There’s just something special about a bass amp…
Because, when you think about it, it actually has the ability to raise your playing… Or let it crash completely.
You might own a great bass, but play it through a crappy amp and I guarantee it WILL sound bad…
Now, play an average/entry level bass through a good amp and I guarantee it WILL sound 10 times better.
Which is why it is generally recommended you spend more money on your amp than on your bass when starting.
And the fact that the absolute overwhelming majority of bass guitars are electric — as opposed to acoustic guitars being probably just as popular as electric ones — is why there are nowadays some really great amps out there.
And so to sort through all these models, I decided for today’s post to create a list of the best combos AND amp heads around.
Before we get right on it, be aware that I won’t cover what makes a good amp in this post.
Moving on to the list of best combo amps:
Undoubtedly one of the best selling bass amps series ever…
With the newer V3 version of the Rumble line, Fender exceeded bass players’ expectations.
The Fender Rumble owes its success to several reasons:
Now, despite rave reviews, some user find the 15 watts model not good enough when reproducing a low B (the lowest note on a 5 or 6 string bass)…
Which is often the case with low power amps. From the 25 watts model on though, you won’t encounter this issue.
The Fender Rumble amps are basically the go-to choice for first-time buyers.
Here is probably the best deal you can currently get for under $100. In fact, if you’re looking for the perfect “bedroom” amp, look no further than the Hartke HD Series.
The Hartke HyDrive Series stands out by featuring Hartke’s HyDrive speaker.
So how are these speakers different from the others? Well, as stated by Hartke, they’re the first “hybrid” speakers, meaning they are made of 2 different materials, instead of the usual 2.
These materials are aluminum and paper which according to Hartke: “Combine the warmth and roundness of paper with the punch and attack of aluminum”.
With an almost identical price and product range as Hartke’s HD line, Ampeg’s BassAmp Series is definitely their direct competitor.
And while they basically offer the same features, they have a few added ones, such as:
All these features make the BA Series very versatile combos, you can use it:
For years now Peavey’s Max Series have been among the best selling bass amps overall, second only to Fender’s Rumble Series.
And although the brand has long been — for some reason — overlooked by bass players, it is now clear that they nailed it with these amps.
According to reviewers, the Max Series is among the best beginner amps and some users even say they’re BETTER than the Fender Rumble.
Now, despite the success of this line, Peavey decided to take thing one step further by doing a complete revamp of their range.
And so, the all new Max Series seems like it might just take the spot for best bass combo out there.
Take a look at these amps’ features:
Note: the most recent models don’t seem to be available from all sellers although Peavey claim they should already be. So feel free to check back from time to time.
If you’re looking for the definitive “practice” amp, the Micro Cube Bass RX from Roland might just be what you need.
With just 5W of power, you’d expect it to quickly run short of sound… BUT many users seem to find it suitable even for small gigs, which is an added benefit.
One of the big advantage of the Micro Cube RX is the fact that it can be AC powered, or BATTERY POWERED…
Which means you can take it with you on the beach and show your guitarist friend they’re not the only one who get to play around the campfire.
Now, the reason this amp qualifies as a “practice” amp is because it offers many educational features such as:
Another worry many bass players have when using small amps is whether they can deliver when reproducing the low B correctly (on 5 string bass)…
Well it seems the Micro Cube RX does a great job doing so, so here’s another benefit.
Also check out VOX PB10 which is another very small amp with double the power while being wice cheaper.
When you start looking at high-end bass amps, there are a few brands that keep showing up…
One of these brands is AER which are famous for their high-end acousticinstruments amps.
But when deciding to take part in electric bass amplification, they managed to convince many professionals.
And while they don’t offer a broad range of electric bass amps, the few ones they make are — according to most bass players — nothing short of incredible.
The low end in particular is emphasized thanks to a “bass boost” button.
Here are the Amp One’s main features:
On this last point, you might wonder:
Why would I need a compressor?
If you don’t know what a compressor is, it’s a device made to reduce dynamic ranges, which can be convenient in some situations.
Deciding whether you need one or not depends on many factors, such as:
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you might want to use a compressor when playing…
And if you answered “no” to all of these, then you probably don’t need a compressor, BUT if you ever decide you need one, then the AER Amp Series amps have got you covered.
Check out this (very) thorough demo of the amp one to have a better grip of what it’s capable of, as well as how good it sounds:
And for our last combo pick of the list, here’s the..
For the last pick I wanted to include a tube combo…
But couldn’t find any! That’s right, although they do exist, tube bass combos are mostly antique and discontinued, probably because of their very low popularity.
So instead, I decided to feature a LOUD combo. Ask around bass forums and you’ll find out anything above500W is usually overkill for most situations.
But this 750W combo has enough power for just about any venue and obviously an insane amount of headroom.
Moreover, it’s actually really compact having into account its wattage rating.
Now, a really interesting feature this combo offers is its 2 channels:
Which makes it a very versatile amp on top of everything else. If you have the money to, you can’t go wrong with the Phil Jones Bass Roadcase as it will probably serve you for the rest of your life, especially if you gig a lot.
Now that we’ve seen the best combos, let’s spice things up with… Section 2
Before we dive into it, there are a few details you should be aware of when shopping for a head, more particularly about impedance.
You probably already heard about impedance and how it is important to match amps and cabs’ impedance.
But why exactly?
Impedance does exactly what it sounds like: it impedes the current flow your speaker/cab pulls from your amp.
Now, although there ARE conflicting opinions on this subject, the general consensus is that by pulling more current from your amp than it can provide, your cab might damage the amp head.
