The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Big Bass Combo Amps
If you play bass in a band you might know the frustration of dragging a head or rack setup plus a cabinet or two to a gig. A better idea is to find a combo amp that gets the job done in one simple package.
If you play small gigs this is no problem, since there are a lot of outstanding small-wattage bass amps out there that sound amazing. But if you need a lot of firepower it can be tough to find a combo with the headroom and projection you’re looking for.
Truthfully, bassists in this position usually look toward the head/cabinet setup. Guys who play smaller gigs can get by with a moderate-wattage combo, but anything with the power to be heard over a live drummer used to be hard to come by in combo form.
And, in days gone by, those amps weren't a whole lot easier to tote around than a cabinet. I have fond memories of a Genz Benz cabinet I once owned which had a rack space on top where I’d placed a Hartke bass amp. That setup rocked and even though it was back-breakingly heavy it was all I ever needed for a gig.
These days, you can get power and portability together in one amp. I’ve dug up three of the better gig-worthy combo amps I could find. They've got the power you need, and they aren't super heavy.
If you think a humongous amp might be overkill, there are smaller bass amps that might do the job.
Otherwise, let's look at some loud bass amps!
Top Bass Combo Amps Under $1000
Here is my list of the best bass combo amps under $1000.
- Fender Rumble Stage 800
- Gallien-Krueger MB210-II
- Peavey Tour TNT 115
- Ampeg BA210 v2
- Fender Rumble 500
- Markbass CMD 121H
- Hartke HDHM500
Read on to learn more about each amp. As always, remember this is all based on my opinion. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s websites for the latest info on their gear.
Fender Rumble Stage 800
The Fender Rumble Series has been around for a while. These amps are loud, clear, and punchy, and the Rumble Stage 800 has more than enough power for most gigging situations. It's also fairly light, making it easy to carry around.
There are several great bass amps under $1000 in the Fender Rumble Series, including the powerful Rumble 500. However, the Stage 800 brings some seriously updated technology to the Rumble lineup. It is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth equipped, and it features over 15 amp models and 40 effects.
This is a bass amp more in line with Fender's Mustang guitar amps. If all of that technology is too much for you I suggest going with the Rumble 500.
On the other hand, if you like the tech, along with the massive 800-watts of power, this is perhaps the ultimate bass combo amp.
Fender Rumble Stage 800 Specs
- Power: 800 Watts
- Speakers: 2x10 Fender Special Design with compression tweeter
- Channels: One
- Controls: Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Master, Three Layer Buttons, Encoder, Buttons for FX , Save , Menu and Tap
- Features: Over 15 amp models, and 40 effects
- Features: Effects Loop, XLR Out x2
- Dimensions: 23.7 x 19 x 14 (inches)
- Weight: 39 lbs
The Stage 800 is an incredible amp with some awesome tone-shaping abilities. That alone makes this amp worth it.
Do I like the tech? Sometimes I am on the fence about all of these bells and whistles. In this case, I think it adds to the am rather than complicates things.
The Rumble Stage 800
Gallien-Krueger has been a top name in bass amps for a long time. They’re known for their heads and cabinets as well as their MicroBass series. The MB210 is part of the MicroBass line, though in many ways there isn’t much micro about it.
This beast puts out a whopping 500 watts through a pair of ten-inch speakers. But even though it’s big and powerful, it’s surprisingly light at only 35 pounds.
Gallien-Krueger also has a series of powered bass cabinets that are compatible with the MB Series. This is different than an extension cabinet. It's an actual power amp, pushing your bass signal through another set of speakers. That's a cool way to expand your rig
Gallien-Krueger MB210-II Specs
- Power: 500 watts
- Speakers: 2x10” w/horn
- Channels: One
- Controls: Gain, Four-band Active EQ, Boost, Master Volume with switches for -10dB cut, Contour, Limiter, and Horn.
- Features: Digital Power Amp, Speaker out, Chain out, Headphones out, XLR Out (top panel) Aux in,
- Dimensions: 14.5 x 19 x 23 (inches)
- Weight: 35 lb
GK gear is always good stuff, and the light weight means it’s easier to tote around than even a single cabinet. This amp also comes in a 4x10 version if you prefer more speakers, though it will put you slightly over your $1000 budget.
