Top 5 Best Bass Amps for Beginners
Beginner Bass Amps
If you are a beginner looking for your first bass amp you’d be wise to do some research before making your choice. There are some excellent options out there, and some others that it is best to avoid. A bass amp that sounds good and that’s inspiring to play through is important for a newbie who is just picking up the bass for the first time.
If you choose a clunker and end up hating the sound of your own bass you sure aren’t going to want to practice very much! Learning bass is hard enough without having to battle your amp every step of the way.
You shouldn’t have that problem with any of the bass amps in this review. I’m recommending these for a few reasons. Most importantly, the one essential quality I consider in a beginner’s amp for bass or guitar is how much mileage you will get out of it. "Bang for your buck", in other words.
Ideally, your first amp should be good enough that you can still use it as a practice amp once you are an intermediate bassist, and after you’ve moved on to a larger, more powerful main amplifier.
Secondly, your first bass amp should be affordable. I always recommend a budget of about $300 for a first bass setup. Two-thirds of that should go to the guitar, and the rest to the amp. That means the beginner bass amps in this article all come in around $100. Some are a bit over that, and some a bit under, but that’s a good ballpark budget for your first bass amp.
Of course you always have the option of choosing a bass guitar starter pack for your first rig. This gives you the bass, amp and all the accessories you need in one package. But if you want to build your beginner’s bass setup yourself, you can’t go wrong with the five amps in this article.
So, let’s look at some bass amps!
Fender Rumble 25 v3
I’ve long been a big fan of the Fender Rumble Series, and I’ve even used an older version of the Rumble 15 as my bass practice amp for many years. Fender reengineered the Rumble amplifiers a little while back and came out with the Rumble v3 Series. This means some added features and improved, more lightweight designs. It also means a newbie can grab the more powerful Rumble 25 for around the cost of the old Rumble 15.
The Rumble 25 is a very straight-forward amp that has everything you need as a beginner. With a power rating of 25 watts and an 8-inch speaker it isn’t going to shake the neighbor’s house, but it is loud enough to shake yours a bit. In addition to a three-band EQ and volume control this little monster also has switchable overdrive and a contour button, a couple of nice features in an amp this size.
The Fender Rumble 25 is a solid amp for beginning bassists, with excellent tone-shaping controls and on-board overdrive. It is the latest in a series of affordable, quality amps in the Fender Rumble lineage.
Ampeg BA-108 v2
Ampeg is a huge name is bass amps. While they make some of the best amplifiers for the stage and gigging musicians, they also have some excellent models priced right for beginners and intermediate bassists. Like the Fender Rumble Series, the Ampeg BA Series has undergone a recent overhaul, and the BA-108 v2 has some interesting features new bassists will appreciate.
This is an amp geared for practice. Controls are simple, with a 3-band EQ and volume knob. But there are two auxiliary inputs (1/4” and 1/8”) and even a separate level control for the auxiliary inputs. This means you have a huge amount of control while mixing the signal from your bass and the signal from another device such as your iPod.
If you just want to plug in and play that’s fine too. With 20 watts and an 8-inch speaker the BA-108 has plenty of power for practicing and jamming in low-volume situations.
Ampeg's v2 BA amps feature an innovative tilt design that means you can keep the BA-108 on the floor and still hear it at practice volumes.
More on the Ampeg BA-108
Hartke is another of my favorite bass amp brands. For a long while I used a Hartke HA3500 for gigs, and if I found myself playing bass in a band today that’s the amp I’d go with. The 3500 is no beginner’s amp, but I’ve also been impressed with some of the smaller amplifiers in Hartke’s lineup over the years.
The HD25 as a few things going on that separate it from other amps in this review. Most notable is the speaker. Hartke has long been known of their aluminum speaker cones, a tone that many bassists have come to love. The HD25 features a combination of an aluminum and paper speaker cone, bringing some of that legendary Hartke tone to a small package for practice and beginners. Hartke calls it HyDrive, and it is a pretty cool idea.
The HD25 is rated at 25 watts with an 8-inch speaker, and has a basic three-band EQ and volume control.
