Many of us have gone through this phrase – You have bought your new instrument, and you have gathered a group of friends interested in setting up a group.
Now you just need to choose a bass amplifier as well. How many watts does it have, what style are you blasting, and many other things need to be examined to get the right answer.
In the following lines, we will help you select the right amp for your bass guitar and hopefully make your decision come earlier than expected.
To do so, we will start by pointing out a question that only seems like an easy one. Valves or Solid-state?
Nothing beats the good old crisp. For many years the valve amplifiers have been the undisputed kings within the world of amps.
Some of these models have earned much fame. However, we live in modern times. Even so, the heat of the valves continues to bring a colorful sound to the Ampeg SVT CL or the Orange AD200B Mk3 thanks to its harmonic distortions produced by the pipes.
Despite this, the valve heads are very fragile (damn humidity) and are subject to different inconveniences if constant maintenance is not performed.
When we are on tour, it can be a big problem between the road, the bus, the rain, etc.
As for the weight, these heads have not evolved much (they weigh a lot), but many bassists would not change it for anything in the world.
There are numerous reasons why many bass players opt for this solution. The first thing to consider is weight, and honestly speaking, they are much lighter.
Modern copies of class D amplifiers such as the Eich Amplification T300, Markbass Little Mark Ninja, Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, or the TC Electronic BH250 is reinterpreting the amplification standards of an instrument with only a more compact weight and dimensions.
Many of these heads will surely fit into your budget and they are ideal for all those who have to move a lot in order to play, either by car or by plane.
A Combo Solution
Are you really obsessed with the sound of valves? There is still one last solution – the hybrid amp.
Some great examples are the EBS Fafner II, the Markbass TTE 501, the Markbass Little Mark Tube, or the Hartke LH-1000.
Hybrid amplifiers are composed of a valve preamp to recover warm sound and a transistor power amplifier. The sound advantage is obvious, with the valve sound accompanied by the power and neutrality of the transistors.
The previous generation of the amplifier to transistor heads had a very dry and sterilized sound that fits into most bassist’s tastes.
Amplifier with Two Channels
If your next song needs a round and smooth sound but at the same time with a good distortion – No problem! Some manufacturers include two-channel amps, one for saturated sound, and one for clean use, although they can also be combined.
The amps such as Darkglass Microtubes 900, Orange OB1-500, or Gallien Krueger MB800 allow precise intervention in the sound thanks to its two channels.
Changing the channels frequently is also not uncommon, and it’s very practical and pleasant to be able to change the sound between songs easily.
Are you committed to finding a specific solution for your bass amp needs? Why would you have to decide between vintage or modern answer? Modeling amplifiers compress all your considerations into one product.
They help with functionally and are very useful, just as the Markbass Bass Multiamp demonstrates.
The prices are a bit higher, and the handling is more complicated, but you will have at your fingertips a dozen amplifiers and screens within a single compact product.
Do All Valve and Solid-state Amplifiers Sound the Same?
Obviously not. Despite some structural similarities, we can say that each manufacturer has its own sound. An interesting classification can be made – manufacturers like Ampeg or Orange have their own very recognizable sound with simple listening.
Other manufacturers such as Glockenklang or Tirck Fish Design have chosen to reproduce the bass signal as pure and clean as possible.
What Power Should My Amplifier Have?
The power of the valves has nothing to do with the power of the transistors. In a Tube amplifier, a power of 100 to 200W is bestial. The harmonic distortion of the valves mentioned above is the cause: the signal may appear thicker and stronger than that of a transistor amplifier with the same power.
The 350 W transistor amplifiers have a limit – A lower power is not convenient if you want to be prepared to compete for presence with other groupmates on stage.
Modern class D amps that have a power of more than 1000W are extraordinary. When you do not use the amplifier at full capacity, you will still be “under the pedal,” which is a power reserve called “Headroom,” and it allows you to have outstanding dynamics even at a low volume – The more power, the better!
Solid-state neutrality has an advantage in terms of size. It allows us to play any style without coloring the sound too much. For those bass players who play in many bands or want to play many different styles, this tool will help them. With a minimum power of 350W, you can play anywhere.
