Gigging is a great way to earn a little extra cash and have lots of fun. If you play the bass well and have a good band to play with, then there is nothing stopping you from playing at local pubs and other venues.
Okay, so one thing may stop you. Perhaps you don’t currently have a good bass amp for gigging. Bass amps are the most important tool for any bassist, but they’re also one of the most expensive to buy.
If you want to play your favorite songs with a full band, you need an amp that has enough power to drive a speaker cabinet. You don’t have to go out and buy a big-sounding rig; there are plenty of cheaper options available.
However, if you want something more powerful than what comes standard with your guitar amplifier, then you should look at an amp head you can link to practically any set of speakers you encounter while gigging.
Amplifiers come in many shapes and sizes, from small practice amps to large PA systems. They vary in price as well.
There is no such thing as a “one size fits all” amplifier, and some models will work better for certain genres of music than others. With all that in mind, here are six of the best bass amps for taking with you to gigs.
The Best Bass Amps For Gigging (Quick Overview)
- 225 Watt RMS amplifier section
- High and Low instrument inputs
- Enhance control
- 4-Band EQ circuit with semi parametric mid controls
- Compressor with on/off control
The Eden Terra Nova TN226 225w head is a high performance 2×10 combo amplifier with a built-in parametric equalizer.
It features two ten-inch speakers in the cab, an inbuilt compressor, headphone port, as well as an effects loop plus a 6 channel EQ section with three bands of gain control. It offers bassists a reliable and versatile amplifier that is light enough to be taken to gigs.
The FX loop lets you add up to seven effects, including delay, reverb, chorus, flanger, phaser, tremolo, and vibrato. With the headphone jack, you can listen back to your playing and practice your riffs without disturbing the neighbors.
The EQ controls are simple to use and will help you get the exact tone that you want to create.
There are two jack inputs, one of which is for basses with passive pickups, while they build the other to power those with active pickups. This means no matter what kind of instrument you own, this amp has the power to make it sound incredible on stage.
So if you are looking for a combo amplifier that is light enough to carry to gigs, then this Eden Terra Nova TN226 may be just what you need.
- Two jack inputs for active and passive pickups.
- Built-in parametric equalizer.
- Lightweight design.
- There is no handle on the top of this amp.
- Weighs only 3 lbs.
- 350 watts @ 4 ohms, 175 watts @ 8 ohms
- Balanced Output: XLR balanced output with pre/post EQ and ground lift switch
- One 1/4″ input jack, compatible with all active and passive basses
- One Neutrik Speakon speaker output; Tuner out
The Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 is a 350W amp head, which doesn’t come with an inbuilt cab. While this may sound like a disadvantage, it means this unit is very easy to transport to gigs. You can easily plug it into the speakers at your chosen venue.
This amp head features an equalizer and built in overdrive for producing thick bass tones. With both gain and master volume knobs, this amp can get very loud if you desire, which is awesome for anyone who plays metal or heavy rock music.
The input is compatible with any kind of bass, whether they have passive or active inputs.
The clip light is another great function to know about when your gain is too high. This means you can get the sound you want without blowing a speaker.
One of the best things about using an amp head over a combo amp is that you can plug the unit into nearly any set of speakers. It weighs only 3lb and will fit neatly into your gig bag with no problem. This makes it much more portable than other amps with incorporated cabs.
- Extremely lightweight and easy to transport.
- Built-in EQ and overdrive.
- Compatible with basses that use both passive and active pickups.
- Not the best amp head for those who play slap bass.
- 150 watts of output power
- 15-inch hybrid cone driver with ceramic magnet, 2-inch tweeter
- Top-mounted amplifier with Volume, Bass, Mid and Treble Controls
- 7-band EQ with switch
- Two 1/4-inch inputs for active/passive bass guitars
While the Aguilar was a miniature, lightweight amp head, the Hartke HD150 is a combo amp that may require a small van to transport to a gig.
While it isn’t the most portable amp, it has a range of useful features for bassists who want to play gigs. It has an output of 150 watts of power with a 15in hybrid cone and 2in tweeter.
