How much amp do I need?

BackwaterJunction

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Hi there, my low frequency friends!

I'm only recently dipping my toes back into the world of bass playing as I hoping it will a) lead to more opportunities through flexibility than if I just stick to guitar and vocals and b) make me a better and more rounded musician.

My current amp is from my first and basically only foray into bass playing. It's a cheap 15W practice amp from Gear4Music's own range and it's...fine. It turns the pickup signal into noise. But it's not inspiring and I want something that inspires me to play a bit more.

My main question is less "which amp is best" as I do plan to try out several brands and models and see which I enioy most, but more "what sort of power will I need"? I'm currently looking to gain some semblance of bass skill just playing at home but hope to move towards jams and theoretically gigging - though I wouldn't mind that being handled by a lineout into a PA.

This is a bit of a ramble, but do you kind folks have any advice for me?
 

Jakedog

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Any of the compact 200-500 watt combos on the market will do ya. They have class D power sections and Neo speakers, so they’re powerful and easy to move around.

Get at least a 12” speaker. Or a 15, or a combo with two tens. It sounds like a lot, but it’s not. Getting low frequencies to carry at band volumes takes power. Also, it varies by musical style, but you mostly don’t want to crank a bass amp into overdrive. Headroom and punch is the name of the game.

It’s always best with bass amps IMO to have more power and volume on tap than you need. Being underpowered is seriously no fun.

Lots of people like the Fender Rumble series. I haven’t spent much time with them. I really like the GK combos, the Markbass combos, and the 2x10 Hartke combo.

If you want to be more versatile, a head/cab setup allows you to collect multiple cabs for different applications. I have a 2x10 cab, a 1x15, and a 2x12. I can mix and match or use them as singles for lots of different sounds and coverage options. But tons of gear is not necessary, just lots of fun. A compact combo will definitely get you started just fine.
 

Call Me Al

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A lot depends on your budget. Have you thought about combo vs head/cab? (Combo= less money, less flexibility)

Jakedog’s post above is pretty spot on. Low end (pun intended) of the spectrum, Rumble 200 or better yet 500 would do you well. I really like the GK MB series, and Markbass CMD (but a little pricier than the Rumbles or Ampeg RB series) and all make combos with comparable specs.

My gig amp is a Markbass CMD 121p (500w, 1x12”) it’s a beast! I have the extension cabinet, but with the PA I rarely need it.

You could also consider going a little smaller for home/jamming and step up later. I personally like having combos in several locations. Rumble 100 would make a great home amp/portable jam amp (it’s my rehearsal amp, plenty for our reasonable-volume blues trio)

Best of luck, happy shopping!
 

erratick

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Depends on the kind of music you play or band you play with. Some bands are all DI and you may only need a little amp with a DI out. Or no amp.

If you're playing in a classic rock band with no in ear monitors- my rule of thumb is approx double the watts of the guitar. So if the guitarist is on 50W I go 100W. If he's on 100W or there are two at 50W, I go 200W. It's approximate. Kind of depends on the drummer volume as well.

If you're playing with a jazz combo, you may not need much. Or if you're upright with a big band, you may need a little more amp and a high pass filter.
 

BackwaterJunction

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Thanks all, there's some great advice here. Seems a slight consensus towards something combo based might be easiest to start with.

Some of you have mentioned music - the guitarist I jam alongside most at the moment (when we're both on guitar) plays bluesy stuff through a 40W Fender Blues Deluxe. So using the "roughly double" rule of thumb I ought to be looking for at least 80W, which realistically will be min 100W.

I'm lucky to have a bit of time at the moment and Andertons of Guildford as my local store; they stock various bass combos in that sort of power range so I'm sure the best approach will be to wander down there and have a look.

Thank you all!
 

