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27-May-2013

The smallest and most convenient bass amp one can use that has any “real bass” tone to it is the bass combo amplifier. While true you could use ear buds if you want to go seriously itty-bitty, having the amp in many instances is better to have.

There are legitimate reasons to own a small bass combo amp. If you have a dedicated work area (like a shop) where you put bass guitars together and need a dedicated amp for testing said electric instruments, the small bass combo works really well there. For practice purposes, the small combo works well there also. Another good place for a small combo is in the studio’s control room. If all your amp gear is out in the stage area and you need to quickly plug in and warm up in the control room while the mixer and microphones are being set, the little combo suits very nicely there.

In other words, yes, itty-bitty combo amps do have their place other than for just looking cute.

The speaker

On most small bass combo amps, the configuration will be 1×8, although there are some that go as small as 1×6.5 or even 1×6. Unless you’re really cramped for space, the 8-inch is the better choice simply for the fact it moves more air and has more “real bass” to it.

The watts

You’ll see choices of 10, 15, 25 and 30-watt offerings.

Most of you would most likely prefer the lower-watt offerings because you can make them “growl” easier, and it’s easier to quiet them down for practice purposes.

Tone control

This goes all over the place. Some offer simple 3-band EQ of low/mid/high while others add in a “Presence” knob or some other type of voicing control like “Shift”. Some also have a separate gain aside from the master volume control as well. And yet others have special circuitry that has “always-on” compression to accommodate for the smaller speaker size.

What makes for a good small combo amp?

Tone considerations aside, what makes for a good combo amp starts with its cabinet construction. Chances are pretty good that your small amp is going to get banged around a lot, so it needs to be constructed in a way that can accommodate or that.

Most small bass combo amps do come constructed with oversized corners, but some don’t. Without those oversized corners, the cabinet will fall apart and do so quickly, and that’s no good, so you want those larger corners.

Small combos that weigh at least 15lbs (6.8kg) are better than those that are under that weight. Combos that are too light in weight usually get knocked over all the time even from something as simple as plugging a cable into it. And believe me, it is seriously annoying when you need to hold an amp with two hands just to plug a cable in so it doesn’t knock over, so heavier is better.

Lastly, no matter what tech is in the amp, it’s helpful if you can use the amp for more than just practice. For example, a practice amp should be able to project enough to keep up with, say, a lightly-amplified acoustic guitar player (such as when playing a small coffee house gig). Amps that can multi-task like that are amps you’ll use again and again and really get your money’s worth out of.

Three examples of small that fit the bill nicely

fenderashdown_tbus15_frontampeg 

From left-to-right: Fender Rumble 15 V2, Ashdown Tour Bus 15, Ampeg BA-108.

The Tour Bus 15 is an amp we do carry, but the Ampeg and Fender are also good offerings.

Each amp has their pros and cons. The Fender, while the most modern and most rugged (especially with its steel grille face), has compression circuitry in it that some players don’t agree with. The Ampeg with its ported baffle might too “boomy” for some, enough to the point where it may be difficult to play it quietly when necessary. The Ashdown is the middle ground between the Fender and Ampeg. Rugged like the Fender, but voiced differently to not be as “boomy” as the Ampeg is.

A small bass amp is good to have and has several good, practical uses. Every bass player should own one.

Do you own a small amp? Where do you use yours?

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41 Responses to “What’s the best small bass amp?”

  1. Line 6 studio110, record with it an have gigged it. Top amp, and even the BBC engineers loved its ease of use as they just used a cannon direct in……no DI box needed.

    May 27, 2013 at 1:11 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  2. Ummm.. Phil Jones has two really small amps. One is a 75 watt 2X4 amp (yes, 4″ speakers) and the other is a 100 watt 2X5 amp. Both of these amps will kick you in the chest. They even handle a low B string.

    They may seem to be underpowered, unless you know the secret. They are both Class A amps. Not very efficient, but very loud and very clean.

    So, if you’re really cramped for space, The Phil Jones 2X4 or 2X5 will work miracles.

    May 27, 2013 at 1:20 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  3. I have a little Fender Frontman. love it!

    May 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  4. I own the Carvin MB210 combo amp. I absolutely love it !!! I use it every chance I get. I use it for small to medium gigs,rehearsal,practice at home,studio, etc. It also only weighs 36.4 lbs.

    May 27, 2013 at 2:05 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  5. I own a GK combo. 35 pounds, same as the G&L L200E bass and its case!

    May 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  6. The Carvin MB-12, weighing in at only 30 lbs., is a three-way combo amp, with 200+ Watts!

    May 27, 2013 at 2:44 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  7. Markbass has all my basses covered, along with home to medium to large gigs. Eden combos are very good as well.

    May 27, 2013 at 3:13 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  8. G&K MB150/112 100 watts-26 lbs and will voice a B string.

