He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.
Best Bass Amps Under $500
This price range is where you'll find great value bass amps that are ideal for home use. While most professionals aren’t going to play a sub-$500 amp, some of the best rated bass amps in this price tier are very usable for live performances, studio work, and practice.
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Combo Bass Amp Under $500.
Hartke is commonly regarded as one of the premier manufacturers of bass amplifiers, with products that go head to head with any in the industry.
However, unlike a lot of practice or entry-level amps in this price range, the Hartke HD15 retains the quality of more expensive amplifiers produced by the company.
The key selling point of this amp is that it features a built-in limiter. This limiter helps to limit peaks in volume that could damage your amp. This is huge for beginner musicians who may not understand what levels of volume, or in certain cases playing dynamics, can damage an amplifier.
- 6.5” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble
- AUX-In and Headphone-Out
- Weight: 16 lbs.
For the price point and intended purpose of the amp, the controls (while limited) are very functional, and many appreciate its simplicity. Its practice features also get a lot of positive mentions, including the AUX input and a headphone output. Many users also appreciate its overall tone and projection, which sounds good to their ears at lower volumes, allowing for quiet practice.
While smaller speakers are a concession to portability (which is incredibly important for a practice amp), note that when they’re less than 10” there’s a significant drop off in the representation of low-end frequencies. The amp also only has a power rating of 15-watts, so don’t expect to be gigging with this amp (unless you choose to put it through a PA). This amp does not come with any effects, and while that may be a limiting factor depending on the genre you play, it does help to keep price low.
All in all, the Hartke HD15 is a nice little bass amp on a budget and a useful practice amp.
Fender Rumble 25 V3
Fender is famed for both their guitars and their amplifiers, and like a lot of well-known companies the brand has extended into markets beyond the professional sphere; most notably equipment aimed at beginners.
The Fender Rumble 25 V3, while a beginner-level piece of equipment in every sense of the phrase, is powerful enough to be an asset to both beginning musicians and advanced bassists looking for a fully featured practice amp.
In this price range, the key selling point of this amp is that it has a contour switch. A contour switch changes the contour of a certain frequency ranges, generally the mid-range. Without getting too technical, this feature basically changes the voicing of an amp which in turn gives you a much wider variety of tones on hand.
This flexibility is rare for an amp in this price range, though this feature does become more common in higher price-tiers.
- 8” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Overdrive, Contour
- AUX-In and Headphone-Out
- Weight: 21 lbs.
The general consensus remains overwhelmingly positive for the Fender Rumble 25 V3, with many pointing to its sound quality (thanks to its contour switch) and portability as its best traits. Its simplicity is also mentioned as conducive to practice, while its compact profile makes it easy to position where it can be easily accessed.
While it's not exactly something you buy if you want a loud bass amp, there are still a few who are not too happy with its limited projection. If you’re looking to start playing shows or rehearsing with a band you’re going to want to invest in a more powerful option.
Still the Fender Rumble 25 V3 is good for what it does, which is to provide you with a compact and convenient grab-and-go bass amp.
Fender Rumble LT25
The Fender Rumble LT25 expands on the success of the Rumble series by adding Digital Sound Processing (DSP) to the amp.
This opens up the available tones that you can get from a single amp, allowing you to choose between 15 amp types, 20 effects and 50 preset sounds, 30 of which are customizable.
The amp section is rated at 25-watts, with a straightforward single channel design that features gain, volume and 3-band EQ controls.
It drives an 8" speaker and is housed in a 5/8" wooden cabinet with vintage style textured vinyl covering.
Other notable features include having a built-in tuner and USB recording.
- 8” Speaker
- 30 Customizable and 20 Hidden Presets
- Controls: Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Master, DSP
- AUX-In, Headphone-Out, Footswitch, Micro-B USB
- Weight: 19.2 lbs.
The Fender Rumble LT25 is often described as a fun practice amp, and deservingly so with its amp modeling and DSP features, which many bassists appreciate. This sonic flexibility also means that this amp gives you more bang per buck compared to similarly priced options. While this amp is not meant for loud performances, those who own it are satisfied with its tone when played at reasonable volume levels.
Speaking of volume, there are a few who aren't too happy with how the sound tends to distort or muddy up when driven too hard. But this is more of a physical limitation given the amp's small 8" speaker.
