Amp:Bass/Guitar price ratio?

What's Hot
fftcfftc Frets: 335
Is there an ideal ratio for the cost of your bass guitar versus the cost of your amp?

Let's imagine someone is starting out and has a budget to get an amp and bass. It could be £500, £1000, £2000. Would you advise 1:1, 2:1, 3:2, 1:10, something else?

Is it different for guitars?
Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!
0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter

Comments

  • guitarfishbayguitarfishbay Frets: 7126
    edited August 2017
    Not really.

    If anything it's possibly cheaper to get a really good gigging sound with bass because larger and heavier cabinets and amps are quite out of fashion (so cheaper used) but still sound great.

    If someone is starting out then it's probably going to be a little bit more beneficial to get a nicer instrument and a smaller usable home amp (which will likely make it cheaper than the instrument).  A gig ready amp isn't really a requirement for a beginner to learn to play.

    When first starting out it is important to have a usable, and well set up instrument, otherwise it makes the first hurdles a lot harder than necessary.  Beginner (especially younger) players don't have the necessary hand strength and dexterity to play the instrument properly to start with, and having a poor setup can really make it that much harder, meaning they're probably more likely to quit out of frustration.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351
    If you're on a limited budget, buy the best bass you can and don't worry too much about the amp yet. You can get a loud, reliable and reasonably decent-sounding amp surprisingly cheaply nowadays, if you don't mind something secondhand and heavy. When you're starting out, a better bass will be more rewarding and let you learn faster, and it's quite likely there will be provided amps in many places you'll play - practice studios and even many venues have provided backline these days, and if that's not available then you can usually DI the bass into the PA with far better results than you can with a guitar.

    It's also different from guitars in that the amp is far less critical to the sound of a bass - most even half-decent bass amps can produce a wider range of tones, and any that they can't are really something you need a pedal for.

    That said I probably wouldn't go as high as 10:1, that would imply spending something like a grand on a bass and a hundred on an amp. Unless it's specifically an amp to play just at home, then you should probably get something a bit better if you do have that sort of money, or more. It's more a decision you have to think about if you have only a few hundred to spend.

    But there are really no hard and fast rules. If you find a great bass that isn't expensive, don't feel that you need to spend less on an amp.

    In my opinion, obviously…
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    My ratio has stuck at about 5:1 bass to amp 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351
    My ratio has stuck at about 5:1 bass to amp 
    Same here - or higher, but that's partly because I do like those old Peavey bass amps which are really cheap. (Or did, before the weight became more of an issue.) Even now I'm resisting the idea of actually paying serious money for a better cab, partly because the lightweight head I'm using wasn't expensive either.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    ICBM said:
    My ratio has stuck at about 5:1 bass to amp 
    Same here - or higher, but that's partly because I do like those old Peavey bass amps which are really cheap. (Or did, before the weight became more of an issue.) Even now I'm resisting the idea of actually paying serious money for a better cab, partly because the lightweight head I'm using wasn't expensive either.
    I have a fairly expensive head and cab, but the 64P knocked my ratio well out of kilter ;)
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • John_PJohn_P Frets: 1668
    I gig a Geddy Lee jazz and GK 212 combo so not far off a similar price from both.   

    I could get away with something from the cheaper end of the market though - say s squier vm and an old trace or peavey head and cab, probably around 200 each with s bit of shopping around.  So is say 50:50 is doable until you start spending serious money when the cost of an upmarket bass is probably more than an upmarket amp.  
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • fftcfftc Frets: 335
    edited August 2017
    Interesting.
    I'd actually have thought that more folk would plump for a slightly higher value amp than bass.
    Talking in new prices only, you can buy a perfectly useable bass for £250 or less, but you would struggle to play anywhere other than your house with £250 worth of amp. Obviously when you start looking at old, heavy, s/h amps things are different. Also vintage instrument prices throw things out of kilter too. (Yes, I'm looking at you mr @Bridgehouse !)

    I've been at 1:3.5, but that's with a non-gigable amp.
    Will shortly be at 1:1 when the new stuff arrives. I think that's quite sensible.

    What got me thinking was the £3K P-bass that I played through £1.5K of amp sounded ace, but then so it should! if the £3K P-bass was played through a £300 amp would it be the same? Doubtful. But I'd bet a £300 Squier would sound awesome through the same £1.5K of amp.

