Are amps underrated?

Excuse the upcoming wall of words!

Many people on the forum invest significant funds into basses, pedals and strings. But when it comes to amps and speakers it seems many go for cheap offers or choose their sound equipment by size or weight. Bite the bullet: cheap amps ain’t good and good amps ain’t cheap.

Don’t take me wrong, I’m not gonna critize anybody and definitely don’t want to offend somebody in any way.

Just wondering, coz at the end amp and speakers make the sound. Even the most expensive strings and sophisticated pedals can’t help if amp and speakers do not sound brilliant.

Just talking for myself, before I’d buy another bass I’d use the coins to get an amp and speakers that provide the power and sound I like/need.

That brings me to output power. To play with a drummer requires at least a 300 watt amp (solid state) or a 100+ watts tube amp and appropriate speakers, since you neither want to turn main volume fully clockwise nor overload the speakers.

You need some headroom to keep unwanted distortions at a minimum and to have some joker decibels for solos or a metal riff.

This is no tirade against practice amps but practicing is great with powerful equipment as well and it can be taken to a gig or session if needed.
What ya think?


This is definitely a YMMV kind of thing.

I kind of feel the opposite; I think amps are more or less slowly becoming obsolete over time. Amp sims now sound as good or better than amps, at least to me. For home use I’m perfectly happy with playing through amp sims and monitor speakers, and for recording, real amps actually just get in the way.

Even for playing live, an amp sim through a PA is going to sound good. Amps will always be a good solution live, though.

So YMMV; amps can definitely be an important component for your sound, no question, but they are definitely not the only path to get there, and definitely are not the most economical path to get there. It also depends a lot on your goals; if you primarily care about recording, then an amp is just going to add complexity and get in the way versus recording direct.


I’m with you when it comes to home recording or studio work, BUT no amp sim will make you feel vibrations, make you feel what you play and make listerners clap their hands :slight_smile:

Even at recordings I prefer the wet signal taken the oldschool way with a mic in front of the speaker instead of the (more or less) dry signal from the DI port. I prefer play music and make it sound best I can instead of creating sounds at a computer. YMMV! :slight_smile:


I practice with headphones, haven’t heard my amp in over a year


Be careful with volume, or you may not hear anything in coming years :upside_down_face:


Completely agree. For me, it took a while to understand what I wanted in an amp/cab. What I thought I wanted was completely opposite of what I ended up wanting. I think this may be the case for a lot of newer players. I don’t know but also feel like selling an amp/cab is not as easy as sellign a bass etc, at least for me, so I wanted to be sure before investing. Ultimately I wanted a super clean rig that I could color with pedals etc vs. buying an amp/cab with color built in. I was in the complete opposite camp when I started, glad I waited.

Totally agree here. My rig is way too big for my tiny room, however, love to feel it over headphones or monitors. And I do intend on playing with others at some non-covid point. Garages, backyards, small small venues, no PA, etc.


Oh trust me, an amp sim through a pair of 1000-2000W powered PA’s will make you and the crowd feel vibrations :slight_smile:

There’s a reason Tech21 named their DI line Sans Amp :rofl:

Nothing cleaner than a PA :slight_smile:

Got $350?

Buy a cheap mixer and you can put all the instruments and mics through it, not just the bass. I’d get two though for stereo.


What did you want first, what did you end with @John_E ?

Put the focus on clean sound is the perfect choice when you play a variety of styles, occasionnal sessions or in more than one band. So you are the “Glockenklang” guy with a three square feet pedal board :- )
I favour rigs that put in some (desired) color. I am the Fender, Ampeg or Orange guy.
Both ways work.


I am using the Tech21 ‘Sans amp’ and it is a really great preamp. I used it for the Amy Winehouse cover. But it has its limits when it comes to ZZ Top, Bon Jovi or AC/DC. the Drive of the Tech21 can not compete with the Drive of the Orange rig.


