The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Bass Combo Amps
Choosing a great bass combo amp is tough enough, but with a budget of under $300 it gets even harder. Bass amps in this price range are usually best for two basic categories of bassist, and I’ll bet you fit into one of them.
- Bassists who want an easy-to-manage rig. You want something with a little power that you could use for jamming with your guitar-playing buddies or even for recording. You don’t need a massive bass stack yet, but you do need a high-quality amp. It has to be portable, it would be nice if it has an XLR jack so you could run a line out to a PA for live performance situations, and it goes without saying that it has to sound amazing.
- Bassists with no intention of ever taking their amp out of the house. You just play for your own enjoyment. You don't need to play loud, and your amp has to be light and portable enough that you can move it around without breaking your back. Once again, most importantly you need an amp that sounds really good.
I suppose there is a third category of bassist that may be looking for a good bass amp in the $300 price range: Serious beginners. If you are a newbie there are some awesome beginner bass amps. But, if you want something louder and more powerful as your first amp, you may consider one of the models in this review.
Whatever your situation, this article is intended to help you choose the right amp for your needs. I’ve done some research and come up with my list of the best bass amps under $300. I’ve come to know and love each of these brands in my 20-plus years as a bassist, and I feel confident recommending them.
Fender Rumble 100
My top recommendation is the Fender Rumble 100. The Fender Rumble Series has a lot of fans out there, and I’m one of them. I really like Fender gear in general, and when it comes to bass amp combos the Rumble Series is tough to beat.
Fender Rumble 100 Features:
- The Fender Rumble 100 has a lot of voicing options. Along with the four-band EQ (Bass, Low-mid, High-mid, Treble), there are Bright, Contour and Vintage push-buttons.
- Switchable overdrive with Drive and Level controls let you dial in the right amount of distortion.
- Here’s another amp with an XLR line out, mounted on the top panel for easy access. At 100-watts the Rumble 100 is more than powerful enough for coffee-house gigs, but any situation where you need to compete with a loud drummer or huge guitar amps will require sound reinforcement.
The Rumble 100 is a 100-watt amp in a sturdy cabinet with a 12-inch Eminence speaker. This is one of the most powerful amps in this review, and I really like 12-inch speakers for bass. They represent a nice middle ground between the lows of a 15-inch and the punch of a 10.
In fact, my bass practice amp is an older-model Rumble 15. It became an older model when Fender introduced the newest versions of the Rumble lineup a little while back. These v3 Rumble bass amps really take the affordable Fender bass amp concept to a new level.
Learn More About the Fender Rumble 100
The next amp I recommend checking out is the Ampeg BA-112. One of my favorite bass combo amps of all time was the Ampeg B-100R. Alas, it is no more. For whatever reason Ampeg discontinued it a few years back, but there are still awesome combo amps in the Ampeg lineup, and the BA-112 is one of them. Ampeg may be known for giant stacks and tube heads, but they do the combo thing well too!
The popular Ampeg BA Series consists of some outstanding, affordable bass combos. It has undergone an upgrade recently, making way for the BA Series v2. With these new amps, Ampeg takes the power and flexibility of the BA lineup and adds some innovative new features.
The BA-112 pushes 75 watts of power through an Ampeg Custom 12-inch speaker.
Ampeg BA-112 Features:
- Ampeg’s True 60-degree sound Reinforcement means you can tilt your amp on its side and use it as a monitor. This is a nice feature, even without an XLR out.
- The Bass Scrambler Overdrive, according to Ampeg, brings legendary SVT-type overdrive to a small, solid-state combo amp. Ampeg’s SVT Series are outstanding tube amps capable of warm, rich sounds. Even if you don’t care about distortion, dialing in just a little bit of overdrive with the Bass Scrambler will make a big difference in your tone.
- There’s a standard 3-band EQ, but also Ultra High and Ultra-Low switches for additional tone shaping.
Hear the Ampeg BA-112 v2
Like Fender, I have a special place in my heart for Hartke. I relied on a Hartke 3500 head for many years during my time as a gigging bassist. So, what does a 350-watt bass amp head have to do with a compact Hartke bass combo? Maybe more than you’d think.
The Hartke HD75 is rated at 75 watts and has a 12-inch Hartke HyDrive speaker. Hartke’s HyDrive speakers are revolutionary, combining the unique Hartke aluminum speaker cone design with a more traditional paper speaker cone. This is a really cool idea.
