The bass amp arrived more by necessity than design. Prior to 1951, the bass in the band was largely performed by an old upright bass. But as bands expanded and those naughty drummers got louder, it was lost in the sound. There was no such thing as looking for the Best Bass Amps in those days.
Enter one of the two men that changed music forever. Leo Fender’s Precision Bass was introduced to the world in 1951. It became the greatest bass guitar the world has ever known. It still is – the four-string, single coil version that is.
But bass players weren’t sure…
It was given frets, whereas the old basses had none and were fretless. That was to more accurately keep the note in tune. To give the playing some ‘Precision.’ People still weren’t sure. It was only when Bill Black, Elvis’s bass player, started to play one at the time of Jailhouse Rock that it gained momentum.
But then there was a problem. It blew up hopelessly inefficient speakers designed for guitar. There was carnage, and bits of speakers everywhere. Enter Leo again. He needed an amp to cope with it. Enter the first ‘real’ bass amp. The Fender Bassman appeared in 1952. It was OK, had a decent sound, but was underpowered.
Along comes Jim…
Wind forward to 1962 and enter the other man who changed music forever. Working out of a small drum/music shop in Hanwell, West London, the ‘Father of Loud’ gave us what we needed.
We wanted volume, and Jim Marshall gave us plenty of it. There had been the JTM45, but we, and Pete Townshend needed more. In 1965 we got it with his Marshall stack. Eight 4 by 12 speakers in two cabinets under a 100 watt top. An iconic look and sound. Bass amps have never been the same since. And it shut up those pesky drummers.
Not a great deal of difference…
There is very little difference between a bass amp and a guitar amp. Frequencies are changed, speakers are bigger, but some bass players use guitar ‘tops’ and bass speakers.
There are literally hundreds of options available these days. Mostly digital, but they still can’t compete with the old heavy, unreliable valve amps of the past. They cannot get ‘that’ sound. But, that said, there are some good options around.
So, let’s have a look at some of the Best Amps for bass guitar around today and find the perfect one for you…
Top 5 Best Bass Amps of 2023
1 Fender Rumble 500 v3 Bass Combo Amplifier
First up is one of the descendants of the Bassman. This is a combo, amp, and speaker in the same cabinet. Something that was very difficult back in the day as the vibration of the speakers moved the valves around. Not so today with solid-state amps like this.
It is given the Fender look with its black covering and silver mesh speaker cloth and logo. And is a decent size measuring 17.91 by 27.55 by 22.84 inches and weighing just over 40 pounds.
Plenty of power…
It is listed as being a 500-watt amp, but that probably means in real terms about 250 watts RMS. Still quite a punch, though. The sound is delivered through just two ten-inch speakers and a compression horn in a ported cabinet.
Fender has redesigned parts of this amp and given it some extra features. It is a single channel amp that has been given an overdrive circuit. This can be operated by a footswitch though it is not supplied with one. There is also a headphone output to allow you to practice without waking up the neighbors. When in use, it mutes the speakers.
Shape the sound…
Some other useful additions include the FX loop, Aux input, and XLR line-out. Controls are quite basic and placed on the top of the cabinet to the rear. They have been fitted with just about the worst controls knobs I’ve ever seen. There are tone controls for Treble, High-mid, and Low-mid, as well as Bass. So there is enough to shape a sound if you wish. There is also a Master Volume.
They have added a three-way voicing option that includes sounds for brightness and contour as well as ‘vintage.’ The last description always makes me smile. If you want vintage, solid-state amps are not the place to get it. No matter what the marketing people tell you.
Good sounding but over-priced…
Nevertheless, it is a decent combo. It comes with a history of course, but Fender have fallen a little off the pace as far as amps are concerned. It is not bad, perhaps a little overpriced, but then part of that is the name. Suitable for reasonably sized venues and has some sound options if you need them.
- Nice sturdy Fender design.
- Has some good features built-in.
- Might be under-powered for larger gigs.
2 Hartke HD500-Bass Combo – Best Premium Bass Amp
Hartke was late in the game as far as amp design is concerned. The first products didn’t arrive until the 1980s. Since that time, they have built quite a reputation and deservedly so. Their status as the manufacturers of quality bass equipment received a big boost in 2005. That was when Jack Bruce used their gear at Madison Square Garden at a Cream reunion.