Attention – For large stages, it is better to sound these amplifiers and send the signal through monitors, in order to listen to the other musicians.
Just as it was the case with amplifiers, the number of speakers available in the market is infinite. You must choose according to your budget and personal tastes.
The 10 ″ Speakers
The most popular speakers in the world of the electric bass are 10 inches. They allow us to reproduce the bass signal with fast transitions, and it’s suitable for those who play with modern techniques such as Slapping (excellent for Funk) or Tapping (often presented within the solo).
However, these speakers are limited within the reproduction of bass frequencies due to their small size. For that reason, manufacturers had a good idea of including more than one 10-inch speaker inside the amp.
The membranes are coupled on top so that they allow air to travel in the block. As they are forced to be multiple configurations, 10 ″ speakers are usually found in two by two, four, or even eight by eight forms.
This inevitably affects the weight of the box, but manufacturers have more than one trick up their sleeves, and ultralight coils will relieve our poor bass player’s back.
Some of these include handles such as the Markbass Standard 104HF, Glockenklang Take Five Neo, or Hartke HX410 HyDrive.
The 15 ″ Speakers
A deeper bass sound can help conquer the audience, this is also imperative for many genres where we will need a larger speaker. However, the sound of the room can be spoiled with to many different factors, and the solution then might be found in the use of the 18″ speakers.
The 15″ speakers meanwhile have high sound pressure in the entire bass to maintain low distortion.
We can find these speakers on screens such as Harley Benton BB115T, Ashdown Toneman 115 Deep, or Mesa Boogie Subway Ultra-Lite 1X15.
Stack / Combination
On the other hand, since 15-inch speakers are not as fast as 10-inch transistors, many bass players combine a 4×10″ speaker with a 1×15″ speaker. The result – The best of both!
This speaker combination has been applied for several decades as the classic stack. Although this system needs space on the tour bus, the thick sound compensates for the logistical inconvenience.
To keep in mind, You can combine them as you want – everything is allowed.
Respect the appropriate power and impedance specifications to avoid damaging your equipment.
Last note: Speakers of different brands do not have to have the same size, nor do they have to stack correctly. Typically products from the same manufacturer are designed to perfect fit right in. But sometimes they do not! Especially when you try to change from one series to another.
Calculate well so that you do by a wrong model or even worse damage your equipment.
The 12″ Speakers
Oh, I nearly forgot. Here is an interesting compromise – Good acoustic pressure, speed of transistors, and definition within the bass. Check out the Gallien Krueger NEO212-II-8 or the Orange OBC212. You’ll love it!
In-Ear Monitoring – With or Without?
Many bass players use smaller and often custom-made intra-auricular (In-Ear) monitoring systems. Even if they complain that the bass sound cannot be heard in a smaller spaces, it has many advantages.
You can go anywhere without moving the entire stack. It doesn’t matter if you are jamming at home or in the rehearsal room.
It will take you a while to get used to wearing these types of systems and “isolate yourself” from the rest, but you can always remove one of the devices from one of the ears to be able to hear some of the sounds from the stage.
The second advantage but no less significant is safety. Since you can adjust the volume while continuing to enjoy the quietness of isolation – Goodbye annoying ringing forever!
A “Thicker” Sound, Thanks to External Pre-Amps
If the bass can be connected directly to the mixer (with a DI if the table does not have an instrument input), the sound of the instrument is usually “too clean”, “bodiless” and bland.
External preamplifiers are an excellent remedy that is placed between the bass and the mixer.
Products such as the Darkglass Microtubes B7K Ultra, Radial Engineering Bassbone V2, EBS MicroBass II, or the Ampeg SCR-DI will fulfill this task without a doubt.
Attention – Like the amplifiers, the preamps of specific brands come more or less with the colored sound. Everyone’s personal tastes will have the final decision!
Yep, as we mentioned before, there is no clear and visible solution that will magically fulfill everyone’s needs. Many factors need to be thrown on the table in order to find the ideal amp to accompany all your grooves.
However, we hope that we cleared a bit of mist that surrounds the selection of the right amp for bass guitar and that you will soon find an answer to your needs.