10 Best Bass Amps for Gigging: Your Buyer’s Guide (2018)

best bass amp

Mid-focused instruments are easy to amplify and sound great mic’d up for house sound. The equation is a little different when looking at rigs for bass, however. In order to generate the kind of power needed for most gigs, you’re looking at getting a head-cab combination. True, some people go the DI route only these days, but in order to move some air on stage, a full rig is the way to go.

Since the power requirements are so much greater, the type of amp — each organized into a Class — necessarily must change. The vast majority of guitar amps are Class AB, though you’ll occasionally see Class A among the ranks of the boutique and handwired. As a general rule, you can get by with fewer watts in a Class A amp than Class AB and still cut through the mix. (There are many factors to be weighed, of course. For more on this, you can read about the classes here.)

When it comes to modern bass amp design, Class D has become the go-to answer. Because Class D amps can, in theory, reach 100 percent efficiency, they’re capable of producing far more power than other types. Modern design approaches mean that the tonal quality — not to mention size and price — is improving, as well. In fact, some of the mini guitar amp heads in this post use Class D power amp stages to wring stage-ready volumes out of incredibly small packages.

As a guitarist, I’ve played many guitar amps in my day, so I’m very comfortable with the requirements for those rigs. And like any good guitarist, I have a bass of my own, so I’ve even experienced my fair share of small bass combos. When it comes to earth-shaking low-end power, though, that’s not really my arena. Oh, I understand the tech perfectly well, but my actual experience is limited.

In order to get my facts straight on the matter, I reached out to Rick Gauthier Jr., full-time professional bassist and semi-pro bacon eater. Formerly of Boston/Brooklyn outfit The Vital Might, Rick now plays in Romeo Dance Cheetah and even more recently joined Hello Weekend. Chances are, if the sun has gone down in Chicago, Rick’s on stage.

We discussed the needs of the modern working bassist and put together this list. Naturally, you’ll have to pick yourself up a cabinet to make these work, but we’ll leave that to a future discussion. All of these manufacturers make matching cabs, so go with those if you’re not sure where else to look. What follows are modern Class D amps for anyone from novice to professional looking for high quality, high-output bass amps.

We kept the list to things Rick had spent a considerable amount of time with, so there are certainly going to be some misses. See the end of the article (or peruse the comments) for more great suggestions. This list is in no particular order and is meant as a buying guide to help augment your larger bass amp search. There are so many options these days, the only way to know what you’ll love is to plug in and get your hands dirty.

If you’re the strings part of the rhythm section, we present our top ten best bass amps for gigging under $1,000.

1. Bergantino Forte

Image of bergantino forte bass amp


The newest member of the Bergantino family is the Forte. This is the quintessential compact bass amp, distilling everything that’s great tone-wise about the company’s flagship B|Amp into a lower price point and a super-tiny enclosure.

Controls on this brand-new unit include Input and Master volume, Variable Ratio Compressor (VRC), a four-band EQ, and Bright and Mute switches. There’s an effects loop and a DI out with ground lift, the latter of which is software switchable between pre- and post-EQ. Rounded out with an aux in and headphone jack for practice and you’re ready to roll.

Rick’s notes: Tight, crisp, focused intense low end. Clean, bright mids. Crisp and clear treble that cuts through the mix of a band in the perfect set spot. Can’t say enough about this one, it really stands above the rest in this amp category.

Price: $899

Buy the Bergantino Forte here.


  • Wattage: 700 watts
  • I/O options: DI out, stereo out, headphone jack, and aux in
  • Speaker output resistance: 2 or 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: Yes
  • Dimensions: 10.5 by 8.375 by 3.75 inches
  • Weight: 6 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: U.S.A.

Find more Bergantino Forte information and reviews here.

2. Darkglass Microtubes 900

Image of darkglass microtubes 900


Darkglass have been on a tear of late, releasing a spate of excellent pedals, amps, and cabs and finding a home with many bassists where previously there lived vintage gear. Partly that’s down to the exceptional quality of their gear, while the other part is evident in this very unit.

The control set highlights what sets this apart from the pack. On the right is your standard control set, with knobs for Gain, Master, and a four-band EQ that includes three-position shifts for both Mids knobs. There’s also a Mute switch hanging out over there. The Gain knob is further governed by the VMT/B3K switch, which selects between a modern percussive sound (B3K) and a warmer vintage tone (VMT).

