Best Bass Amps Under $200
While these amps are definitely aimed at entry-level musicians, don’t let their price fool you. When used for their intended purpose these amps are very powerful tools, particularly as practice amps. You’re getting a lot more amp for your money, though you’re still not at the point that you’re going to get amplifiers that offer a professional level of response. However, if you’re looking to gig at some point you may be able to do so with some of these amps.
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 amplifier. This is huge for beginner musicians who may not understand what levels of volume, or in certain cases playing dynamics, can damage in amplifier.
- 6.5” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble
- AUX-In and Headphone-Out
For the price point and intended purpose of the amplifier, 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 in 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 ina ll, the Hartke HD15 is a nice budget bass amp to keep in mind.
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 pieces of 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 range, 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
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 the Rumble 25 V3 is 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 louder amplifier
Still the Fender Rumble 25 V3 is good for what it does, which is to provide you with a compact and convene grab-and-go bass amp.
The Hartke HD25 is almost the same piece of equipment as the HD15, with the only notable differences being that the HD25 is slightly louder than the HD15 and that the HD25 has an 8” speaker as opposed to the HD15’s 6.5” speaker.
So, you’d be right for asking: “Is it worth it to pay a bit more for the HD25?”. The answer to that question really depends on what it is you’re looking for. The volume difference between the HD15 and HD25 is negligible, though there is a significant difference in headroom (how loud you can turn up your amplifier before it distorts). Wattage does not equal volume, and even though the wattage of the HD25 is significantly higher than the HD15 the HD25 is going to be less than 1/4th louder (if that).
- 8” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Mid
- AUX-In and Headphone-Out
Its good balance of sound quality and portability continues to keep this amp rated highly in the market. Some even describe the sound as being close to a premium amp, but at more bedroom friendly volume levels. Many also notice that build quality is really good, with some even trying hard to spot inconsistencies only to be impressed by how good the overall build is.
There are a few who wish for extra features like the ability to go direct recording, but for the price that maybe asking too much. Also it's not loud enough to keep up with a band, but it can be done in smaller settings where everyone dials down their sound.
If you're looking for a straightforward bass amp with good sound quality that you can use for small jams and practice, then check this one out.
Best Bass Amps Under $300
The $300 and under tier is kind of an awkward price point because amps that occupy it aren’t quite beginner pieces of equipment but still aren’t meant for professionals either. With that being said, if you’re an intermediate musician and you’re not sure whether or not you want to gig regularly yet you may find that amps in this price tier will be the best way for you to go. They sound good, some are loud enough to gig with if miked (or if you’re performing in a small venue), relatively portable, and quiet enough to be usable in residential areas.
Roland CUBE-20XL Bass
Roland continues to build their reputation in the amp market with their popular Cube series, extending their reach even to the top echelons of bass amplifiers with the Cube-20XL Bass.
Weighing in at just 21 lbs, the Roland Cube-20XL Bass remains true to the portability paradigm of the Cube series, only this one is especially designed to reproduce the frequencies needed by bass guitars with its 20-watt solidstate amp and 8"speaker. It also houses build-in COSM technology amp models (Super Flat, Flip Top, Bass 360, B Man, Session, Concert 810), along with seven effects types that make this compact combo amp a nifty all-around practice and even gigging tool for bassists. Effect types include reverb, delay, chorus, poly octave and more.
- 8” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Gain, COSM Selector, Comp/Drive, Bass, Middle, Treble, FX, Reverb, Shape, Tuner.
- AUX-Input, 1/4" Headphone-Output, Footswitch
Big words like great and amazing appear are in many reviews, most of which are from beginners who appreciate its overall quality. Sonic flexibility is also another strength of the Roland Cube-20XL, thanks to its built-in COSM amps, effects and tuner. Finally, coming from Roland's Cube series, bassist are happy with its portability, and volume to size ratio.
There are no noteworthy complaints, other than a few who report minor rattling noise when driving the amp hard.
With its combination of versatility, affordability and portability, it is easy to see why the Roland Cube-20XL Bass combo continues to get a lot of good reviews.
