Question about bass amplifiers

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naturligfunktion
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Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Hello my good wigglers 8-)

I'm thinking to get a new bass amplifier and it occurs to me that I have no clue what to look for. So I have some questions:

Does bass amplifiers use tubes? I sort of assume that they don't to the same extent as guitar amplifiers? If that is the case, why?
Should I get a combo or a head and cabinet? When it comes to guitars, I do love a nice combo. Maybe this is not that important..
How big should it be? Does a bass amplifier also use 12" or is it bigger speakers?
A tube amp needs to be hooked up to a load in order for it not to blow up. Is it the same with bass amplifiers?

I'm looking for something that has a good, sort of mid focus rock n roll tone. I do like a nice round bass, but I also want that nice Motown-ish sound.

I get that this thread is a big "?" but if you know a lot about bass amplifiers, please write about it here so we can all discuss and share the knowledge :hug:

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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Jturbide »

Hello.

Most bass amps today is solid state (no tubes). I think it is general consensus that unlike guitar amps (most of the time), solid state amps are pretty much as good as tube amps for bass. Keep in mind that 100W guitar amp is loud as hell but not enough for most situation with bass. You will pribably want something around 300W or more if you play venues mic'ed. Althought for small jams or home purposes 100W should be enough.

For speakers, you often see 10" insteaf of 12. Like 4x10 or 2x10 is pretty popular, there is also 15". You also see alot of 8" I think.

I would personnaly go with solid state combo because they sound great and are easy to move around and don't take too much space. Something like a GK mb or a fender rumble is quite cheap and sounds great.


If you want a huge sound for gigs you could go for head/cab, an old acoustic sound research, ampeg, peavey bass would be quite cool and sound great or heavy tones.

Cabwise if you got money you could go with a single 15 + a couple or quad 10" but a standard 2x10 or 4x10 should be plenty. I used to jam with friends and the little rumble 100 was plenty and sounded quite good.

Oh and unlike guitar, orange, fender, ampeg, vox etc are not nescessarily the top bass amp builder at all. Look at Markbass, Epiphanie, GK, aguilar, swr, trickfish, PJB...
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by BlinkyLights »

The most classic tube amp combo for bass: Ampeg B15

The opposite end of the spectrum would be something like an Aguilar solid state head and Hartke 4x10" cab.

A bunch if Motown stuff was recorded direct/no amp.

With a lot of variations in between.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by deltaphoenix »

I have played bass for 30 years, on and off. I have had nice solid state rigs but I prefer tubes. There is some sort of loudness perception difference between tube and solid state wattage and you can do some research on it but it is something like a 3-4x difference in loudness. A 50 watt tube head, with nice/efficient speakers will be loud. In fact, more speakers gets you louder than more wattage.
I have gigged some pretty large places with a 200 watt tube head (not cranked all the way by any means) and a 2-12 cab. If I needed more volume, that’s what a fridge is for (and a PA really!).
The Ampeg PF-50T is a great sounding, smaller 50 watt tube bass head. It doesn’t always have to carry a load either.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Jturbide »

Maybe you could give us your budget and what you intend to do with it, you might have better suggestion :)
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Yes Powder »

If money is no object you could go for an Ampeg SVT tube amp. Of course money being no object means you will also have no qualms about the fact that it’s one of the most expensive amps to re-tube, requiring six (!) 6550 tubesfor the power section.
Everyone wants to be analog until it's time to do some analog shit.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Right now I am just browsing, so I am really enjoying the width of the responses here :)

I have had a transistor combo for ages and I never really liked it. It has an increadibly loud fan that goes on when you power it up and - since I often record the line out from the amp - I dont use it that much. Playing live is a different situation.

I might go and try some tube alternatives. Have a tube amp for the guitar and it is so, so good.

What are the price range for a nice tube combo for the bass?
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Just me »

I used to use an SVT,(sold it) then two Peavey Combo 300's for gigs. Solid state and Black Widow 18's. Now they are in the shed. Too heavy to move. Too big for my studio.
I used solid state mostly but love a good OLD tube amp with crappy tube rectifier for the sag. Think the bassline to Bela Lugosi's Dead. That sag on the attack!
Now I use a homebrew customized 60 watt tube amp with an Eden cabinet with 2 12's and a horn. (I put in switchable rectifiers. Changed the tone stacks and modified the second channel preamp mu.)
There are tons of options. Your style of playing, pocketbook, genre and venue all play into what will be a good setup.
Ask Rexcoil 7. He has been bass forever and tried everything under the sun. He has some good advice when asked. If he doesn't see the thread try a PM here.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by levelhead3 »

it's still really hard to contribute meaningfully without knowing a little more specifics about your specific situation, style, and intended usage. there are simply too many options out there now, so this will quickly devolve into a "so i've got a..." type thread - with side tangents into amplifier topology preferences and other highly subjective decision points.

