If you’re in the market for a new bass amplifier then you’ve come to the right place. Our best bass amps guide should arm you with all the information and options you need to zero in on the right amp for you.
As bass cabinets have become lighter in the last fifteen years or so, the amps themselves have become equally lightweight, with many companies offering a Class D (solid state, switching amplifier) alternative alongside their larger, heavier amps.
But smaller and lighter doesn’t always equate to an amp lacking in features - the current crop of Class D offerings come fully-loaded with tone-shaping features and a variety of input/output connections.
The market for valve technology still exists too, with many players preferring the tonal colouring that valve-based architecture can offer their bass tone. Let’s take a closer look at the best options for a range of budgets and playing levels...
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on picking up a new bass amp until the Black Friday music deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
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What is the best bass amp?
The Aguilar DB751 amplifier has been available for some time but it remains a visible staple on stages across the world. The straightforward control panel and significant power handling make it a simple but incredibly effective amp, hence why so many players use it – and why it's one of our best bass amps. Coupled with your cabinet of choice, revel at the valve-coloured tones!
As an alternative, with its chrome front panel, bright white LEDs and extensive feature set, the Eich T-1000 is every bit the bass playing equivalent of the Terminator. Sturdily constructed but easily transportable, the T-1000 impresses with the clarity of its delivery and breadth of tone, reinforced with 1,000 watts of power at your disposal. Sleek and impressive.
Best bass amps: buying advice
There was a time when carrying a bass amp was a test of your physical strength, and in some cases, it still can be. But as technology has improved and costs have come down, virtually every company has a lightweight amp solution in their range. As a result, the options available to bass players has never been so vast.
For starters, it’s important to consider the applications you require your amp to cover and plan accordingly. Don't buy a 1,000 watt amplifier if you intend to play at home or in a quiet acoustic band. Similarly, a 100 watt amp won't be able to compete with a live rock band running on all cylinders.
Consider the speaker enclosures you intend to use as these will affect the tone, volume and sound distribution of your bass signal. Also consider the resistance (measured in ohms) of the amp compared to the resistance of the cabinets you intend to use.
For ease of transportation, portable class D amplifiers offer many benefits, however very few feature valves in their preamp so you may need to look at a larger unit if you require valve colouration.
When considering the best bass amp to buy, ask yourself if you will make use of all the built-in features. Some players really only need an on/off switch and a master volume control, especially if they shape their tone via the preamp/tone controls on their instrument or via pedals.
If you wish to practice at home on a regular basis, a headphone output may prove beneficial as well as an auxiliary input to play along with a music source.
Our best bass amp list is presented in price order and we’ve highlighted the current best deals on each amplifier.
The best bass amps to buy right now
The resurrected Trace Elliot has much to live up to, considering what TE used to stand for in terms of bass amplification. Obviously, the Elf is a very different proposition to the leviathan TE amps of the ‘80s, but don't let its size deceive you.
Tonally, there is much to be impressed by. The limited EQ section does its job well, while the LED indicators highlight when the in-built compression and drive functionality are in operation.
The actual power on offer is very impressive; looks can be deceptive. A fine amp and a no-brainer. You could even use it as an emergency backup for your gig bag.
The original Reidmar amp was EBS's response to the need for a lightweight amp alternative to their HD350/360 and Fafner models. The Reidmar is now a heavyweight amongst lightweight amp solutions and, backed up with EBS's power handling and strength of tone, there is much to please players of all styles.
Fully-featured with several tone filters, a comprehensive EQ section and quality compression and drive options, there is much to enjoy. Slap tones are conveyed with clarity and finesse, rock players will love the fullness of tone and grittier possibilities while the list of connections should satisfy those players who like to push their bass amplifier to its limits.
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The original Orange Terror Bass amp built its own fanbase at a time when portable amp heads with built-in valve distortion were few and far between. This new iteration features more grind and tonal colour.
Based on the AD200 amplifier, this hybrid-design utilises a 12AX7 valve in the preamp stage and a 12AT7 valve for the Send output of the FX loop. The return input has a solid-state stage and a solid-state Class D output stage.
So, how does it sound? Well, this is a loud amp! Playing with a pick gives a great rock tone straight off the bat, while adding some distortion courtesy of the 12AX7 in the preamp produces the signature Orange tone. It’s richly coloured, with enough grind and distortion to warm the sound up, but never venturing towards a lacklustre fizz.
Anything featuring the Marcus Miller signature will attract attention, and this has been very true of the Markbass range that Marcus has leant his name to. This particular amp has plenty of power but it’s the brushed steel looks, player-friendly control set, lightweight design and slap-happy bass tones that make this a real winner at an affordable price.