With the flexibility brought about by its built-in DSP, the Fender Rumble LT25 is a good beginner friendly amp that can still meet the needs of students as they improve their playing.
Orange Crush Bass 50
While they are mostly known for quality guitar amps, Orange also has some good bass amps in their lineup. Case in point is the Crush Bass 50, which garnered high enough ratings to make it into the 2021 edition of this guide.
Like their top rated guitar amps, this 50-Watt combo has all-analog solid-state circuitry, that gives the amp a more vintage style tone.
Tone shaping is achieved via 3-band EQ and it also has a parametric mid control for fine tuning the mids. It also has a gain feature for coloring your tone with some distortion.
The amp is paired with a 12" speaker, both of which are housed in a ported cabinet.
Other nifty features include headphone output with cabinet simulator for quiet practice, built-in chromatic tuner, and aux input.
- 12” Speaker
- 3-Band EQ with Parametric Mid Control, Onboard Tuner
- Controls: Volume, Treble, Mid, Freq, Bass, Blend, Gain, Pad
- AUX-In, Headphone-Out
- Weight: 31.79 lbs.
This amp is hailed by many as an awesome practice amp, mostly because it is easy to get it to sound good. Users also love the sound coming from the headphones out, which allows them to play without disturbing the people around them. It also gets a lot of commendations for the quality of its construction, which translates into clean and clear sound with no buzz or rattles.
Not much complaint, aside from the few who wish they'd gone for the bigger and louder model.
If you're looking for a no-frills yet great sounding 50W bass amp then check out the Orange Crush Bass 50.
Hartke is well known for great value bass amps, as exemplified by the HD150 combo.
For the price, you are getting a 150W amplifier with a 15" speaker and a 1" tweeter - a feature that is hard if not impossible to find on other amps in its price range.
The addition of a tweeter and the use of paper and aluminum cone on the speakers give this amp a bit more high-end emphasis which works with many styles of bass playing.
For more control over your sound, Hartke equipped the HD150 with a 7-band EQ.
Other features include built-in limiter, effects loop and it even has built-in rolling casters for added mobility.
- 15” HyDrive Speaker, 1" Tweeter
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, 7-Band EQ
- AUX-In, Headphone-Out, Line-Out, Effects Loop
- Weight: 66 lbs.
Value for money is the strong suit of the HD150, as reflected in many reviews. Owners are pleased with its projection and sound quality given its price. Thanks to its built-in tweeter, the resulting sound is often described as clean and detailed. Many also appreciate the extra tone shaping options provided by its 7-band EQ. It also gets a lot of kudos for being solidly built and reasonably portable.
It's quite heavy - can require two people to load in and out. Not everyone is happy with its brighter tonality, but this is more of preference issue.
If you're looking for a good value 150W stage amp, then do check out the Hartke HD150.
Best Bass Amps Under $1000
The Sub-$1000 price range offers quality stage and recording ready bass amps, and they usually come with good tone shaping controls and multiple output options. If you are looking for a gig ready amp, or if you're looking for an all-in-one bass rig amplifier for stage and recording, then this is the price range for you.
Fender Rumble 200 V3
At publication time this was the Highest Rated Combo Bass Amp between $500 and $1000.
The Fender Rumble 200 V3, while similar to the other amps in the series, has an interesting extra feature that's not found on other Rumble amps; that is the inclusion of a tweeter.
Having an HF driver allows this bass amp to reproduce clear treble frequencies, resulting in a sound that's clearer than those with just a 15" woofer. Basically, it’s like a tiny speaker just for adding in some high-end sparkle. If you don’t want a brighter sound, you can simply turn the tweeter off.
In case you hadn’t guessed from the name, the Rumble 200 V3 packs 200-watts of power. Given the wattage, you have enough volume to play coffee shops, bars and other mid-size venues.
It also has an XLR out in case you need to hook straight into a PA for bigger venues.
Other features include an effects loop, AUX-in, and headphone-out.
- 15” Speaker
- Controls: Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, Treble, Gain, Drive, Level, Master, Contour, Bright, Vintage
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Footswitch, Line Out, Effects Loop
- Weight: 34.5 lbs.
