The Low Down


Gigging bass amps - big or small?

So guitarists get a lot of attention when it comes to amplification (rightly so too!), but should us bass players be as particular for creating that low end rumble?

Personally my journey began back in 1995 when I first picked up a bass and purchased a Trace Elliot Commando 15 combo, which at the time I thought it was the bee’s knees - the name alone made me feel good, I had an amp name that was seen on TV, at gigs and in magazines (I didn’t have internet back then so no reviews to find!).

Carrying on with the Trace Elliot theme, next came a GP7 2x10, this one I absolutely loved, but… big problem was the weight! (well what I thought) - after having a hernia operation I struggled to lift this, so it had to go.

Luckily a friend of mine (now the boss here at MusicStreet) worked at a great music shop in Hitchin called Machinehead. He put me on to a Harkte HA series head and a super light weight 4x10 cab, that was much easier to move around than the Trace.

By this time I was gigging with my band and competing with ever growing guitar amps - firstly a Fender Hotrod Deluxe and a couple of years later a 100 watt (yes 100 watt!!) valve head, custom made by Matamp with a 4x12 cab - now I was in trouble!!! The Harke just couldn’t keep up.

The guitarist said “you need a bigger amp - dare I say a valve amp and really theres only one you will ever need”. A trip to the Bass Centre was planned to go and check out their vast range of Ampeg. I Sat and played for hours with Nick looking after us. After a few hours of trying different configurations of speakers to try and keep the weight down, I settled on a Classic Series 1x15 and a 2x10 cabs, both powered by the SVT Classic head. Yes the head is heavy, but boy did it kick out! Once again i could keep up and with real clarity / sound good - one very happy bass player I certainly was.

This rig lasted me some 10 years before once again I started to look for lighter gear. Again I turned to Tony at Machinehead for some advice, to which he said “try this Aguilar gear out”. Wow! big sound, light weight!

By this time I was playing more with various bands using all sorts of guitar amps in dusky pubs, clubs, weddings, bar mitzvah’s etc… The Aguilar DB750 - perfect, lighter than the Ampeg with a great deal of punch and headroom, along with 2 DB112 cabs - job done…. or was it??

I never sold the Ampeg, but parted with the Aguilar after 4 years - changed the Ampeg cabs to a Heritage 4x10, so was back to full on weight. As you get older, do you want to take less to gigs? Hell yes!!! Erm actually no, I want it all!

Now I use something I thought would never happen. Again, this is thanks to Tony. Its the first time my family have brought me anything musical without me knowing and its a cracker. Fender Rumble…. yes a FENDER Rumble. Its only 100 watts, but boy it can pack a punch. It wont keep up with everything in pub gigs, you may need to put a bit through the PA, but it can hold its own in most situations. Personally I gig it alongside a Vox AC15 and custom 15 watt valve head/cab and of course the usual noisy drummers and in the right environment its more than capable. Best of all you can pick it up with 2 fingers, its that light.

I think the 200 watt version would make me more relaxed, knowing I have just a little more oomph if I need it. There are so many amps on the market now that are light weight and offer that “Big sound” or you have the old school beasts that will put your back out just lifting it into the car, but what ever you choose it still comes down to whats around you i.e. your band mates gear.

One thing I've learnt is to always try the amp in a room with a guitarist, whether its borrowing a similar amp for a rehearsal or cranking it up in the shop with a guitarist, just to be sure you are comfortable with the limits of the amp.

Me personally? well my Ampeg is still my favourite for power and sheer room shaking, eye blurring bottom end, but my Fender is favourite for the haemorrhoid prevention!!!