- Fender Rumble 500
- Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head
- Darkglass Electronics Microtubes 500
- Orange Crush Bass 100
- Boss Katana-210
- Hartke Kickback 12
- Cort CM 150B Amp
- What Makes A Great Gigging Bass Amp?
- The Benefits Of Gigging With A Real Bass Amp
- Bass Amps: Hitting the Right Note for Gigging Success
In 2023, the search for the best bass amps for gigging heats up, as more musicians like you are after that perfect mix of power, portability, and tonal versatility. Whether you’re a seasoned bass maestro or a newbie groove apprentice, this guide’s got you covered. It’ll break down the top contenders in the market, revealing their pros, cons, and unique selling points.
From the rumble in Fender, the punch in Hartke, to the crisp clarity in Markbass, it’s all about helping you make a sound decision. Ready to find your sonic match? Let’s get started, play that bass line of “Another One Bites the Dust,” and explore the world of bass amps designed to make your gigging dreams a reality.
The Fender Rumble 500 is a single-channel 500W Class D combo bass amplifier, part of the popular Rumble series. It houses two 10″ Eminence speakers and a ceramic tweeter, all contained within a 16mm plywood cabinet with front porting. The amplifier, which is manufactured in Indonesia, is appreciated for its powerful output and vintage design aesthetic. It features a black vinyl exterior, a silver grille cloth, cream knobs, and the classic Fender logo.
- Compact and Lightweight: Despite its power, the Rumble 500 weighs just 16.56kg/36.5lbs, making it easy to carry and transport.
- Versatile Sound: The Rumble 500 has a natural, tight bottom end, a clear midrange and clean highs. The various EQ controls and preset EQ shapes allow for a wide range of tonal options.
- Onboard Distortion: This amplifier features a built-in overdrive circuit, offering varied degrees of distortion for a grittier tone when required.
- Power: The Rumble 500 can deliver 500W when paired with an extension cab, and 350W on its own, making it suitable for both gigs and studio use.
The Fender Rumble 500 is priced at roughly $650 USD, providing a balance between affordability and functionality.
From the perspective of numerous users, the Fender Rumble 500 provides a powerful punch and delivers an impressive array of tones, making it a versatile choice for different music genres. This amp is revered for its high power output of 500 watts, making it loud enough to cut through in various settings, from intimate gigs to larger venues.
The amp’s lightweight design is another highlight, making it easy to transport, a significant plus for gigging musicians on the go. Despite its compact size, the Fender Rumble 500 is built with durability in mind, able to withstand the tests of time and travel.
The Rumble 500 also scores high in terms of tone controls and built-in effects. With a three-band EQ and a dedicated overdrive circuit, it gives musicians the flexibility to shape their sound as per their preferences.
Despite its positives, the lack of side handles for easier transportation was identified as a potential area for improvement. Some users also reported minor issues with noise and circuitry problems, such as a noisy volume pot and static sound, but these instances were not common.
Overall, the Fender Rumble 500 is a well-recommended bass amplifier that offers power, versatility, and convenience.
The Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head is a versatile and powerful amp head that successfully marries the warmth and richness of a tube preamp with the clean attack of a solid-state preamp, offering an impressive 800 watts of power. This product’s innovation lies in allowing the player to blend tube and solid-state tones to their liking, giving them a wide range of tonal possibilities. Alongside the preamps, the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 has a range of additional features that enable a varied tonal range and flexibility in use.
The amp head is also known for its portability and compact size. At a lightweight 6.31 pounds, it is easy to transport to and from gigs and rehearsals. Despite its small size, the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 is a workhorse, delivering a reliable and powerful performance that can hold its own in various musical settings.
- Blend of tube and solid-state circuitry for varied tone
- High power output of 800 watts at 4 ohms
- Versatile tone shaping controls, including a 4-band EQ, Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator (VLE), and Variable Pre-shape Filter (VPF)
- Two inputs with separate gain controls
- Balanced XLR output for direct recording or connections to a PA system
- Compact and lightweight for easy transportation
As for pricing, the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head is a value-packed product, offering a range of versatile features and reliable performance at a competitive price. It is seen as a cost-effective solution for bass players looking for a portable amp head that does not compromise on tone or power.