It features a top mounted amplifier with a 7-band EQ, a master volume knob and two 1/4-inch jack inputs. One input is for basses with passive pickups, while the other is for powering those that use active pickups and humbuckers.
As well as the seven-band EQ, there are also bass, mid and treble knobs for making simple adjustments to your tone on the fly.
Despite its size, they build this combo amp for transporting.
There are metal corner guards for protecting it from sudden impacts. You also get a metal grill over the speaker cab for guarding the cone.
The wheels on the bottom make it easy to roll in and out of a van. There also are helpful handles on both sides for carrying up and down stairs.
- 7 band EQ and bass, mid and treble controls.
- Inputs for powering basses that use both active and passive pickups.
- Powerful cab with 15in cone for rumbling bass.
- You may need a van for transporting this amp to gigs.
- 4-band EQ for precise tonal control
- Balanced input for acoustic basses
- Balanced DI with level control and pre/post switch
- All this capability comes in the same compact size and weight as its Markbass predecessor
- The Little Mark III amp head’s DI input features a pre/post EQ switch and output level control, so you can optimize the signal you send to your mixer or recording unit
The Markbass Little Mark III Bass Head has been developed using the latest technology to provide an affordable solution for gigging bassists.
It is a solid state amp head with an output power of 500W, which makes it great for driving large speaker cabs to produce lots of noise while on stage.
Thanks to its compact size, this amp head is easy to transport in your gig bag and set up anywhere you go. This unit boasts two knobs that you can’t find elsewhere.
The VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulation) function can recreate the sound of an old school speaker system by moderately reducing your instrument’s presence.
The VPF (variable pre-shape filter) knob boosts both high and bass frequencies while cutting back on the mids, which is great for anyone who plays slap bass.
With a simple setup process, the Markbass Little Mark III is ready to rock right out of the box. Simply plug in your guitar and turn the amp on; then connect it to a speaker with an XLR cable, and you are ready to go.
There are even controls for adjusting the bass, mid and treble frequencies, so you get the exact tone you want from this compact and portable amp head.
- Works great for those who play Slap bass.
- VLE knob for recreating the sound of an old-school loudspeaker.
- Compact and very portable.
- Loud fan.
- 900-Watt Bass Amplifier Head
- All-Analog Preamp, Class D Power Module, and Digital Impulse Response Cab Emulator
- Clean and Microtubes Engine Channels Drive, Compression, and Gain Adjust Knobs, 6-Band EQ Sliders
- Sleek, Compact, Intuitive Design
- Footswitch Included
The Darkglass Electronics Microtubes 902 is a high-end, high-power head designed specifically for bass guitars. It has an aluminum body that is both durable and incredibly stylish.
If the 500W Markbass amp we looked at above didn’t have enough power for you, then the 900W from this unit will handle your needs.
You can shape your tone with the six-band equalizer that allows you to tweak your output to get the exact sound you want. There is also a drive knob and controls for adding compression, both of which are very useful for creating thick, booming bass tones.
The single input has a button below it for matching its output power to the type of pickup on your bass. While it is very expensive, you are paying for a premium product that can drive large speaker cabs with no problem at all.
They included a headphone port for using this amp during practice sessions where you don’t want to disturb your neighbors. Overall, this is a compact but incredibly powerful unit that is a worthwhile investment for anyone planning to play larger gigs and venues.
- Powerful amp head capable of driving large speakers.
- Compact, portable and durable.
- Includes inbuilt compressor, overdrive and 6-band equalizer.
- 2 x 10″ Bass Combo with 3 Voicings
- Chus Sub-octave Effects
- MP3/Line In
The Blackstar Unity Bass U500 is a 500 watt solid state bass amp that offers a wide range of tones. There is a switch on the top for selecting between three different voices including modern, flat and classic. With these options, you can recreate any sound that you want for playing any genre of music from metal to glam rock.
It features a fully adjustable gain control, plus a stereo effects loop, headphone output and even a USB port for connecting this unit to a computer.
On the top, you have access to a compressor and overdrive knobs and an inbuilt chorus effect. The cab contains 2 10-inch speakers that can deliver a lot of noise for small gigs.
