Amplifiers are the life of every bass guitar. Without it, the bass guitar will not be heard, especially during a live gig. As much as you need a bass guitar, you also need the best bass amps for the money to achieve heart-thumping sounds. In this post, I reviewed five of my favorite bass amps so you can choose one that suits your playing style and preferred specifications.
Last update on 2021-04-12 at 15:07 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Over the years, bass amps and cabinets have gone more compact and lighter. From the classic tubes, more circuity types entered the market. This paved the way for better sound versatility and more options for bass players.
Remember this, though: a bad amp can ruin the sound of a good bass. This is why you should be meticulous with the amp you’ll pair with your guitar. It should be good enough to encapsulate the sound quality of your instrument.
As a musician, I’ve used several amps in the past. I’ve seen dud ones as well as good finds that I never realized I needed. So to save you from musical despair, I reviewed five of the best amps with different features, configurations, and styles. See which one matches your taste.
1. Fender ’59 Bassman Tube Bass Amp
If you’re looking for the best sound, you should treat yourself to Fender ’59 Bassman. It produces authentic vintage tones that you simply can’t achieve on other amps. It sports the original 5AR4 rectifier tube and the re-engineered 12AX7 pre-amp tubes to mix the old and the new.
Moreover, this has four inputs and two channels so you can blend the sound to suit your genre. This is contained inside a solid-finger jointed cabinet made of pine. Inside, there are 8 ohms, 4-10 inch Jensen P-10R speakers. It’s fitted with Alnico magnets for the best amplification.
For those who are experimenting with their sound, the internal bias pot of Bassman will prove useful. This amp has a 50-watt power that produces fat and rich sounds that even electric guitarists love.
This is a reissue of the widely loved Bassman amp that Fender released in the early ’60s. It has more tone and an irresistible bass quality that every bassist can’t resist.
Although this amp has a higher price tag than other options, every dollar is worth the splurge. This is one of the most legendary guitar amps ever. You won’t regret indulging yourself in it.
- Limited edition amp
- Authentic vintage tones
- Internal bias pot
- So far, so good!
2. Gallien-Krueger MB115-II Combo Bass Amp
If you’re looking for the best bass amps for gigging, this one from Gallien-Krueger might be a great option. It’s a 200-watt amp with a 1×15″ paragon driver. Aside from that, this amp is compact without compromising sound quality.
The MB115-II has a four-band active equalizer so you can blend the sound just as you like it. It also has the legendary 800RB that shapes the tone even more. The best part is that this amp is fitted with a horn to add crispness to your low notes.
Moreover, this amp is critically damped, which means that you’ll have better control over the heavy lows.
For those who are looking for a grab-and-go bass amp, this GK unit is a great choice. Its digital power amp is a workhorse while keeping the entire cabinet lightweight. You can now say goodbye to heavy beasts that are too cumbersome to move around.
The best part about this amp is its Chain Out feature. It’s handy on bigger venues where you need to generate a bigger gig rig. The MB115-II remains portable but with more sound to satisfy the bass heads in the crowd.
With dimensions of 14.5″ x 19″ 32″, this is a power plant on a small package.
- 200-watt power
- Chain Out feature to generate more volume
- Critically damped
- Can be tricky for beginners
3. Fender Rumble 500 Bass Combo Amp
If you don’t have the budget for the Fender Bassman, I highly recommend the Fender Rumble 500 instead. This is a bass combo that offers gritty and classy tones with a nice growl. It’s also a slap-worthy amp, complete with a switchable contour control and an overdrive circuit.
Moreover, it boasts a whopping 500-watt power, which is more than you need for gigs and practice. It also sports a class D power amp paired with a ported speaker enclosure. This design gives a deep bass sound. Despite the power, this Fender amp remains lightweight and easy to carry around.
If you don’t want to play loudly, you can practice by plugging in a 1/8-inch headphone jack. This will mute the speaker output while diverting the sound to your headphones. Aside from that, it comes with an auxiliary jack so you can jam with your favorite tunes.
Anyway, if you don’t need that much power, this bass amp is available in 15 to 410 watts to suit your playing needs.
For peace of mind, this Fender amp is covered by a 5-year transferrable warranty. That means you can send it as a gift, and the receiver will still enjoy the guarantee.
- 500-watt power
- 1/8-inch headphone output
Switchable contour controls
- Not for large venues
4. Aguilar Tone Hammer 350 Amp Head
If you’re setting up a stack and looking for the perfect amp head to use, don’t hesitate to get the Aguilar Tone Hammer 350. This amp head has 350 watts of power at 4 ohms and 175 watts at 8 ohms.
Moreover, this has an XLR balanced output as well as pre and post equalizer. It’s also equipped with a ground lift switch. There’s also a 1/4-inch input jack slot here that’s compatible with both active and passive bass guitars.
This amp has midrange controls to achieve the right balance of lows and highs. Aside from that, it has a drive that works with Aguilar’s proprietary AGS circuit. This provides a very subtle distortion with a mid-range punch on the sound.
