Best Bass Combo Amp Under $300
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’d bet you fit into one of them.
Maybe you are a bassist looking for your first real bass amp. 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.
Or, maybe you are a veteran bassist with no intention of ever taking your amp out of the house. You don’t need something loud enough to compete with a Marshall stack, 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 out there that are super affordable. 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 owned amps by all of these brands in my 20-plus years as a bassist, and I feel confident recommending them. They are quality, moderately powered amps with some excellent features.
If you need an affordable bass amp that sounds good and is easy to tote around, these amps will get the job done.
Ashdown Perfect 10 PT60
The first bass amp on my list is the Ashdown Perfect 10 PT60. The newest Perfect 10 is part of the AAA Series, a lineup of Ashdown bass amps that are affordable and carry on the tradition of Ashdown excellence. 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 PT60 pushes 60 watts through a Custom Ashdown 10-inch speaker. This the smallest speaker of any amp in this review. But, with its power rating and cabinet the PT60 is certainly an amp that will easily handle practice, jamming with friends or even small gigs. When it comes to amps this size it is all about tone, and that is where Ashdown always comes through.
- There are both a high and low inputs, a common feature on bass amps to accommodate basses with both active and passive pickups. But Ashdown also includes an Input control to help you further dial in the right sensitivity for your specific bass.
- Ashdown’s App-Tek jack lets you connect your amp to your smartphone and access apps to further enhance your tone. This is a cool feature, and Ashdown even has their own app you can work with.
- Basic controls consist of standard bass, middle and treble EQ controls plus volume and even overdrive, but there is also an Aux Mix control. This lets you adjust the level of the aux input.
- An XLR out mounted on the top panel is an excellent feature for an amp this size. If you want to use it live, just run a line to the PA.
Ashdown Perfect 10 PT60 Bass Amp Demo
Fender Rumble 100
The Fender Rumble Series has a lot of fans out there. 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. 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.
The Rumble 100 is a 100-watt amp in 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.
- 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.
Learn More About the Fender Rumble 100
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.
- 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
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. 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’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
Peavey Max 112
Peavey amps have a reputation for being loud and bulletproof. As a guitar player I use Peavey amps almost exclusively, and as a bassist I have really liked the Peavey gear I’ve mucked around with over the years. The Max 112 Series is one of those amps that seem a bit typical on the surface, but has more going on than you’d expect.
For one thing, this amps has the highest power rating of any bass combo in this review at 200 Watts at 8ohms. That’s pretty decent, but if you play with a loud drummer or guitarist it is still not quite enough. The cabinet features a single 12-inch speaker.
- 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 Pregain control.
- Along with the basic 3-band EQ there are also Punch, Mid-shift and Bright switches for additional tone shaping. It also features a built-in chromatic tuner.
- The Max 112 has an XLR line out with ground lift. As I’ve said several times in this review, if you intend to play live with an amp this small a line out is an important feature.
- The Peavey Max 112 features Peavey’s patented Psycho-acoustic Low-End Enhancement. Huh? It sounds a little wild, but this a very cool feature. Peavey has found a way to deliver enhanced low-end without taxing the speaker. Low frequencies are tough on speakers, even those designed for bass, and this is a smart idea.
Peavey Max 112 Bass Amp Overview
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, the Ashdown or the Fender. The Peavey has the highest power rating, where the Ashdown has the lowest. But most importantly these amps all 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 were 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.
In fact, 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 while it’s not a monster like the Peavey and it doesn’t have the high-end vibe like the Ashdown or the coolest speaker like the Hartke, it is a very good bass amp for the money.
So that’s my opinion. The rest is up to you. Good luck choosing the best bass combo amp under $300.
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© 2015 Guitar Gopher
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