The Blackstar Unity 500 is a superb choice if you are looking for a versatile amp that will allow you to dial in just about any sound you desire.
The three band equalizer isn’t as impressive as some others ones on this list, but it is very simple to use without creating unwanted peaks or distortion. Whether you want a clean or dirty sound, this amp will give you exactly what you need.
- Powerful cab capable of making a lot of noise.
- Stereo effects loop.
- Three different voices to choose from.
- Very large and hard to transport without a van.
Buying a new amplifier can seem intimidating, and there are many factors to consider before making a purchase. You want something that can produce a lot of noise on stage, but it also needs to be portable enough that you can get it on the stage.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best amplifier for your needs.
What Kind Of Music Do You Play?
Do you prefer a more traditional rock sound or a modern fusion style? The type of amp you buy will largely be determined by the genre you plan to play with it.
Most amps will produce clean sound, but if you want to play heavy metal, you will need at least an overdrive function and possibly an inbuilt compressor.
For more exotic genres like psychedelic rock, it can help to have an effect loop built into the amp. This way you can spice up your playing with no full pedal board.
How much volume do you really need? Do you want to blast out a huge amount of noise, or would a quieter amp work better for you?
If you are gigging regularly, then having extra power will be helpful for playing bigger venues. If you choose to buy a standalone amp head, then you will want one powerful enough to drive the cabs you will play through.
The output wattage of an amp should be lower than the speaker it is powering to avoid blowing the cones and causing permanent damage.
Amp Head Vs Combo Amp
The big question you will have to ask yourself is if you want a full-blown combo amp with a built-in cab or just an amp head. Combo amps are convenient since all you need to do is plug them into a wall, plug in your bass, and you are ready to rock.
Since combo amps have their own cab, they are suitable for venues that don’t provide speakers, such as open mic nights in pubs. However, they are much larger than an amp head and this can make them difficult to transport unless you and your band have a van.
Amp heads are incredibly portable since they will slide right into your gig bag. They are also more versatile as you can plug them into cabs that are likely already at some venues. They give you complete control over your sound, while not requiring you to lug about a big, heavy speaker to do so.
At the bare minimum, you want an amp that will allow you to adjust the gain of your output and your tone.
You will definitely want an inbuilt equalizer, although what sort will depend on how much control you want to have over your sound.
A basic bass, mid and treble 3-band equalizer will be more than enough for most. However, those who want to fine tune their tone may need something a bit more complex, like a 6 or 7-band EQ.
Other controls that can be very useful for gigging include overdrive and compression. These two aspects will be vital for playing music that requires heavy distortion, such as metal and hard rock.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is An Amp?
An amp is an electrical device that increases the volume level of electrical signals. Amps use amplification either to increase the strength of a signal (amplifier) or to change its frequency characteristics (equalizer).
An amplifier may comprise only a single vacuum tube, or it may include several tubes in series or parallel. The higher the number of tubes, the greater the power output an amp will have.
How Do Bass Amps Differ From Guitar Amps?
Bass amps are much larger than guitar amps and produce much lower frequencies.
The main reason behind the difference in size is that they need to move a lot more air in order to create the deep, rumbling sound that we know them for.
To move this amount of air, they need larger speaker cones and a significantly higher power output in order to drive them. Some amps can work for both guitar and bass. However these are rare, and it is important to check first to avoid damaging your instrument.
Many guitar amps will struggle to play bass at high volume, while guitar being played through a bass amp may harm the tweeter. Your sound will also be completely off, with bass sounding too thin through any unit designed for guitar.
What Is Compression?
Many of the amps on this list feature inbuilt compression units, so you may want to know what this function does before purchasing a unit that has it.
In music production, dynamic range compression, or simply compression, is making loud sounds less overwhelming while boosting quieter frequencies.
This compresses an audio signal’s available range and limits it to the exact frequency band you want.
For bass, this feature is often used to make quiet, low frequency notes much louder and more booming, while cutting back on unwanted high and mid-frequencies. It is a useful tool for getting just the sound you want from your amp and nothing else.