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Ten point guide for buying a new or pre-owned bass guitar amplifier
One of the first things to think about is what will be the primary purpose of the new bass amplifier. Namely, are you a seasoned musician or a budding bass student? Are you in a band or simply want the amp for practice sessions or solo performances? Being clear about the use of the amp in the first place is important so you can research and shop for good match between the purpose of the bass amp and your budget.
1. Amp Head
Amp heads serve two functions, process guitar signals and sound effects, and deliver power and volume.
When the guitar instrument is plugged into the amp, the signal is first processed by the pre-amp. The pre-amp manipulates the signal and can make subtle or drastic changes to the characteristics of the sound.
3. Power Amp
As housed in the head, the power amp delivers electrical power and volume levels. Higher watt specs of an amp relate to its capacity to deliver more powerful volume. More power is necessary to drive bass amplifier because bass guitar signals operate at lower sound frequency levels.
Amp wattage guidelines.
> 50-100 watts, perfect as a solo practice amp
> 200 watts adequate for when planning to play with other musicians, either keyboard or electric guitar
> 300-400 watts is needed if you plan to play with drums involved in the practice session
> 400-1200 watts required for band performances
Combination amps, or combo amps, are packed with both an amplifier component plus speakers.
An amp stack refers to the combination of three separate unites, namely: a separate amplifier; amp head and cabinet containing the speakers. Stacks are a popular choice for many musicians who want to achieve specific customized sound reproduction based on the specs of the amp component or the reputation of component brand or model.
5. Speaker Cabinet
The speaker cabinet receives the powered signals from the amp and projects the instrument sounds. Speaker cabinets are typically constructed of timber plywood. The timber material provides both acoustic and sound proofing qualities that aim to preserve the integrity of bass instrument frequencies and sound reproduction. Cabinets are available in a range of size dimensions and contain one or more speakers.
6. Speaker Size
Bigger the better is not the solution for achieving quality sound reproduction in a bass speaker cabinet. The quality of sound reproduction desired is more important than speaker size when reviewing bass speaker cabinets. A cabinet with several smaller speakers produces tight clear sounds, while a large speaker projects a heaver sound wave. Your decision about cabinet speaker size really depends on the purpose of the amp and desired sound quality.
Testing amps is an important step in the buying process so you get the right amp for your circumstance. When evaluating amps, consider the music genre you plan to play. Will the amp be used for playing heavy rock or jazz? For example, certain amplifier heads and cabinets are designed to match specific music styles.
8. Equalizer (EQ)
EQ settings are an important part of a bass amp setup. These settings control the bass, mid-range and treble sound frequencies. The ability to fine tune the sound projection to match a desired music style is achieved by the EQualizer settings. Three EQ control knobs are most common on pre-amps. Some pre-amp models feature five or more EQ control knobs.
Controlling sound volume on a bass pre-amp is achieved by adjusting the gain knob. If you like or want that rock music effect, turn up the gain to produce a distorted sound effect. Before you buy a bass amp and after the purchase, experiment with the gain knob to achieve a range of distorted sound effects.
Today’s amp manufacturers produce quality bass amps even at the lower price ranges. For example, a combo bass amp is an ideal choice for the budget minded buyer and are generally cheaper than a stack configuration where the pre-amp is a separate component from the speaker cabinet. For the nOObie bassist, a combo amp is a perfect match.
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