the biggest threshold in my mind is whether you're playing alongside a full drum kit. nice sounding combos which are perfectly acceptable for jazz gigs and recording sessions (like the highly portable GK MB150E) simply do not provide sufficient volume to properly play alongside rock drums.

from the information you've provided, my vote for a sort of jack-of-all-trades combo with a tube pre and enough watts to hang with a drummer at moderate levels is the Mesa Walkabout Scout. the 1x12" version is about 50 pounds, which is about the limit for one-handed portability. but in my opinion it sounds excellent and is quite versatile tonally without being overly confusing to dial in.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Just me wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 4:33 pm I used to use an SVT,(sold it) then two Peavey Combo 300's for gigs. Solid state and Black Widow 18's. Now they are in the shed. Too heavy to move. Too big for my studio.
I used solid state mostly but love a good OLD tube amp with crappy tube rectifier for the sag. Think the bassline to Bela Lugosi's Dead. That sag on the attack!
Now I use a homebrew customized 60 watt tube amp with an Eden cabinet with 2 12's and a horn. (I put in switchable rectifiers. Changed the tone stacks and modified the second channel preamp mu.)
There are tons of options. Your style of playing, pocketbook, genre and venue all play into what will be a good setup.
Ask Rexcoil 7. He has been bass forever and tried everything under the sun. He has some good advice when asked. If he doesn't see the thread try a PM here.
Cool setup mate. Im sort of was hoping that Rex would make his appearance in this thread when he saw the title :mrgreen: He is for sure one to know what there is to know about BASS!
levelhead3 wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 7:20 pm it's still really hard to contribute meaningfully without knowing a little more specifics about your specific situation, style, and intended usage. there are simply too many options out there now, so this will quickly devolve into a "so i've got a..." type thread - with side tangents into amplifier topology preferences and other highly subjective decision points.

the biggest threshold in my mind is whether you're playing alongside a full drum kit. nice sounding combos which are perfectly acceptable for jazz gigs and recording sessions (like the highly portable GK MB150E) simply do not provide sufficient volume to properly play alongside rock drums.

from the information you've provided, my vote for a sort of jack-of-all-trades combo with a tube pre and enough watts to hang with a drummer at moderate levels is the Mesa Walkabout Scout. the 1x12" version is about 50 pounds, which is about the limit for one-handed portability. but in my opinion it sounds excellent and is quite versatile tonally without being overly confusing to dial in.
Sorry for not being specific. Thing is that I am sort of sorted - got one big boi for rehearsing (which I borrow), and one smaller (yet incredibly heavy and annoying...) combo for live gigs (need to get a gig though, been ages lol) - so I really was just looking for a massive range of inputs :)

My main issue is to record bass nice at home, where I can't mic a cabinet. But that is another problem, taken up in another thread. Probably boiling down to that I need to improve my chops hehe.

Anyways, thanks for your info! :)
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

BlinkyLights wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 9:29 am A bunch if Motown stuff was recorded direct/no amp.
Didn't know that, thanks for the info! I struggle to get good tones when I record DI. I get the bass, but not that nice midrange bite. Probably due to the bass, or my playing hehe.

deltaphoenix wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 9:39 am I have played bass for 30 years, on and off. I have had nice solid state rigs but I prefer tubes. There is some sort of loudness perception difference between tube and solid state wattage and you can do some research on it but it is something like a 3-4x difference in loudness. A 50 watt tube head, with nice/efficient speakers will be loud. In fact, more speakers gets you louder than more wattage.
I have gigged some pretty large places with a 200 watt tube head (not cranked all the way by any means) and a 2-12 cab. If I needed more volume, that’s what a fridge is for (and a PA really!).
The Ampeg PF-50T is a great sounding, smaller 50 watt tube bass head. It doesn’t always have to carry a load either.
That Ampeg PF-50T... I want it so bad now. Also, thanks for the post. Nice to hear that people use tubes for the bass too. Never seen a tube bass amp, strangely enough.
Jturbide wrote: Tue May 10, 2022 8:56 am Hello.
...
Look at Markbass, Epiphanie, GK, aguilar, swr, trickfish, PJB...
Such a great post, many thanks for the info :)

I will look into those brands as well!
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Just me »

