A professional bass guitarist always ensures they have an outstanding amplifier at their disposal, and today there are an abundance of amp options to choose from.
Decide whether a combo or head and cab (otherwise known as a stack) will best meet your needs. A combo includes both amplifier and speaker in one unit for easier transport; alternatively, head and cab systems must consist of separate pieces.
If you plan on playing gigs regularly, it’s essential that you find an amp that won’t wear out your bass guitar after repeated use. Portable amps offer more protection, so look for lightweight but still powerful models for this task.
Power measurement of bass amplifiers is measured in watts, which has an impactful effect on their tone and performance. But this doesn’t tell us all we need to know when it comes to how loud an amp sounds – other elements like speaker size and compression also play a significant role.
Many bass amps include a control panel that enables you to adjust your tone. This may include controls for EQ, effects and other functions depending on the amplifier model; though many of these controls may seem complex or intimidating for beginners. There are some controls that are typically universal across most amps:
Input/Output – Nearly all bass amplifiers will offer input jacks for your instrument and microphone, along with output jacks for headphones and an effect loop. Some even provide additional AUX inputs which may come in handy when plugging in additional devices such as tuners or drum machines.
EQ – Equalization controls typically consist of knobs representing various frequencies in the frequency spectrum – bass, low-mid, high-mid and treble. While some guitarists may prefer an even frequency response with these controls, others enjoy adding warmth or crunch with these controls.
Effects – While not all bass amps will feature effects, those that do will typically include reverb, delay and tremolo features as well as possibly having a drive function which further distorts your sound without significantly decreasing overall volume levels.
There are two primary types of bass amplifiers: solid-state and tube. Solid-state amps don’t use vacuum tubes and tend to be cheaper and lighter; however, many pro bassists still prefer tube amps as their more natural distortion blends in better with band mixes than their solid-state counterparts.
If you plan to be a gigging musician, an amp that’s portable and simple to set up is essential. A half-stack, which combines head and cabinet into one unit, is an excellent solution; although larger than its counterparts like combo amps, its design allows easier setup/break down.
Wattage of an amplifier is another critical consideration. Although many assume that higher wattages equal louder volumes, other factors like speaker compression play a far larger part in overall volume than just wattage alone.
There are also different kinds of bass amps to meet different musical genres’ requirements. For instance, bassists performing metal or hard rock may require an amp with an Overdrive (OD) knob to further distort signal to produce a crunchy tone suitable for these genres of music.
However, for intermediate bassists just starting out and who don’t wish to invest in an all-tube amp setup yet, a solid state combo with 100 watts should provide enough power and clarity while still enabling you to jam with other musicians or drum kits while hearing yourself clearly.
Most amps offer additional features to help customize your tone and performance, including an equalizer (EQ), which lets you control how much bass, treble and mids appear in your sound; some also come equipped with distortion or compression effects that add character to your guitar’s sound; other useful features may include mute switches for tuning purposes without turning off the entire unit; VU or clipping meters that monitor output levels during live performances; as well as built-in tuners – especially helpful for budding bassists without access to their own tuner!
Many bassists want an amp that will produce sound suitable for their genre of choice. Therefore, many bass amps include additional controls that enable users to modify its tone and effects for different musical styles – including drive knobs for drive sub and enhance functions that allow bassists to find just the right tone to suit them.
Wattage can have an enormous influence on an amplifier’s sound quality; however, it should be remembered that wattage only accounts for one factor of volume production (speaker and compression being others). Therefore, before selecting an amp wattage level it is imperative to understand your true needs as a bassist before selecting one.
As an example, if your goal is to play heavy metal and play to crowds of over 1000 people, a 100+ watt bass amp might be appropriate; on the other hand, if your plan is more modest and you plan to perform at smaller venues instead, a smaller combo amp might better suit your needs.
Another key element in an amp’s sound is its equalization (EQ). Most bass amps will feature at least a gain knob; others might offer additional treble and bass knobs for more precise tone shaping. While the former works similarly to an equalizer in terms of dramatically altering tone, treble knobs will only do this subtly.
Alongside traditional control knobs, some amps will offer additional controls such as reverb and delay effects – these may not be essential for most players but can be an ideal way to streamline your rig and save costs by eliminating multiple pedals. Furthermore, certain amps feature auxiliary inputs for reamping as well as headphone jacks – ideal options for bassists that frequently travel for gigs.
Most bass amps feature numerous built-in options for tones you can tailor to suit the genre you play in, giving you maximum versatility when selecting an amp for yourself. We look for versatility as one of the key criteria in choosing an appropriate bass amplifier, because before even hitting your board or computer it must sound amazing – whether that means soft elastic bounce for funk music or heavy bass thunder… this guide has something perfect!
Though different amplifiers will feature different controls, a quality bass guitar amplifier must include input jacks, power control and at least 3-band equalization (EQ). Bass and treble controls are also fairly standard and allow you to alter your amp’s basic tone dramatically by turning up or down either knob; increasing bass will add low-end boost while turning down treble will produce clearer, more detailed sounds.
Compression controls are also an essential feature, providing you with the ability to compress the overall output and add punchier bass notes. This feature is often found on high-powered amps designed specifically for use on stage; they help your bass stand out against other instruments and speakers in live settings.
Other useful features can include switchable impedance (which enables you to match different speaker types with your amp), and multiple speaker jacks that accept both 1/4″ TRS and Neutrik Speakon connectors; Neutrik Speakon connectors provide greater security against an excitable singer or drummer yanking the cable out and damaging your amplifier.
The Aguilar Tone Hammer bass amp is an outstanding example of an amp that’s packed with useful features. Its elegant front panel contains multiple controls in a compact footprint, such as its three-band equaliser and Drive option for added oomph. Furthermore, there’s a range of wattages so that you can tailor its power output according to your gigging requirements; plus its preamp is legendary!