Bass Amp Buyers Guide
We have looked at a selection of low-output practice combo amps and so we have tailored our guide to the specifics of a smaller choice.
What to Look For in a Bass Amp?
What to look for is truly dependent on how you are going to use the amplifier. We are not looking to settle the age-old tubed versus tubeless argument most of today’s selections have been solid-state as the industry seems to be leaning towards digital amps in modern times, with good reason.
Though analog tube amps have their place in live performance and indeed recordings with their inimitable vintage tones, many modern amps come close enough for the majority of younger generation bassists.
Solid-state amps provide a great deal more in terms of their tone sculpting capabilities than their antiquated counterparts, simply because they are digitally processing the sound signals.
In a combo amp, the onboard EQ is the major selling point so you need to determine the range of features you want to be able to adjust.
3-band EQ (bass, treble, and mid) is about as basic as it gets and for the budding bassist will suffice in providing a good variety of tones for most genres. If you prefer heavier music then you might require an overdrive button and gain dial.
Jazzier or precision style bassists will be a little more focused on their treble end as they tend to play with a lot more of their neck than most in which case is it nice to have some additional characteristics in terms of sound such as contour control and brightness which will lift the harmonic focus to the higher frequencies.
Unlike a traditional guitar amp speaker, a bass speaker needs a larger surface area and more rigidity to handle the low-frequency exposure and move in a manner that creates the air motion required for low-end sound waves.
They also typically require a bigger space to do so as the speaker cone moves back and forth it creates a backlash of reverse motion waves that need to be dealt with or they will muddy the intended signal sounds.
This is the reason that bass cabs tended to be much larger back in the day, though enclosure designs have developed over the years and can be calibrated to help solve the issue.
The majority of smaller amps will do this by filtering the air out of the can efficiently via an opening and placing the speaker as far-forward as possible.
For live use, you will want something bigger with a higher output but for practicing at home this might be less reasonable as far as your neighbors and family are concerned.
To generalize on speaker dimensions, we would recommend 10-15-inches and a minimum of one or two for performance but again in a bedroom situation this is unnecessary and a single 6-8-inch can do a very good job at the right wattage.
Is a Low-Watt Amp any Good for Bass?
While the majority of us wouldn’t consider a solid-state bass combo below 75 to 100 watts, the capabilities of smaller speakers, smaller cabs, and lower output amps are getting better by the decade.
If you are only looking to develop your playing skills then you won’t require too much in terms of consumption, especially if you are looking to hook up some headphones and play at any hour.
Technically speaking a smaller low-watt amp is missing the lower harmonics and not true to the fidelity of the signal but scientifically our brains hear the pitch of the note filling in the harmonics as it goes.
To a seasoned player with experience of much bigger, high-output amps the sound will be lacking in depth but for a newbie, the majority are pretty satisfying, to say the least.
A smaller amp is often overlooked by many but if you are only practicing and playing for yourself anything over a 50-watt model is just overkill, but each to their own.
We have looked at some realistic low-watt options that make for sensible practice amps and given that the majority now come with headphone outputs allowing you to play solely to yourself you really don’t need to overthink a practice amps spec unless you practice as a group.
We would recommend something more powerful in a band rehearsal set up, but for the most part, those we have highlighted are sound bedroom models.
If we had to crown a single amp from our selections, our clear winner would be the Orange, not just because it offers the highest watts of the lot, but because it benefits from parametric EQ allowing more wiggle room to shape your sound, the cab emulation is great on the headphone out so you don’t lose any sound quality and it has a built-in tuner.
For us it ticks all of the boxes; we hope we have given you some food for thought and shown that you don’t need to spend an arm and a leg for a savvy space-saving practice bass amp.
If you are looking for something a little more powerful and have a little more cash to spare we would recommend you search the higher-ends of each of the series we have highlighted here today they all make for very respectable options.
Did you Know
A decent bass pedal can open up a wealth of further tone-shaping possibilities in conjunction with a very basic amplifier so why not have a nose at our bass pedal articles?