Do you find that your bandmates seem reluctant to help you with your gear before and after a gig? If you’re tired of feeling like an undertaker when moving your rig, it’s time to consider a portable, powerful and reasonably priced amp.
Wait a second! The smaller the amp, the louder it ain’t, surely?
Not so. You see, modern amps make use of Class-D digital power amp sections, so they don’t need the heavy, bulky transformers found in the bass amps of yore.
So they aren’t just practice amps, then?
Nope. We’ve chosen six heads, all of which give you over 200 watts RMS power. Paired up with a cab, they’ll deliver all the volume you need for most average-size gigs.
Okay, but what about features?
Most of our examples offer switchable voicings, overdrive and multi-band EQ. Throw in footswitch control, effects loops, line outputs and the fact that most weigh less than an average household cat, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bar post-set.
Ashdown Rootmaster 220
Ashdown feels your pain, and the Rootmaster wants to get you gigging on a tight budget.
Not that it shows - the Rootmaster (also available in 420- and 800-watt versions) looks cool, and has the specs to back it up, too, with five-bands of tone-shaping, compression, overdrive and even a switchable sub-octave.
The back panel is home to all of the ins and outs you’re likely to need, and you can bag one for the cost of a few gigs’ earnings!
Find out more: Ashdown website
TC Electronic BH550
The BH550 offers all of the benefits of a modern head. Its lightweight design and small footprint meet four-band EQ, a built-in tuner, XLR line out, aux in and headphone sockets, but there’s more.
TC has TonePrint effects technology, allowing you to load in all manner of freely available compressor, drive, chorus, flange and octave sounds created by bass legends such as Nathan East, Duff McKagen and more.
The three-button Switch-3 is available separately, giving you hands-free switching between the two TonePrint effects.
Find out more: TC Electronic website
Fender Rumble 200
Fender knows about electric bass tone; after all, the big F invented it. The 200 is the smallest in the range, but it still packs serious heat.
Switchable voicings, a separate gain circuit and four-band EQ are met by a range of inputs and outputs, including DI out, headphones and a footswitch.
The inclusion of the aux-in means you can jam along with your audio player. The 200’s 500-watt brother is also worth looking at if you’re playing bigger gigs.
Find out more: Fender website
The Reidmar by Swedish amp giants, EBS has a slightly larger footprint than the others, clocking in at 36 centimetres wide, but that could actually be an advantage when it comes to staying put.
On board is compression, four-band EQ (with sweepable mids). Around the back you’ll find an array of sockets offering aux-in, effects loop (which also lets you bridge two Reidmars together), line outs and headphones.
FULL REVIEW: EBS Reidmar
Mark Bass Nano Mark 300
Mark Bass was once reserved for those in the top tax bracket, but the company has made some increasingly affordable models in the last few years.
The latest is the Nano Mark 300, pushing out 300 watts from its simple, yet well-thought-out chassis. You get four-band EQ, speaker, direct and tuner outputs, plus an effects loop and switchable pre/post EQ. At 1.45kg, it weighs less than a bag-and-a-half of sugar. That’s pretty sweet.
Find out more: Mark Bass website
Aguilar Tone Hammer 500
Aguilar’s 500-watt TH has its roots in the pedal of the same name, and is a simple bass head that clocks in at a mere 1.8kg.
The EQ is three-band, but the midrange is sweepable, so you can hone your boosts or cuts, and the Adaptive Gain Shaping promises tube-style overdrive.
The connections are flexible too, giving you impedance switching on the input (for active or passive basses), an effects loop, and pre/post EQ balanced DI out.
Find out more: Aguilar website