    May 27, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  9. Yup. Acoustic Image. 1X 10 inches, 400 Watts, 20 pounds but lots of $$$$

    May 27, 2013 at 3:18 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  10. I have a Kustom KBA 16 for tiny rehearsals..a Celestion 10 or 12″ speaker in it..16w nice clear crisp full tone amp…and cheap too…

    May 27, 2013 at 5:38 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  11. A Kustom KBA 16W combo…with a Celestion 10″ ? speaker…crisp full range tone, and cheap too…

    May 27, 2013 at 5:40 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  12. roland microcube……….

    May 27, 2013 at 5:55 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  13. Hartke a35.10″ speaker. Does the trick for me.

    May 27, 2013 at 7:55 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  14. I get real good Bass from my GL MB112, a bargain at $269.

    May 27, 2013 at 10:04 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  15. I have an Eden E12, but I use it less and less. With manufacturers like Genz Benz, EA etc producing powerful micro amps and light weight micro cabs, a combo these days is starting to look a bit redundant.

    May 28, 2013 at 7:56 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  16. GK MB212. 500 watts and 37 lbs.

    May 28, 2013 at 10:56 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  17. GK 200MB – the predecessor to the MB150. However, I now prefer to take out separates – Tecamp Puma 900 (1.5kg/3lbs) and TC Electronics RS112 (14kg/30lb). Just have to watch out not to turn the amp up too much.

    May 29, 2013 at 1:38 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  18. I still have one of the ill-fated Ampeg Portabss amps with 1 – 12″ speaker and an output of 250 watts. This amp kick ass for a small combo and it’s a shame Ampeg decided to discontinue this series….. the amp only weighs 36 lbs., has a built luggage cart.

    May 29, 2013 at 1:47 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  19. Aguilar GS112 speaker with MB200 head.
    Small enough to practice and powered to play gigs too.

    May 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  20. swr spellbinder….MIND BLOWING TONE,TRY ONE YOU’LL SEE!!!!

    May 29, 2013 at 2:47 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  21. I love my AER Amp TWO. It is small enough (19.7″x16.5″x13.8″ (HxWxD), weighs close to 52lbs, very clean, very LOUD (240Watts/12″ speaker + 4″ mid-high speaker), parametric tone control with bass boost option. Excellent for rehearsal and even gigs. Sounds absolutely sick!

    May 29, 2013 at 3:14 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  22. swr combos are all pretty nice. I love my workingman’s 12 although it is a heavy bugger

    May 29, 2013 at 3:57 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  23. SWR Redhead, allows you to practice and play smal to medium sizes gigs, and if you’re going through the mains, it’s all you need for large gigs too….

    May 29, 2013 at 4:18 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  24. Acoustic B15 has great tone and an added overdrive and overdrive level to get that growl. a shape feature is also onboard to pinpoint just the tone you are looking for. LOVE this small amp!!

    May 29, 2013 at 11:04 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  25. Carvin MB10 all the way, a little heavier at 27~ lbs (they can custum make you with a neo speaker for a little extra) but cranks 200-250w, can run an ext cab, and sounds great. I can play with rock drummers or jazz duos and carry it on the bus/subway, plus it is made in USA. most versatile combo I’ve ever seen.

    May 30, 2013 at 7:12 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  26. I use a GK MB150E/112 for upright work, and a Line 6 Studio 110 for electric. I wouldn’t gig the Line 6, (I gig a Ampeg SVT rig) but it’s a great little practice amp!

    May 30, 2013 at 7:52 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  27. I have a GK MB500 head at 3.5 lbs and a EA NL210 cab around 35 lbs. Works for just about any situation. I add a second NL210 for bigger gigs

    June 2, 2013 at 12:15 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  28. I’ve used a Fender Bassman 25 for 10 years of medium gigs with no problems. It’s been upgraded to a BXR but still has the 10″ spkr. Part # 038657

    November 30, 2013 at 1:43 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  29. The Warwick BC20 is my mini-combo of choice. The thing is tiny and light (20 watts through an 8-inch driver w/ tweeter), but the sound is huge, the tone is amazing, and the amp is dead quiet, even at the loudest setting. Love it!

    January 13, 2014 at 5:59 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  30. I HAVE 3 LINE 6 STUDIO 110`s.Small gigs,rehearsels,practice and traveling.70 watts infinite baffel,30 pounds.4 amp models and more,try one out !

    January 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  31. Wow, I’ve counted over 20 suggestions above. Hard to make a decision…I guess I’ll have to try a lot of amps out! Thanks for all of the suggestions.

    February 8, 2014 at 9:27 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  32. I have a fender rumble amp 15 watts at one rehearsal site a peavey microbass with a 10 inch speaker at another site a genz benz 3.0 shuttle at home when i traval and a gk mb 200 head with a 15 inch cabinet i made for gigs that’s all i need to play gospel i even used the fender outside in the back yard without being mic

    March 6, 2014 at 7:12 pm - Reply or Post a new comment
  33. Genz Benz Shuttle 3.0 Same size as an Ashdown After 8 but 170/300 watts. You van even gig with it.

    April 10, 2014 at 3:52 am - Reply or Post a new comment
  34. Ampeg sb-12, with 7868 is the best!

    August 4, 2014 at 7:58 am - Reply or Post a new comment

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