This HD500 bass combo has a typical Hartke look with the see-through mesh grille and prominent logo. It has a 500 watt Class D amp and uses a pair of 10-inch HyDrive speakers.
Any sound you need…
The speakers are worthy of note. They have an aluminum center but have paper around the outside. This design is to encourage a warm sound but with the aluminum still giving it a bit of top end. What it does do is create a sound that can be tweaked to suit most environments. The sounds are helped by the 3-band EQ situated with the other controls on the top of the unit.
In the controls, you will also find the Hartke’ Shape’ control. With this, you can bring forward a certain frequency in the sound at the push of a button without having to change all the EQ settings. If you suddenly want a bit more bottom or top, the Shape provides it. You can cycle between 100 and 900 Hz to find what you need.
It has some other basic but essential features. There is a headphone output for practice that will mute speakers. And an XLR output to connect to a sound system or recording chain. There is also an effect loop to add FX features.
It measures 19.6 by 20.27 by 12 inches and weighs 36 pounds, so is quite a portable unit. A good sound with plenty of scope, it is what it is. A decent amp but with quite a high price ticket. It is advertised as 500 watts, but that is peak. The RMS will be around 250 watts.
- Tough build and quite lightweight, therefore easy to transport.
- The Shape facility is a good added feature for creating a personalized sound.
- Won’t be the cheapest option you will find.
3 BEHRINGER BXD3000H Ultra-Lightweight 300-Watt 2-Channel Bass Amplifier Head – Best Budget Bass Amp
Behringer is not the first name that comes to mind when thinking of Bass amps. They are more usually associated with effects pedals and other cost-effective studio and sound equipment. This then is something new for some people.
This is a two-channel amp that offers a good degree of flexibility. One channel has a clean sound; the second is a little more aggressive and driven. This allows you to find a tone for any occasion. And it also includes a built-in compressor.
Loud, but not as loud as some…
To help with the sound, there is an onboard seven-channel EQ. This includes a spectral analyzer to give you more sound shaping options. It has a power rating of 300 watts peak, which should give you about 150 watts RMS. It is actually in real terms a little less than that owing to the design and how the capacitors charge up. Nevertheless, you still get quite a punch from this Class D amp.
One big asset is something I can appreciate with this amp. Many years ago, I changed from Marshall to Ampeg for a while. That amp had the ability to go an octave-down in the frequency range and shake your stomach around. This might not have the same quality, but it can do the same thing — this courtesy of Behringer’s Ultra Bass processor.
Now, this is all very good, and I am quite impressed so far, but as with many things, there has to be a downside. The downside for this amp, good as it is, is that is what you might call ‘typical Behringer.’
Now don’t misunderstand me. This German company fills a much-needed hole in the market. They don’t often get criticized for the qualities of the sound, but they do for the quality of the build. So it is here. The body is a heavy-duty plastic, which, to some, will be a deal-breaker. It isn’t for me, but it will be for some.
Great value for those who don’t want to spend a fortune…
The sound is the important thing, and that is good. And it is set at a typically Behringer cost-effective price point. A super little amp for the money. Made in China.
- Plenty of power in lightweight construction.
- Some nice features, especially the Ultra Bass processor.
- A plastic body might put people off.
4 Blackstar Bass Combo Amplifier – Best Bass Amp for Practicing
Some might say from one scale to the other. We look at products where the power of the amp is an important issue and then look at a bass combo that has one 3 inch speaker. But when that speaker is in a Blackstar amp, and the power rating is only 3 watts, it doesn’t need to be bigger.
Blackstar is a UK company that is extremely underrated for its amps and cabinets. They are based just half an hour down the road from Bletchley in the UK. Bletchley is the home of Marshall these days. Living down the road from the most important sound manufacturer for guitars in the world, you get a bit of stardust floating about. Some of that has rubbed off on these guys.
Time for a practice session…
Having a big, window shattering bass amp is all well and good until you try and practice at home. It’s not much good then, which is where the practice amp comes in. Meet the Blackstar 3 watt combo, your new practice partner.
When you first plug in, you realize that this little amp gives you a surprising bottom end and some tight crisp highs. Its design is excellent, and so much is pumped out of this tiny box. Measuring 7.59 by 5.59 by 4.29 inches, you can almost put it in your pocket. Ad weighing less than two pounds, you would hardly know it was there.