On the left side is the Microtubes Engine, which Darkglass calls an ‘extra channel.’ Effectively, this channel allows you to dial in a usable combination of compression, drive, and EQ that pushes you out ahead of a mix. You can use this section for heavy drive, light breakup, and anything in between. If you were to replicate this on a pedalboard, it’d be like changing amp channels and stepping on a boost and a compressor all at once. As a matter of fact, this is controllable with the Intelligent Footswitch from Darkglass for that express purpose. This section is controlled with Drive, Level, Tone, and Blend knobs. A switch on the front of the amp enables it, but really, you’ll want the switch. The control set is rounded out with a switch for Passive or Active pickups.

On the back panel, there are switches for 2/4 ohms, Post and Pre EQ and Ground Lift for the DI out. If 900 watts doesn’t get the job done, you may just be out of luck.

Rick’s notes: Large spectrum of sounds in this head, from smooth vintage tone to modern sounds. Very easy to use interface, choosing between the vintage series preamp and the more aggressive Mircotubes preamp.

Price: $999.95

Buy the Darkglass Microtubes 900 here.


  • Wattage: 900 watts
  • I/O options: DI out
  • Speaker output resistance: 2 or 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: No (but a unique channel layout affects some compression)
  • Dimensions: 11.95 by 14.5 by 4.5 inches
  • Weight: 8.49 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: Finland

Find more Darkglass Microtubes 900 information and reviews here.

3. Mesa Boogie Subway D-800

Image of mesa boogie subway d-800

Mesa Boogie

Certainly a brand intimately familiar to guitarists, Mesa makes an amp head that can hang with the best of them. Particularly compared to the Darkglass above, this is a fairly straightforward endeavor, closer to the Bergantino and with all the engineering focused on providing a wide-open palette for your bass.

Controls are uncluttered and include Input volume, four-band EQ, Master volume, and a unique Voicing switch. The Input volume is governed by the Mute and Active/Passive switch, while a Deep switch engages harmonics to enhance low-end response. The Voicing switch is vintage Mesa, ranging from Flat to mid-scooped with low and high end boost. Naturally, the back panel offers the full suite of switching to control the DI out. No effects loop, however.

Rick’s notes: This amp is one of the cleanest and clearest signals you’re likely to find. Really lets the tone of the bass do all the talking with very functional EQ controls. Highly useful for any style of music and comes with a carry case.

Price: $699

Buy the Mesa Boogie Subway D-800 here.


  • Wattage: 800 watts
  • I/O options: DI out, headphone jack, and aux in
  • Speaker output resistance: 2 or 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: No
  • On-board compressor?: No
  • Dimensions: 11.12 by 10.59 by 3.04 inches
  • Weight: 5.5 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: U.S.A.

Find more Mesa Boogie Subway D-800 information and reviews here.

4. TC Electronic BH800

Image of tc electronic bh800

TC Electronic

Born from the BG250 we included on our best bass combo amps post, this 800-watt head brings all of TC’s technological advances into the compact bass head game. The real key to this is the two TonePrint slots, which are independently adjustable with the two knobs on the right. Utilizing their Switch-3 pedal, you can switch them on or off separately.

The TonePrint slots allow you to load up octave, compression, drive, chorus, flange, and vibrato effects. Of course, it’s TonePrint, so you can edit them extensively on your computer first to get a completely customized sound. Definitely a key differentiator here.

Otherwise, controls include Gain, a four-band EQ, and a Master volume. There’s a built-in tuner on the front of the unit, as well as a Mute switch so you can tune in silence. The EQ is set to boost or cut frequencies, and of course the DI out can be set pre or post. If, for some odd reason, you don’t require 800 watts, there’s a 550 watt version, too.

Rick’s notes: Great sound overall, fantastic reliability, and extremely user friendly controls. Priced for a hobby player, built to last for a pro with plenty of extra power and features to get you through anything.

Price: $599

Buy the TC Electronic BH800 here.


  • Wattage: 800 watts
  • I/O options: Aux in, USB, headphone jack, and DI out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: No
  • On-board compressor?: Yes (using a TonePrint slot)
  • Dimensions: 10.8 by 2.7 by 11 inches
  • Weight: 9 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: Thailand

Find more TC Electronic BH800 information and reviews here.