    So 1:2 works.
    1:10 wouldn't, but 5:1 would.
    Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    fftc said:
    Interesting.
    I'd actually have thought that more folk would plump for a slightly higher value amp than bass.
    Talking in new prices only, you can buy a perfectly useable bass for £250 or less, but you would struggle to play anywhere other than your house with £250 worth of amp. Obviously when you start looking at old, heavy, s/h amps things are different. Also vintage instrument prices throw things out of kilter too. (Yes, I'm looking at you mr @Bridgehouse !)

    I've been at 1:3.5, but that's with a non-gigable amp.
    Will shortly be at 1:1 when the new stuff arrives. I think that's quite sensible.

    What got me thinking was the £3K P-bass that I played through £1.5K of amp sounded ace, but then so it should! if the £3K P-bass was played through a £300 amp would it be the same? Doubtful. But I'd bet a £300 Squier would sound awesome through the same £1.5K of amp.

    So 1:2 works.
    1:10 wouldn't, but 5:1 would.
    Average price of my gigging basses = £500

    Average price of my gigging rigs = £1500

    Average vintage collection price = The missus might be reading...
    1reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • fftcfftc Frets: 335
    fftc said:
    Interesting.
    I'd actually have thought that more folk would plump for a slightly higher value amp than bass.
    Talking in new prices only, you can buy a perfectly useable bass for £250 or less, but you would struggle to play anywhere other than your house with £250 worth of amp. Obviously when you start looking at old, heavy, s/h amps things are different. Also vintage instrument prices throw things out of kilter too. (Yes, I'm looking at you mr @Bridgehouse !)

    I've been at 1:3.5, but that's with a non-gigable amp.
    Will shortly be at 1:1 when the new stuff arrives. I think that's quite sensible.

    What got me thinking was the £3K P-bass that I played through £1.5K of amp sounded ace, but then so it should! if the £3K P-bass was played through a £300 amp would it be the same? Doubtful. But I'd bet a £300 Squier would sound awesome through the same £1.5K of amp.

    So 1:2 works.
    1:10 wouldn't, but 5:1 would.
    Average price of my gigging basses = £500

    Average price of my gigging rigs = £1500

    Average vintage collection price = The missus might be reading...
    So ignoring the vintage stuff your at 3:1.

    Just because you can, doesn't mean you should!
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    fftc said:
    fftc said:
    Interesting.
    I'd actually have thought that more folk would plump for a slightly higher value amp than bass.
    Talking in new prices only, you can buy a perfectly useable bass for £250 or less, but you would struggle to play anywhere other than your house with £250 worth of amp. Obviously when you start looking at old, heavy, s/h amps things are different. Also vintage instrument prices throw things out of kilter too. (Yes, I'm looking at you mr @Bridgehouse !)

    I've been at 1:3.5, but that's with a non-gigable amp.
    Will shortly be at 1:1 when the new stuff arrives. I think that's quite sensible.

    What got me thinking was the £3K P-bass that I played through £1.5K of amp sounded ace, but then so it should! if the £3K P-bass was played through a £300 amp would it be the same? Doubtful. But I'd bet a £300 Squier would sound awesome through the same £1.5K of amp.

    So 1:2 works.
    1:10 wouldn't, but 5:1 would.
    Average price of my gigging basses = £500

    Average price of my gigging rigs = £1500

    Average vintage collection price = The missus might be reading...
    So ignoring the vintage stuff your at 3:1.

    Yep. About right I reckon.

    The vintage stuff doesn't get gigged so sort of a mute point. However, it's used exclusively for recording, practice and writing, so my ratio would be very different in those circumstances.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    Oh, @fftc re your cheaper amp comment - mostly, yes it's not as good, but my 64P through a £200 Ampeg SCR-DI and into pretty much anything sounds spectacular.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • I've honestly never considered my equipment in ratios like this.

    Though, if I had to start from a clean slate, I reckon I'd probably spend more on basses than on guitars - mostly because there are genuine spec differences on basses at a certain price point you can't easily find on lower priced instruments.  For example, re-enforced necks on Fenders (US only), and certain MusicMan type instruments are only available built in the US and not by the cheaper overseas brands.

