Cheap bass guitar amps are a musician's best friend. However, finding high-quality amps at budget-conscious prices takes a bit of effort. With a little research you can score low-cost guitar amps that will have you singing a happy tune.
What to Look For
For the best sound and sustainable tone, it's important to choose an amp suited to bass guitars. It's not enough just to have a lot of power behind the sound. If the speaker-amplifier configuration isn't right, players have a tendency to push for more impact and that's when the sound distorts, or the equipment breaks. A common problem is a loudspeaker cone tearing because it can't produce the sound waves as directed by a jacked-up amp.
Bass amps have to deal with a low range frequency continuously. A guitar amp can't handle the lack of variation. So a cheap bass guitar amp needs to have a balance of wattage and ohms resonating within a good cabinet to produce quality sound.
What is an ohm? It is the impedance, or measurement of restriction, of an electrical current. For an easy explanation as to why the combination matters, visit Active Bass.
Generally, keep the following in mind when choosing a bass guitar amp you'll take on the road:
- Speaker size should increase based on wattage, or the cabinet should have two-to-four speakers to handle the load.
- Ohm units should be balanced based on wattage as well, and the configuration of the cabinet.
- Look for master and gain controls, as well as a variation of tone controls.
- Line inputs and outputs suitable for your needs, such as RCA inputs for recording devices, a headphone jack, and a balanced XLR.
Where to Find Cheap Bass Guitar Amps
If you are new to the world of guitar amps, then you might consider shopping in-person to get a feel for what you are getting for your hard-earned cash. Local guitar specialty shops and general music stores typically carry amps throughout the year. However, in order to score deep discounts on modern amps, it's best to wait for clearance sales, which traditionally take place once or twice a year to make room for newer models.
Another option is to shop online. There are a number of reputable retailers that sell quality guitar amps that won't drain your wallet. Some of the most popular resources include:
- Musician's Friend: A leader in the industry, Musician's Friend is a hotbed for top-rated guitar amps, including ones by Fender and Spider. What's more, the company sells them at drastically-reduced prices. Sales slash regular prices by 20 to 80 percent off depending on the make and model.
- eBay: The site has dozens of gently used, name brand guitar amps at reasonable prices.
- zZounds: Major deals abound on this site which has been in business since 1996. Look to save up to 60 percent off on traditional guitar amps as well as combo amps which feature an amplifier and speakers in one cabinet.
- Musicians Buy Line: In addition to carrying a full line of low-price guitar amps, you'll find gigs that allow you to show off your musical talents.
- Craigslist: Use the site's search engine to narrow your search by state and city to find musicians willing to sell or swap brand name guitar amps in your area. Some of the deals will blow you away.
Another way to save when purchasing guitar amps from an online retailer is to look for deals on free shipping. If you don't see an ad for free shipping on the site, inquire with a customer service representative. Often you can broker a deal on shipping by simply taking the time to ask.
Estimating Cost and Usage
There's a difference between practice amps and working pro amps. Sometimes you just need to hole up in your room, plug in the headphones, and work out some rhythms. Dropping $100 on a practice amp makes that easy, and you'll keep that amp for a long time. It's not fancy, but it works. However, if you're playing sets with a full band, especially with a drummer, you'll need a bass guitar amp that can also hold its own against the power of the drums, the room setting, and the type of output you'll need.
Starter or practice amps usually run about $100. Depending on your budget and set up requirements, you'll find mid-range models at about $300-$500, and larger bass amplifier combos starting at $500 up to $1,200. Again, assess your needs. If you're jamming with a garage band or playing 100-seat rooms, a mid-range amp will probably suit your purposes just fine.
But, if you're gigging on a regular basis, at a spectrum of events from outdoor festivals to larger venues, make the investment in a higher quality system.
Whether it's for practice, weekly performaces, or just for fun, a bass guitar amplifier is a worthy investment for musicians of all skill levels. However, the electric sound tools don't always come cheap. The trick to finding a good deal on an amp is to shop around. By assessing your needs, then doing a bit of research in person and online, you can score a solid amp at a reasonable price.