Top 10 Things to Consider When Buying a Bass Amp
Before you run out and spend tons of cash on a new amplifier, stop and think about how you will use it. Are you a beginner or have you been playing for a while? Will you be playing solo or with a band? Whether you plan to be a star or not, there's an amp with your name on it.1. Amp Head
The amp head is made up of both the pre-amp, which handles signal processing and sound effects, and the power amp, which provides the power and volume.2. Pre-Amp
After plugging into an amp, your signal first goes to the pre-amp. The pre-amp manipulates the signal and can make subtle or drastic changes to the characteristics of the sound.3. Power Amp
Part of the head, the power amp delivers the power and in turn the volume. More watts will give you more volume. Because a bass sound has a lower frequency, it requires more power.
• 50-100 watts is good for practicing alone
• 200 watts is good if you plan to jam with a guitarist or keyboard player
• 300-400 watts is recommended when playing with a drummer
• 400-1200 watts is recommended when playing with a band
The last thing you want is to have the drummer drown you out and steal the show.4. Configurations
Combination amps, combo for short, are self-contained units that include the amplifier and speaker together. A stack variation consists of a separate amp, or head, and a speaker cabinet. With a stack you can mix and match heads and cabinets to fine tune your sound.5. Speaker Cabinet
The output from the amplifier goes to the speaker cabinet where the speaker(s) sit. Most bass cabinets are constructed of wood and are typically sealed so that frequencies are reproduced accurately. Cabinets come in many different sizes with one or more speakers.6. Speaker Size
Bigger doesn't always mean better. Much of your decision will be based on what type of sound you prefer. Several small speakers in a bass cabinet produce a tighter, more accurate sound, while a larger speaker is often heavy sounding. Again, it comes down to your personal taste.7. Sound
Different amps have different sounds, so test-driving an amp is crucial to getting the sound you want. It's also important to consider the music genre you are likely to play. Do you have softer musical tastes or do you plan to rock out? Certain brands are often suited to one style and not so much to another.8. Equalizer (EQ)
EQ settings let you emphasize or de-emphasize particular frequencies (bass, mid, treble) to alter the tone of your bass. You have the ability to adjust the frequency, giving you greater control. Most pre-amps have three knobs, some have five, and others even more.9. Gain
The gain knob is found on your pre-amp and functions like an internal volume knob. For example, when you turn the gain way up you might hear a distortion sound often associated with rock music. Once you start playing and getting comfortable with your equipment, try experimenting with the gain knob to customize your sound.10. Price
You don't need to spend big to get a decent sound. Combination, or combo amps, tend to be cheaper when compared to stack configurations where you buy the amp and speaker cabinet components separately. So if you're just starting out, a combo amp is the cheaper and easier way to go.
Glossary termsCombo Amp
Self-contained units that include the amplifier and speaker together. You don't need to worry about extra parts or hooking it up properly. A good fit for first-time players, rehearsals or smaller gigs.Distortion
A sound effect ranging from the subtle overdrive in traditional blues to the hard-edged distortion heard in hardcore punk and heavy metal.Sizes
Cabinet speakers are differentiated by the number of speakers and the size of speakers in inches. For example, a 4 X 10 cabinet means it contains four 10" speakers.Stack
Consists of a separate amp, or head, and a speaker cabinet stacked together. The head has the pre-amp, signal processing (effects and EQ), and the power amp (watts). A good fit for recording, playing with a band or larger gigs.