Call Me Al

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Some of you have mentioned music - the guitarist I jam alongside most at the moment (when we're both on guitar) plays bluesy stuff through a 40W Fender Blues Deluxe. So using the "roughly double" rule of thumb I ought to be looking for at least 80W, which realistically will be min 100W.
With this info, I’ll expand a little further:

My guitarist uses a 40w tube amp (Marshall 12” combo) and the drummer is a medium-to-heavy hitter, though does play cajon often for our smaller gigs. We’ve made it a deal to keep rehearsals tame (for the wife) but it gets loud enough I’d like earplugs sometimes. The Rumble 100 is always enough for the rehearsal room…

Sometimes though the drums drown it out at gigs, or the room (or more often for outdoor gigs, the absence of a room!) I’d say it’s been 80-90% adequate for the blues trio, but that led me to step up to the Markbass. My point is- 100w is a really good start, but to future-proof a little better, I’d look towards 200w+

Another important note: (Using Rumbles as our example) the 200 and 500 both have an extension cabinet out. This feature is IMHO very important in an amp, when you’re not exactly sure what situations you’ll get into. E.g., Rumble 500 is strong on its own; add the 210 extension to go beast mode and cover just about anything that comes your way!
 

BackwaterJunction

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With this info, I’ll expand a little further:

My guitarist uses a 40w tube amp (Marshall 12” combo) and the drummer is a medium-to-heavy hitter, though does play cajon often for our smaller gigs. We’ve made it a deal to keep rehearsals tame (for the wife) but it gets loud enough I’d like earplugs sometimes. The Rumble 100 is always enough for the rehearsal room…

Sometimes though the drums drown it out at gigs, or the room (or more often for outdoor gigs, the absence of a room!) I’d say it’s been 80-90% adequate for the blues trio, but that led me to step up to the Markbass. My point is- 100w is a really good start, but to future-proof a little better, I’d look towards 200w+

Another important note: (Using Rumbles as our example) the 200 and 500 both have an extension cabinet out. This feature is IMHO very important in an amp, when you’re not exactly sure what situations you’ll get into. E.g., Rumble 500 is strong on its own; add the 210 extension to go beast mode and cover just about anything that comes your way!

Thanks for this. Sounds like I need to look at 100W options but also higher where possible. There are some nice little amp heads that seem to go for not too much that might be good to check out
 

Blackout Jazz

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With this info, I’ll expand a little further:

My guitarist uses a 40w tube amp (Marshall 12” combo) and the drummer is a medium-to-heavy hitter, though does play cajon often for our smaller gigs. We’ve made it a deal to keep rehearsals tame (for the wife) but it gets loud enough I’d like earplugs sometimes. The Rumble 100 is always enough for the rehearsal room…

Sometimes though the drums drown it out at gigs, or the room (or more often for outdoor gigs, the absence of a room!) I’d say it’s been 80-90% adequate for the blues trio, but that led me to step up to the Markbass. My point is- 100w is a really good start, but to future-proof a little better, I’d look towards 200w+

Another important note: (Using Rumbles as our example) the 200 and 500 both have an extension cabinet out. This feature is IMHO very important in an amp, when you’re not exactly sure what situations you’ll get into. E.g., Rumble 500 is strong on its own; add the 210 extension to go beast mode and cover just about anything that comes your way!
Listen to Al.
 

Call Me Al

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Thanks for this. Sounds like I need to look at 100W options but also higher where possible. There are some nice little amp heads that seem to go for not too much that might be good to check out
We’ve been talking mostly combos so far, simply because they’re a) cheaper and b) always perfectly matched; so they’re the go-to recommendation for someone with a question like this.

but that’s not to discount separates, they have benefits too. Any combo mentioned above, the same specs can easily be applied to heads and cabs.

Looking forward to see what you pick!
 

Killing Floor

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I’d definitely try some. I don’t think you have to lay out 5-800W to be heard but it depends on the rest of the people you play with. There are a lot of really good amps in 2-300W range. Even heads and cabs.
 

