The Best Bass Combo Amp
It took me forever to find the best bass combo amp. I started looking at heads and cabinets and before I knew it, I was way over budget. I felt stumped. When I started looking at combo amps, I felt like I was doing a little bit better with value for money. I’m willing to pay more for the right sound, and therein came my next dilemma.
I’ve seen my fair share of subpar combo amps. The treble is too high and you can’t get a clean sound. You aren’t getting the options you need to tweak your amp to match the particular sound of your bass. It’s also hard to find the best of both worlds – I wanted an amp that was great enough to play and demo record at home with that I could also bring with me to play shows. It felt like I was looking for a unicorn.
After a lot of trial and error, I found five combo amps that are great for the price and great overall. If you’re on the market for the best bass combo amp, you’ll probably find a favorite here.
Fender – Best Bass Combo Amp for Small Gigs
I’m really loving my Fender American Professional Jazz Bass, and I thought that if anybody could make an amp that was perfect for it, it would obviously need to be Fender.
That’s how I stumbled across the Rumble 500.
When I first looked at the knobs and settings, I wasn’t too impressed. It didn’t seem like it did much, and I initially thought that it had something to do with the fact that the amp was so affordable.
I didn’t think I was going to truly be able to master the settings, but it overperformed in that arena. Before I knew it, I had a little post-it note stuck to the top with notes of my favorite configurations for certain sounds.
It’s shockingly versatile, and it exceeds the level of the beginner bass combo amp I had mistaken it for.
It’s fairly resilient. Another thing I’m loving about the Rumble is the way the auxiliary jack works.
I can put MP3 recordings on my phone and play along without feeling like I’m competing too much. Both sounds come through clean, which makes it easy for me to write and experiment with bass parts in unfinished music.
The Fender Rumble 500 is a complete package that hasn’t let me down. It’s my favorite go-to bass combo amp.
I haven’t run out of reasons to play with it, and I’m surprised at how much it can gracefully handle. This amp is just as good for metal as it is for pop, and it’s rare to find an amp that can seamlessly meet so many challenges with relative ease.
The “jack of all trades” bassist definitely needs an amp like this one – there are no limits to what you can do with it.
Phil Jones – Best Bass Combo Amp Under $500
At first, he doesn’t seem like anything to write home about.
It’s a combo 70W amp with dual speakers that don’t take up too much space.
I thought it had to have been overrated because I heard people raving about it but didn’t see what the big deal was at first glance. Then, I tried it and I abruptly changed my mind.
It’s a pocket-sized powerhouse.
What’s surprising is how close it can get in such a small package. Despite its size, it’s surprisingly loud and surprisingly clear.
It’ll fit on a shelf if you’re low on space, and the sound isn’t compromised.
I like this combo amp for recording and demoing small bits near my computer while I’m playing with my mixing software. I can try little bits and change things up and I don’t need to bring all of my heavy equipment into such a small space.
While I wouldn’t play a sizeable venue with this amp, it’s perfect for a small café or an intimate gathering of some sort. I also like it to travel with.
If I’m going away for a week and I’m packing up the car, this is the amp I like to bring with me. If I’m taking a vacation from work but not a vacation from creating music, this amp is down for the journey.
This is one of the best mini amps I’ve ever used. I’m ordinarily not a fan of smaller amps since they typically come with a lot of limitations, but I feel like this one doesn’t.
Even though it’s rather tiny, the capabilities aren’t throttled. I use this amp when I want to check something really quickly or when I want to spend some time away from home.
I pack up my fretless bass and my little Phil Jones Combo amp, and I’m ready to go. This is the perfect adventure amp.
Ampeg – Best Lightweight Bass Combo Amp
They’re similar to Vox amps in that respect.
Personally, I’m a really big fan of the Ampeg signature sound, and I’ve been using Ampeg amps for a while.
This combo amp meets all of the expectations of an Ampeg amp that might ordinarily be more expensive, but their revolutionary technology has allowed them to condense all of their features into the perfect affordable bass combo amp.