    With guitars there is a lot of choice for instruments with broadly similar spec to higher priced instruments at a moderate price.  While the more expensive ones are generally nicer, they're not actually nicer in a practical way - as in there's nothing you can do on the expensive one you couldn't do on the cheaper one.  If that makes sense..
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • SporkySporky Frets: 14082
    I think my bass/cello amp cost about half what the bass did, and about a fifth of what the cello did.
    Be your own evil twin. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • This normally isn't a very popular view but personally speaking I don't own a gigable bassamp so my own personal ratio is pretty high! 

    Everywhere I ever gig has bass backline provided and the places that don't I just use a decent DI box. So I don't see the point in having hundreds of pounds and space in my house tied up in a Bass amp that would get turned on about once a year. 

    Even if you're really particular with your bass sound and insist on your own amp on stage with you in my experience the sound engineer will take a DI from before your amp anyway and that's what will be heard out front---so even in those scenarios your amp will basically just be your monitor. Not worth the hassle in my opinion. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351

    Even if you're really particular with your bass sound and insist on your own amp on stage with you in my experience the sound engineer will take a DI from before your amp anyway and that's what will be heard out front---so even in those scenarios your amp will basically just be your monitor. Not worth the hassle in my opinion. 
    I've had a couple of arguments in the past with soundmen about that - they want control, and they don't like the bassist having the ability to change the sound from the stage. So the amp is completely irrelevant to the FOH. Of course, you can easily get round that by using your choice of preamp pedal between the bass and their DI box ;).
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    ICBM said:

    Even if you're really particular with your bass sound and insist on your own amp on stage with you in my experience the sound engineer will take a DI from before your amp anyway and that's what will be heard out front---so even in those scenarios your amp will basically just be your monitor. Not worth the hassle in my opinion. 
    I've had a couple of arguments in the past with soundmen about that - they want control, and they don't like the bassist having the ability to change the sound from the stage. So the amp is completely irrelevant to the FOH. Of course, you can easily get round that by using your choice of preamp pedal between the bass and their DI box ;).
    Which is exactly why I've just built this:


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • teradaterada Frets: 1413
    My sg faded bass cost £600, my micro mark 801 cost me £300. Perfect for home and can di out into pa and use as a monitor for live. 

    2:1 for me
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • Band practice today was:

    Cort Curbow - £92 on eBay

    Ashdown Little Giant 350w head - £130 on eBay (going back though because the fan doesn't work and it overheated and shut down!)

    Ashdown Nate Mendel drive pedal - £55 ebay

    Mini compressor - £15 from here

    Less than £300 for a fully giggable rig (faulty head notwithstanding) and a huge variety of decent sounds. I also have a 1x15 Marshall bass cab that I picked up for £50 a good few years ago, but it did absolutely fine in every venue I ever took it to.

    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • crunchmancrunchman Frets: 3881
    As others have said, you can get an older bass amp very cheaply second hand.  I picked up a 250W Warwick amp on Ebay that ended up costing about £140 once I had fixed a couple of minor issues.  (Was originally about £700 new). It's a 15" speaker but it's not a stupid weight (around 26kg I think).  I have used 1 x 15 combos in the past that were around 35kg though.  That is getting too heavy.

    The Warwick is big enough for anything I've needed so far.  Anything that 250W won't cope with is likely to be big enough to have a good PA.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • BridgehouseBridgehouse Frets: 15952
    My Markbass LMIII was £250 - brilliant lightweight head and plenty of power for what you need.

    There's normally plenty of them for sale S/H
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • As others have said, an old big bass amp is cheap as chips as big bulky cabs are out of fashion.  I've not looked, but I can almost guarantee I could hunt down a perfectly good giggable amp for under 100 cabbage. You'll not sound like Marcus Miller but it'll be fine. 

    The tone of a guitar amp is far more important imo so a £100 solid state combo from the 90s might not have the desired effect.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351
    funkyfraz said:

    The tone of a guitar amp is far more important imo so a £100 solid state combo from the 90s might not have the desired effect.
    I'm not so sure about that - 90s Marshall Valvestate 8080s, Fender Deluxe 112s, Peavey Transtube Bandits and Trace Elliot Super Tramps all sell for around £100, and sound excellent. They may not be fashionably boutique, but they're all easily good enough for any normal gig (reliability issues aside with the Trace).
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • OK, there may be exceptions. Fair point 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • I think I'm leaning more to the amp being important in terms of price (based on new prices) and discounting the second hand prices.

