Bass Amp Buying Guide
Bass Amps can seem confusing with all the different combination of speaker sizes and wattages. Fear not we are here to guide you through the sea of specs and choose the perfect amp for you.
One of the first things to think about is if you prefer an all in one setup, you then don't have to worry about leaving any bits at home or if you prefer a portable head as often venues and rehearsal spaces will have a cabinet for you to run through, saving you time, hassle and back pain! You will find your options are more varied with a head and cab as you are not limited to what speakers and connections are built-in.
Cabinets come in all shapes and sizes, different combinations can give you slightly more punch, you'll often see people with bigger rigs with a 1x15 on the bottom and a 2x10 on top. The 2x10 will give a nice amount of punch while the 1x15 handles the lowest frequencies. Having said that a 2x10" can handle the low B on a 5 string very well. There isn't too much right or wrong, if it sounds good to you then that is all that matters, you just need to find what works for you in sound and size.
As you may have noticed the options for valve bass amps are not as plentiful as for electric guitar. As you can imagine these glass tubes are quite fragile, they also don't often come in under £500. The main benefit of a valve amp is the natural breakup you get which is only produced by valve gear, solid-state does not sound so pleasant when it breaks up. Most bass amps are built with enough wattage that you will not hit this upper limit so as long as you buy with enough wattage for your needs, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Valve wattage and solid-state wattage are quite different. Valve wattage is much higher output, so 20 watts in valve equates to about 100 watts in solid-state. So with this in mind if you’re practicing at home on your own, anything solid-state between 20-50 watts is fine and the lower valve wattage the better (although we are yet to find a low wattage valve bass amp). You’ll be wanting to hit around 200 solid-state watts if you're keeping up with a modest volume drummer/ playing small gigs. If your project are extremely loud or you're just playing bigger venues, you'll want to be going for the 500 watt realm. This will give you enough headroom for most scenarios.
Unlike Electric guitar, effects on your bass tone are not quite so necessary but that doesn't mean to say they aren't a whole world of fun! If your bass amp does have effects then it's likely that it is a modelling amp, these amps tend to be aimed at beginner to intermediate players as they are an amazing way of discovering what effects and tones work for you, this will then give you a much better idea of what you need and will use when you come to buying individual stompboxes and amplifiers. So we'd say if you're in the earlier stages of your playing modelling amps are a great choice.
Most higher wattage bass heads will use speakon connectors. These are great as they lock into place and stop any accidental signal drop outs! Make sure you use a high grade speaker cable between your head and cab as this will be carrying a power load to the speaker.
1/4" jack. These will technically work with a standard instrument cable but this is really not recommended, as its not built to carry power and could cause damage to your bass head and speakers.
D'addario make great speaker cables in different lengths. We recommend the custom series.
The easiest way to think of Ohms is how much power your speaker will draw from your amp. The lower the rating the stronger the draw. So 4 ohms will draw more power than 8 ohms. Most amps have a minimum load, so you don't need to worry if you're matching it or if your cab rating is higher, this will just give you less wattage output. If you can then match it, this will give you the most power from your amp.
We strongly recommend that you firstly look for an amp that is over 200 watts, this will allow you to keep up with the volume of a drummer and fill the room. The second thing to look for is a line or D.I out. This will allow you to run directly into the PA system so you can essentially use your cabinet as a personal monitor.