The Fender Rumble 200 V3 wins the hearts of bassists with its great balance of stage-ready features and affordable price tag. Perfect and excellent are just two of the many positive adjectives that bassists use to describe the amp's overall performance. Many are surprised with its thick tone - especially with the tweeter on, while others appreciate the flexibility of its tone shaping controls. Moreover, there are plenty of users who are surprised by how light the Rumble 200 V3 is.
Given the bigger profile of this 200W 1 x 15" combo amp, there are some shipping issues that affected the amp's almost perfect ratings.
If portability is important to you while having an amp that can go loud, then get the Fender Rumble 200 V3.
Gallien-Krueger amps are well received for the simple yet effective tone shaping features they provide.
The 200 watt MB112-II is their best rated offering in the sub $1000 range, carrying with it the company's "contour" button for a good scooped sound, along with its 4-band EQ controls that are tapered specifically for bass guitars.
At 200 Watts, the Gallien-Kruegger MB112-II is loud enough for stage use, and if that's not enough, it can be paired with compatible GK powered speakers for even more volume.
Finally, all its power and features are packed in a relatively light 28 lbs combo profile.
- 12” Speaker
- Controls: Power, -10dB Pad, Gain, Contour, 4-Band EQ (Treble, Hi-Mid, Lo-Mid, Bass), Pre/Post
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Footswitch, Line Out
- Weight: 28 lbs
Sound quality is the main reason why bassists love the Gallien-Krueger MB112-II, many of whom are pleased with the clearer sound they get when engaging the contour button. EQ response also gets a lot of thumbs up, especially from experienced musicians. Construction and material quality are also well received, with many professional bassists describing it as genuinely road-worthy. Being relatively light for the power and sound it produces is another good trait that gets mentioned in reviews.
There are some who are not into the amp's contour "scooped" tone. The handle being slightly off center is a minor issue for some users.
With its balance of great tone and portability, the GK MB112-II is a workhorse bass amp that's definitely worth checking out.
The Hartke HD500 is the 500W version of their HD series of amps, this one packing two 10" HyDrive speakers in a combo package.
HyDrive woofers are distinct in that they have a paper and aluminum cone that gives Hartke amps their distinct thump and appearance.
Knobs on the amp let you control core functions that include 3-band EQ for tone shaping and volume.
For further tone shaping, the amp also has a Shape EQ control which lets you target a specific frequency range and boost it via a button.
Connectivity features include aux input, headphones out, effects loop and it has a DI output.
- 2 x 10” HyDrive Speakers
- Controls: Volume, Shape, Bass, Mid, Treble
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Effects Loop Send/Return, DI Out
- Weight: 34.39 lbs
Most owners are in agreement that this is a great sounding amp, many of which use Precision or Jazz style basses. The sound is described as clean and big sounding, and there are many reports of it working great in gig settings. It also gets commended often for its build quality and relatively light weight.
Those who prefer bass amps with big woofers will be skipping this one. Features and tone shaping is limited, so if you're looking for voicings and overdrive on an amp, this is not for you.
If you're looking for a great sounding, loud, and easy to use play bass amp then this is for you.
Fender Rumble 500 V3
The Fender Rumble Series continues to be popular thanks to their combination of good sound quality, value and portability.
The Rumble 500 V3 is a 500 watt bass amp with two 10" speakers.
What separates it from similarly spec'ed amps is its voicing feature, which lets you choose between vintage (deep lows with vintage character similar to old bass amps), bright (trebly tone), and contour (low-end emphasized).
It also comes with 4-band EQ for further tone shaping, and it has a built-in overdrive switch for those who want to add more grit to their sound.
The projection of this 500W amp is loud enough for most gigs, but if it isn't enough, you can plug the amp straight to PA via the XLR line out.
- 2 x 10” Speaker
- Controls: Gain, Bright, Contour, Vintage, Drive, Overdrive, Level, 4-Band EQ (Bass, Lo-Mid, Hi-Mid, Treble), Master
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Footswitch, Line Out, Effects Loop Send/Return, Extension Speaker
- Weight: 34.5 lbs
Owners are impressed at how good this amp sounds given its price and weight. Some even call an "old bassist friendly" amp, meeting the tone standards of experienced musicians while retaining a lightweight profile. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for the many voicings that you can use, while others are pleased with its loudness, which is enough for most, if not all, of their gigs. Reliability is also attested to by many musicians who have been hauling the amp around.
