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Best bass amps 2021: 12 top choice amplification options for bassists

Best bass amps 2021: 12 top choice amplification options for bassists
(Image credit: Trace Elliot)

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, along with a selection of our favourites to offer some inspiration.

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 covering DI and silent practice.

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 bass amps for a range of budgets and playing levels…

Best bass amps: Our top picks

Best bass amps: the Aguilar DB751 and the Eich T-1000

(Image credit: Aguilar, Eich)

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, you can expect some of the richest, warmest tones on the market today.

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 amp: 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.

As with any musical situation, it’s important to consider the applications you require your amp to cover and plan accordingly. You don’t need a 1,000 watt amplifier for playing at home or in a quiet acoustic band, yet nor will a 100 watt amp be able to compete with a live rock band running on all cylinders. Choose the amp size and power to fit your needs.

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’re looking for sweet 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, while others look for extra functionality like compressors, limiters or precise EQ control.

Headphone outputs are fairly common, particularly on Class D amps, and offer the opportunity for silent practice and, often, an auxiliary input to play along with a music source.

Our best bass amp list is presented in price order and our price comparison widgets have highlighted the current best deals on each amplifier at trusted retailers.

Best bass amps: Product guide & reviews

Best bass amps: Trace Elliot Elf

(Image credit: Trace Elliot)

1. Trace Elliot Elf

The best bass amp for portability and price

Price: $305/£250/€273 | Power: 200 watts @ 4 ohms, 130 watts @ 8 ohms | Features: Gain, Level indicator, Bass, Middle, Treble, Power indicator, Ground/Lift switch | Connections: 1/4-inch jack input socket, 1/4-inch jack Headphone socket, 1/4-inch jack output socket, Balanced XLR DI output | Weight: 730g

Small and lightweight
Cuts through a band mix
No Aux In socket
Features limited by dimensions

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.

Read the full Trace Elliot Elf review

TC Electronic BQ500 Bass head on a white background

(Image credit: TC Electronic)

2. TC Electronic Thrust BQ500

Versatile compact head that’s big on value

Price: $374/£299/€211 | Power: 500 watts @ 4 ohms | Features: Gain, Thrust, 4-band EQ and Master Volume controls, Onboard compressor | Connections: ¼” jack input, Balanced XLR output, SpeakOn speaker out, 1/8” headphone out/aux in | Weight: 2.3kg

Great for silent practice
SpeakON connectivity 
Better suited to active basses

While, understandably, this list contains some of the most sought-after, top tier bass amps on the market today, there’s some incredible amps to be found at the other end of the price spectrum. The TC Electronic Thrust BQ500 resides nearer the entry-level mark, but delivers a quite brilliant package for a shade under $/£300, including silent practice functionality and an onboard compressor. 

As a compact, lightweight Class D head, the BQ500 is ideal as a dedicated gigging amp for players who find themselves travelling but don’t want to risk lugging their more expensive studio gear around.

Best bass amps: Orange bass Terror

(Image credit: Orange)

3. Orange Terror Bass Amp

The mighty return of the ultimate lunchbox bass amp

Price: $714/£589/€643 | Power: 500 watts @ 4 ohms, 250 watts @8 ohms | Features: Single channel, hybrid – Class D power amp with valve preamp, clean switch, variable input sensitivity for active or passive basses, natural channel: volume bass, middle, treble, gain | Connections: 1x 1/4-inch jack input sockets, speakon output sockets, balanced DI out, FX loop | Weight: 4.65KG

Compact size
Plenty of power
Great tone
Not ideal for loads of distortion

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. 

Read the full Orange Terror Bass Amp review

Best bass amps: Markbass Little Marcus 800

(Image credit: Markbass)

4. Markbass Little Marcus 800

The best bass amp from a true funk legend

Price: $730/£599/€654 | Power: 800 watts @ 4 ohms, 500 watts @ 8 ohms | Features: Mute switch, Gain, EQ1 – UltraLow, Low, Mid, High Mid, High, EQ2 – Old School, Millerizer, Line Out Level, Master Volume, Pre/Post EQ selector, Ground/Lift switch | Connections: 1/4-inch jack input socket, Speakon output socket, 1/4-inch jack Footswitch input, Balanced XLR DI output socket, 1/4-inch jack Send/Return sockets, 1/4-inch jack Tuner Output socket | Weight: 3kg

Uncluttered control panel
Versatile and punchy tones
High and low filters
Artist connection not for everyone

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.