I’ve noticed that the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head excels in its ability to offer a wide range of tones, from solid-state to tube. It provides the warmth and depth usually associated with tube technology but is also capable of delivering a punchy, modern tone due to its solid-state power amp section. This flexibility is enhanced by the amp’s tone shaping controls, including a 4-band EQ and the VLE and VPF controls.
Another advantage of this amp head is its power output. Despite its compact size, the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 can deliver 800 watts at 4 ohms, making it suitable for both small gigs and larger venues. Its solid construction and thoughtful design ensure reliable performance, even at high volumes.
The product also stands out due to its variety of connectivity options. The inclusion of a balanced XLR output for direct recording or connecting to a PA system, a tuner output, and effects loop adds to its versatility. The convenience of a headphone output for silent practice is also a significant plus.
On the downside, it appears that the tube preamp does not make a significant difference in sound compared to the solid-state setting. This may be disappointing for some bassists who are specifically searching for the distinct warmth and rich harmonics that tubes are known for. However, the overall performance and features of the Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head make up for this minor setback, demonstrating its value as a versatile and powerful amp head.
Gaining a strong reputation in the bass world for clean, industrial design and outstanding sound quality, Darkglass Electronics presents the Microtubes 500, a simplified version of their popular Microtubes 900 bass amp. Despite its small size that can make the front panel seem crowded, this amp offers an impressive design and a solid sound. The hard-to-read dark grey graphics might pose a difficulty on a dark stage, but the benefits far outweigh this minor inconvenience. Provision of a four-band EQ and an input gain on the top row, and the Microtubes Engine controls at the bottom characterizes the front panel.
- The Microtubes Engine adds natural compression and organic harmonic enhancement.
- Two distinct characters of overdrive tone are offered – a warm, classic VMT for Vintage Microtubes, or a crisp, tight and contemporary-sounding B3K.
- A 500W ICEpower power-amp module provides a transparent and open sound, letting the true bass tone shine through.
- It is lightweight and portable, ideal for gigging musicians.
- Features a single speaker output, an XLR DI with pre/post and ground lift switches, an effects loop, and a 1/4″ jack headphone socket.
The Microtubes 500 is offered at a more affordable price compared to the Microtubes 900, making it an attractive alternative without compromising design or sound quality.
The Microtubes 500 is a versatile bass amplifier head that offers a wide range of tonal possibilities thanks to its solid-state preamp and Class D power amp. It’s known for delivering both clean and distorted tones, catering to various musical genres. The standout feature is its Microtubes Engine, enabling the dialing in of desired saturation and overdrive levels. This brings about a spectrum of tones from subtle tube-like warmth to heavy distortion, and a blend control allows a mix of clean and distorted signal.
The four-band active EQ provides precise tone shaping, covering bass, low-mid, high-mid, and treble for a wide range of frequency adjustments. In addition to the tonal versatility, practical features are available for live and studio use. These include a balanced XLR output with a pre/post EQ switch, facilitating easy connections to a mixing console or audio interface, and a headphone output for silent practice or direct monitoring during recording sessions.
The build of the Microtubes 500 is solid and durable, capable of withstanding the rigors of touring and regular use. Enclosed in a compact and lightweight chassis, it is easily transported and set up for gigs or rehearsals. Despite its compact size, the front panel might be perceived as a little crowded, and the dark grey graphics could be somewhat hard to read on a dark stage. However, the remarkable sound quality and overdrive options make it a top choice for bass players.
The Orange Crush Bass 100 is an exceptional medium-powered combo amp that has been designed meticulously for bass players desiring a versatile and portable choice for both smaller venues and studio settings. This amp brags a hefty 100 watts of pure output, an impressive EQ system, and other professional features.
- Features a 100-watt solid-state, all-analog power amp and a robust 15-inch speaker.
- Boasts an active EQ circuit inspired by Orange’s top-of-the-line 4 Stroke Series bass amps.
- Offers EQ controls that provide up to 15dB of boost or cut, and a midrange EQ with a parametric frequency sweep for exact control of bass tones.
- Incorporates a Gain control for distorted grit and a Blend control for “bi-amped” tones that unite clean and distorted tones.