This is a well-built little amp, and I think a step up from the Hartke Kickbacks that are so popular. The HyDrive speakers make the Hartke combo experience a little less scary for bassists who prefer traditional speakers.
Hartke HD75 Features:
- In addition to the standard 3-band rotary EQ, there is a 7-band graphic EQ. The graphic EQ is one of the features I really loved in my Hartke 3500, and it’s nice to see it in an amp this size. It allows a wide range of tone-shaping possibilities.
- An effects loop with send and return on the top panel makes it easy to plug in your favorite analog effects or digital unit.
- The HyDrive speaker cone. It’s worth mentioning again. It’s a truly innovative idea from Hartke.
Bass Player Magazine Looks at the Hartke HD Lineup
Peavey Max 100
Peavey amps have a reputation for being loud and bulletproof, and the Peavey Max 100 continues that tradition. As a guitar player, I use Peavey amps almost exclusively, and as a bassist, I have really liked the Peavey gear I’ve owned and used over the years. The Max Series is one of those amps that seem a bit typical on the surface but has more going on than you’d expect.
This amp has a power rating of 100 Watts. That’s perfect for jamming at home or with a small group but if you play with a loud drummer or guitarist it is still not quite enough. The cabinet features a single 10-inch speaker.
Peavey Max 100 Features:
- Peavey’s TransTube distortion is one of the best-sounding solid-state overdrives out there and a key feature in many of their guitar amps. Here it appears in a Peavey bass combo, with a dedicated gain control.
- Along with the basic 3-band EQ, there are also Contour, Mid-shift and Bright switches for additional tone shaping. It also features a built-in chromatic tuner.
- The Peavey Max 100 features Peavey’s patented Kosmos-C bass enhancement for better tone.
More on the Peavey Max 100 Bass Amp
Here are a few more of the best bass amps under $300 that didn’t make the top of my list for one reason or another. There are still great amps worth checking out!
Fender Rumble LT25
This is a cool little bass amp for practice and home use. It is only rated at 25 watts, but it features over 50 presets and an array of amp models and effects. You might not use this amp in a band situation, but in many ways, it is the ultimate practice setup.
This is another 25-watt amp with an eight-inch speaker. Its lightweight design makes it super easy to haul to a buddy’s house for practice, or to a small venue for a gig, but this is another smart choice for a practice amp.
Ashdown Studio 10
The Studio 10 appears to pick up where the Perfect 10 left off. The Perfect 10 has been regarded as one of the best little bass amps on the market, and Ashdown amps in general always seemed to me to have a bit of a high-end vibe. The Studio 10 is a 50-watt amp with a 10-inch speaker.
Orange Crush Bass 50
The Orange Crush series of solid-state guitar amps is, in my opinion, fantastic. But apparently they are not going to let bassists miss out on the fun. The Crush Bass 50 pushes 50 watts through a single 12-inch speaker. And, of course, it comes tucked into in a cool bright-orange cabinet.
Orange Crush Bass Amps
Which Bass Combo Amp Should You Choose?
So now that you’ve looked over the top bass amps for under your $300 budget, how do you decide which is best for you? The decision is yours of course, but here is my advice:
- If I intended to play live I would consider the Peavey or the Fender. Both have a 100-watt power rating, but most importantly these amps have an XLR out, which means you can run a line out to the PA System for sound reinforcement. It doesn’t matter if you have a 60-watt combo or a 500-watt stack, an XLR out means you will be heard equally in the mix.
- If I never planned on leaving the basement with my amp I would make my decision between the Hartke and the Ampeg. I like the 7-band EQ on the Hartke, and I like the overdrive controls on the Ampeg. Plus, I’ve always really liked both brands and I’ve owned several amps from each that I thought was amazing. That’s just my opinion of course.
- If I were a newbie bassist, knowing what I know now about bass amps and looking for a quality beginner’s amp, I think I’d probably choose the Fender. It has 100-watts and a 12-inch speaker, overdrive, a huge array of tones via the expanded EQ section and an XLR out. This is more than enough to get a new bassist started off right and exploring the capabilities of the instrument.
- As much as I love all of the amps in this review, I’d have to vote for the Fender Rumble 100 as the best overall amp here. It covers all the bases, and it is a very good bass amp for the money.
These are all great amps, but the one thing they lack is power. If you intend to compete with loud guitar amps and heavy-handed drummers you'll want to look at bass combo amps in the $500 range.
So that’s my opinion. The rest is up to you. Be sure to check out the amp builders' websites for the latest info on their gear. Good luck choosing the best bass combo amp under $300.