Bass Guitar Amplifiers and Cabinets

bass guitar and amp

For bass guitarists, the right amp provides a clear, crisp tone that cuts through any mix. While many bassists prefer the grit of a tube amp, others like the reliability and clean sound of solid-state amps.

When playing bass through an amp, it’s important to start with a clean tone and avoid using built-in effects. This helps prevent overdrive and reduces the chance of damaging your speaker.


Solid-state bass amps utilise transistors (similar to computer chips) to amplify the bass guitar signal. They’re often smaller, lighter and less expensive to maintain than tube amps. They’re also the most common type of bass amp used on the professional stage.

They’re generally considered to be the best bass amp for beginners and those who don’t require the overdriven tone that tube amplifiers can produce. A good quality solid-state bass amp will usually have a clean channel which is perfect for those who use pedals in their setup and a distortion channel which can be used at higher volumes.

A growing number of players prefer to use solid-state amps as they offer a more consistent sound across the entire frequency range. This can be particularly beneficial for musicians who use a lot of pedals or who play in high-powered bands. They’re also typically easier to maintain than a tube amplifier as they don’t require replacement vacuum tubes.

Many solid-state bass amps also feature a built-in effects section which can be used either preamp in the pedal chain or as a stand-alone amplifier plugged directly into a speaker cab. These include things like chorus, reverb and vibrato which can add an extra dimension to your overall sound.

For those who do want a little of the tube sound, there’s a wide selection of combo bass amps that feature both solid-state and tube amplifier technology. The Laney Digbeth bass amp range is an example of this and a great choice for those who want the best of both worlds as it offers a warm, organic sound with a natural overdrive that’s easy to control.

Of course, there’ll always be some professionals who will insist on using a specific tube amp – it’s part of their image and they have roadies to carry them around! However, even the most ardent tube amp devotees will admit that a good-quality solid-state amp can easily match or better the sound of a traditional valve amp. The key difference is that while tube amps modulate current, solid state amps modulate voltage – which creates a different feel to the overall tone.


A tube bass amp (also known as a valve amp) delivers an organic, rich, and warm tone. It responds accurately to how hard or soft you play and gives a natural overdrive at higher volumes. This makes a tube bass amp a favorite of rock and blues bassists.

A bass guitar is different from a guitar or vocals in that it has low frequencies and requires a lot of headroom to avoid distortion. This can be challenging for a solid-state amplifier to achieve without losing the bass’s fundamental sound. Fortunately, there are a number of tube bass amps that can deliver this, while still providing plenty of headroom for distortion.

Most bass players prefer tubes because of their warm and natural tone. They also tend to have a better dynamic response to your playing style, which can make them more expressive. They also create harmonic distortion when pushed, which can add a nice edge to your bass tone. However, these benefits come at a cost – tubes are heavier and more expensive to operate than other amp types. They can also be fragile and require more maintenance.

Bassists who aren’t too concerned with distortion will find that a solid-state amplifier is more suitable for them. These amps use transistors to amplify the signal, which is much lighter and less costly than glass vacuum tubes. Bassists who need to travel light and aren’t too fussy about a tube-based distortion will find that a solid-state amp is their best option.

A good way to gauge whether a solid-state or tube bass amp is right for you is by trying one out in person. Many retailers have demo amps that you can test out, so you can get a feel for how the amp sounds before making a decision.

Some bassists who aren’t quite sure which type of amp to choose will opt for a hybrid bass amp, which combines the best of both worlds. These amps typically have a tube preamp and a solid-state power amp, which means they provide the clarity and reliability of a solid-state amplifier with the warmth and character of a tube amp.


A bass guitar requires a different type of amplifier than a electric or acoustic guitar because it generates lower frequencies. Bassists who play gigs in small clubs and other venues use a “combo” bass amp, which combines a preamplifier (which includes tone controls), power amplifier and speaker in one unit. Bassists who play in genres that require high stage volume may use larger, higher wattage combo amplifiers.

Combo amps for bass guitar are available in both solid-state and tube models. Solid-state amps have been the preferred choice among professional bassists. They offer a greater amount of gain and sonic flexibility than comparable tube amplifiers, making them well-suited to the bass’ needs. A bass guitarist can also obtain a desirable sound by plugging their instrument into both an electric guitar amplifier and a bass amp, using a crossover to separate the higher frequencies from the lower ones.

A combination amplifier for bass guitar usually has a selection of switches and rotary knobs, similar to those found on other electronic audio equipment, such as a home stereo system. The simplest, least expensive bass amps may only have an on/off switch and a bass and treble control knob. More expensive combo amps typically add one or more additional tone controls and a master volume control.

Some larger, more powerful combo amps for bass feature a high-frequency tweeter in their speaker enclosure, to reproduce the mid and high frequencies of the bass sound. This allows the bassist to adjust the mix of low-frequency and high-frequency sounds as needed for a particular venue and performance.

Bassists who wish to apply overdrive effects to their bass guitar may also want to look for a bass amp that has an effects loop, or use a pedalboard which includes an overdrive effect unit. A variety of bass-specific effect units are available for modifying the sound of an amplified bass guitar, including distortion, vintage overdrive and fuzz.

In the early days of rock, electric bassists often used specialized upright basses and large power amps to amplify their sounds. Some of the earliest bass players experimented with bi-amplification, in which each frequency range is sent to its own amplifier and speaker. John Entwistle, the bassist for The Who, was a proponent of this approach; he famously played with Marshall stacks that incorporated multiple amplifiers and speakers.


The type of bass amplifier and cabinet you choose will depend on your musical style, experience level, budget and venue size. For example, a professional musician who plans to play concerts and recordings may need a powerful full stack of amps. Conversely, a well-practiced beginner or intermediate guitarist can get by with a half stack that can be upgraded later. It’s important to discuss your playing style and music genre with a knowledgeable expert or music supply store when selecting equipment.

A basic bass guitar amplifier consists of an electric circuit that transforms and shapes the tiny electrical signal from the magnetic pickups on the bass guitar into a sound that can be heard by a live audience. These circuits typically include at least two amplifier stages and one or more tone-shaping electronic circuits. The most common controls are bass and treble controls, which function similarly to the equalizer knobs on a home hi-fi system. Some amplifiers also have other frequency range controls, such as midrange and presence. The most expensive amplifiers often have a graphic equalizer that uses vertical faders to control multiple frequency bands.

When musicians use their amps’ gain controls to turn up the volume, it increases the proportion of the input voltage and current that is sent to the next amplifier stage. This changes the distortion of the sound, which can range from gentle overdrive that’s suitable for country and blues to a harsh, overdriven sound that’s appropriate for heavy metal. The volume control gradations are usually marked from zero to ten, but the 1984 film This Is Spinal Tap caused many players to believe their amps go up to “eleven.”

Some players prefer the convenience of a combo amplifier that combines an amplifier head unit with at least one speaker. This eliminates the need to carry a separate speaker cabinet to gigs, and it gives the player more flexibility to upgrade wattage or different cab sounds by switching out the amp head unit. However, if a player tends to forget gear at gigs or is prone to leaving a piece of equipment behind onstage, a separate head and cab stack may be a better choice.