    My bass cost me £130.00 in 1983 and when I was gigging I started with a Peavey which was about £100.00, I then moved onto a Trace Elliot combo at around £400.00. The difference in tone and sound was absolutely massive with the same bass guitar.
    So ratio was about 3 :1 in the amps favour.

    I've only seen one band using the straight DI route and it didn't seem to sound very good to my ears.


    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351

    I've only seen one band using the straight DI route and it didn't seem to sound very good to my ears.
    But very often when you hear a proper pro band at a big gig and you're far enough out front that you can't hear the bass amp directly, that is exactly what you're hearing.

    While some soundmen do mic or DI the amp as well, many insist on DI'ing at the *input* of the amp - ie what goes through the PA is purely the bass, and any pedals. The bass amp on stage is nothing more than a glorified monitor.

    In the past I had arguments about this with soundmen at bigger gigs, but I don't worry about it any more since unless you're actually using the amp for an overdriven sound, they can override your preferred EQ with the desk anyway.
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • At a bigger gig The amp is generally puny in comparison to the PA anyway.
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBM said:


    While some soundmen do mic or DI the amp as well, many insist on DI'ing at the *input* of the amp - ie what goes through the PA is purely the bass, and any pedals. The bass amp on stage is nothing more than a glorified monitor.
    Over my cold, dead body
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBM said:

    I've only seen one band using the straight DI route and it didn't seem to sound very good to my ears.
    But very often when you hear a proper pro band at a big gig and you're far enough out front that you can't hear the bass amp directly, that is exactly what you're hearing.

    While some soundmen do mic or DI the amp as well, many insist on DI'ing at the *input* of the amp - ie what goes through the PA is purely the bass, and any pedals. The bass amp on stage is nothing more than a glorified monitor.

    In the past I had arguments about this with soundmen at bigger gigs, but I don't worry about it any more since unless you're actually using the amp for an overdriven sound, they can override your preferred EQ with the desk anyway.
    If by big gig you mean MEN arena or Liverpool Echo arena, then my experience of seeing gigs there is that the sound is usually awful for all instruments.

    My personal experience is that I've only had the amp DI'd not the bass.

    The last 3 gigs I attended were all small venues Gorilla, Trades Club and the Deaf Institute (Manchester area), so basically close enough to hear the amp & PA. Far and away the best sound was produced by an Ampeg half stack and the worst a DI direct from bass to PA. 
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 0reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
  • ICBMICBM Frets: 33351
    BigLicks67 said:

    If by big gig you mean MEN arena or Liverpool Echo arena, then my experience of seeing gigs there is that the sound is usually awful for all instruments.

    My personal experience is that I've only had the amp DI'd not the bass.

    The last 3 gigs I attended were all small venues Gorilla, Trades Club and the Deaf Institute (Manchester area), so basically close enough to hear the amp & PA. Far and away the best sound was produced by an Ampeg half stack and the worst a DI direct from bass to PA. 
    I mean most big pro gigs - anything where you're seeing a touring rock band, basically.

    Sometimes they do mic the cab, or DI the amp, but you'll almost always find there is a DI from the bass too. The FOH will be a blend of all/some of these, or just the bass DI depending on the soundman… the resulting sound can be either great or crap, again depending on the soundman! But don't think the FOH sound is necessarily anything to do with the bass amp, even if you can see one with a mic in front of it.

    ICBM said:

    While some soundmen do mic or DI the amp as well, many insist on DI'ing at the *input* of the amp - ie what goes through the PA is purely the bass, and any pedals. The bass amp on stage is nothing more than a glorified monitor.
    Over my cold, dead body
    I would have said that too, but I had the argument too many times - and as I was never headlining any of these gigs, so I never had the authority to overrule them - I gave up worrying abut it, especially as having heard recordings of a couple of them, the bass sound out front bore no relation to that on stage at all... so if it had been going through the amp, the soundman would change it to his own ends just by twisting a couple of knobs anyway.

    In the end I fixed the problem as well as I could by using a preamp pedal between my own pedals and the cable to the amp :).
    "Take these three items, some WD-40, a vise grip, and a roll of duct tape. Any man worth his salt can fix almost any problem with this stuff alone."
    0reaction image LOL 0reaction image Wow! 1reaction image Wisdom · Share on Facebook Share on Twitter
Sign In or Register to comment.