Precise tone shaping…
This little amp, besides having good basic sounds, also has overdrive and compression built-in. Voicing the exact tone you want is made easy with a little help from the EQ. If you wish, you can plug in headphones and practice silently to the outside world.
Whilst it is good for practice, it is also good for recording. Put a mic in front of this, and you can capture a pure bass sound with real depth.
Practice makes perfect…
It is either battery or mains operated and has a nice stable build. Good value for money for a bit of home practice. As a practice amp and in its context, it should be considered one of the Best Beginners Bass Amps around.
- Good quality build and compact in size.
- Some very good built-in sound options.
- For some, it will be too quiet, but it was designed to be that way.
5 Ampeg BA115v2 1 x 15-Inch Combo Bass Amplifier – Best Value for the Money Bass Amp
Nice to finish this brief review with Ampeg. Power, great sound, and outstanding sound options are what Ampeg is all about. If it hadn’t taken six people and a 10-ton truck to carry my eight by ten Ampeg cab around, I would have kept it. This is a little bit different, but it still carries the Ampeg pedigree and design features.
What do you get with this?
150 watts RMS of Ampeg oomph from a 15-inch speaker and one-inch high-frequency tweeter and a Bass scrambler overdrive. There is also the renowned Ampeg preamp with a 3 band EQ and a Hi/LO tone-shaping facility. Other sound management options include an XLR balanced line out and an independent send and return.
If you want to connect up and practice with an external device, there is an aux input for a phone or tablet. The headphone out will give you silent practice if you need it by muting the speakers.
No need to go to the gym…
What you also get from this amp you will not find in the marketing paraphernalia. Measuring 15.7 by 20.7 by 25.7 inches and weighing 55 pounds, you will gain a lot of upper body strength. I’ve been there.
The cabinet has a monitor angle design. This means it can be used upright or at a monitor angle with elevated sound projection. The cabinet has a tough build and is what is known as ‘road-ready.’ A big sound from a heavyweight in bass amp manufacturer. Literally. Set at a very cost-effective price point, this represents excellent value for the money.
A very good bass combo and certain to be included as one of the Best Bass Amps you can buy regardless of the cost.
- Rich, warm, and powerful Ampeg sound.
- Well-built with lots of sound features at a great price.
- It is a bit heavy for carrying around.
Best Bass Amps Buyers Guide
Going for bass-ics
I have a very set opinion about bass guitars that tends to ‘interest’ some people. I won’t go into that too much here. But I also have some views about amps. The beauty of the bass is the sound. A sound that creates a feeling, a sound you can feel as well as hear.
Its job is simple. To provide a platform for the band and to keep the drummer in time. You know what they are like! I have never been one for loading up with pedals, and in that respect, I prefer to hear the bass as a bass. Rich, warm low frequencies that decorate the music whilst giving it foundation.
When I say decorate, I don’t mean playing it so fast that sparks are generated. I mean painting a musical picture to interact with the other musicians.
Basic but functional…
On this list, we have a variety of styles of amps, but most of them are quite basic, which I appreciate. We don’t have too many mentions of ‘vintage’ or ‘authentic’ thankfully. Manufacturers cannot create that sound again. Not with solid-state amps anyway.
So they are using modern technology to give you sounds to provide your platform and decorate the music. And some of them do it very well indeed.
What is your amp for? Playing live or to practice with?
You will need different things for both options. There are options there for both, and some even combine the two.
I have always found that with the bass, then basics are best. As soon as you try to get too clever in playing or with the equipment, it all goes out the window. The great players don’t do that.
With all of these amps, they stay close to the basics. They need to. It could well be the most important instrument on the stage. The sound has got to be right.
Need a superb bass to go with your new bass amp?
If so, check out our reviews of the Best Short Scale Bass Guitars, the Best Bass Guitars, the Best 5 String Bass Guitars, the Best Acoustic Bass Guitars, the Best Bass Guitars for Kids, as well as the Best Beginner Bass Guitar currently available.
So, what are the Best Bass Amps?
It is never easy with bass amps, cabinets, and combos. There are so many varieties of genres and styles these days. Most products don’t suit all of them and are leaning towards a certain style. The list reveals some very good amps. Nothing from Marshall or Orange to consider makes the choice a little easier.
We want some depth and some power, and we want a tough build. And we want it to sound OK quiet but can punch out the volume if needed.
We are therefore going to choose the …
A great little bass combo in every way.
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