Another thing that I like about this amp is its multi-voltage technology. It has a default 100v, which you can switch to 220v to 240v. That means you can use this amp if you’re traveling to other countries for gigs or just to keep your gears handy.
Remember that you should always check this amp head’s compatibility with the speaker cabinet you have. As a 350-watt amp head, this is suitable to 500-watt and up speakers.
- Aguilar’s AGS circuit
- Multi-voltage technology
- Ground lift switch
- For small venues and practice only
5. Peavey Max 115 Bass Combo Amp
If you’re looking for the best bass amp for under 500, I recommend the Peavey Max 115. This is another combo amp suitable for beginners and those looking for a practice amplifier.
This rig has a TransTube circuitry that produces vintage sounds. It also has Peavey’s psychoacoustic low end that boosts your low notes without ruining the amp.
Moreover, this is a portable amplifier with great power of 300 watts (8 ohms). But if you want a lower power, this Peavey unit is also available in 10 and 20-watt versions.
Aside from that, this combo amp has a 3-band equalizer equipped with bright controls, mid-shift, and punch. Inside, there’s a 15-inch speaker paired with a high-end tweeter to produce low, crisp, and solid sounds without the buzz.
Peavey Max 115 has a built-in direct output complete with a ground lift to control the annoying buzz even more. And if you want to practice quietly, you can use the 1/8-inch jack output to turn the speaker off while using your headphones.
Although this is made for bass, I also like using it on my guitar for a darker and duller sound.
- TransTube circuitry for more boost
- Psychoacoustic low-end enhancement
- DDT speaker protection
- Suitable for practice only
How to choose a bass amplifier?
When buying a bass guitar amp, you should check the following features first:
Combo or stack?
Guitar amps can either be a combo or a stack. Combo types have the pre-amp, power amp, and speaker in one cabinet. On the other hand, stacks are composed of a separate amp head and speaker cabinet stacked on top of the other.
Combo amps are perfect for practice and small venues. It’s also portable and can be used on the go. But if you want more power, you will thrive in a stack. This is the ideal choice when setting up a gig rig. However, stacks cost more, which is understandable.
Next, you should consider the circuity of the bass amp you’re going to get. The circuit is responsible for how the sound is processed inside the amp speaker.
If you want a more organic, fat, and gritty sound, the best choice is a tube circuit. This is a vintage circuity but still in use nowadays because nothing compares to its authentic acoustic value. However, tube circuits are expensive, and you’ll have to replace the tubes once it gets used up.
On the other hand, there’s also the solid-state circuit, which is found on many budget amps. This works, too, but you should avoid very high volumes since the amp will start to produce an unpleasant buzz.
If you want the best of the tube and solid-state circuits in one amp, you should get the hybrid type. This one has tubes on the pre-amp then solid-state on the power amp. The result is good tones without the ugly distortion when used on high volumes.
The power of the amp will dictate how loud it is. Amps that have less than 100 watts of power are best used for practice. If you’re playing in a small venue, 200 to 350 watts will do. However, if you’re on a bigger venue, try 500 to 700-watt amps instead. If you need more power than that, you should get an amp stack.
Connected to the power of the amp is its speaker size. As the amp’s power increases, the larger the speaker gets.
Channels allow you to set different sounds, so you switch on them while you play. Some amps have separate tone controls for each channel for a more accurate sound blending. High-end amps can also have three channels with differently sized speakers to split the output in different frequencies.
Most amps will have at least two channels, namely clean and overdrive. This is usually enough for practice and simple gigs. However, if you need a more powerful rig, you better look for a high-end amp.
I always like an amp with a 1/8-inch output that lets me mute the speaker while using headphones. Auxiliary outputs/inputs are also handy on many occasions. And if you play different basses, I suggest looking for an amp with inputs/output that is compatible with both active and passive bass.
Lastly, consider the controls of the bass amp. Most amps have gain controls that let you tweak the amount of overdrive on its pre-amp stage. It prevents excessive distortion and buzz that ruins the sound of your bass. Equalizers are also indispensable so you can get rid of any noise that affects the sound quality of the amp.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is 100-watt bass amp enough for gigs?
A: If we’re talking about large venues, you need to get a line out of your amp and into the PA system. Remember that 100 watts aren’t enough to fill a large venue with sound, let alone a large room.
Q: What will happen if I plugged an electric guitar to a bass amp?
A: Don’t worry, you’ll not damage the amp. Your rig will be safe, but the sound you’ll get from playing on a bass amp may not be satisfactory. Electric guitars often have duller and dimmer sound when played on a bass amp.
Q: Can I use my bass amp for the keyboard?
A: Yes, in fact, bass amps produce excellent sounds when used on a keyboard. However, if you’re planning to use it on a gig, you should get a dedicated amp for your keys.
With the best bass amps for the money, you can unleash the best sound of your instrument. Make sure that you get the right power, controls, and circuit to suit your playing preferences.