Low-end power in compact form
Choosing small bass amps for gigging with need not be a problem with our handy guide. From the list below we showcase the finest offerings to ensure that you get off to a flying start every time.
Mighty clout minus the weight
While guitarists are generally known for craving new sounds, bass players tend to have a different approach. Just like you’d expect from a bassist they are methodical, spending time to make sure their choice is just right. It makes sense when it’s your job to be the glue between strings and percussion. It is especially important when you consider how sonically close the bass is to the drums.
So to help you make a more informed choice across the range of bass amps that are out there, we put together this guide. Here we pick five of the best small bass amps for gigging.
1. Laney Richter RB3
Boasting a healthy output for such a diminuitive amp at 65 Watts, the Laney Richter RB3 delivers plenty of power to see you through a gig in any decent-sized venue with headroom to spare. The single 12-inch speaker capably handles frequencies from low to high with the utmost fidelity, allowing you to push through lines with hearty cleans and guttural grunt when cranking things up.
Catering to both active and passive pickups you’ll find Normal and High inputs, ensuring that basses of both persuasions are readily accommodated. A useful Gain control allows you to apply a burst of gain at the pre-amp stage, making for some impressive saturation for some sweet overdriven tones.
Within the amp Laney apply an onboard compressor that allows you to tighten up the low-end for a defined punch when needed or a looser more relaxed character. The amount of compression applied also goes hand-in-hand with the amount of gain introduced at the pre-amp stage. A three-band EQ allows you to cut/boost the low end and high end independently by attenuating the Bass and Treble controls. The mid-frequencies sitting between 200Hz to 2kHz can be adjusted via para mid controls to accentuate the character of your bass guitar with ease.
The Richter RB3 features all the usual suspects when it comes to connectivity such as a DI output for direct connection to a mixing desk or PA in the studio or on the stage. Outboard FX can be incorporated into the signal path pre- or post-amp via the built-in FX Loop, a mini jack for connecting external audio devices to jam along with or provide a backing track to performances, and a headphone output for silent practise.
If you require something that gives you a bit more bang for your buck so to speak, there’s always the Laney Richter R500 that throws out a massive 500-Watts, provides an expanded 10-band active EQ and contour control for decreasing mid-range frequencies whilst boosting low and high frequencies.
2. Blackstar Unity 60
The Blackstar Unity 60 is a confident 60-Watter that features in a range skirting from 30- to 500-Watts, offering something for everyone from home practise to gigging professional from a company who provide gear to the greats.
As we’d expect from the team at Blackstar, the Unity 60 is as solid as they come and built to tackle life on the road. Gig-ready features include a top panel control layout complete with input switch that caters to active/passive powered basses. Across the panel you’ll find a range of tone shaping options including Gain and a selection of three voicings including Classic, Modern, and Overdrive. Classic offers that vintage valve-inspired growl with vintage EQ controls, Modern goes for high-headroom dynamics and advanced EQ control, whilst Overdrive is exactly what it says on the tin. A generously proportioned EQ section offers Low, Mid Freq, and High frequency shaping options so that you can zero in on the exact tone to suit your musical and playing style, performance environment, and tonal preference. Along with a trio of voicings and adequately equipped EQ you get built-in chorus and compression for superior tone without the need to include additional pedals.
When it comes to connectivity, we know that Blackstar are very generous in this area. Alongside line level outputs with jack and D.I. – with ground lift button – there is a Cab Link XLR output for easy connection to an external speaker cab. Connect an external audio source via the MP3/Line In socket, and you can even get a footswitch involved for hands-free operation of Chorus and Overdrive. Happy days!
As noted above, the Blackstar Unity range comes in a range of output wattage options with an increasingly generous feature set as you go up in wattage.
3. Orange Crush Bass 50
Orange are pretty deft at making beautiful sounding amplification. Just like a fine wine, the Orange Crush Bass 50 is full-bodied and well-rounded. It gives you 50 Watts of brutalist tone from a 1 x 12-inch driver, and everything you’d imagine from an all signal path inherited from themighty OB1 and 4 Stroke amps. Therefore, you can expect high quality analogue circuitry and a ported cabinet that delivers an almighty output.
The built-in 3-band parametric EQ enables you to closely control the bass, treble, and mid range with a frequency band selector that sweeps through 300Hz to 2.7kHz for exceptional precision and mind-blowing versatility for such a compact amp. As well as these already impressive signal attentuation options, the Crush Bass 50 pack in Blend and Gain options to ensure that meaty tones are produced at lower volume settings.
The inclusion of a 3.5mm stereo aux input so that you can play along with any audio source as a backing track or jamming buddy. You can even send the combined signal through to your headphones, enabling you to practise to your heart’s content into the wee hours without distrurbing a soul. Orange’s unique ‘cabism’ technology ensures that you get that a faithful rendition of that ‘true cab sound’ when playing through headphones.
