Best Bass Amps in 2020 – Bang-for-Buck Combo Amplifiers
It’s understandable if you’re having a hard time sifting through lists of best bass amps trying to find the right amplification solution for your play style, bass guitar, and budget.
Bass amps, just like guitar amps, come in so many shapes and sizes, in addition to features and power. But that’s no excuse for not using one if you’re a bass player, whether you’re just picking out your first bass guitar or have years of experience behind you.
10 Best Bass Amplifiers - Combo Amps
Check out my favorite combo amps for jamming solo or with a band to find the amp that will help you practice better and create a distinctive sound.
Table of Contents
- 10 Best Bass Amplifiers - Combo Amps
- The Age Old Question: Combo Amp or Cabinet?
- Pick Solid State Amps If You’re Not Swimming in Cash
- Speaker Size vs. Speaker Orientation
What better way to kick off a bass amp review than a bass amp by the inventor of bass amps? The Fender Rumble 100 bass amp is surprisingly light at just 22lbs for a stage-ready combo amplifier.
The tone is warm and fat, which is very nice if you typically play without effects. The amp also features some presets, one of which I can’t recommend enough – the vintage preset. This makes the amplifier put out an even fuller bass tone.
If you prefer a scooped sound, which goes well with slap and pop riffs, the contour preset is probably the way to go. Again, it’s pressing one button without having to worry too much about fiddling with the EQ knobs.
The last important preset to know about is the bright preset. This allows you to cut through guitar riffs and stand out whenever you feel like it. This preset should be most appreciated in genres like funk or fusion due to its emphasized high frequencies.
To say that this bass amp is versatile would be an understatement. You can plug it into your mp3 player, recording gear, or board for live gigs. It may only have 100W and a 12” speaker but the sound quality is well above its price range.
The Max 100 bass amp is one of Peavey’s most popular combo amplifiers. It comes with a 10” speaker and 100W of power. While it’s not the most powerful amp in the Peavey Max series, it’s one of the more versatile and affordable, and it’s for musicians of all experience levels.
One unique property, which carries through all amps in the series, is the angled baffle. This tilts the speaker slightly upwards, which means that you won’t have to tilt the amp in order to hear yourself.
The sound is always aimed at your head, which will make it easier on you to stay within the chord progression and not play off-beat.
The preamp stage comes with an overdrive circuit. This means that if you don’t appreciate the unique Peavey tone, you can quickly switch to a more vintage, heavy metal-style tone made popular by bands such as Black Sabbath and Motorhead.
You can of course adjust how much overdrive you want in your sound. If you’re a beginner, the Max 100 bass amp may be even more useful as it comes with a built-in tuner that’s specifically designed for bass guitars, making it more accurate than your regular clip-on guitar tuner.
Why Orange amps? – Here’s a short list of artists and bands that swear by the quality of Orange amps for guitars and bass guitars: ZZ Top, Primus, Jimmy Page, Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Crowbar, Sepultura, Korn, Fleetwood Mac, and many more.
That should tell you plenty about the quality of the tone coming out of an Orange amp. Now to this model in particular. As a 25W combo amp, it’s not exactly a stage-ready amp. But pairing it with a cabinet speaker can take care of most of your problems.
Still, it’s an ideal choice for practice and playing in small indoor venues. This is not to say that it’s highly underpowered. The difference between 25W and 100W is only 6dB of sound output. Everything else it gets right.
It has an active 3-band EQ with parametric midrange control which should help you obtain almost any tone you like. It covers 300Hz to 2.7kHz. Channel signature sounds from any musical genre you like and practice your favorite bass lines.
If you’re just starting out, the built-in chromatic tuner should also come in handy.
Of course, another advantage of using this bass amp is its compact size. It’s easy to carry and store, which makes it even more fun to play on.
4. Vox PB10
The Vox PB10 is an affordable bass combo amp which packs quite a punch for a 10W amp. The dual 5” speakers are designed for moving lots of air, which in turn improve the bass tone by giving it a flat thick sound.
There’s a slight distortion to the sound. Not everyone may appreciate this but at the end of the day, it helps you cut through the mix which could be important during practice. The amp sounds like no other which is another way to make yourself stand out. The Vox tone is hard to replicate with other amps.
You have tone-shaping controls for bass and treble. This is good if you want a bass-heavy sound. However, you can also get better definition at the higher register if you use the bright switch preset which enhances upper harmonics.
The Vox PB10 can be as quiet as you need it to be for late-night practicing. And, you can also plug your headphones in and slap away without disturbing anyone. Its compact size, affordable price tag, and unique tone make the Vox PB10 a very interesting alternative to other practice bass amps.
5. Hartke HD150
Hartke makes bass combo amps from 15 to 150 watts. If you want to get the most bang for your buck, I’d recommend the HD150, 150W amplifier with a 15” cone driver.
This amp comes with a 7-band EQ which gives you endless tone adjustment options. This is something almost mandatory if you’re not the type of bass player to stick to a single genre. The amp also features an input that accommodates various input levels (bass guitars with active or passive pickups.)
Although the amp is big and quite powerful, it’s not that hard to carry. It comes with its own wheels, which means you can easily reposition it anywhere. Finding the right spot can help to bring all the instruments together.
The basic controls include bass, mids, treble, and volume. Both an effects loop function and a built-in limiter are included. The limiter will help you deal with the extra raw power of the amp if you’re just making the leap from practice amp to stage-ready amp.
This is a very versatile 40W amp which features Ampeg’s own 10” speaker and a 3-band standard EQ. It has an interesting tone that can lend itself to a wide range of genres and a flexible input with level control to accommodate both passive and active pickups.
From a pricing standpoint, this is a midrange bass amp that performs as expected, if not slightly better than anticipated. What sets the amp apart remains the Ampeg tone.