There are some who wish for more sturdy buttons instead of the flimsy ones on the amp (for switching overdrive and voicings). Those who prefer single big woofer are not happy with amp's dual 10" speakers.
If you're looking for a light yet loud and versatile sounding bass amp, then check out the Fender Rumble 500 V3.
Fender Rumble Stage 800
The Fender Rumble Stage 800 is a feature packed bass amp that comes with Digital Sound Processing, which allows for a wide variety of amp models and effects, essentially turning this amp into an all-in-one bass rig.
The amp lets you choose from a wide selection of genre and tone specific presets, and you can also apply effects from a selection of over 40 different bass effects.
And to better support the included digital processing, this amp is equipped with a switchable HF compression tweeter, which allows for trebles that would otherwise be impossible to get from a bass amp.
To help you get a good handle of all its features, the amp comes with an LCD color display along with necessary buttons and an encoder dial.
You can also wirelessly tweak the settings of the amp via the Fender Tone app.
Speaking of wireless, this amp has Bluetooth compatibility and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Other noteworthy features include 60-second looper, bundled footswitch, USB direct recording output, and XLR line output.
- 2 x 10” Woofer and Compression Tweeter (Switchable)
- Controls: Gain, Bass, Middle, Treble, Master, LCD Display, Buttons, Rotary Encoder
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Footswitch, Line Out, Effects Loop Send/Return, Footswitch, Extension Speaker
- Weight: 39 lbs
Of the many positive remarks towards the Fender Rumble Stage 800, the word "amazing" is the most common. And it is a fitting one word summary of how most users feel about this amp. Users generally love its tone, including gigging bassists who are impressed at the many good quality bass voicings they get out of just one amp. There are also plenty of thumbs up for its effects, and for its convenient wireless connectivity features. Other commendations point to it having good volume, and for being relatively light given what it can do.
Given the many things you can do with this amp, the controls maybe overwhelming for those who just want a traditional plug-and-play bass amp. And true enough, there are a few reviewers who had issues with the controls.
The Fender Rumble Stage 800 is more than just a bass amp, it's an all-in-one rig that is well worth the investment.
Things to Consider When Buying a Bass Amp
Every manufacturer uses a lot of jargon in their ads, and most of the time, they are purposefully obfuscated or exaggerated to make a product seem more attractive than it really is. In all reality, amplifiers are actually pretty simple. So long as you know a few simple terms you’ll be able to get a general idea on whether or not an amp will be a good fit for you.
Volume is generally measured in wattage, because the volume an amplifier will produce is closely tied to its wattage rating. Though with that in mind, volume is a funny thing. More volume doesn’t necessarily mean an amp will be more audible, and some amps may be significantly more audible than their wattage rating would imply.
Though, as a general rule, a bassist is going to want double the wattage of the guitar players in their band if they’re playing larger venues (bars and clubs). For example, if you have two guitarists each running 100-watt solid state amplifiers you’re going to want 400-watts (100*2*2=400) to have enough volume to compete with the other instrument(s) in your band without your amp distorting. For smaller venues, like coffee shops, you’re probably not going to need more than 100 or 200 watts.
Of course, how you EQ your amp, speaker size, and how the speaker(s) is designed will also have an impact.
Tone controls are a must have on any amplifier, so virtually every amplifier includes them. They also aren’t that complicated, so we’ve just listed them below for ease of reading.
Treble controls the high-end frequencies. More treble equals more clarity, because high-end frequencies travel through the air easier. However, use this in moderation so you don’t overcrowd the mix.
Mid is the middle ground between bass and treble. It adds more body to the sound, but it also creates a clear voice. Be especially careful with how much mid you dial in because the guitar is a mid-range focused instrument. Too much mid in the bass will create a mix that feels flabby and unfocused.
Bass makes the sound fuller, and because the bass guitar (obviously) is a bass focused instrument it’s an incredibly important frequency to have control over. While beginners may want the most bass possible, too much bass can still make your instrument sound muddy.
Treble, mids, and bass frequencies usually get separated into three distinct groups. This is solely for ease of use, because these three grouping are constructs to allow us to manipulate sound more easily. For example, when you turn a treble control higher you actually boost a range of frequencies rather than just one.