The Hartke HD75 is a powerful piece of equipment, well suited to musicians looking to produce amateur recordings as well as gig in small venues. While not loud enough for dedicated gigging musicians, the amp comes with some powerful tone-shaping tools. We would hesitantly say that this amp would be able to keep up with a drummer in rehearsals, though this really depends on the genre you play and how heavy handed your drummer is.
The key feature of this amp is its graphic EQ. Bass, mid, and treble knobs control sections of the frequency range. A graphic EQ controls a smaller section, which gives you more control when trying to dial in your tone. So, when you use both in conjunction with one another you have access to a huge number of tones. The Hartke HD75 also comes with a 12” speaker, which gives the amp a lot more depth than the smaller amplifiers in the series. Like other Hartke HD amps, the HD75 also includes a AUX-in and a headphone-out. The amp also comes with a limiter, which is going to come in handy if you’re planning on pushing this amp’s volume. Another nice feature of the HD75 is its effects loop, which allows for more signal routing flexibility.
- 12” Speaker
- Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, 7-Band Graphic EQ
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, and Effects Loop
Most of the users are impressed with the sound that they can get from this amp, and that is saying a lot given its price. Value for money and reliability are also two other traits that help keep the Hartke HD75 among the top amps in the market. Interestingly, even keyboardists and guitarists chipped in with their good reports of the amp working well with guitars and keyboards.
Ironically, the loudness of the HD75 turned off a few users, but with some tweaks, it can handle both bedroom levels and jam levels nicely. There are also some reports of the cabinet rattling when driven hard, but these reports are very few and far between.
Hartke continues to dominate this list with their HD series of bass amps, get the HD75 if you're looking for a practice amp that has enough power for small venue gigs.
Fender Rumble 100 V3
Due to the popularity of Americana/folk based genres, there’s a significant number of electric bassists who play a genre that fits very well into the coffee shop scene. In this scene, you’re not really going to need a ton of wattage. Rather, the ideal amp in this situation is something light, versatile, reliable, loud (and preferably cheap!) - and the Fender Rumble 100 V3 fits the bill nicely.
This amp is capable of producing the warm and rustic bass tones (due largely to the amp’s 12” speaker and its “Vintage” switch) that defines the genre. Even better, Fender is a brand famed for the clean tones of its amplifiers, which is ideal if you’re not going to be using a ton of distortion.
Another selling point of the amp is its dedicated line out. So should you choose to, provided that the venue you’re playing at has a P.A. at its disposal, you’re not going to be held back by the amp’s wattage should you choose to perform.
- 12” Speaker
- Controls: Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, Treble, Gain, Drive, Level, Master, Contour, Bright, Vintage
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Footswitch, Line Out
Often commended for its lightweight design, the Fender Rumble 100 V3 gets most of its high ratings from users who are impressed with its power to weight ratio. Sound wise, most users are happy with its sonic versatility via the contour and EQ knobs. It also helps that the Rumble 100 looks every bit as classy as more premium Fender amps.
There are a few who feel that it is not as loud as they want it to, but after having experienced the low-end rumble of this amp myself, I wonder how loud these users want the amp to go!
If you're looking for a classic sounding 100W amp that's light and easy on your pocket, then check out the Fender Rumble 100 V3.
Best Bass Amps Under $500
While most professionals aren’t going to play a sub-$500 amp, bass amps in this price tier are very useable for live performances, amateur studio work, and practice. If you are looking to gig, even if it’s rarely, you’re best off purchasing an amp in this price range.
Phil Jones Bass Double Four
In every industry there’s a product that defies commonly held conventions, and the Phil Jones Double Four Bass is a perfect example of this. Looking at the amp, you’d be right to think that it’s an overpriced practice amp. That would be most musician’s first impression when they look at this amplifier. But believe it or not, this amp packs a pretty meaty punch.
For something so compact, the Double Four also pumps out 70-watts of power, The amp also sports a Line-out, so it can be hooked into a console for recording or live performance. The Double Four also includes an AUX-input as well as a headphone-output.