- Includes a buffered effects loop, balanced XLR post EQ output, built-in chromatic tuner, -6dB input pad switch, and a reflex port for an enhanced low-end response.
- Provides auxiliary and headphone inputs for practice purposes.
- Delivers a loud and versatile tone, capable of producing warm, deep bass tones that blend into the mix or a more percussive attack and clarity.
The Orange Crush Bass 100 is a recommended choice for bass players due to its affordable pricing. This amp offers professional-quality features in a portable design without breaking the bank.
The Orange Crush Bass 100 is a powerful and adaptable bass amplifier. Its 100-watt output and 15-inch speaker enable it to produce loud, punchy bass sounds, suited for both practice and live performances. The amp’s deep and rich low-end response, while still maintaining clarity and definition in the mid and high frequencies, contribute to its versatility.
One of the most appreciated features has to be the 3-band EQ, providing bassists with a wide range of tonal possibilities, allowing them to shape their tone to their liking. The built-in compressor also deserves a mention as it helps to even out the dynamics of the playing and add sustain to the notes.
The addition of an integrated tuner, auxiliary input, and headphone output make this amp a convenient choice for bassists looking for a comprehensive solution.
Built with durability in mind, the construction of the Crush Bass 100 is robust enough to withstand the rigors of touring and gigging. As such, it can be considered a reliable amplifier.
However, while the amp is indeed powerful, it may not be enough for larger venues without being connected to a PA system. While this might not be an issue for everyone, it’s something to keep in mind depending on your intended usage. Nonetheless, the Orange Crush Bass 100 offers a wide range of tones and features, making it a solid choice for bassists at all levels.
The Boss Katana-210 Bass is a high-end combo amp created for serious bassists. Drawing inspiration from the renowned Katana guitar amp series, this amplifier boasts 300 watts of class AB stage power and is equipped with two 10-inch woofers for a powerful sound output. The amplifier is perfect for any playing situation, from live performances and studio recording to home practice, offering flexibility with three unique amp characters and onboard Boss effects for a broad range of tones.
- Rich, commanding sound output with 300 watts of class AB stage power and two 10-inch woofers
- Flexibility with three unique amp characters and onboard Boss effects for a wide range of tones
- Comprehensive EQ and flexible connectivity options
- Six memory slots for storing favorite sound setups
- Dedicated Boss Tone Studio editor for adjusting preamp and effect settings and organizing sounds
- Power Control feature for achieving cranked-amp volume at any volume level
- Compatibility with BOSS Tone Studio editor for Windows and macOS for enhanced sound shaping and control
The Boss Katana-210 Bass Combo Amplifier is available for purchase at a price of $599.99. There are options for financing with payment plans, providing flexibility for the buyers.
From a personal perspective, the Boss Katana-210 is a versatile guitar amplifier that caters to a broad spectrum of tonal preferences and effects. With a 100-watt power output and two custom 10-inch speakers, it consistently delivers clear and voluminous sound. The availability of five unique amp characters, including Clean, Crunch, Lead, Brown, and Acoustic, adds to its versatility, enabling it to cater to different tonal preferences.
The amplifier also boasts a wide range of built-in effects, such as delay, reverb, and modulation, to help create unique sounds. The Katana-210’s Power Control function is another admirable feature, allowing musicians to achieve cranked-amp tone at lower volume levels. Furthermore, the amp includes a built-in 55-second looper for layering and recording guitar parts, enhancing its utility for musicians.
The Katana-210 features a USB interface for easy connectivity to a computer for recording or editing purposes, and comes equipped with Tone Studio software for access to a wide range of customizable amp settings and effects. The amp’s high-quality components and robust construction promise durability and longevity.
However, it’s not all positive. Some limitations have been noted with the 2×10″ speakers when playing with a muddy vintage tone, although it performs well with brighter modern tones. Some musicians have expressed a preference for a 1×15″ option and more wattage control. Despite its impressive features, the overall quality of the amplifier and its ease of use have received mixed reviews, suggesting that it may not meet the expectations of all users. Additionally, the amplifier may not stand out compared to other options on the market, with some expressing that it lacks a “Wow Factor”. Despite these shortcomings, the Boss Katana-210 remains a powerful and flexible choice for bassists of varying levels.
