What practice amp for playing bass would you recommend?
June 14, 2011 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Can you recommend a bass amp to get for use in a small apartment? I'm getting back into playing an electric bass (Fender Jazz Bass) soon and am going to be in the market for a small practice amp. Can you recommend a good quality amp to get that won't drive my neighbors crazy?
posted by GS1977 to Shopping (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm primarily a guitar player, but we bought a Orange Crush PiX 1x12 combo amp for my wife, who is learning bass. It's handy for practicing because it has a headphone jack (note: in my experience with practice amps, the sound you get through headphones usually isn't as good/the same as you will get through the amp's speaker -- likely due to the headphones you use). Ours probably has a bit more oomph than you need, but they make one with an 8" speaker that goes for $160.
posted by puritycontrol at 9:39 PM on June 14, 2011

Why don't you get a headphone amp?

You might consider getting some sort of simple USB audio interface (even the mic jack of your computer) and running your bass through an audio program like reaper that can use audio plugins. Get an amp simulator (there are some freeware ones) and you'll end up with a better sound than you'd get through a cheap amp and not annoy your neighbors.

The nice thing about this setup is that you could record yourself practicing to records, and be able to listen back, which is a very effective way to practice and get better.

Just a thought!
posted by sully75 at 9:44 PM on June 14, 2011

sully75 is on the mark. No way in hell you should be playing bass through an amplifier, no matter how small, in your tiny apartment. Get some nice headphones (you'll have to try them out to test the LF response), a headphone amp, and whatever processing you need and let your neighbors live in peace.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 10:53 PM on June 14, 2011

Bass Pod XT, all the way.
posted by tremspeed at 10:56 PM on June 14, 2011

Practice amps suck. If you're serious about playing just get a 2x10 combo or a cab and a head. You can turn it down just as soft as a practice amp and you won't be wasting money\space.

In addition to that I'd recommend just getting a headphone amp like people are mentioning since you'll want to practice at times where any noise would be noticeable and unwanted. iRig for iPhones works nice. Just getting a 1/4 inch female to 1/8 mini male adapter at radioshack would work for plugging into your computer and using a virtual amp.

If both those ideas sound crappy to you then go on craigslist and just get the cheapest guitar practice amp you can find.
posted by zephyr_words at 11:11 PM on June 14, 2011

Please Please please just get a nice pair of headphones. Bass travels through walls like they aren't even there so you have no idea how much you will be annoying someone who just wants to sit down and have a quiet dinner without listening to someone practice with all of the starts and stops and redos just to get something right.

There is a special level of hell reserved for people who have electric, and therefore silent, instruments who practice in small apartments using an amp.
posted by koolkat at 1:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

Seconding a standalone amp sim like the Line 6 POD. A computer interface is nice too, but there is just a little bit extra inertia/complexity added to the process of sitting down and practicing (boot up computer, start up DAW, load amp/cab, check levels etc). When you're learning an instrument, that extra effort can make a big difference to motivation.

Just getting a 1/4 inch female to 1/8 mini male adapter at radioshack would work for plugging into your computer and using a virtual amp.

I wouldn't recommend this without a DI box of some kind. I suspect the iRig is basically a DI circuit.*

This reminds me - I should try to plug mine into a mic jack on a computer and see what happens...
posted by vanar sena at 2:32 AM on June 15, 2011

I'll assume you're going to keep the amp turned way, way down (as it is perfectly possible to practice with an amp in a small apartment and never have the neighbors know a thing about it ... volume control, people! Plus a small, thick throw rug under the amp to prevent it from transmitting vibrations as much as possible).

Peavey makes a tiny little thing, not much bigger than 12"x14" or so, for basses, that's not just a great practice amp but a very portable rehearsal amp and provides high enough sound quality for smaller gigs and combo work (not enough volume for a big room or a big band). I used mine for over a decade with a Fender Jazz Bass, even.

That may be overkill and/or more than you're willing to spend, but it'll take you a lot of places.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:02 AM on June 15, 2011

I love, love, love my Danelectro Nifty Seventy. Danelectro in general makes great practice amps, here are some other options. But the Nifty Seventy has great tone. I sort of stumbled across it, and later had a full-time blues bass professional say it was one of the best sounding practice amp he'd ever heard, so I felt all smart and stuff.

As a fellow apartment dweller, I would suggest only playing with the amp real low between, say, 11am and 7pm. Headphones all other times. Even though I used to be in a band, when my neighbor below starts the deep bass at 7am on a Saturday, it bothers me. Bass carries a long way, so if you know your neighbors well, maybe even see if they have odd second- or third-shift schedules and take that into consideration.
posted by lillygog at 5:13 AM on June 15, 2011

Buy a decent guitar amp. You can definitely run an electric bass through a guitar amp, and it will force you to keep the volume down, otherwise you will blow your amp's speakers. This has worked really well for me in the past. Plus, you're already halfway set up should you ever want to learn electric guitar.
posted by lobbyist at 8:32 AM on June 15, 2011

I like Ramsey headphone amps or this one. Otherwise Epiphone has had some decent practice amps.
posted by drezdn at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2011

I love my Marshall MB15. You can get really fat sounds using the "modern" channel and the compressor, even at very low volumes. At the same time, if you want to, you can crank it up loud enough to rattle the windows.

I don't really like playing bass through headphones.
posted by monospace at 4:16 PM on June 15, 2011

Response by poster: Much thanks for all the recommendations guys.

If you knew my neighbors, you probably wouldn't be so sympathetic to their ears, but you do make a good point. I'm not opposed to using headphones, but that in my experience is far from ideal. I already have an audio interface for my laptop, as well as a mixer and plenty of software.

I'd forgotten about the Line 6 stuff. I think I might go for a combination of a smaller reasonable amp, a Line 6 Pod, closed headphones and an iRig. Vanar Sena makes a great point in that hooking everything up to the computer setting up the DAW and all that is something of a barrier to spontaneous inspiration. I know this all too well because I already face that problem with practicing keyboard and what have you in Ableton Live. There's something to being able to flip a switch or two and getting going right away that makes picking up the bass way easier. I miss the purely tactile experience of playing a stand-alone instrument.

For those of you recommending headphone amps, where does that fit in exactly with practicing bass. I mean technically speaking. I plug my bass right into the headphone amp?

Thanks again. Lots of good info here.
posted by GS1977 at 9:57 PM on June 15, 2011

For this Ramsey headphone amp, you can just plug the bass right in for a normal instrument cable. There's even a little switch to select between bass and guitar.
posted by drezdn at 7:22 PM on June 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the clarification, Drezdn.
posted by GS1977 at 7:52 PM on June 17, 2011

I was at Guitar Center a few days ago, and I picked one of these Ibanez JamTuner RU10s up for about seventeen bucks. I was just looking for a tuner with maybe a metronome, and this thing is... well, it's that, plus twenty drumbeats built in, and it works as a headphone amp, and it has an MP3 input.

I'm finding that I really enjoy practicing with it; with bass you really need to practice with a beat, and metronomes are really boring, and anything else with a beat takes a while to set up. With this, I just plug in my guitar and headphones, tune up, select a beat and a tempo, and practice.

It's got some fans.
posted by MrVisible at 8:52 PM on December 5, 2011

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