Hartke's patented HyDrive speakers combine their aluminum cone technology with traditional paper cones. The HD25 is one of the best amps out there for beginners or veteran bassists looking for a practice amp.
Eden is another high-end gear company that makes a great little bass amp for practice and beginners. Eden tone is legendary, and the EC8 is a great way for a newbie to start their bass career off right.
While the power output and speaker size is similar to other amps in this review at 20 watts and 8 inches respectively, the controls you’ll find on this amp are quite different. Of course there is a volume control, in this case called Gain, but in place if an EQ section Eden gives us an Enhance knob and a Tone knob. In combination, these two knobs allow a wide array of tone shaping.
While the three knobs on the faceplate of the EC8 may seem more simplistic than other amps in this review, this setup is certainly good enough for any beginner and makes room for a lot of experimentation when it comes to tone.
The unique tone shaping controls of the Eden EC8 gives beginners a broad palette to experiment with. Eden quality means this amp will stick with your long after you've advanced beyond the newbie stage.
Ashdown Tour Bus 15
The AAA Tour Bus 15 is an awesome little amp from Ashdown. Ashdown is one of those companies that I’ve always thought has a little mystique about them. Some of the gear they make is very high-quality and could even be considered boutique. On the other hand, they also make some affordable amps for working musicians, intermediate bassists and, in the case of the Tour Bus 15, beginners.
This amp is no more complex than any of the others in this review, and at 15 watts with an 8-inch speaker not any more powerful. But with the Ashdown name on the grill you can expect great tone and build quality, and that makes it one of the best bass amps for beginners. It’s also a solid practice amp for experienced bassists, so you know it will stick with you for a long while after you’ve advanced in your playing.
Choosing Your First Bass Amp
As you can see, these bass amps have a lot in common. They are all comparable in speaker size, power and cost, and they are all around the same physical size. Each makes a great bass amp for a beginner, and they will all last you well into your career, eventually serving as a practice amp. So which do you choose?
I could tell you that you can’t go wrong with any of them, but that probably won’t help you very much. So instead here is a quick summary of what I like about each amp:
- Fender Rumble 25 v3: Lighter and Louder was the goal for the Rumble v3 Series, according to their website. Still, the Rumble 25 comes in at over 20 pounds, almost twice the weight of some of the other amps in this review. That is not a bad thing. Solidly built bass cabinets sound good. It’s what I love about my old Rumble 15, and the newer Rumble 25 continues the tradition.
- Ampeg BA-108 v2: In addition to the advanced Aux features, one of the coolest things about the Ampeg v2 BA Series is the tilt-back designs. These aren’t your granddads tilt-back combos. These things tilt on their sides, providing what Ampeg calls a true 60-degree sound reinforcement monitor angle. And, like the Fender, this is a hefty little amp for its size, weighing in at around 23 pounds.
- Hartke HD25: This is a sturdy little amp, but the feature that makes it unique is obviously the speaker cone. The HyDrive speaker is a major step up from some of the small Hartke beginner amps of the past. This is a quality amplifier that you will be able to count on for years, long after you have moved on to a bigger main amp. The built-in limiter is also a nice feature.
- Ashdown Tour Bus 15: With a smaller cabinet and lower power rating than the amps above it might seem like the Ashdown Tour Bus 15 is a lightweight underdog here, but don’t underestimate it. Ashdown amps always sound great, and if you are looking for something a little lighter on your back this amp may be the perfect choice.
- Eden EC8: The tone shaping options set this amp apart from the others. The absence of a 3-band EQ might seem like a bad thing, but I don’t think so. The Enhance and Tone knobs are voiced in such a way that there are just as many outstanding tones available as with an expanded EQ. An important feature in any bass amp for beginners is the ability to experiment with sound, and even though the controls seem limited here the EC8 may provide the best opportunity to do so.
Hopefully I’ve given you enough information here to choose the best bass amp for your needs as a beginner. I recommend these amps because I feel they are the top options out there, ones I’d choose for myself.
Remember that your career as a bassist is a journey. Your first amp will be something you remember always, and any of those motioned in this review will get your started off right.