Never seen a tube bass amp?
Fender Bassman
Ampeg SVT
Traynor YB-(anything)
Just to start a long list.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Just me wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 5:23 am Never seen a tube bass amp?
Fender Bassman
Ampeg SVT
Traynor YB-(anything)
Just to start a long list.
I thought the bassman was for guitars! :)

But yeah, I might have seen but somehow I thought bass amps always were transistor amps. Dont know why haha :hmm:
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by BlinkyLights »

A thread about Motown DIs and more:

https://gearspace.com/board/so-much-gea ... ss-di.html
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by levelhead3 »

still to this day the best sounding low-wattage tube bass amp i've ever heard is the Ampeg B-25. it's still a little small for full volume gigs, but as a home & studio amp it was unparalleled. i should have never sold mine.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

levelhead3 wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 11:45 pm still to this day the best sounding low-wattage tube bass amp i've ever heard is the Ampeg B-25. it's still a little small for full volume gigs, but as a home & studio amp it was unparalleled. i should have never sold mine.
I think that's the kind of amp I'm gonna look for. A really nice, not too loud, tube head, which sounds nice. Just got to find a modern version, or a used model.
BlinkyLights wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 12:10 pm A thread about Motown DIs and more:

https://gearspace.com/board/so-much-gea ... ss-di.html
Nice one, thanks! Will read it in full right now :tu:
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Technologear? »

A couple of extra points to consider:

Seperate heads and cabs can be easier to transport (splits the weight and easier to tetris)

DI vs a cab moving air in a room, of the same playing, can sound very different. Try both and layering them, ensuring phase is correct

Headroom is a thing: if you want your clean and dynamic playing to be clearly presented, you'll need watts. If you're using drives and compression, it becomes less of an issue

Eq! Try rolling off highs, and lows. Try finding the most honky or prominent frequency in your tone and cutting it. Using a looper can help so you can focus on knob twiddling.

I take a seperate component approach to bass amps that's rather unpopular. Barefaced cabs, modern PA system power amp, various pre amps including DIs, vocal strips, bass pre amps in rack or pedals. I love using crossovers too. Applying old-school PA system theory to bass amps. PM me if you want to know more.

Want to spend money now on something for home? Orange Terror Stamp. Cheap, fun, can drive any cab you have at home easy for home playing levels. Get a cheap taste of what tube pres can do. It's fun.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Jturbide »

Technologear? wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 2:50 am I take a seperate component approach to bass amps that's rather unpopular. Barefaced cabs, modern PA system power amp, various pre amps including DIs, vocal strips, bass pre amps in rack or pedals. I love using crossovers too. Applying old-school PA system theory to bass amps. PM me if you want to know more.
I too like this type of approach (althought mine is minimal compared to yours probably). I went that way for guitar (carvin DCM power amp, SMS CTP Jerry Garcia preamp, Sansamp PSA-1.1 pre, which I can also use for bass, a quadraverb and a hiwatt 4x12). I went simple combo for bass but still can use my preamps for it.

There are alot of cool bass preamp in rack or pedal format if that could be something your are interested in. Verrellen, Sansamp, Alembic, noble, darkglass, broughton, Arkham...

To me, a conventional head is great but if you like to try different stuff, getting a great power amp and a few preamp let you have multiple sounds for less money and less space then having a few heads.

Just something to think about :)
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

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naturligfunktion wrote: Wed May 11, 2022 3:35 amMy main issue is to record bass nice at home, where I can't mic a cabinet.
have you ever thought about using a origin bassrig? that box seems to be built for that exact purpose, just an idea.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Jturbide wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 7:21 am
Technologear? wrote: Thu May 12, 2022 2:50 am I take a seperate component approach to bass amps that's rather unpopular. Barefaced cabs, modern PA system power amp, various pre amps including DIs, vocal strips, bass pre amps in rack or pedals. I love using crossovers too. Applying old-school PA system theory to bass amps. PM me if you want to know more.
I too like this type of approach (althought mine is minimal compared to yours probably). I went that way for guitar (carvin DCM power amp, SMS CTP Jerry Garcia preamp, Sansamp PSA-1.1 pre, which I can also use for bass, a quadraverb and a hiwatt 4x12). I went simple combo for bass but still can use my preamps for it.

There are alot of cool bass preamp in rack or pedal format if that could be something your are interested in. Verrellen, Sansamp, Alembic, noble, darkglass, broughton, Arkham...

To me, a conventional head is great but if you like to try different stuff, getting a great power amp and a few preamp let you have multiple sounds for less money and less space then having a few heads.

