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Bass amp for live playing

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Postby jwmartin » August 27th, 2008, 1:15 pm

I've been thinking of picking up a bass for a while now and a few things have coincided that may push me into it. I have a friend who has offered to loan me a bass he is not using. And another friend and I have been trying to put together a band w/ the two of us playing guitar. Unfortunately, bass players have proven to be hard to find. I ran across a guy that sings and plays guitar that might be a good fit for us, but we don't need 3 guitars when we don't have bass or drums :D So, I volunteered to switch to bass. My mission now is to find a bass amp while spending as little money as possible. My question (about time I got here) is this: what is the "minimum" wattage/speaker size that is useful for practicing with a full band and playing live (bars, parties, etc.)? Yes, I know my question is subjective, but what's a rule of thumb? From some reading, it seems like at least a 12" speaker is necessary, but I'm unsure of the wattage. My 15W Blues Jr. is plenty for my guitar, but I get the feeling a 15W bass amp wouldn't even make the neighbors mad.
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Postby Musenfreund » August 27th, 2008, 1:19 pm

Actually, for practicing with the band, 15w will do you fine. Our bass player typically does use a 15w amp. Live we often put the bass straight through the PA, but he also brings a larger amp sometimes. 60 w maybe? I'm not sure.
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Postby pbee » August 27th, 2008, 3:18 pm

I use this one http://www.behringer.com/BX600/index.cfm. Its 60W and is plenty loud enough for small gigs. I only ever have this thing on about 1/4 volume, on full volume it will rattle the windows and anything in the room thats not bolted down. It only weighs 20kgs which means that picking it up and taking it to gigs is not a problem.

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Postby XylemBassGuitar » August 28th, 2008, 9:07 am

For just practicing with the band, you can usually get away with a 15-20W amp, as long as everyone else in the band doesn't crank the output of their gear to ridiculous heights during practice.

I haven't ever heard a good "rule of thumb" relating wattage to size of venue/number of people, but here are a couple of thoughts from my experience.

The relation of wattage to actual output ability seems to depend on the amp. I've got a Hartke A70 right now that I do small gigs with. It's got a 12" cone and is 70W. The A70 is plenty for a loud bar with 100-200 people, it cuts right through when you crank it (and can rattle the glasses off tables if you really try). Conversely, I've played a few 100 watt amps that didn't quite match up to the Hartke and that I wouldn't necessarily trust in the loudest of smaller bars. So, it seems to be a good idea to hear the amp itself without relying purely on its wattage.

If you're using an amp with only one speaker cone you'll probably want the cone to be at least 12." You might be able to get away with a 10" in some cases, but 12" will be the safest bet. If you are using a 5-string bass with a low B you definitely want at least a 12" cone (or two 10s).

Enjoy putting the band together
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Postby slejhamer » August 28th, 2008, 11:51 am

jwmartin wrote: My question (about time I got here) is this: what is the "minimum" wattage/speaker size that is useful for practicing with a full band and playing live (bars, parties, etc.)?



MUCH depends on the speakers you'll be using. 30w can seem loud with an efficient speaker in a small quiet room setting.

I have a 150w Phil Jones amp with 4 x 5" speakers, and they're not efficient at all. With the volume about 2/3rds of the way up I am just keeping up with my church drummer. So I use PA support (monolithic 18" subwoofer) for the house.

I also have a GK 400RB which I think is 180w at 8ohms. I use a single 12" Epifani cab. So, about the same wattage as my other amp, but the GK/Epifani combination is thunderously LOUD. Really moves some air.

In my opinion, there is no way a 15w bass amp is going to give sufficient clean headroom in a full band playing loud bars/parties. At least not without PA support, and then you might as well skip the tiny amp and go direct with a Sansamp Bass Driver DI. 15w may not even be sufficient as a stage monitor.

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Postby Musenfreund » September 1st, 2008, 4:42 am

Btw, I check the bass player's amp at our gig on Friday -- 100w. But at practice he uses a 15w.
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Postby Vic Lewis VL » September 1st, 2008, 4:55 am

It's about three years now since I bought my first bass, and before I splashed out the money, I asked a few questions around here. Such as, "will I be able to play my bass through my guitar amp?" to which the unequivocal answer was, "NO! Get a bass amp."

So with that in mind, I tried a few amps in the shop where I bought my bass. The one that caught my ear was the Roland Cube30W bass amp - tried the bass I was buying through it, and it sounded fine to me. I already had a Cube15W guitar amp, and liked that, so it didn't take too much persuading to sell me on the bass amp.

After a few months or so, I decided that, just for a change, I'd take my bass up to the acoustic jam in the local pub. I don't think the volume got much above about #2! Since then, I've used it at jam sessions when others have had electric guitars plugged in - even then I never got much above #3.

So for home and small pubs, I'd say a 30W bass amp would do you fine - maybe a 60W if it's a largish pub. I did try the amp once at higher volumes, to see how loud it could get - anything above #4 at home, and those windows were rattling! I didn't dare push it any higher.

:D :D :D

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Postby jeffster1 » September 18th, 2008, 9:16 am

I have the cube 30x guitar amp... The cube's are very loud for their size/wattage, even though they are solid state. My 30x, though not a bass amp, gets ridiculously loud at around the 6/10 mark. I haven't gigged anywhere huge with it, but I'd bet it's loud enough to gig anywhere of a decent size.
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Postby hbriem » September 19th, 2008, 2:39 am

For what it's worth I disagree that 15-30W bass amps suffice for live playing except perhaps for very quiet venues and acoustic music or jazz. For rock'n'roll at least, much larger bass amps (and speakers) are required. A rough rule of thumb is that the bass amp should be about 5-10x bigger than the guitar amp. Most bass amps for live playing are 200-500W, while guitar amps of 30-50W are fine.

There are many articles here at Guitar Noise about choosing a bass amp. Read these first:

http://www.guitarnoise.com/lesson/buying-your-second-bass-amp/
http://www.guitarnoise.com/lesson/british-bass-amps/

FWIW, I use a 300W Gallien-Krueger GK800 plugged into a 500W Fender PA cabinet. Crude, but servicable. The best amp I've ever played was an Ashdown I borrowed at a gig I played once, can't remember the model. OMG, I sounded good that night.
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Postby Musenfreund » September 21st, 2008, 5:32 am

I didn't mean to suggest 15w for a live gig -- just noting that our bassist uses a 15w in practice sessions and it suffices there. He uses his 100w amp for gigs.
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