing with rhythm guitars and drums.

Feature

Description

Power

To output a clean sound through all notes of a bass guitar, the power needs to be much higher than those in electric guitar amps. Bass Guitar Amps are considered weak when at 100W or less for gigs, whilst that can represent a considerably powered electric guitar amp.

Speakers

Bass Guitar Amps will either have larger speakers than electric guitar amps, or more of them. Operating at much lower frequencies, Bass Guitar Amps need a larger surface area of the cone in the speaker to do justice to the range of tones.

Preamps

Preamps on electric guitar amps are designed with distortion in mind, allowing the input to be overloaded and effects to be applied to the sound at high volume. Bass Guitar Amps are rarely configured so.

Choosing a New or Used Bass Guitar Amp

Condition

Benefits

New

New Bass Guitar Amps have the benefit of coming with warranties and guarantees (always check with the seller first), and for such a used and transported piece of equipment, this can be a vital selling point. With the speakers having zero wear and all of the components being factory fresh, the cleanest sound will be produced by new Bass Guitar Amps though the price will inevitably be higher.

Used

Whilst used Bass Guitar Amps can be the only option for some, there are a few things worth checking out before the purchase. Due to the weight and size of Bass Guitar Amps, buyers will often have to collect the product and will get a chance to try before they buy. Turn the amp on, plug the bass guitar in, and move the cable around to ensure that the sound doesn't cut out on movement. Also take note of how it smells when turned on; a lot of components inside used Bass Guitar Amps can burn out and produce a hot smell, suggesting an impending repair. Some Bass Guitar Amps age incredibly well and produce a more vintage sound than their brand new models. It is a matter of personal preference.

Find a Bass Guitar Amp on eBay

Bass Guitar Amps can be found in two main categories on eBay. The first of which is navigable to from the home page by clicking the All Categories link on the left. In the Musical Instruments category, clickPro Audio Equipment and thenAmplifiers.. The second place Bass Guitar Amps can be found is again in theMusical Instruments category, but then in theGuitars and then the Bass section. Using the search bar at the top of the eBay page will return results from all categories but can be refined to show more suitable results.

Conclusion

Choosing a Bass Guitar Amp is often a matter of personal preference and style, especially for more talented musicians. With the information included in this guide, it should be a simpler and less daunting affair to find the perfect Bass Guitar Amp for the situation. eBay represents the perfect place to find the right piece of equipment, with a range of makes and models from sellers and enthusiasts the world over. Be sure to contact the seller with any specific questions and requests before committing to purchase.

 
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