Just something to think about :)
Im interested in this approach, but I don't understand it fully. If I understand right, you are kind of building your own bass amp with different preamps? What is a power amp? How is that different from a preamp?
Sorry for asking this newbie question, but I am interested :)

The idea of having a few preamps for different sounds rather than a myriad of bass amplifiers sounds very pleasing - and it would suit my setup very well!
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Technologear? »

A bass combo = preamp + power amp + bass cabinet

Preamp does everything the front face knobs refer to.

Power amp makes that signal louder and drives the speakers.

With all the components seperate, you can setup whatever you like.
Eg. Lounge room rehearsals (no drummer) I take a single 12" cab. For stage gigs with only a vocal PA, I take my 2x 10" cab and 1x 18" cab.
Eg. Same neutral power amp and cab, I can swap out the preamps per project. I have 1 for a really clean finger play tone (vocal channel strip), and another ampeg one for driven pick playing.

The disadvantage of this approach is you have lots of 'stuff'. I like that but others don't.

Preamps don't need to be bass-specific. Eg the sunn model t is coveted by doom and sludge bassists but it was designed for guitarists. But if they're not, you might have some very low frequencies lost (as they actually stuff up the tone of many guitar based circuits - we're talking 180hz and lower). That's actually not as big a deal as you'd think, and can be mitigated by using crossovers or a parallel clean signal (eg a DI before the preamp) if you really want. It's usually not worth it though. Eg I like playing bass through fuzzes, this sounds super heavy and rad even though I've lost most frequencies below 200hz. Eg you can still hear bass lines on AM radio.

The best place to start is letting go of the idea that you only plug in to things specifically designed for bass. Plug into and try everything!
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Jturbide »

Yeah as said above. When you buy an amp (like a classic head, fender bassman for example), you are buying a preamp and a poweramp.

Going the rack (or pedal) preamp+poweramp route, you can put a fender preamp with a mesa boogie poweramp for example. If you have a stereo (or two channel) poweramp you could even have a fender preamp going into channel 1 and another preamp, lets say ampeg, going in channel two. You can then set this up to have both sounds at the same time or switch between the two.

You could also have fx after the first power amp, and others (or none) after the other. I love doing this with guitar, reverb and delays after a preamp and the other one is dry, it really makes the dry sound stand out and keep the beautiful reverb and delays in there without drowning the sound. Commonly refered to as a Wet/dry setup. My hiwatt cab is rewired to have 2 speakers receiving channel one and the other two receiving channel two, that way I can do wet/dry without needing 2 cabs.

Regargind recording at home without a mic, the bass world makes it easier then guitar. Alot of combo, heads, preamps, pedals have a DI (direct out). You could also simply record from the preamp output. Preamps don't need a load (be attached to a speaker) to function safely and you don't need the sound to go through a power amp if you are not using speakers
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by naturligfunktion »

Seriously, thanks a lot for your replies!! :hug:

If I get it right, the poweramp's main function is to drive a speaker, and to colour the sound? So if I am recording at home, straight into the interface, I can disregard the poweramp?

Really cool @Jturbide how you have setup your cab to have a wet/dry speaker. I imagine that it is possible to do the same thing, but instead of sending it to a speaker, you send the dry signal to one channel, and the wet to another and record them separately.

This thread is great :)
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Technologear? »

Yep, poweramp function is to drive the speaker and make it move air. But typically not to colour the signal - that's the preamps job.
(Power amp colour/tone is what guitarists who drive tube amps hard talk about, 'power tube saturation'. Ie insanely loud.)

Go through your pedals and pre amp gear. Do you have any way to split and replicate your bass signal? DI? Pedal with 2 outs? Mixing desk with sends? That would enable you to have 2 different tones of your single pass.

Alternatively, try recording direct into your interface. Double the take. On one, cut everything above 250hz and compress it. The other, cut everything below 250hz and put a drive on it, with some chorus. Stock plugins will do.
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Re: Question about bass amplifiers

Post by Jturbide »

naturligfunktion wrote: Fri May 13, 2022 7:38 am
Really cool @Jturbide how you have setup your cab to have a wet/dry speaker. I imagine that it is possible to do the same thing, but instead of sending it to a speaker, you send the dry signal to one channel, and the wet to another and record them separately.

This thread is great :)
I simply wired the cab to be stereo, so I have top right and bottom left receiving the left signal and the two others receiving the right signal. I then send a preamp + quadraverb into channel 1 (left) of my power amp and another preamp dry on the second one (right). Glorious sound :)
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