Read the full Markbass Little Marcus 800 review

Best bass amps: Blackstar Unity Pro

(Image credit: Blackstar)

5. Blackstar Unity Bass U500

A potent combo for bassists…

Price: $811/£669/€730 | Power: 500 watts | Features: 3 Voices – Classic, Modern, Flat, 3 Footswitchable Drives with user controllable blend – Overdrive/Distortion/Fuzz, 3-band EQ with semi-parametric Mid, Unique Response control – Linear, 6L6 and 6550, Footswitchable Chorus and Sub-Octave with adjustable level control, Compressor, Input Gain with clip indication, Pad Switch for active / passive instruments, Master Volume | Connections: USB audio out for direct recording, Series effects loop, MP3/Line in XLR and ¼ inch Line Out/Headphones with independent level control, D.I./cabinet emulated Line outputs | Weight: 22kg

Superb preamp functionality
Impressive drivers
Great value for money
Speaker/amps struggle with master volume cranked

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.

Read the full Blackstar Unity Pro review

Best bass amps: Ampeg SVT Micro VR stack

(Image credit: Ampeg)

6. Ampeg SVT Micro VR Stack

Pint-sized portable powerhouse from Ampeg

Price: $838/£799/€665 | Power: 200 watts @ 4 ohms | Features: Gain, Bass, Mid-range, Treble and Volume controls, Limiter, 2 x 10” Eminence speakers | Connections: ¼” jack input, Balanced line output | Weight: 4.5kg

Classic looks
Ideal for studio use  
May be underpowered for full band performances 

It isn’t just the guitar world that benefits from manufacturers releasing shrunken down versions of popular amp models. The Ampeg SVT Micro VR Stack takes the epic Ampeg SVT lineage and reduces it down to a manageable 200W head and speaker package which loses none of its larger relative’s swagger.

The SVT Micro VR stack comprises a 200” solid-state head and speaker cabinet carrying two 10” Eminence speakers, which is the perfect size for home practice and even smaller gigs. We liked the in-built limiter and direct recording output, and we’re happy to report that that famous SVT tone is delivered in spades.

Best bass amps: Fender Bassman Pro 800

(Image credit: Fender)

7. Fender Bassman Pro 800

The vintage legend comes of age

Price: $999/£1,039/€1,134 | Power: 800 watts @ 4 ohms, 500 watts @ 8 ohms | Features: Volume, Bass (push/pull Deep), Mid, Treble (push/pull Bright), Overdrive/Vintage selector, Gain, Blend, Volume, Bass (push/pull Deep), Mid-Frequency, Mid-Level, Treble (push/pull bright), Master Volume (pull Mute), XLR Output Level, Pre/Post EQ selector, Ground/Lift selector | Connections: 2x 1/4-inch jack input sockets, 2x Speakon output sockets, 1/4-inch jack Footswitch input socket, 1/4-inch jack Tuner Output socket, 1/4-inch jack preamp Output socket, 1/4-inch jack Power Amp Input socket, Balanced XLR DI output socket | Weight: 7.7kg

Powerful vintage tube tones
Rich colourful overdrive
Reduced weight
Won't appeal to hi-fi tone lovers

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.

Best bass amps: Eich T-1000

(Image credit: Eich)

8. Eich T-1000

This best bass amp contender boasts impressive looks, features and tones

Price: $1,462/£1,199/€1,310 | Power: 2x 500 watts @ 2 ohms, 1000 watts @ 4 ohms | Features: Gain, Taste, -10dB selector, Attack Time selector, Compressor, Lo, Lo-Mid, Hi-Mid, Hi, Bass Boost selector, High Boost selector, Master Volume, Line/Effect Mix, Mute selector, Pre/Post EQ selector, Ground/Lift switch, Channel A Volume, Channel B Volume (with Sub on/off selector), Bridged Mode selector | Connections: 1/4-inch jack input socket, 1/4-inch jack Compressor/Mute Footswitch input, Balanced XLR DI output socket, 3x Speakon output sockets, 3.5mm Headphone output, 3.5mm Aux In input, 1/4-inch jack Send/Return sockets, 1/4-inch jack Line Out socket, 1/4-inch jack Tuner Output socket | Weight: 2.4kg

Great tone-shaping features
Magnetic fix pins are impressive
Puts power at your fingertips
Too 'busy' for some players

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.