But don't be fooled into thinking this is just an amp for slap fans, it has far more tonality than that and can cover a lot of ground across a wide range of musical styles. Available in 250/500/1000 watt models also, the 800 model sits comfortably in between the two power extremes, offering fine tone-shaping options with a more than capable power output. Prepare to be impressed.
The preamp and control panel architecture of the U500 is clear and logical. On the left is the pad switch, input and gain stage. This section is analogue, but from here onward everything is digital. Next comes a selector switch with three voice options: Classic, Modern and Flat.
At the other end of the preamp you can select one of three different amp response settings: Linear, 6L6 and 6550. These two functions used together are at the heart of what these amps are about; in effect they allow a range of amp modelling.
Linear offers the tight, accurate and bright response of a modern digital amp. The 6L6 and 6550 settings are influenced by the more organic characteristics of valve amps, and sound warm and tight.
This is one of the best bass amps if you want a stand-alone backline amp that’s capable of delivering everything you could possibly need in terms of power, accuracy, features and tone.
When Fender first created the Telecaster, Precision and Jazz Bass instruments, the amplification the company subsequently produced was designed to bring out the now legendary characteristics of their basses.
Over time, the bass amps fell out of favour somewhat, but this newly re-designed version of the classic Bassman amp is a breath of fresh air, with vintage valve tones courtesy of its valve-loaded preamp, a whopping 800-watts of power, all the vintage aesthetics you could wish for and a back-friendly weight to boot.
Change from clean to rich valve tones in the blink of an eye with the two-channel setup and inclusive footswitch and play your Fenders as they were meant to be heard.
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Darkglass Electronics have taken the rock market by storm in recent years with their tone-filled pedals and amps. This particular amp is about as fully-featured as you could possibly wish for, complete with MIDI and USB circuits for complete flexibility.
The basic tones on offer are very impressive also - sonically there isn't much this amp can't deliver. With a studio quality compressor installed and virtual cabinet storage an option, could this be the best bass amp out there?
The sleek impressive design also scores top marks; the only let down is that it can't be effectively rack mounted or protected from the dangers of a live environment.
Interesting features, such as the cable looping side handle and the magnetic fixing pins make the T-1000 a fully-featured, tonally flexible amp in a portable compact design.
The four-band EQ and boost features give bassists of all styles full control of their bass-tone; slap and tap players will find their performances are conveyed with power, clarity and authority while rock and pick players will appreciate the 'beefy' delivery.
Bright white LEDs illustrate which selection buttons and functions are in use and are very helpful on dark stages. A very impressive performer and a worthwhile consideration for the working bassist. Seriously good.
Mesa/Boogie were one of the last amp manufacturers to offer a lightweight amp solution, but when they did the original Subway was a sure-fire hit. This amp addresses the requests of Mesa fans who wanted an upgraded version of the much revered WalkAbout amp.
With a tube-based preamp and solid state Class D output section, the rich tones on offer will excite rock and fingerstyle players, with a fat bottom-end, tight mid-range response and a clear top-end.
The parametric EQ offers plenty of tonal magic while the connection options on the rear control panel provide plenty of flexibility. A very impressive amp with a solid pedigree.
Ampeg set the standard for bass amplification in the late ‘60s/early ‘70s and, alongside their 8x10 speaker cabinets, a classic bass sound was created. As a result, everyone wanted valve warmth matched with power and volume.
This amp is a recreation of the classic - and much desired - Ampeg amp. With eleven valves across the preamp, power amp and drive sections, if you're after tube performance, this is one of the best bass amps to try.
It's not packed with features and extras but then it doesn't need to be. The weight may put you off but there is no denying the enticing bass-tones on offer.
British company Ashdown Engineering have long been renowned for their valve amps, and with the CTM-300 they created a tone monster of epic proportions. And it is a monster, weighing a tear-jerking 33 kilograms, and that's before you bring cabinets into the equation!
But there's no denying the quality of the sonics on display. If valves are your thing, this unit delivers in spades. Warmth, rich colouration and grinding bass tones that are capable of filling even the largest stages are all possible with this amp.
Tone-shaping options have been sensibly chosen to maximise the quality of output and the Bias option to maintain valve health is a useful bonus.
Following on from the impressive DB750, the DB751 is a serious piece of kit which is why you can often see it powering multi-cab rigs on stages across the globe. Requiring three rack unit spaces and coming with a ten year limited warranty, it comes as no surprise that this amp delivers serious tone with high-power output levels to match, incorporating three 12AX7 preamp valves and twelve MOSFETs.
Rather than fill the amp with elaborate features to turn your head, those wise chaps at Aguilar aimed to create a tone monster that would strongly rival the best bass amps around… and they succeeded.
About the author
Mike Brooks has over 4,000 live performances behind him and has written for Bass Guitar Magazine for over 15 years, interviewing legendary bassists and sharing his wealth of knowledge when it comes to instruments and bass equipment.