The sound is classic and very clean with thick and well-emphasized bass. You can of course use the overdrive feature to add flavor to your bass line and emphasize and cut through the mix during key passages.
Ampeg’s Bass Scrambler is a good overdrive circuit that should eliminate the need for a fancy distortion pedal, as long as you stick to classic genres like hard rock, alternative, grunge, heavy metal, blues, etc.
Thanks to its design, the Ampeg BA-110 V2 bass amp can be used in an upright position and in a wedge position. The latter will give you better clarity while the former is the go-to choice for better bass response and definition.
The Blackstar Fly 3 is one of the smallest combo amps you can get for your base. It has two dedicated channels (clean and overdrive), a 3” speaker, and an on-board compressor. If you’re worried about space, price, and having something too loud, then this 3W amp should fit your needs.
Its on-board compressor is better than you would expect. It can definitely improve note sustain without having to use a separate pedal for this enhancing effect.
The EQ is simple and features a classic depth adjustment knob. You can use that to set how low or mid-heavy you want your tone to be.
An emulated line out channel is also available. This means that you can use this amp for recording while monitoring your sound. You can also connect a pair of headphones to the line out to practice in silence, preferably a pair with built-in volume control since the line-out bypasses the volume control in the amp.
Here’s another interesting alternative if you’re in the market for a compact, light, and easy to use bass combo amp. The amp features a 3-band EQ with front-facing knobs that make it easy to adjust your tone on the fly.
There are control knobs available for bass, middle, treble, and master volume, which is already more than enough for practicing or rehearsals. It should be obvious that this amp has been designed to emphasize notes on the lower register.
There’s no bright switch or knob to adjust the highs cause it’s not needed. This is a bass combo amp that doesn’t include a tweeter or a midrange driver, just a woofer.
While you can use it to practice bass lines from any genre, it’s not an amp that serves solo bass players that well outside the comfort of their home.
Due to its low-heavy sound, the IBZ10B 10W combo amp has a lot more boom in its tone than you would expect, even on low volume settings. It can be a good pairing with an electronic drum kit.
9. Donner DBA-2
The Donner DBA-2 amp is another reasonably-priced practice amp that might just give you enough power to also use it in a rehearsal studio or for recording sessions. It’s a 25W amp encased in a highly durable metal casing.
Although built like a travel amp, the DBA-2 is best suited for your home. Thanks to its auxiliary input jack, you can use your mp3 player or smartphone to jam along to your favorite tunes. You can also use the headphone output and practice into late hours of the night, constantly honing your skills.
The 3-band EQ is always good to have as it provides enough tone shaping options to experiment with bass lines across multiple genres. The 6.5” speaker delivers a balanced bass tone and directs the sound at a slightly inclined angle which will give you better feedback.
10. Phil Jones BG-75
This amp comes with two 4” speakers, a compact frame, and plenty of power (70W x2) to make the paint fall off the walls. Unlike previous Phil Jones bass amps, this model uses 4” Neo Power drivers in order to reduce cone excursion and improve power handling.
To make better sense of the quality, the low B string sounds almost impeccable even at high volume settings.
The control panel looks a lot more advanced that you would expect on such a compact bass amp. It has an impedance input switch, a 3-band EQ, volume control for the AUX input, and a headphone jack.
As you can see, it’s all about balance and power handling. The tone is quite clean, bass heavy to a degree but not boring. It may be somewhat expensive but it is a unique bass amp that can cater to both beginners and accomplished musicians.
The Age Old Question: Combo Amp or Cabinet?
This debate can be settled very easily. A head and cabinet combo is always preferable when you’re playing large venues or outdoors in front of large crowds. There’s just no way for a combo amp, even one that compatible with cabinet pairing, to produce enough volume and clarity.
On the other hand, combo amps are more versatile. You can lug them around a lot easier. Most of them are designed for practice and rehearsal studios, but some can also be used for playing in small indoor venues.
Pick Solid State Amps If You’re Not Swimming in Cash
Solid state bass amps, just like guitar amps, are cheaper than tube amps. First of all, tubes are not ideal for generating lots of power, which is needed to move lots of air (bass frequencies have long wavelengths so you need to move lots of all).
High-power tube amps will be many times more expensive and they generate an incredible amount of heat for the fact that you’ll need a good number of large power tubes to produce lots of power (as opposed to small line-level tubes).
Furthermore, the seduction of tubes is mostly in the midrange and high frequencies. It defeats the purpose if you’re using tubes to produce bass only. This is why most of today’s bass amps are solid state. Transistors do have a tendency to cause audible distortion as they get pushed to their limits. (Tubes have even higher distortions but they are nowhere near as audible as solid state distortions.)
Of course, getting a bass amp with a limiter should solve this problem. A bit of attention on your part is the easiest fix at the end of the day. Once you’ve tested an amp for the first time, you should try to find its threshold so that you can avoid overdriving it to the point of highly audible harmonic distortion.
Speaker Size vs. Speaker Orientation
There’s no other way around it. You need to move lots of air to produce bass and bigger speakers will produce more bass (assuming enough power). You might find advanced high-excursion woofers that can move more air than slightly-bigger woofers, but that’s about it. Bringing a 5” bass amp to a bass amp shootout would be like bringing a knife to a gun fight.
On the other hand, speakers that are angled upwards may produce better sound as the sound projection is aimed towards the ears instead of the knees or waist.
Bass Guitar Amps are Mandatory for Every Scenario
By now you’ve probably already which of my top recommendations fits your needs and budget best. As you can see, I’ve listed both practice and live show-friendly combo bass amps.
Each one of them has its own unique features and is worthy of your consideration. Whether you want to stick to a particular brand or you’re ready to explore other options, that’s entirely up to you.