Bass... how low can you go?
March 23, 2007 8:03 PM   Subscribe

What's a good, versatile and powerful electric bass rig to buy in the $750-1,500 range?

So, I'm continuing to outfit a rehearsal/recording space with aspirations to letting it out professionally. I have a very nice drum kit (a Ludwig Fab Four), a good pa, and more guitar amps/cabs than you can shake a stick at. Some pretty high end stuff, actually. I have a Matchless HC 30, a Marshall JCM 800 2203, a Soldano SLO, a VHT pit bull and a Mesa Dual Rectifier. However, I am at a loss with regard to selecting a bass head/cabinet or combo that can compete with these in terms of sound quality. What I am looking for needn't be top of the line, but it should be high enough quality that a decent, experienced bass player coming in to play or record will be happy with its power/tone as well as being versatile enough to cover styles from jazz to metal. As much of a gearhead as I am, and as many bass players as I have played with, I have honestly never noticed what kind of amp they had played with, so this is virgin territory for me. I would be grateful for any advice the hive mind can offer.
posted by psmealey to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I always liked SWR's all-solid-state Working series (from when they were called Working Man). The 15" combo could do thick and punchy, had enough tonal range for tweety harmonics, and could handle a low B string without sounding like whale farts. It didn't make different basses sound alike. All without the metallic shrillness that annoyed me about amps like Gallien-Krueger. Probably too neutral and jazz-ish for many rock players, but as far as I'm concerned that's what stompboxes are for.

Some bass players will only be happy with their pet brand or model, whether it's Fender Bassman, Ampeg, or something else.
posted by ardgedee at 9:06 PM on March 23, 2007

Best answer: (on preview: ardgedee hits the big three, too)

I swear by my SWR Silverado Special Combo. I use it mostly live, but recording with it has been a dream. It has a built in direct box that is surprisingly quiet. It's loud and punchy and the tubes warm up nicely. If you find one, buy two. Bring me one.

The main reason I like it is that it doesn't color the tone of my bass. I've found SWR in general to be the cleanest and most transparent. They were, however, bought out by Fender at some point in the not too distant past and word on the street is things have changed. There are plenty of deals to be had on used SWR gear that are rock solid. Their clear tone, however, will keep a crappy bass sounding crappy.

I've also had some luck with Fender amps. Notwithstanding any work they do with SWR, I'd treat the Bassman combos and heads as the lowest common denominator that's worth a damn.

Any Ampeg will give you lots of muscle, if you need it. If you're doing lots of heavy rock then playing around with a big Ampeg stack in an iso booth will likely give you lots of options.

In my mind, the most important thing as a recording bass player are good headphones. I'm a finger playing jazz, funk, rock (in that order) bassist, and my voice comes through my fingers and the tone of the bass. The amp - though important - takes third seat. If I can't get a good mix and really hear the bass in my headphones, I'm flying mostly blind (deaf?) and the amp question is moot. Though true for all musicians, bringing the bass through on tinny headphones can be a trick.

Too, before investing a lot of money on a bass rig, you might invite a bassist with several different basses over to just record some tracks direct. Often times the bass part will speak most clearly direct and a little eq is all it needs. An amp sometimes just muddles the recording. Not to say that you shouldn't invest in some type of amp, but figuring out your baseline for the bassline in your studio setup would be cheap and easy.
posted by GPF at 9:16 PM on March 23, 2007

Best answer: i registered to respond to this question. feel really, really honored.

first off, that is a seriously nice collection of guitar amps. most guitar players would be positively amped to rehearse with those. no pun intended at all.

for your budget, go with an svt-classic with at least a 4x10 cab, possibly an 8x10 cab or one 4x10 and one 1x18. with all those hundred watt guitar amps, you need a 300+ watt bass amp to satisfy the ensuing volume wars. i'm partial to the throwback version of the svt, with the silver cosmetics.

if you're concerned about upkeep on the all-tube svt, which has about 185 power tubes, you can't really go wrong with the solid state versions.... with the caveat that they're just never going to sound as sweet.

i have never seen a bass player actually play through a bassman! never! for recording you may want to invest in a sweet sounding, low wattage bass amp like a b-15, but if your focus is live rehearsal you want power to spare.

other things i like are the: mesa boogie all-tube bass amps from the 80s, lovely beasts they are, and the middle/upper range of aguilar and ashdown.

also, a word about the drum kit: i think those ringo kits are cool as hell, but some people might be put off by them. you might want to invest in a more rock-oriented, cheaper kit for those situations. anything but a pearl export. for the love of god.
posted by tremspeed at 9:23 PM on March 23, 2007

All good recommendations. It may also be worth having a poke around in here if you don't mind the risk of running into some informed opinion.
posted by Wolof at 9:32 PM on March 23, 2007

if your focus is live rehearsal you want power to spare.

True enough. My response was mostly geared towards recording. A bassman would not work out so well if all those guitar amps go to 11.

Wolof is right, Talkbass is the real forum for this question.
posted by GPF at 10:58 PM on March 23, 2007

Response by poster: Wolof is right, Talkbass is the real forum for this question.

Thanks very much to both of you. I was going to post this to AGA, but doing that can be an extremely unrewarding and annoying experience. I will got check out Talkbass.
posted by psmealey at 8:38 AM on March 24, 2007

I was also going to recommend the 80's Mesa bass amps, which I believe were called Strategy 400's. They'd be a good fit for the kind of music your guitar amps are going to make.

If you picked up a Fender Bassman, might as well go whole hog and get a pair of old Ibanez tube screamers so you can plug your Strat into it. Most folks think of these as guitar amps.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:01 PM on March 24, 2007

« Older Know anything about canned butter from the 1950's?   |   Help me find books on coping with a family that... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.