The Hartke Kickback 12, also known as KB12, is a highly affordable, reliable, and versatile 500W bass amp combo designed to deliver a powerful sound. It is powered by a Class D amp and a HyDrive neodymium driver. The design of the KB12 makes it particularly audible on stage, making it aptly suitable for small-to-medium-size gigs. The sound it produces is distinctively quick, punchy with a bass response that is respectable for a small combo. The amp is also capable of high-frequency extension to convey a decent snap and sparkle.
- Powerful 500W output through a Class D amp and a HyDrive neodymium driver.
- The “kickback” design makes the sound more audible on stage.
- Quick and punchy sound with respectable bass response.
- Robustly built with durable jacks, pots, and switches.
- Lightweight and features a top-mounted handle for easy transportation.
- Effective simple EQ with a sweepable low-midrange shape control for tonal adjustments.
- Balanced XLR output included.
The Hartke Kickback 12 is positioned as an affordable bass amp combo in the market, offering exceptional value for its robust features and sound quality.
From a personal perspective, the Hartke Kickback 12 is an impressive piece of equipment. The sound quality is commendable, being versatile enough to handle a wide range of tones, from warm and smooth to aggressive and punchy. This is made possible with the 3-band EQ with bass, mid, and treble controls. Other standout features include its tilt-back cabinet design, providing optimal sound projection and monitoring, and the built-in limiter to prevent distortion.
The amp’s compact size and lightweight design is a notable advantage, especially for gigging musicians seeking portability. The top-mounted handle makes it even easier to transport. The amp is also powerful, delivering 500 watts of peak power, which is more than adequate for small to medium-sized venues.
On the other hand, the amp misses out on an auxiliary stereo input, which could have been a nice addition for practicing and playing along at home. Additionally, the shape switch that enhances the mid-range frequencies could also be a bit more pronounced. However, these minor shortcomings are easily overshadowed by the overall high performance and affordability of the Hartke Kickback 12. It is indeed a reliable and powerful bass combo amplifier capable of meeting the needs of both beginners and seasoned veterans.
The Cort CM150B is a high-powered bass amplifier with versatile features. As Cort’s first high-powered bass amplifier, it is designed for easy portability and versatility. It has a power output of 150W, making it suitable for live performances in small to medium-sized venues and home recording. With its 12″ speaker and a 4-band equalizer with 2 mids controls, it allows for tonal customization and provides a clean and detailed sound. It is also equipped with an effects loop for connecting outboard devices, an XLR output for direct connection to a mixing board or PA system, and a headphone jack for quiet practice.
- High-powered output of 150W suitable for live performances and home recording.
- Two mid knobs for fine-tuning the midrange.
- Effects loop for connecting outboard devices.
- Balanced XLR output for direct connection to a mixing board or PA system.
- Headphone jack for quiet practice.
- Ground lift switch that eliminates ground loop hum for noise-free performance.
- Auxiliary input for playing along with favorite music.
The Cort CM150B is priced competitively, similar to the Fender Rumble 40 in Italy. It can be purchased for €240 on Amazon Italy, offering a good balance of quality and affordability.
Looking at the Cort CM150B, it’s clear that this amp is a strong contender in the bass amplifier market. The high-powered output, the fine-tuning options, and the external connection features are all ticks in the pros column.
Being able to fine-tune the amp to get just the right sound is a definitely a highlight. Having two mid knobs gives users a wide range of tonal customization options. This is a valuable feature when aiming to achieve the perfect sound for various playing styles and music genres.
Connecting external devices to the amp is a breeze thanks to the effects loop and the balanced XLR output. This allows for easy recording and live performance setup, a benefit for any musician. The headphone jack is a useful addition for quiet practice, which is a big plus for home users.
The Ground Lift switch is another worthwhile feature, effectively eliminating ground loop hum and ensuring a noise-free performance. And the addition of an auxiliary input further enhances the amp’s versatility, allowing you to play along with your favorite tracks.
However, as with any product, there are some aspects that might not appeal to all users. Despite its notable power output and array of features, some might find that the CM150B does not deliver the same quality and durability as other amps on the market. This could be a potential drawback for users seeking a long-term investment. The CM150B’s weight might also be a concern for those who prioritize portability, as it weighs in at a hefty 17kg.