A scoop (which is sometimes known as a mid-shift or contour), changes the base frequencies that are altered when you manipulate the mid-range control. Don’t concern yourself with the technicalities of this right now. Rather, just know that if an amp has a scoop or mid-shift control you have more sounds available to you.
More and more amps these days are coming with built-in effects. Some include a variety of different distortion models (based off of famous stomp boxes) and modulation effects. And while amp modeling is not as pervasive compared to guitar amps, there are now some bass amps that offer this tone flexibility.
With that being said, there is sometimes a tradeoff present when an amp has built-in effects. When resources are spent on effects, other aspects of the amp may suffer. This can either mean that the amp is built with lower quality materials, ships with a smaller speaker, or is more expensive than an amp of similar quality which lacks these effects. There's also the downside of some of the amp models and effects being sub-par or impractical for bass guitar use.
So, whether or not you should look for an amp with built-in DSP really depends on what it is you’re going to be doing. Amp modeling and effects aren’t used with the bass to the extent that they are with the guitar, so while the added flexibility may be attractive don’t think you need effects to sound better.
Should you choose to go with an amp without built-in effects, we would still recommend that you consider getting a tuner pedal and a compressor. Another option is to get a Bass Preamp with built-in effects.
At the risk of over simplifying the topic, a bigger speaker will produce more bass frequencies and give your tone more depth. A smaller speaker will have a more focused and punchy tone. A 12” speaker is considered to be a happy medium between the two extremes.
When thinking about which speaker size will best suit your needs, you first have to realize that bassists get great results with everything from 10” to 15” speakers. It’s not a question of what genre you play, your technique, or even your instrument. It’s all about what you want to hear.
Though with that in mind, should you purchase an amp with a speaker that is smaller than 10” you may find that your tone is a bit thin. This generally isn’t a huge issue, because amps with sub-10” speakers are generally for beginners rather than performing/recording musicians. However, it is something to keep in mind.
A DI (Direct Input) allows you to plug your amp directly into a P.A. console. This feature is useful because it allows the front-of-house sound technician / engineer to shape the volume and frequency response of your amplifier. The impact the inclusion (or lack) of this feature will have on your experience as a musician is largely going to depend on the venues you play and whether or not you need to go through a PA system.
If you rarely gig, or gig at small venues exclusively, you’re not going to stand to gain much from this feature. However, it can be a life saver if you’re playing larger gigs because you don’t have to worry about miking an amp.
A DI also allows you to plug your amp directly into a recording interface, which makes digital recording easier if you don’t have a wide selection of microphones on hand.
Many amplifiers state that they have “XLR-Out”, or something along these lines. This also qualifies as DI, so if you see a manufacturer say “XLR-Out” or “DI” know that you can plug your amp into a P.A.
With their big woofers and cabinets, combo bass amps are generally heavy. Thankfully, many manufacturers do put careful thought in designing their amps to be portable. Some do it by utilizing lightweight materials, others focus on improving the handles, while some even add rolling casters on the amp itself. If you're planning on playing regularly on different venues, you will have to balance your volume and tone requirements with sensible portability.
For those who record at home, getting a bass amp that can simplify the recording process can be a big plus. This is where bass amps with USB recording output come in as a very convenient solution. Other modern technologies like Bluetooth connectivity can make streaming tracks more convenient, which in turn can help improve your overall practice and jamming experience.
Power Rating (How Loud Your Amp Should Be)
Effects and Amp Modeling
Best Bass Amp Selection Methodology
The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on October 22, 2021.
For this 2021 edition, we decided to extend the scope of the guide to bass amps priced up to $1000. We've also simplified the price grouping to just two: sub $500 and sub $1000. With this new scope and grouping set, we ended up with a short list of 64 combo bass amps, all of which can be readily purchased from major online retailers in the USA. More reviews, ratings and recommendations were also gathered and analyzed, including the most recent ones up to mid October of 2021, summing up to over 18,500 rating sources. All these data were processed using the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 which we used to select the best in each of the two price ranges. For more information about our methods please read How Gearank Works.
About the Author and Contributors
Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.
Lead Author & Researcher
He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.
Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.
Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com based on a photograph in the public domain.
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