Are you afraid that your 5.1 PC stereo system might soon burn out from your bass? Are you too uncomfortable wearing your headphones all the time? You might want to consider buying one of the best small bass amps to practice at home or in the studio.
Best Small Bass Amps for Beginners and Pros
The Fender Rumble 15 v3 is a compact bass amp that does its best to reproduce that coveted vintage Fender tone without cracking the paint off the walls.
You can use it to practice riffs alongside backing tracks, thanks to the 1/8” aux input jack. The headphone output will also allow you to practice in silence without bothering the neighbors and family members.
The amp sounds admirably rich and even loud for its size. You can easily get a clean bass sound with a good all-round balance. It can handle anything from funk to jazz and blues and can take pedals really well owing to the transparent sound.
You can do a decent amount of tone shaping via the 3-band EQ. The volume and EQ knobs are at the top, making them easier to access when you're playing.
At roughly 16lbs, this 15W amp is not exactly the lightest mini bass amp. However, it does have a solid tone and enough customization options, which is why it’s a reliable choice for practicing at home or small and cozy gigs.
I personally found the mid-range to be a bit overpowering at times. Owing to the small form factor, it's understandably incapable of delivering a boomy low-end. If you don't mind a few extra pounds, I'd recommend spending slightly more to get the 25W version of this amp instead. It offers a fuller sound and a slightly deeper low-end.
Overall, this bedroom bass amp is a solid choice for the money and a joy to play without annoying your neighbors.
Quite expensive for a compact bass amp, the Roland Micro Cube RX is very versatile. It comes with a 3-band EQ, delay and reverb, a rhythm guide, as well as flanger, phaser, and chorus effects.
If you’re looking to experiment with different tones and effects, this small bass amp will help you do it. I also like the fact that you can practice rhythm training with this amp. And, as a bonus, it has a built-in tuner.
The six digital effects, accurate control, and the brit combo panel also make the amp more suitable for experienced players. The amp can run for up to 11 hours on a pack of six AA batteries. You also get an AC adapter for home use.
The pre-programmed settings and presets for different playing styles may come in handy for beginners. The in-built drum machine is good enough to help with your home practice.
Even in the clean preset, I found the tone to be a bit too bright for my liking. I'm personally not a big fan of artificial tones, and prefer a clean, thumping low-end instead. Unfortunately, this amp sounded a bit thin even after I tweaked the tone settings.
The amp borrows a lot of character from the Micro Cube guitar amp, which is very popular among buskers (street performers). Though it's fine for small street performances or playing with your friends in indoor settings, it simply lacks the volume and oomph for more serious outdoor playing.
The Blackstar Bass Combo Amp offers just two channels, clean and overdrive. You may find it enough for a budget compact bass amp with just a 3” speaker. The specs can be deceiving in case of this amp, as I've found the sound to be quite loud and full for such a tiny amp.
I like it for beginner bass players mostly, because it offers a balanced sound that's ideal for practice. The built-in compressor is another nice to have. It can help mask some flaws in your playing and thus let you practice alongside your favorite tracks with fewer interruptions.
It doesn’t offer a ton of things in terms of tone customization. The amp comes with only four knobs - gain, compressor, volume, and EQ. Still, if you need something cheap for practicing at home or with your headphones on, this could be the right fit. The headphone out actually offers a decent, clean output which doesn't distort, unlike the speaker.
The amp's tiny speaker starts to distort at high volumes when you turn up the gain. The low-end lacks punch, but the mid-range sounds decent. It's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades amp, as most modeling amps are, but at this price and form factor, you're unlikely to find a master of anything.
4. VOX PB10
The VOX PB10 combo amp comes with treble and bass control knobs, as well as a brightness switch. The latter is an interesting choice, as it can give you a more dynamic sound by enhancing the upper register. That should translate to more detailed and pronounced harmonics.
It should at least make it easier to spot mistakes and parts where you’re struggling. The amp provides 10W of power, which is more than enough for home practicing. Of course, you can also just put your headphones on and practice in silence.
The amp has got an open-back design which is uncommon. This results in a more open soundstage and better dynamics. Unfortunately, it also causes the amp to lose a bit of the low-end that's crucial for bass players. It just won't give you the vibe of larger gigging bass amps.
The amp is extremely easy to use, in fact I found the included user manual completely unnecessary. Even beginners will be able to get up and running with this amp in no time.
The distortion you get from the drive control is not too impressive. It is warm and doesn’t buzz. It can easily get pretty loud, but it’s going to be hard to get decent enough clarity at higher volume levels.
The Peavey MAX 126 only has 10W of power, but it allows for some exciting tone-shaping possibilities. It rocks a 2-band EQ and vintage tone control knob.
You’ll be able to control the higher and lower registers as well as give your tone some old-school flavor. Peavey’s TransTube circuitry is in charge of the gain function. It offers clarity, a unique sound, and minimizes the amount of distortion at high volume levels.
It’s impressive how roomy this little amp sounds. The 6.5” speaker is partially responsible for that, as it is somewhat more robust than what most other manufacturers offer in this class.
No, you won't get the "oomph" offered by larger combo amps, owing to the size limitations. But it's still decent for a portable amp at its price point. It should be sufficient for rehearsals, and even small indoor jamming sessions with friends.
The construction seemed very solid and sturdy to me. I didn't feel at any point while carrying it that it might break easily, so I didn't have to be conscious about it all the time. The only real negative is the somewhat tinny sound, but it's the same with almost all of its competitors as well.
Small Bass Amps – Important Features
So what’s essential for a mini bass amplifier to have? You’ll want volume and gain controls. At most, 10 to 15 watts of power. That should be enough to hear yourself but not too loud that you’ll bother someone with your playing.
A headphone output jack is just as important, perhaps even more critical than an MP3 line-in jack. Small bass amps are not just about practicing at lower volumes. They should also allow you to practice your instrument in silence while still giving you a decent tone.
Small Bass Amps – Nice to Haves
A 3-band EQ can open up many avenues of tone customization. But since you’re not buying your practice amp to jam along with your bandmates, you should care less about tone customization.
The same thing goes for overdrive, bright switches, or even vintage gain knobs. This type of tone customization is not necessary when you’re learning to play or practicing in your room. And, the level of customization isn’t going to be overly impressive either.
Complex Amps Are Not Always Bad
Rhythm function is one feature that can take your practice amp and turn it into a reliable teaching aid. But you’ll notice that not all mini bass amps have it. Those that do, however, have a built-in metronome and perhaps even some beats. Combined, they can help you gain a sense of rhythm and tempo, as well as accuracy.
It’s not mandatory if you mostly plan on practicing scales and licks. And it may also be unnecessary if you can plug in an MP3 player or iPod and practice to your favorite songs.
My Closing Thoughts on Using Mini Bass Amps
You can’t hope to get more than a light jam session with one or two friends when you’re playing through a small bass amp. That said, for practice purposes, and even for testing out some unique tones and effects, this type of amp is the right choice.
Start your search with the models reviewed in this article, and apply the tips from the second half, and you’ll be jamming on your new mini bass amp in no-time.