Best Bass Combo Amp Under $1000
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 1x12, moderate-wattage combo, but anything with the power to be heard over a live drummer is hard to come by in combo form.
And these amps aren’t a whole lot easier to tote around than a cabinet.
But if you want a monolithic monster combo bass amp, they’re out there. 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 thought it was pretty heavy it was all I ever needed for a gig.
I’ve dug up three of the better gig-worthy combo amps I could find, some of which bring back memories of my old rig. You asked for it, you got it. Here are three of the top bass combo amps for under $1000.
But first: Are you sure you want to do this?
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.
How Much Power Do You Really Need?
How much power you need depends on your situation. If you think a humongous amp might be overkill, here's an article with some suggestions on amps that are still gig-worthy, but a little smaller and less expensive:
Otherwise, let's get on to some big, gnarly bass amps.
The Hartke 3500 is one of the most popular bass amps ever made, and the Hartke VX cabinets aren’t too shabby either. Slap them together and you have the Hartke VX3500, a powerful bass amp and 4x10 cabinet in one package.
The 3500 is one of my favorite bass amps, and I used one for a long time back in the gigging days. It sounds great, it’s reliable, and it’s super flexible. But a lot of people aren’t so crazy about the aluminum Hartke speaker cones, so when they decided to put this amp in combo form it’s nice they chose a more traditional setup.
At 350 watts it's loud enough for whatever you plan to do, and the casters make it easier to tote around.
Power: 350 Watts, tube and solid state preamp (blendable)
Speakers: Four ten-inch Hartke speakers with horn
Controls: Tube Preamp, Solid-State Preamp, Compressor, 10-band graphic EQ with on/off switch, High/Low contour controls, Master volume.
Features: Effects Loop with balance control, Direct XLR Out, Casters,
Dimensions: 29.75H x 25.5W x 15D (inches)
Weight: 106 lbs
What I like: The Hartke 3500 is an incredible amp with some awesome tone-shaping abilities. That alone makes this amp worth it.
What I don’t: It weighs over a hundred pounds! Yow! Thank goodness it has casters.
David Ellefson of Megadeth on Why Hartke Rocks
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 MB410 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 quartet of ten-inch speakers. But even though it’s big and powerful, it’s surprisingly light at just over sixty pounds.
This is a great choice for working pros that need to lug their rigs around a lot, and the GK brand name means great tone and reliability.
Power: 500 watts
Speakers: 4x10” w/horn
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 23 x 26.5 (inches)
What I like: 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 2x12 version if you prefer twelve-inch speakers, and both are among the best bass combo amps under $1000.
What I don’t: If you plan to plop it on top of an extension cabinet the controls may be hard to see. Then again, you may never need an extension cab with this thing!
More on the GK MB 410-II
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 is 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 jackif 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.
Power: 600 Watts Max
Speakers: 1 x 15-inch plus high-frequency tweeter
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
What I like: I love Peavey amps. They are reliable and loud, and of you are a looking for the kind of amp you can reply on gig after gig they are a great choice.
What I don’t: 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
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.
Good luck whatever you decide!