Ampeg built this amp with a steel chassis and metal corners, the idea behind the design being that you can travel with it and knock it around in the back of a van or a bus without damaging the amp. It’s heavy, but it’s nearly indestructible.
If I hit a bump or a pothole while I’m driving, I never worry about whether or not I should pull over and check my amp. Nothing short of the apocalypse is going to damage it.
One of the things I love most about this amp is the Bass Scrambler overdrive feature that Ampeg incorporated. It’s relatively new to Ampeg – it isn’t something they’ve always used, and this was my first experience with it.
It’s a great feature, and it sounds like a much more expensive tube amp. I feel like I got a lot more than what I paid for, and that rarely happens with musical equipment.
The sound projects so easily. I also like that all of the controls are right there on the front.
They’re easy to get to and change at a moment’s notice if I want to make a quick adjustment.
This is a great gig amp. The performance is incredible for the price.
I feel as though I paid for a middle of the line amp and got a top tier amp instead. I’m so impressed by the design, features, and durability of this amp.
Even though its weight makes it kind of a pain to carry, it’s worth it once I have everything set up. This is an amp for a bassist who wants to be taken seriously.
Even if you’re only playing small gigs at the moment, this amp is the ideal companion to make you feel like you’re already famous.
Hartke – Best Small Bass Combo Amp
That’s why I was so surprised when I tried this bass combo amp.
I always considered Hartke’s offerings to be basic and unimpressive, and I wasn’t sure why everyone loved them so much.
They’ve really stepped up their game to deliver exactly what I wanted, and the HB150 Bass Combo amp is proof of that.
I got the 150-watt model because I wanted to use it in practice. It has a ceramic magnet and a 15-inch hybrid cone driver.
The controls are on the top, and it comes with two inputs so I can hook up an active and a passive bass. That feature is extraordinarily helpful to me.
It makes my life a lot easier and I only need to set up once to do everything I want to do.
The 7 band equalizer is also especially useful. It makes adjustments very simple, and it only takes me a few seconds to get everything exactly the way I want it.
I was able to set it up once and leave it for the majority of things I want to play because I could dial in so precisely. There’s also a dedicated input for MP3 or CD capability, but I use it with my phone.
I can put something on, make adjustments in real time, and get everything perfect in a matter of seconds.
It’s great for math rock and technical work when I want to toy with settings that might seem insignificant in the short term, but combine to make something big and unique. I feel like an audio scientist when I’m using it.
Although it doesn’t sound like a big deal, I’m also a huge fan of the fact that this amp is on wheels for easy portability.
This is an easily portable, highly technical amp for the bassist who likes to experiment. It encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone a little bit.
I love that I can roll it around and I don’t need to pick it up and lug it everywhere. It doesn’t buzz or rattle – it’s as clear as crystal.
I keep it in my practice space because it’s perfect for that environment. I can roll it into the corner to free up floor space when we wrap up for the night.
Everything about this amp makes my life easier.
Peavey – Best Bass Combo Amplifier
Peavey has a very diverse following.
Everything from deathcore to metalcore to folk musicians use Peavey amps, so it’s always hard to tell who exactly they’re making equipment for.
There’s a huge difference between Whitechapel, DragonForce, and King Dude.
Since I dabble with a wide array of styles, I can appreciate the versatility of a decent Peavey amp. This bass combo amp delivers.
What makes this such a great bass amp is something that Peavy calls their psychoacoustic enhancement. It’s proprietary to them, and you won’t find it in any other amps.
The equalization panel is pretty basic. You’re getting your typical bass, mid, and treble settings.
It’s nothing really fancy. It does the minimum of what you would expect an amp to do.
I don’t necessarily expect absurdly great features in that department, even though I’m happy to find them. This one doesn’t disappoint, but it doesn’t deliver any more than it absolutely needs to deliver.
I make up the difference with my huge collection of pedals.