More on the GK MB 210
Peavey Tour TNT 115
Peavey amps have a special place in my heart, I'll admit it. Still, many bassists have mixed feelings about them. Generally, it is agreed that they are tough as nails, and very loud, but some players aren't enamored with the sound.
Obviously I don't agree. Peavey bass amps have the loud, clear, open sound I like in a bass amp, and a model like the TNT 115 makes it easy to dial in the sound you are looking for with a 7-band EQ, gain control and compressor.
This amp is a beasty at around 75 pounds, and it may be all you ever need to bring to a gig. But it has a Speakon jack if you feel the need to expand to a powered speaker and a direct out if you want to send your signal to the house system. Then you can use the tilt-back feature and employ the TNT as a monitor.
Peavey Tour TNT 115 Specs
- Power: 600 Watts Max
- Speakers: 1 x 15-inch plus high-frequency tweeter
- Channels: One
- Controls: Gain, Bright/Contour/Crunch Switches, Low and High EQ plus 7-band EQ, Compressor, Master Volume
- Features: Powered External Speaker output with Speakon jack, DI Out, Effects Loop, Headphone jack, kickback design, Tweeter on/off.
- Dimensions: 26" x 27.5" x 23.75"
- Weight: 75 pounds
I love Peavey amps. They are reliable and loud, and if you are looking for the kind of amp you can reply on gig after gig they are a great choice.
The way Peavey lists the power rating for the amp is a little odd, calling it max power rather than RMS. Don't expect it to have the same power a 600-watt bass amp, but it is still very loud.
Hear the Peavey TNT 115
More Bass Amps Under $1000
Here are a few more amps to consider on your quest to find the perfect, gig-worthy bass combo:
- Ampeg BA210 v2: Ampeg tube amps sound great, and their solid-state combos do a great job of replicating that legendary tone. With 450 watts of power and the Ampeg Bass Scrambler distortion circuit, this is a serious contender for best bass amp under $1000.
- Fender Rumble 500: As I noted above, this is great in its own right with plenty of power. If you don’t like the digital technology of the Stage 800, consider the Rumble 500 instead.
- Markbass CMD 121H: This is a small, portable, powerful bass combo that puts out 300 watts at 8 ohms and 500 at 4 ohms. It is among the most expensive options in this review, but Markbass makes great-sounding gear.
- Hartke HD500: I really like Hartke amps and their HyDrive speakers. This amps packs 500 watts of Hartke tone and two 10-inch HyDrives in a 35-pound package.
The Hartke HD500
Who Needs a Gigantic Bass Amp?
There was a time when I was super impressed by amps with huge power ratings. If I could have grabbed a thousand-watt bass amp I would have, and they’re out there. But, really, why would anyone need such a monster?
In most live situations the bassist runs a line to the house system. In fact, some bassists don’t even bring amps to gigs. They just bring a direct box and a preamp. Sounds great, right? So why do we need an amp at all?
You don’t, in some situations. But in others you do, and there is one thing big amps have going for them: Headroom.
Think of headroom as available volume. More practically, think of it as how far you need to crank up the volume knob to be heard above the other instruments.
For a 250-watt bass amp, you may need to crank it up almost to 10 to be heard alongside a loud tube guitar amp. But a 500-watt bass amp you may only have to turn up a few notches.
The more headroom an amp allows the less the speakers and amp are stressed, and the better your bass sounds. Headroom equates to good tone, and that’s why people love powerful bass amps.
Also, it’s pretty cool to be able to blow your wise-guy guitarist with the giant half-stack through the wall.
Your Next Bass Amp
There’s been a lot of information thrown at you in this article. Do you go with a huge bass combo, a smaller bass combo, a head and cabinet setup, or just a DI unit?
I’ve done both the head and cabinet thing, and the single huge combo thing, and I can’t say there’s much of a difference. Either way you have a big piece of gear to lug to gigs, and either way you need to choose the right amp for your situation.
For the typical gigging bassist, a combo amp with enough power for rehearsals and an XLR line out for shows is probably the smartest choice. This way, all your bases are covered and you only have to invest in one piece of gear.
All three of the amps in this review meet those criteria. However, if you can also grab a bass amp for under $300 and do the same job, if you only intend to run a line out for gigs and rehearsals.
Do your research, and make the best choice you can. Good luck whatever you decide!