In conclusion, the Cort CM150B offers a solid range of features that cater to both live and home use. It may have a few minor drawbacks, but its benefits and competitive pricing make it a worthwhile consideration for any bass player.
One significant aspect that makes a gigging bass amp great is its ability to shape your tone. With built-in EQ controls, bass amps give you the flexibility to adjust the bass, midrange, and treble frequencies to your liking. You can dial in the perfect tone for different venues and musical styles, offering versatility that’s crucial in live situations.
Another key benefit of a quality gigging bass amp is its power and volume. The amp should have enough power to project sound to larger audiences, especially in outdoor venues or larger performance spaces. This, combined with the accurate reproduction of the bass guitar’s low frequencies, ensures that your bass lines cut through the mix and compete with other instruments on stage, providing a solid foundation for the band.
Lastly, a great gigging bass amp should offer an authentic and organic playing experience. The dynamic and responsive interaction between your bass guitar and the amp’s speakers can’t be replicated by digital or software-based solutions. This tactile feedback enhances your playing technique and allows for greater expression and control over your sound. Plus, the visual presence of a physical amp on stage adds to the overall aesthetic and professionalism of your performance, showing your commitment to delivering a high-quality musical experience.
Gigging with a real bass amp can totally change your live playing experience as a bassist. It doesn’t just elevate your performance, but also the overall band sound. The right bass amp brings together power, portability, and tone, igniting the raw energy of the band in a live setting that a studio recording might not fully capture.
The power of a bass amp is especially important. Bass amps need higher wattage compared to guitar amps because they’ve got to reproduce low frequencies effectively. If you’re playing in smaller venues, you might need amps with 200 to 300 watts, while midsized rooms could require 300 to 500 watts. For larger spaces or louder bands, you’d want a bass amp with 500+ watts. Having a higher wattage amp also gives you some headroom in your amp, which can make sure the speakers are driven efficiently without distortion or damage.
Choosing the right bass amp also depends on its speaker configuration and size. You’ve got options like 2×10, 4×10, 1×8, 1×15, 2×15, 1×18, and 8×10, each offering different sound characteristics. For example, a 4×10 cabinet is often a popular choice because of its balance of low-end power and midrange cut. When you’re choosing a speaker configuration, you’ve also got to consider the size and weight of the cabinet for practicality.
Moreover, FOH (front of house) engineers often use a direct input (DI) box with the amp on stage. This setup lets them have a more versatile mix and the option to take a DI signal for the PA system while using the amp for stage monitoring. So, it’s important to find an amp that gives you a sound you love, whether the FOH engineer takes a DI signal or not.
Ultimately, the best bass amp for gigging depends on your specific needs and preferences as a bassist. You’ve got to consider factors like wattage, speaker configuration, tone-shaping options, and portability. But remember, a great bass amp can significantly enhance your live gigging experience, letting you showcase your talent and contribute to a memorable performance.
When you’re choosing the right bass amp for gigging, it’s all about finding a balance between power, tonal versatility, durability, and portability. The amps we’ve reviewed show that it’s possible to find the perfect blend. From the classic Fender Rumble 500, with its powerful punch and vintage aesthetic, to the innovative Markbass Little Mark Tube 800 Amp Head, which delivers a blend of tube and solid-state circuitry for a wide range of tones, there’s a bass amp for every need and preference.
If you’re a musician on a budget, the Hartke Kickback 12 could be a good pick for you with its affordable price and punchy sound quality. The TC Electronic BH250 Compact Head stands out with its TonePrint technology and built-in compressor.
The Microtubes 500 by Darkglass Electronics, which boasts the unique Microtubes Engine, focuses on providing saturation and overdrive options. On the other hand, the Cort CM150B offers you a plethora of fine-tuning options and external connection features.
The Orange Crush Bass 100, with its robust EQ system and a powerful 100-watt output, and the Boss Katana-210, an attractive package with an impressive EQ system, professional features, and high wattage, are also worth considering.
The best bass amp for you depends on your specific needs, the size of the venues you typically play in, and the tone you’re aiming for. Whether you’re a gigging veteran or just getting ready to hit the stage for the first time, these amps offer a range of options to suit your needs.