An ideal option for gigging musicians, a bass guitar and amp combo makes taking everything you need with you convenient and portable. A smaller venue might require something smaller such as a 1×12 cabinet which offers great clean, blues or classic rock tones.
A bass combo can also be an economical solution if your budget is limited; they tend to be less costly than purchasing separate components such as head and cab units.
Speaker size and cabinet design
If you want your bass to sound big, it requires a speaker cabinet capable of handling high frequencies. Ported or sealed bass cabinets must also be designed to control their low-frequency response and produce deep sounds without resonance or sounding loose; for this reason bass amplifiers tend to be larger than electric guitar amps, with speakers starting at 15 inches in size; some professional players even combine multiple cabinets into “bass stacks” to produce fuller tones for larger venues and bands.
Combo amplifiers combine the preamplifier, power amp and speaker into one unit. Early combo amps featured 4x 12 inch speakers while the Fender Bassman with 2 x 10 inchers set an industry-wide standard that still reigns today. A compact combo is an ideal solution for beginners or practicing bassists in small venues or at home; however for larger rooms an amp with separate preamp and power amplifier plus multiple cabinets should be selected instead.
Bass amps usually offer more comprehensive EQ features than guitar amplifiers, including internal overdrive function, high-frequency horn and parametric or graphic EQ that allows them to fine-tune the tone of their amp. Many bass amplifiers even include an effects loop input jack so players can plug additional pedals or even DI boxes into them for recording purposes.
Decisions on whether or not to choose a solid state or tube amplifier must also be carefully made, since both types can produce impressive bass tones; however, when overdriven a solid state amplifier often becomes harsh and unmusical while tube amps produce more controlled overdrives that remain musical and suitable for musical styles like jazz. Ultimately it comes down to personal choice as well as musical genre.
Some bassists opt for an open-back cabinet equipped with a reflex port that helps the speaker move more air at lower frequencies, creating a deeper and fuller sound suitable for most situations. Closed back cabinets featuring either fixed or removable port tubes also offer more focused tones which may be ideal in certain instances.
Bass guitar amplifiers require much higher wattages than electric guitar amps to produce lower frequencies with equal amplitude; therefore, bass combo amps tend to be larger and heavier.
Most bass amplifiers use transistors rather than glass vacuum tubes to amplify sound, and while some guitarists may dislike solid-state amps due to their emphasis on sharp high tones without providing the mellow distortion that tubes offer, bassists typically have less concern over these frequencies, preferring instead the sound produced by transistor-based amps.
Modern bass amplifiers typically boast power output ratings between 200 and 400 watts. To unlock maximum wattage from these amps, it should be used with cabinets providing at least 4 ohm load resistance – otherwise your 400-watt amplifier may only receive half its full potential and possibly damage its speakers!
Some bass combo amps feature built-in overdrive effects to add extra bite and bite to their tone, while some feature more sophisticated parametric or graphic EQ controls which allow bassists to tweak frequency bands of their signal and achieve a wide variety of sound variations. A Fender SuperBassman 300-watt tube amp allows musicians to create overdrive sounds ranging from “mellow warmth” to heavy distortion and fuzz; Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead fame achieved his signature natural fuzz bass tone by overdriving his triple 100 Watt Marshall bass stack.
Small bass combo amps may feature an on/off switch, volume control and mute button to enable silent tuning between songs. More expensive models might additionally offer a digital chromatic tuner as well as graphic equalization with vertical sliders to enable bassists to manage specific frequency bands.
Combo bass amplifiers are an easy and straightforward way to transport and setup, but bassists who demand higher stage volume might opt for separate bass heads with speaker cabinets instead.
Many bass amplifiers feature speaker cabinets designed to produce powerful and deep tones. A cabinet’s size and thickness of its wood help determine its sound production; thicker walls will be less likely to vibrate loose and produce better sounds overall. Furthermore, selecting an amp with closed back design improves bass response from its speaker.
Not only will most bass amplifiers feature basic controls like gain and volume controls as well as at least 3-band EQ, some also come equipped with advanced effects such as reverb, delay or distortion that add an ambient feel to your music; these effects are particularly helpful for live performance situations.
Though you won’t necessarily need an amp with many effects, you should find one with enough features to suit your musical style. If you play metal, for instance, then an amplifier with plenty of gain should do, while if you prefer more funkier slap playing techniques then an amp equipped with built-in compression may be more suitable.
Combo amplifiers combine an amplifier head and speaker in one compact unit, making them more portable than separate cabinets and amplifier heads. Combo amps come in many sizes from small combos suitable for practicing to larger stage rigs with patch bays to add custom external speaker output or preamp outs.
Your search for an amp that provides stereo RCA jacks will yield amps with stereo RCA jacks – perfect for connecting headphones or MP3 players so that you can practice along to recorded music – will also result in amps equipped with features like mute switches, stereo aux input, external speaker outputs and 1/4″ jacks for connecting pedals that control its onboard overdrive or reverb effect.
Some bass guitar amplifiers feature a hybrid design that combines tube and solid-state amplifier technologies. Solid state amplifiers use electronic transistors to process your bass signal while tube preamps add natural overdrive that’s great for blues and classic rock music. When pushed too far though, their tube preamp can clip, leading to harsh-sounding tones.
Preamps are often the first amplifier component a bassist interacts with when using an amp combo, and can play a critical role in creating his or her sound. Preamps may use either tube (“thermionic,” in the UK “valve,” or solid state (“transistor”) technology for bass guitar amplifiers; hybrid designs exist which combine these technologies.
Some bass guitarists prefer the warm tone and distortion produced by tube preamps; others find their high maintenance costs and limited dynamic range to be prohibitive. Furthermore, lack of an overdrive circuit in some tube models makes them challenging to use with bass guitars.
Solid-state preamps can create various overdrive effects such as modern bass overdrive, vintage overdrive and fuzz; Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead achieved his signature natural fuzz bass tone by overdriving three 100W Marshall Bass stacks with solid-state preamps. Other solid-state preamps may offer additional effects like reverb or adjustable equalizer bands that can help tailor frequency response of their amplifier.
All bass guitar amplifiers contain some form of equalization feature that allows users to alter the tone and frequencies produced by their amplifier, depending on genre and tonal character of music being performed. Some bass amplifiers even include switches for cutting frequencies below 30-40 Hz for recording purposes – an effective way of eliminating recordings with drum sounds that interfere with recordings.
Most bass amplifiers are designed to be easily portable for gigging or studio use, featuring one carry handle for their cabinets or speakers and another carrying handle for the amplifier “head.” Larger combo amps may even come equipped with wheels for easier transport; additional amplifier heads may even fit snugly into 19-inch rack cases to enable safe transport and storage alongside other equipment.