As if as that wasn’t enough, there’s even a chromatic tuner with LED lights built-in to ensure that should you forget your pocket or pedal tuner, you won’t be at a loss. Solidly constructed and lightweight, you’re set for anything that comes your way with the Orange Crush Bass 50.
However, if you fancy a little more power in the pocket then there’s also the Orange Crush Bass 100, which (as you may have guessed) is the 100-Watt version.
4. Ashdown Rootmaster EVO
We remember when the first Ashdown amps came out. They were awesome sounding and super affordable amps, made by the chief engineer from Trace Elliot, stalwarts of the British bass amp business. Now things have changed a lot since 1997, but Ashdown are still delivering.
The Ashdown Rootmaster EVO is a 1 x 12” bass amp which packs a punch. The 12” speaker gives you a little extra push in the low end, making it great for all styles of music, be that grooving reggae, slaptastic funk or just rocking out. There’s nothing flabby about its tone, just pure unadulterated fun in a lightweight and easy-to-carry cube. You can even add an extension cab for even more beef.
But what makes the Ashdown so special is the amount of connectivity they give you, speakon out, DI out, FX Loop (send/return) and a footswitch in. Wait a minute, footswitch? Yeah, this amazing piece of kit gives you a drive and subharmonic effect that you can control with a footswich. By just adding a simple control pedal you gain two amazing tone controls to add to your bass playing arsenal.
5. Laney NEXUS SLS112
‘Another Laney on the list’ you might say, and our reply would is ‘yes, and deservedly so’. The NEXUS SLS112 is a big-hitting 500-Watter that takes no prisoners and offers no quarter. Absolutely superb in design and masterfully executed in delivery, this hybrid beauty combines raw tube power with solid state reliability to conjure a professional-quality piece of kit that is at home in the studio as much as it is on the road.
The NEXUS pre-amp is home to a trio of ECC83 tubes in the preamp section, which propels your tone into the stratosphere with a massive amount of energy The power amp section guarantees the smoothest output for a graceful response at any level.
Everything that you could desire to sculpt the tone of your dreams is set out before you across the top level control panel. As with the aforementiond Richter series, there are Hi and Lo inputs to accommodate either active or passive powered pickups, as well as a corresponding Gain control complete with peak indicator to prevent input clipping. Very handy indeed when you’re switching between instruments on a darkened stage.
A four-point Shape control enables EQ settings to be dialled in and set with minimal fuss, whilst Bass, Sweep, Middle, and Treble dials allow specific frequency bands to be adjusted for finer results. There are also a generous selection of other control options that include Tilt, Touch, and more.
Tilt allows the overall mid to high frequencies to be increased for greater presence during live performances. Touch encourages greater expression for enhanced resonance across lower frequencies and greater lift in the highs. Alternatively, you can create a tighter and less ‘bouncy’ response. Interval, Focus, and Space controls allow you to add subtle effects to your tone from added 5th notes to octave down with perfect tracking, added high frequency harmonics for synth-like sounds, and swelling hall reverb or articulate chorus.
The sheer number of connectivity options available is nothing short of extraordinary. From silent practise in the bedroom to wowing crowds on the festival stage, laying down tracks in the studio or living life on the open road, everything you need is ready and waiting for you. Headphone output, FX Loop, and a plethora of dials to attenuate and direct signal levels are your to play with. There’s a USB connection for directly linking to your PC/Mac and DAW of choice. Not only that, there’s is a specific Re-Amp send socket that allows the recorded dry signal to be sent back to the amp for re-processing, which simplifies the recording process greatly.
As if all that wasn’t enough, you can expand the NEXUS’ SLS112 potential further by adding an extra cabinet via the Neutrik Speakon Cabinet Extension socket.
However, if a combo is more than you require, then there’s always the Laney NEXUS SLS Bass Amp Head, which offers 500-Watts of pure unadulterated joy that’ll fit into your gig bag with ease. What will they think of next, eh?
Review the selection
So, in summary, these are some of the best small bass amps for gigs;
- Laney Richter RB3
- Laney Richter R500
- Blackstar Unity 60
- Blackstar Unity Range
- Orange Crush Bass 50
- Orange Crush Bass 100
- Ashdown Rootmaster EVO
- Laney NEXUS SLS112
- Laney NEXUS SLS Bass Amp Head
Get in touch
If you fancy taking a look at the rest of what we have to offer, head to the Dawsons Music website now. Alternatively, head to your local Dawsons Music Store where our in-store specialists will be more than happy to impart their wisdom and help you out.
If you liked that then you might like this
New to the world of bass guitar? Then this article should help you out, aptly titled Best Bass Guitar for Beginners.
If you’re a guitarist looking to make an addition to your instrumental arsenal then check out The Non-Bass Player’s Guide to Buying a Bass.
When buying new strings, our Bass Guitar String Guide should give you a nice base to build from.
Jon is a multi-instrumentalist with a passion for inspiring others to get involved in making music. After spending many years playing venues here, there and – pretty much – everywhere, he joined the Dawsons’ Music Web Team before progressing into his current role managing the Dawsons Blog.