Budget Amplifiers

Being the gear snob I am, I tend to play only the best gear I can afford (and often find amazing deals on), leaving me often in the dark concerning the typical music store fare. So, I decided to take a moment to peruse the holdings at my local Guitar Center and, after being impressed by some new dogs and confirming my feelings about some others, have decided to post my recommendations for affordable combos:

1. For fear of a libel suit, I will not mention this brand by name, but there is a certain music product manufacturer who is widely known to copy more prominent (or at least reputable) brands’ designs and use them as their own. This company provides extremely affordable gear and I have been tempted to buy some of it in the past. If you do not care about a company’s integrity and still choose to patronize this brand, please do not buy their amplification! This brand’s heads and cabs are poorly constructed, do not sound good, and do not last. They are affordable up front, but will cost you many times over in the long run. Stay away!

2. I was really impressed by Fender’s Rumble 100/210(two 10-inch speakers), which can be had at Musician’s Friend for $349.99. This budget 100 watt amp has an aux in, effects loop, headphone out, and line out and sounds amazing for the price. I was even impressed with the 115 (one 15-inch speaker)version of this amp. I know that the other Fender bass amps (i.e. the Bassman, et. al.) are excellent products as well, but the Rumble 210 is my pick for excellent value!

3. What really blew me away was the Line 6 LowDown 150 (150 watts in a 1×12 tilt-back), which can be had at Sweetwater for $399.99. This amp combines some of the most useful features of Line 6′s products into a compact combo. It has 5 amp models, 5 editable effects (Synth, Compressor, Envelope Filter, Octaver, and Chorus), a line out, and the capability of being controlled by the Line 6 footpedals. Though it may be more amp than most students need, it is probably the most bang for your buck at this level and even higher. I want one!

4. I can never say enough good about Gallien-Krueger. If you’ll be playing any double bass through your amp, I would go with GK over any of the previous mentions. They are extremely clean and versatile. While you pretty much can’t go wrong with a GK (IMHO), my recommendation is the Microbass combos. They’re a bit heavy, but they are very durable workhorse amps (no cloth to tear, no wood cabinets) and can be plenty loud for most situations.

***Please, if you are playing rock in large venues and cannot afford the Ampeg stack your band expects you to have (I believe these are extremely overrated and limiting), don’t go looking at the super budget 4x10s. Ask your venue for stage and house support and get a better sounding amp/cab or combo; with a good soundman, 100 watts can do you well. If you absolutely must have more support than a combo like these, but can’t afford that (ahem) holy grail, buy used so you can upgrade at little or no loss!

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