Read the full Eich T-1000 review

Best bass amps: Mesa/Boogie Engineering Subway WD-800

(Image credit: Mesa/Boogie)

9. Mesa/Boogie Engineering Subway WD-800

A more powerful version of Mesa WalkAbout bass amp

Price: $1,584/£1,299/€1,418 | Power: 800 watts @ 2 or 4 ohms, 400 watts @ 8 ohms | Features: Mute/Play switch, Active/Passive switch, Input Gain, High Pass Filter, Bass, Parametric Equalizer, Passive Mid, Treble, Master Volume, Power Amp Damping, Impedance selector, Source Post/Pre-EQ selector, Level Line/Mic selector, Pin 1 Lift/Ground selector | Connections: 1/4-inch jack input socket, 2x Speakon output sockets, USB Device Power socket, 1/4-inch jack Headphone socket, 1/4-inch jack Footswitch input socket, 1/4-inch jack Send/Return sockets, 1/4-inch jack Aux In input socket, 1/4-inch jack Tuner Output socket, Balanced XLR DI output socket | Weight: 3.17kg

Rock-solid design and build 
Fine tonal shaping in the mid-range
Preamp valve adds plenty of colour
Not ideal for slappers and tappers

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.

Best bass amps: Ampeg SVT-CL

(Image credit: Ampeg)

10. Ampeg SVT-CL

The American warhorse returns in all its classic glory

Price: $1,799/£1,737/€1,897 | Power: 300 watts @ 2/4 ohms | Features: Gain, Ultra Hi/Lo selectors, Bass, Midrange, Frequency, Treble, Master Volume, Bias 1 control, Bias 2 control, Impedance Selector switch | Connections: 2x 1/4-inch jack input sockets (0dB/-15dB), 1/4-inch jack Slave Output socket, 2x 1/4-inch jack output sockets, Speakon output socket, Balanced XLR DI output socket, 1/4-inch jack preamp Output socket, 1/4-inch jack Power Amp Input socket | Weight: 36.3kg

Familiar, classic bass tones
Powerful and authoritative
This amp has created legends
Legendarily heavy, handle with care

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.

Best bass amps: Ashdown Engineering CTM-300

(Image credit: Ashdown Engineering)

11. Ashdown Engineering CTM-300

The best bass amp for getting valve tone for days

Price: $2,438/£1,999/€2,183 | Power: 300 watts @ 2/4/8 ohms | Features: Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Master Volume, Tube No selector, mellow selector, Deep selector, Shift selector, Bright selector, Mute selector, Pre/Post EQ selector, Audio/Bias selector | Connections: 2x 1/4-inch jack input sockets (High/Low), 3x Speakon output sockets, 1/4-inch jack Send/Return sockets | Weight: 33kg

Classic valve tone and power
Loud is an understatement
Heavyweight amp, lift with care
Lacks a lot of features and connections

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.

Best bass amps: Aguilar DB751

(Image credit: Aguilar)

12. Aguilar DB751

Aguilar's flagship amp flies the flag for valve tones

Price: $2,926/£2,399/€2,620 | Power: 975 watts @ 2 ohms, 750 watts @ 4 ohms, 400 watts @ 8 ohms | Features: -6dB pad, Gain, Bright switch, Treble, Mid, Bass, Deep switch, Master Volume, Send (push/pull for -20dB, line or instrument level), Return (push/pull for series/parallel operation), Pre/Post EQ switch, Ground/Lift switch, Mute/Operate switch | Connections: 1/4-inch jack input socket, 1/4-inch jack Send/Return sockets, Balanced XLR DI output, 1/4-inch jack Footswitch socket, Speakon outputs x2, 1/4-inch jack Tuner Output socket | Weight: 19.05kg

Powerful and built to last
High-quality tone-shaping
Simple panel layout
Heavy and expensive

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.