Electric Bass Players: What makes for a good rig.

I’m looking to buy a new bass head and cabinet. I’m still a pup since, I’ve been playing for only 2 years (don’t worry…I haven’t quit my day job). Some gigs are coming up that, I believe, will require more bottom than I can produce. I currently play through a 120W Hartke KickBack 15 and I’ve never been very pleased with it…more than enough for personal practice, not big enough to overcome a zealous drummer. It would actually perform well as an on-stage monitor, but we don’t have enough PA to run bass through it. I need some seasoned players’ opinions of what you have found to be helpful in determining what equipment to buy. The sky is NOT the limit. I’m budgeting $1200-1500.


2, 4, 8 ohms

Is there a formula of wattage to room size?

4X10 vs. 1X18 vs. 2X15

What really matters?

I left the ? off of the question in the thread title. It’ll never again.

First off, I am not a bass player, but I am a sound engineer, so I can only offer general advise.

For most club applications, speaker-wise you should go with two 15" or one 18". I’m not a big fan of using 10’s or 12’s for bass.

Amp-wise, get something with at least 200-300 watts.

I do know a bass player who is using a Hartke setup and he loves it. You might look into getting a second amp like the one you have and run them together.

As far as the type of sound you want, that’s pretty subjective. Go to your local retailer and try out some different rigs. Be sure to bring you own guitar with you.

Good luck.

When I played bass, I started out with a borrowed Fender (don’t remember the number) but it was a standard Fender. I liked it a lot - it had great reverb and distortion (what I was into at the time), good solid sound, quality speaker.

Later, I borrowed a friend’s Peavy and didn’t like it one bit. It wasn’t as bad as a Crate amp that I had to use at a show once. I still shudder to think about that amp.

Once I got some cash, I bought a Kustom amp head and used a Cerwin Vega stadium speaker. That was a fabulous combination - although the Cerwin was so heavy it had to stay on the floor and transporting it was a pain. The Kustom amp had a mellow, vintage sound which I loved. The craftsmanship wasn’t fabulous, though, and I kept getting .

Finally I broke down and bought a beautiful Trace Elliott. I don’t remember the model number, but I still have that beaut stored in California. Trace Elliott’s are VERY expensive, but in my opinion, there is nothing better. It’s easy to get the sound you want with an Elliott - and they don’t mind if you’re a little rough with them.

Good luck and let us know what you pick! I hope you try out a ton of amps before deciding, nothing worse than being stuck with something you hate.

I’m sorry, I’ve had a lot of brain problems lately. From now on I’ll finish my sentences before I

I’m super slow today, sorry.

Size wise, I had a 12" (snicker) speaker. It was perfect for practicing (no need to crank it at home) and the right size for a show. At shows, instead of miking my bass, I usually requested a DL to the soundboard. I think it’s the easiest way to get a good bass sound on stage.

I’m not a bass player but I hepled a freind buy a SWR (Shit Works Right-can’t miss with that kind of name) amp and Head ($2000 for both) Well worth the money. The sound is very good and it kicks out 1600 watts. Pretty clean bass sound too.

Everything has a different sound, 10", 12", or 15" speakers; solid-state, tube, or hybrid amps, etc. A lot of it depends on what kind of music you’re playing. I play a four string in a alternative rock band, and our drummer is loud.

I used to use a 15" combo, but I could never hear myself on stage. From what people said, though, it sounded great in the audience. I’ve since gone to an Ampeg 4 X 10" or 8 x 10" cabinet and I love the sound - nice and punchy and it has great response. What kind of bass do you have? 15" speakers are great if you’re using a 5 string.

I’m actually looking to sell my amplifier right now. It’s an SWR Bass 350. It sounds really good, but I’m looking to get an Ampeg instead. Generally, SWRs have a clean, accurate sound. Gallien Kruegers sound a little punchier, and Ampeg amps are known for their volume and somewhat “dirty” tube sound.

If you want, I can get you my email address to help you decide or give you more focused advice. Generally, though, I think 2 or 4 10" speakers and a loud head (300 watts or more) will work for most applications.


I know what you mean :slight_smile: …best day is it my not for sentence structure. :wink:

I’ve never been good at trying out amps in a store full of really good players. It’s a confidence thing. My bass solos are horrid and it sounds stupid to play a straight bass line to a song. I’ve actually tried to teach myself cool sounding stuff to do when I go to Mars (local music megastore). I guess all those cool little jazz licks I hear other guys do will come with time and practice.
More background…

I started out playing a Peavey Foundation (in the j-bass family) and have moved to a Fender American Deluxe P-Bass (and damned glad I did). Haven’t delved into the world of 5 strings, yet. Everytime I pick one up, it sounds just plain sick. I’ll play any kind of music, but the band mainly covers a mixture of “rock” from the 60’s on.

I’ve also played through a Peavey Mark VI into an Hartke 4X10 Transporter. While it could get really loud it was boomy on the low end. Yuck! I’m pretty sure the two were not capatible as far as wattage and ohm load.

Napsy: Yes! Send me an e-mail. Why are you trading the SWR? Is it a Workingman or pro series?

I’ve got an Ampeg SVT (six 6550’s!). It rocks, but it’s difficult to lift. Combining it with an Ovation Magnum bass makes it sound grooooovy…

At least 10" or 15" inch speaker cabinets are a must. I speak as a drummer who has played with several bass players who sounded good to themselves but couldn’t translate to the audience.

I use a vintage Fender Bassman tube head and a generic 4x10" cabinet I found at a local music store that sounds great. Playing live, I always used a combo of the miked amp and a DI into the soundboard. (This provided me the added benefit of an onstage monitor, since most soundmen were loathe to run anything but vocals through the foldbacks.) It worked well for venues of up to about 300 people.

Basswise, I use a Rickenbacker 4001 and an Epiphone Viola. The Epiphone, being a smaller, semi-hollow body, requires me to punch up the bass tone on the amp, but it works well with both.

Duck Hook, what’s your email? I tried the one under your profile and it didn’t work…

That’s weird. They deleted it for lack of use or something. Sorry!

Try: tommyfranklin@hotmail.com

I’ve been patient with this purchase…until now. Although I had decided on a ballsy Ampeg head and cabinet that I couldn’t afford, I was offered a deal I couldn’t refuse.

“Like new” SWR Workingman’s 4004 head and matching SWR 4x10T cabinet. A good deal for these components (new) would be $500-$550 each. I got the entire rig for about $500. Unlike the Ampegs, it takes some tweaking and I still can’t get my “perfect” sound, but I’m happy with it. The amp has plenty of head room so I could always try adding a 1x15 later. It’s loads better than what I was using.

I know the seller personally and have even played through the rig several times. The SWR didn’t fit his needs so he’s swapping it out for my 15" Hartke Kickback and some cash. “Too much stage noise.” He uses an electric drum kit and his music is typically on the mellow side so I guess there’s not much to overcome. Those Hartkes make great monitors if you’ve got a strong PA.

Thanks again for your input.