Most importantly, I like to play loud. Especially when I’m by myself.
I enjoy pushing the limits of an amp just to see what it can do, feeling the vibrations from how loud that sound is, and going all in when I jam. Every amp has a breaking point – a combination of settings that make it buzz or pop.
I usually get scared and stop because I don’t want to blow the amp. I can’t find a combination that this amp can’t handle.
This is my favorite amp for playing with pedals. I have a lot of heavy distortion and effects pedals that don’t sound as great as they could with a lot of my other amps.
Since this amp is made to handle almost anything, I feel like I can really explore with my pedals. Every sound rings true and clear as a bell.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to let the pedals shape your creativity and you just want an amp that will serve as the perfect canvas, this is one of the best bass combo amps for you.
If you’re on the market for a bass combo amp, there’s a lot to ponder. If you’re used to working with heads and cabinets, shopping for one amp that does everything is an entirely different ballgame. When you want to make the most of your money, there’s a few important choices you have to make. There are some awesome bass combo amps that will suit everyone, but it also helps to keep your unique needs in mind.
Is a Bass Combo Amp Better Than a Head and Cabinet Setup?
There are some people who swear by building their own rigs with separate heads and cabinets. These are usually people who have mastered exactly what they want to do in music, and they don’t have a huge need for versatility.
Personally, I like being able to change things up whenever and however I want, and I can’t justify spending such a large amount of money on one specific setup that might wind up limiting me.
Combo amps give you a little more freedom in a few different ways. Not only are they broadly versatile, but they’re easier to deal with.
Instead of having to lug two separate pieces of equipment and set them up, you only need to bring one thing with you. They’re also a lot less expensive than purchasing separate pieces.
The only reason you would absolutely need to have a two piece setup is if you’re playing venues that are so huge that people would need to be able to hear you from around the block. Since most average bass players aren’t playing shows that huge, it’s easy to make do with a large, heavy-duty combo amp.
How Many Watts Should My Bass Combo Amp Be?
Watts can be tricky. You’ll find bass combo amps that run between tens to thousands of watts, and the difference is pretty extreme.
A big mistake that people make is assuming that watts mean the same thing on all amps. A bass amp actually needs more watts than a guitar amp, because it takes a little more juice to push out a clean, deep bass sound.
If you’re playing by yourself, you don’t need a 500-watt amp. You’re not competing over drums and guitars to match them in volume.
If you choose a wattage that’s too low, nobody is going to be able to hear you. You’re going to get lost among the other instruments, and your bass is going to sound like a faint vibration in space, like an airplane passing by overhead.
If you’re not sure or you want more options, go bigger. It’s easier to adjust down, but you can’t push a low wattage amp past its capabilities.
It’s better to have too much than not enough.
What Features Do I Need in a Bass Combo Amp?
A basic equalizer will come incorporated into every bass combo amp. You’re probably going to get three settings on the lower hand (bass, mid, treble), but some amps will come with as many as a dozen settings.
Higher end models often incorporate some basic effects right into the amps. You won’t find anything technical or too specialty, but some basic distortion and reverb aren’t outside of the realm of what you can expect.
You can stick to basic features in a bass combo amp, and the pedals will make up for the rest. You can always set them up and switch them to alternate between sounds quickly.
Do I Need a Tube Amp for My Bass?
Tube amps have a cult following. If you’ve ever seen a Vox or an Orange enthusiast, you know how vocal and passionate those people can be.
Tube amps are a rarity these days. Most people buy refurbished vintage tube amps.
They have the same appeal that vinyl records have to true, passionate musically inclined people. There’s nothing wrong with longing for the old days, as long as you’re being realistic about it.
Solid state amps are a lot easier to come by simply because they work better and offer greater longevity.
You only need a tube amp for nostalgia purposes. If you have your mind made up that you absolutely need a tube combo amp for your bass, you can get one, but you can get something of similar or better quality for much cheaper if you choose to forgo that allure.