- Two 4” Speakers
- Controls: Input Level (Instrument Volume), Bass, Mid, Treble, AUX-Input Level, Master Level
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Line-Out
By all accounts, the Double Four is a professional sounding amplifier. It’s reported to have a warmth and depth of tone that’s unbelievable for its size. Even Ed Friedland of Bass Player Magazine is quite happy with its tone: "within its practical volume range, the Double Four produces a sexy, rounded tone that can be molded for modern or traditional applications". Many bassists also describe it as being very organic and transparent.
Value for money is the biggest drawback of this portable amp, especially since it is a niche product. But even though there are bigger and louder alternatives in the same price range, those who have invested on the Phil Jones Double Four find it to be worth the price.
The Phil Jones Bass Double Four is a boutique quality portable bass amplifier for those who are willing to invest in a premium quality portable amp.
Fender Rumble 200 V3
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 series 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.
Also, 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
The Fender Rumble 200 V3 wins the hearts of bassists with its great balance of stage-ready features and affordable price tag. Amazing, perfect and excellent are just three of the many positive adjectives that bassists use to describe the amp's overall performance. Many are surprised with its thick tonality - especially with the tweeter on, while others appreciate the flexibility of its tone shaping controls. There are also 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 amps almost perfect ratings.
If portability is important to you, and you want a bass amp that can go loud, then get the Fender Rumble 200 V3.
Markbass Micromark 801
The Markbass Micromark 801 is a boutique quality petite amp with good sonic flexibility. This flexibility is credited to its one-knob tone control VPF (Variable Preshape Filter), turning it higher boosts treble and bass frequencies and cuts mid-range frequencies. When lowered, the VPF adjusts the sound to emphasize the mids while lowering treble and bass frequencies.
The amp comes with three options for sound production: using the included speaker, passing the signal directly to a P.A., or driving an extension cab. It also features an AUX-in as well as a headphone-out.
- 8” Speaker
- Controls: Volume and VPF
- AUX-Input, Headphone-Output, Speaker-Out, Line-Out
Markbass amps is famous for its clarity and depth and this reputation is further reinforced by the Micromark 801, as can be seen in many of the reviews where sound quality takes center stage. There are reports of the amp working for various musical style, from classic jazz and pop to modern rock, some also report great tones when used with upright bass. Many are also surprised that it is loud enough for most of the small to medium venues.
There are a few who noticed minor cosmetic issues, while some had the aux jack give out - but this could be more of a user error than a quality issue. Note that while its small small speaker doesn’t dramatically hold this amp back, it won't have the same depth as one with a bigger speaker.
The Markbass Micromark 801 is a portable amplifier solution for most churches, coffee shops, bars and other small to medium size venues, highly recommended for those who are willing to invest.
Despite the way it looks, this video does provide a good idea of how the amp sounds:
Things to Consider When Buying a Bass Amp
Every manufacturer uses a lot of jargon in their ads, which a lot of the time is 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.
Power Rating (How Loud Your Amp Should Be)
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) itself was designed will also have an impact.
Tone and Gain Controls
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 control 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 mids you dial in because the guitar is a mid-range focused instrument. Too much mids in the bass will create a mix that feels flabby and unfocused.
Bass makes a 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 amps include a variety of different distortion models (based off of famous stomp boxes) and modulation effects.
With that being said, there is a tradeoff present when an amp has built-in effects. When resources are spent on effects, other aspects of the amp 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.
So, whether or not you should look for an amp with built-in effects really depends on what it is you’re going to be doing. 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 soundman 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.
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 micing an amplifier.
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.
Best Bass Amp Selection Methodology
For this August 2018 update, we examined 65 combo bass amps with street prices under $500 which were available from major online retailers in the USA - you can see most of them in the Music Gear Database. Along with this long list of bass amps, we analyzed over 5,800 reviews, ratings and discussions from retailers, review sites, videos, forums and online music gear magazines. We used those data to produce Gearank scores out of 100 with the Gearank Algorithm and also to report on what bassists like and don't like about the ones we recommended above. Finally we broke the list down into 3 price tiers and recommended the highest rated ones in each bracket above. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.