5. Aguilar Tone Hammer 500

Image of aguilar tone hammer 500


Aguilar’s natural and neutral sound reproduction has served many a bassist and acoustic guitar player well. They make reliable, straight-forward units that travel well and play nicely in a variety of settings.

Controls on this little beast include Gain, four-band EQ, Master volume, and Drive. The last of these is a proprietary Aguilar design called “Adaptive Gain Shaping” and is something akin to the Mesa’s circuit above. Both the effects loop and the DI out are conveniently placed on the front of the unit, as is a -10dB pad switch for active pickups. The back panel is a spartan affair, but does include a tuner out.

As with the TC above, you can get this in a 350 version for under $500.

Rick’s notes: Crisp tight tone, useable in any style of music. Could be described as modern dry tone. Really pleasant sounds overall. You’ll probably never hear anyone complain about this one.

Price: $679

Buy the Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 here.


  • Wattage: 500 watts
  • I/O options: DI out and tuner out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 or 8 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: No
  • Dimensions: 10.75 by 8.5 by 3 inches
  • Weight: 4 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: U.S.A.

Find more Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 information and reviews here.

6. Gallien-Kruger MB 800

Image of gallien kruger mb 800


Perhaps looking a bit more early Aughts than the other options on this list, this GK option nevertheless brings that certain sound to the Class D, compact head market. They just have a slightly different way of doing things over there that offers a solid counterpoint to other offerings.

Immediately evident from the controls is the fact that you get two gain circuits on this amp, controllable with an external footswitch. Otherwise, controls include a four-band EQ, Contour, a separate Level for the B channel, and a Master volume. There’s a Mute and a -10dB pad switch on the front, a pre-post EQ switch for the DI out on the back, and a switch for using the final output jack for either headphone or line out purposes. By pushing the Master knob, you can engage a limiter for use in high volume situations.

It’s also super short at less than two inches. It’ll probably tuck into some gig bags pretty easily.

Rick’s notes: The GK sound is legendary and this one follows that mold with some major improvements. Very bright sounding amp overall, easy to dial in your sound on this one. Hard not to love.

Price: $739

Buy the Gallien-Kruger MB 800 here.


  • Wattage: 800 watts
  • I/O options: DI out, tuner out, and headphone/line out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 or 8 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: No
  • Dimensions: 11 by 9 by 1.75 inches
  • Weight: 4.9 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: Unknown, possibly China

Find more Gallien-Kruger MB 800 information and reviews here.

7. Markbass Little Mark III

Image of markbass little mark III


Markbass makes distinctive looking and sounding amps, and this is their flagship. All the standard bells and whistles are here, including a couple of added details that help it stand out.

The obvious controls of Gain, four-band EQ, and Master are all here. The VPF knob stands for Variable Pre-shape Filter and allows you to further alter the EQ. The VLE knob stand for Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator allows you to dial in cab emulation on the DI out, which also has a separate volume knob. The back panel has the expected Pre/Post EQ switch and Ground Lift for the DI out.

The input and output options on this are interesting, too. In addition to the standard 1/4 inch in, there’s an DI in for use with mics and acoustic basses. There’s also a tuner out and an effects loop. All this adds up to supreme flexibility and should cover virtually all of your needs.

Rick’s notes: Tight and dry, exceptional mid response and cuts through a mix just right with any bass. Super reliable platform with easy to use controls.

Price: $649.99

Buy the Markbass Little Mark III here.


  • Wattage: 500 watts
  • I/O options: Tuner out, DI out, line out, and XLR input
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 or 8 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: No
  • Dimensions: 10.87 by 9.84 by 3.27 inches
  • Weight: 5.07 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: Indonesia

Find more Markbass Little Mark III information and reviews here.

8. David Eden Terra Nova TN226

Image of david eden terra nova tn226

David Eden

This relatively new offering from Eden also does things just a little bit differently in case nothing else on this list cuts it for you. It’s probably not quite fair to call Eden gear sleeper stuff, but it certainly isn’t quite as ubiquitous as some of the other brands out there. This is their new mid-level offering, perfect for the working musician.