Lowerleftcoast

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What hasn't been mentioned yet is the speaker SPL (sound pressure level). Some bass speakers have low SPL and others are very efficient and can rival modern guitar speakers.

This is important for bass players to understand. An increase of ~3dB is equivalent to doubling the power of the amp. A 50W amp paired with a with 96 SPL speaker will put out approximately the same volume as a 100W amp with a 93 SPL speaker.

To the human ear, 3dB is just noticeably louder.

As you can see the power of the amp with the same speakers...
100W is 3dB louder than 50W.
200W is 3dB louder than 100W
400W is 3dB louder than 200W
800W is 3dB louder than 400W

It is also important to know that there is no standard for determining the wattage of an amplifier. Pretty much the manufacturer can claim any wattage. It makes things tough when a 100W amp puts out the same power as a 2000W amp. Who to believe?

You know some of the advantages of a combo amp. The disadvantage of a combo amp is the speaker vibrates the electronics of the amplifier. Sometimes the weight can be an issue as well.

Having too much power is better than not having enough. I would look for a 200W amp or more. (As mentioned above 100W with efficient speakers will probably be enough for you for the foreseeable future.) I wouldn't count on a PA system for the bass frequencies. Most PA systems are not designed for bass instrument content.
The speaker specs to look for are SPL or sensitivity, Xmax of about 5mm (no less than about 4mm), A voice coil diameter of between 2 and 4 inches, and a power rating of at least 1.5 times the amp rating. It may take two speakers (or more) to meet the power of the amp.
 

Preacher

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If looking at the Rumble series, I would spend the little extra and get the 500. The 200 and the 500 are priced really close and getting those extra watts is good.

Keep in mind also when figuring against the amps you are competing with, the Rumble 200 is not really 200 watts, it is more like 170 with the 8 ohm speaker. The 500 is also not quite 500, it is 350 with the stock 8 ohm speaker. They leave that extra for driving an extension cabinet which will then get you the total output of the amplifier.

I have looked into a lot of items for my bass playing recently with weight being a huge factor. With the Class D heads and the lightweight cabs you can get a 500 watt combo that weighs 36.5 pounds. My current bass head weighs that much I think.
 

Blackout Jazz

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To keep things real...

 

Redleg37

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Primarily a bass player here.

200 watts with a 12” or larger sub, or 2x10” subs.

Rumble 200 will be the bare minimum for keeping up with a loud drummer. If your set is quieter than you can probably go as low as 100, but if you are playing anything lively you will want a few more.

Get something with an XLR out, that way you can play through a sound system.

I have a rumble 500 V3 and honestly it’s too loud to play at home easily, I rarely play anywhere without a sound system so a smaller amp with an XLR out would be a better choice for me.

The Fender Rumble series will give you a. Great all purpose bass sound. There are other amps that would be good in that price range as well.
 

johnnylaw

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There’s an awful lot good experience on display in this thread.
I kind of tripped and stumbled into a rock and roll band. I bagged an old “washing machine” SWR Workingman’s 15 for 120 clams. It’s a bit of a beast at 75lbs., and it’s around eighty watts, I believe. It has a great direct out. I wouldn’t likely gig without a PA anyways.
However, if the OP just needs a good sounding rig, maybe some of the more professional rigs outlined above could be overkill, and spendy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played some newer Class D stuff through tight cabs, an was grinning like a fool.
Guess it depends mostly on the venue, the band, and the repertoire. Oh yeah, and the drummer.
 

Vegetable Man

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No one mentioned the Aguilar Tone Hammer series, so I thought that I would. Definitely worth checking out.

I have the 350 paired with a 4ohm 15" cab and it's plenty loud. The DI is nice, as well.
 

radtz

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For gigging I've always used a 300 watt head. I prefer and 18" speaker or a 15"+horn cabinet. If you're going through the PA, you'll need a DI box or head with one built in.

The drummer needs to clearly hear what you are doing.
 




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