When performing life on stage, or just having cathartic garage experiences, a bass amp is what you need to make every note of your bass guitar come to life and fill the room. Best of all, you don’t need an expensive bass amp to get the most out of your guitar. By knowing the different types available and what to look for, it’s easy to find an amp that works for your needs. This article is here to do just that.
What Type of Amp Do You Want?
These are meant specifically for practice. They are what they sound like they are. Headphone amps are tiny little interfaces that you plug into your bass and then run headphones out so you can practice easily and without disturbing anyone around you.
These are the most common amps you will find. Both the amplifier and speaker are included with combo amps. These can be tiny practice amps that have 4-inch speakers up to huge amps that can totally blow out a room.
Heads and Cabinets
These are effectively combo amps stripped down to their two basic roots. The head is the actual amplifier which will allow you to equalize and tinker with your sound. The cabinet is the speaker. These are generally larger setups, though some swear by heads and use them even with smaller speakers. Some people refer to this setup as a “stack.”
So Now What?
After you’ve decided what kind of setup to get, you’ll want to go into more detail. The first of those would be:
Tube Amp or Solid-State
This is an age-old debate among audiophiles, though most would probably lean towards tube amps. These amps push sound through by sucking the electrical signal into what looks like a light bulb and then pushing it out. These amps are known for their warmth and naturally distort more easily than a solid-state amp. They are also less durable as you can easily blow out a tube, but they are pretty easy to fix as it is akin to changing a light bulb (more complicated, but similar).
Solid-state amps use transistor circuits to make sense of the input it gets from your instrument, and then they turn it into sound. These amps have less warmth but are known for having a clearer sound when played clean. You can look at the history of music and see all sorts of legendary players that have used tube amps and solid-state amps.
Delay the Chorus!
Once all of that is decided, you’ll want to figure out the bells and whistles. Some people which can produce many effects. Every musician remembers the first time they played with delay and laid it on thick. Unfortunately, the more effects an amp has built-in, the more often it diminishes the sound quality of the amp. Beginners may not notice this, but experienced players will.
Keep It Clean!
Others will opt for a no-frills approach. Some people don’t even want a drive channel on their amp. These are the folks who are seeking to find the clearest and cleanest tone that they can. Does that sound like you? If so, you’ll be looking for an amp with as many EQ settings as possible, like the Hartke HD75.
Since it is a fairly expensive purchase, there can be pressure to get the perfect amp when you are shopping for your first one. But, as all musicians learn, one is never enough and down the road, you’ll find reasons to buy another. One day you’re sitting on top of your Fender 5 inch practice amp, and the next you’re in a basement with 80 different drum kit pieces, 42 guitars, and amps surrounding every wall of the house. Well, one can dream.
The beauty is that as long as they work, there is something you can do with any amplifier. Maybe you love the clean sound of your Ampeg but want to hear what it sounds like with the cackle of your half-blown stack. That’s easy! Go buy a splitter and plug your guitar into both at the same time. It may wake up the neighbors and also the rest of the block, but you’ll be in heaven.
So, even if you don’t get the perfect amp the first time through, there’s always the next one. And we have a good feeling you’ll love your first one anyway.