The control set offers quite a lot of flexibility. Across the front panel, there are switches for Mute and Comp(ressor), Input Gain, a switchable Enhance knob like on the Markbass above, a four-band EQ, and a Master knob. That four-band EQ is “semi parametric” with uniquely flexible shift knobs for the Low and High Mid. Also, there’s an input each for Passive and Active pickups. There’s also a Boost switch which is footswitch controllable.

On the back, there are the two speaker outs, an aux in, headphone jack, DI out, effects loop, and a tuner out. Naturally, there are switches for pre/post EQ, Ground Lift, and DI out line level. Admittedly, 225 watts will really only suffice for your smaller gigs and possibly in the studio, but you can also get a 500 watt version in this line.

Rick’s notes: That deep Eden tone is famous and this amp does not disappoint. Easy to get nice, thick low end out of this one with minimal effort.

Price: $499.99

Buy the David Eden Terra Nova TN501 here.


  • Wattage: 225 watts
  • I/O options: Separate Active and Passive inputs, DI out, tuner out, aux in, and headphone jack
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: Yes
  • Dimensions: 12.75 by 6.9 by 3.1 inches
  • Weight: 4.7 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more David Eden Terra Nova TN501 information and reviews here.

9. Hartke TX600

Image of hartke tx600


If everything else on this list has been a bit too close to the price cap for comfort, these last two picks are definitely great value for money, coming in under $400. As I talked about in the intro, Class A amps are sometimes sought after for their immediacy of response and transient performance. This amp combines a vintage style 12AX7-driven Class A preamp with the immensely powerful Class D power section for a perfect combination of tone and ability.

Controls include a Master knob, three-band EQ with mid Shape knob, Gain, and Compressor level to dial in the 10:1 on-board compression. Again, there are two inputs for Active and Passive pickups, as well as the aux in and headphone out. Mute and Brite switches round out the front panel. The back panel holds no surprises with the speaker outs, DI out, Ground Lift switch, and effects loop. For being new, this has a distinctly 90s look, but hey, you don’t buy these for how they look. The carrying handle is a nice touch for ease of use.

Rick’s notes: Hartke has long been known to deliver booming lows and crisp bright mids and highs. This new series is fantastic and can deliver everything you ever need in a pro package at one of the lowest price points in this amp category. Really tight amplifier with easy to use features.

Price: $399.99

Buy the Hartke TX600 here.


  • Wattage: 600 watts
  • I/O options: Separate Active and Passive inputs, aux in, headphone jack, and DI out
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 to 8 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: Yes
  • Dimensions: 14 by 10.6 by 2.6 inches
  • Weight: 7 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: China

Find more Hartke TX600 information and reviews here.

10. Fender Rumble 500 v3

Image of fender rumble 500


Our last pick is identically priced to the Hartke and would make a fine first stage-ready bass amp. Fender have included a number of features that will let you dial in a solid bass tone, utilizing unique switching for different voices.

The knob set is utilitarian with Gain, four-band EQ, and a Master knob. There’s an Overdrive section with its own Drive and Level knobs that can be activated with a footswitch. A set of three switches on the right — Bright, Contour, and Vintage — work as pre-EQ shaping options. Bright is a high-end boost, Contour is a mid-scoop, and Vintage is tube emulation.

Again, no surprises on the back panel. Dual speaker outputs, DI out, aux in, headphone jack, and an effects loop. These are super loud, but tend toward the muddy side, so those extra EQ shaping options will come in handy. There’s bound to be a usable sound for a wide variety of players and basses in this box, and the price is certainly right.

Rick’s notes: Perfectly serviceable amp that will work best for beginners, yet with plenty of pro-level function and power.

Price: $399.99

Buy the Fender Rumble 500 v3 here.


  • Wattage: 500 watts
  • I/O options: DI out, aux in, and headphone jack
  • Speaker output resistance: 4 ohms
  • Effects loop?: Yes
  • On-board compressor?: Yes
  • Dimensions: 13.75 by 7.19 by 2.68 inches
  • Weight: 5 lbs.
  • Country of manufacture: Indonesia

Find more Fender Rumble 500 v3 information and reviews here.

Update: A few commenters have made some excellent points about units that could have been mentioned here. Certainly everyone has their opinion as to what qualifies as the best, so if nothing on this list will work for you, consider this short list of honorable mentions. There are a lot of great amp options out there; being spoiled for choice is a good thing!

See Also:

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