I do have and use a tube amp from time to time (we all need to jam some Black Sabbath or Led Zepplin every now and then), but it’s mostly for the novelty of it. My solid state amps perform just as well, and I’m less worried about damaging them and needing costly repairs.
Do I Need More Than One Combo Bass Amp?
I like to have at least one small amp that I can put in a personal practice space or use to travel with. I miss my instruments when I’m away, so I try to take them with me as often as possible.
You’ll also want an amp that can help you keep up with other musicians or fill a large space with a lot of sounds. That’s why it’s a good idea to have two highly dependable amps that you can use for different purposes.
It winds up making your life easier, especially if you practice or play in a different area from where you actually live.
If you can only grab one in the meantime, it’s actually a better idea to grab the larger amp. You’ll have all of your bases covered.
You can go back and pick up a smaller and more portable amp later if you find that it’s a total pain to lug a huge one back and forth. If you don’t mind doing that, you might be okay with having only one amp.
If you’re a sucker for convenience, go ahead and spring for both at the same time. My travel amp is listed in my favorites above, and I highly recommend it.
What Size Speaker Do I Need?
If you’re focusing on the size of the speakers at the expense of the amount of speakers and the overall quality of the amp, you’re barking up the wrong tree. A lot of people are concerned with speaker size, but at the end of the day, that’s not what really matters.
Speaker size isn’t as important as it used to be. I have bass amps from years ago that have huge speakers, and they sound like garbage. I have newer amps with way smaller speakers that sound incredible compared to those pieces of junk.
Rather than focusing on speaker size, focus on the capabilities of the actual amp. Sometimes, the number of speakers will matter, but that’s mostly when you’re trying to get the most out of an amp with a low rumble.
Construction still counts more than anything, which is something to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a bass combo amp.
In a lot of cases, smaller speakers can be advantageous for bassists who play funk or jazz, where they want a fat, round, snappy pop noise. The more speakers, the more dynamic and nuanced the slap and pop sound will be.
What If I Need to Travel Everywhere With My Bass Combo Amp?
There are two solutions for amps that need to do a lot of traveling. Some bass combo amp manufacturers have taken that into consideration, producing lightweight amps that don’t compromise on quality.
Other amp manufacturers have taken to installing caster wheels on the bottom of amps so they can be rolled across longer distances, and you only need to worry about lifting them when they need to go up or over something that isn’t connected to a ramp.
Alternatively, you can get a wheeled cart to put your amp on if you’re going to be walking a long distance from a parking lot to the place where you’re playing a show. It won’t help you get it in and out of the car, but it will make the rest of the transit process a lot easier.
Why Can’t I Just Use a Guitar Amp for My Bass?
The lower tones of a bass won’t even register with a guitar amp, and when they do, they’re going to cause so much internal damage that the guitar amp will be irreparable garbage before you know it.
While combo guitar amps have a tendency to be cheaper in the long run, it’s not going to be so cheap when you need to throw it away and buy a whole new one in a few weeks. It’s worth spending more on an actual bass amp instead of trying to snag a cheap deal and make it work.
Cars can’t be used as airplanes, and guitar amps can’t be used as bass amps. You’ll have a hard time trying to work that out without learning a ton of expensive lessons.
What’s Wrong With Used Amps?
The quality of bass amps degrades over time, particularly if they’ve been used a lot. The bass produces a low booming noise, and it impacts the speaker significantly – especially over a prolonged period of time.
You can’t guarantee that the person who used the amp before you didn’t mess it up trying to exceed its limits or completely fail to maintain it.
Get a new one, break it in the way you want to break it in, and you won’t have to worry about someone else’s musical ghosts affecting your sound.
I have and use all of these amps for different things. I became an unwitting amp collector in my quest, and I have a ton of them.
These are the best bass combo amps I own, and I would never want to part with them. Whether you’re looking for a specific sound or simply something reliable to play around with at home, any of these amps are up to whatever challenges you have to throw at them.