Impedance is rated in Ohms (Ω). The Higher the number, the greater the resistance. So using a 4 Ohms head with a 8 Ohms cab will be fine because the cab will impede some of the head’s power.
However, you should never, ever use a cab with a lower impedance than the one of your head. Because the cab will pull more than the head can handle and will end up damaging it.
So, the general rule of thumb is: ALWAYS use a cab with a HIGHER impedance than the one of your amp.
Got it? Then let’s start.
For the past decade or so now, class D bass amps have been gaining more and more popularity, and when you look at them it’s not hard to understand why: they’re very compact.
Back in the day, when a bass player needed 300 to 500 watts worth of power, they needed to carry 60, 80 pounds or even more behind them.
But Class D amplifier came and cut this weight in half, while providing the same amount of power…
So much so that today you can find as much as 1000 watts Class D amps!
And so to start this list off, I’ve selected none other than the best selling head amp of the last decade, the Behringer BXD3000H.
So why is it so successful? Well, mainly for these reasons:
With all these features, It’s a great choice for beginners, or as a backup amp. And with 300W it’ll provide you with enough juice for your first gigs.
In the world of bass, the name Fender Rumble is synonym with “bang for your buck”.
It’s also synonym for MOST SOLD heads and combos all around, period.
It’s basically one of the safest bet for any beginner who doesn’t know much about amplification. And with a headphone line out, it’s perfect for practicing at home.
Also, choosing 500 watts will have you covered for almost any situation, because remember: better to have too much power than not enough.
If you’re looking for your first truly powerful head but aren’t willing to break the bank, this is the perfect option.
If I had to describe the category the Aguilar Tone Hammer 350 belongs to, I’d probably go with something like “mid-range beast”.
Created after the success of it’s big brother Tone Hammer 500, the Tone Hammer 350 is a great option if you need something between not enough power, and too much power…
In other words, it is versatile.
Now, what seems to please users about this head is its tone, more than anything else.
Indeed, the brand Aguilar is known for its beautiful and unique tone, often compared to a tube amp tone. Many users also report that no matter your setting, the Aguilar Tone Hammer always delivers.
The reason I’ve included the Gallien-Krueger MB 500 in my list is because of its size…
Yes, we’ve already seen super small amps but they usually won’t provide more than 300 watts. Well, take a look at this one.
Boasting 500 watts, this is the most compact amp to offer that much power.
On top of that it has one added feature: a “contour” knob. This setting essentially scoops the mids out of your sound and seems to be particularly popular with slap style playing…
In which you want the highs to be heard above all other frequencies.
There is one caveat though: it will decrease the definition of your tone. This can be a problem especially when playing with a loud band — you want your sound to be heard precisely and not sound like a random bass rumbling.
Got it? Then on to the next pick…
With the RH450, Danish brand TC Electronic struck a big blow. One of the biggest asset of this amp is its overall design.
Being a Class-D amp it’s obviously compact, but the biggest feature of this amp is its visual interface which offers:
All in all, these features make for an extremely powerful tone-shaping amp.
Also, and if you’re soon to play in a stadium, you might want to check out the most powerful amp to date, the TC Electronic Blacksmith which boasts 1600 watts.
That’s right — over 1.5kW of power. So if it’s headroom you’re worried about, be no more, this monster has you covered.
Ask a hundred bass players what the best amp head ever made is…
And chances are they’ll all answer: “the Ampeg SVT“. This tube amp has been around for 50 years and almost untouched or modified since then…
Which should give you an idea of how good — and loud — it is. And if you’re not convinced, just know this was the amp bands such as the Rolling Stones, AC/DC or even Nirvana used.
Fun fact, when it was first released in 1969, the company got worried they could be held liable for possible ear damages and so decided to write on the package:
THIS AMP IS CAPABLE OF DELIVERING SOUND PRESSURE LEVELS THAT MAY CAUSE PERMANENT HEARING DAMAGE.
In other words this is the perfect rock amp. You just can’t beat the warm and punchy sound this tube amp delivers.
Now, don’t expect anything fancy on this amp: no preset feature, no compressor/limiter and no backlit knobs… BUT if you like your sound pure and raw, the Ampeg Heirtage HSVT-CL is pretty much as good as it gets in terms of heads.
So if you only swear by tube amps and can afford it, this is probably the best amp money can buy. Check it out:
I couldn’t make a list of the best bass amps without including the Vox amPlug 2…
This little device is the perfect “pocket” amp if you have zero space for an actual amp and/or can’t play loud. It’s basically a headphone bass amp.
Surprisingly, despite its tiny size it still offers a bunch of features:
And if you’re looking for something similar but with more features, also check out the NUX PG-2:
To wrap this post up, I wanted to include a “hybrid” amp.
A hybrid amp is an amp which uses both a lamp AND a solid state construction.
Generally, the pre-amp is tube powered and the power amp is solid state, which is the case for the SVT-4 PRO.
According to hybrid amps manufacturers, this technology is meant to provide the warmth of tube amps, without the hassle of its maintenance.
But this is not the only asset of the SVT-4 PRO. It provides over 1kW of power, 1200 watts more precisely.
With this kind of power you’re good to go and play in just about any venue without ever running out of juice.
So if you’re looking for both power AND tube-sound, as well as convenience, you’ve found it all with the Ampeg SVT-4 PRO. Check it out:
Now that you’ve seen all the options available, hopefully you’ll find one that suits your needs.
‘Til next time.