I love Orange amps. My favorite guitar amp sim is an Orange amp sim. It sounds perfect :slight_smile:

A dry bass signal into (say) an SVT amp sim+cab sim, then sent out through 2600W of powered PA is going to sound amazing.

I got to the “no more amps” stage fairly quickly for a reason. I needed to think beyond the bass. If I were going to play live, I would need amplification for:

My bass
My bandmate’s guitar
Our keyboards
Our vocals
The drum VSTi

at which point the choice is: we buy (and lug around) a shitload of amps and cabs, or we use a mixer+PA (and probably sound better anyway).

The PA seems the clear choice there. At least to me. Of course, not every venue has a PA; that led me to look in to it and it turns out, powered PA speakers are really inexpensive, and can double as stage monitors if the place already has a PA. And if we wanted, it’s inexpensive to add a pair of subs as well.

As a band we also have some precedent for this already; we used to do something similar with a homemade system anyway, running lots of stuff through a mixer into a big stereo amp and four speakers. Worked fine for us live back then (though we were pretty small scale, probably 20-30 people at our biggest party gig).


Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse (Extreme Death Metal band) uses an Aguilar DB751 but still sends DIs to the front of house for the PA system. People near the stage are probably getting the 751, but everyone else is being blasted by the sounds from his pedalboard

In Bias Amp 2 I started with the Orange AD200 emulation when creating my first custom amp that I called “Witchcraft Bomber” XD The neat thing here is that Positive Grid makes a physical amp I can download it to if I decide to play in a band someday :smiley:

For now I just plug directly into my Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 3rd Gen and my 8" studio monitors have no trouble. My “minirig” is just a Phil Jones Double Four 70W combo

…though part of me is sad there is a Gallien Krueger “fridge” (8x10) going for $250 near me but I don’t really have the room. It’s seen some sh*t for sure, but the price…


Yep, same here with my JBL’s. 160W through the monitors is more than enough for my place.

That’s pretty cool. I’m surprised more companies don’t do that. I know Ignite makes sims of their actual amps, for example. Would seem a natural product for them.

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Yes @howard , I see your point. When you play in a band and you guys got a 2000W PA you sound as you like and no doubt you are having a lot of fun on a gig. I’m having fun with a real amp every day. If necessary, I can use the DI port of the amp to feed the PA and still have the good vibes in my neck. I really would miss it!


There’s no right or wrong answer here. The amp (and cab) are imho as equally as important for your sound. I know Andertons did some demos where they compared cheap guitars into expensive amps and vice versa. My guess is that you need at least a decent amp for a proper sound.

Personally I like analog and digital. For practice at home I stick to my amp- and cabsims but I also have an Ampeg stack with a tube amp which kinda blows my practice rig away. I never played through a PA like Howard suggested but I guess it has a similar experience.


Yeah, and amps will always be useful live as well, even if just as monitors. There’s nothing wrong with them if that’s what you want.

That’s why I said this is really a YMMV thing. It really depends on each individual situation. Amps work for some situations, especially if you only care about one instrument. The PA route is what I would take were I ever to plan to play live again (which is unlikely) for the reasons I mentioned. Lots of ways to do this.



A quick few thoughts.
A. Everyone has a different amount of disposable income.
B. Not everyone can or wants to play in a band / Jam setting.
C. Consideration for others. Not everyone can play an amp in their home. Apartment buildings etc

I play with headphones most of the time. I also practice with my Rumble Amp but my ever patient wife really doesn’t need to hear my 500th rendition of Lady Writer.

TL;DR - everything has its place. Amps work for some of us and not for others. Are we having fun with the gear we have? Then we’re doing it right :grinning:


I’ve seen Bias/Positive Grid maligned compared to things like Neural DSP, etc but it’s mostly bedroom producers XD But yeah, with Bias Amp 2 (which I got on sale, I would never pay full price lol…) lets you go in and change the preamp tubes, adjust the number of gain stages, the tone stack, the transformer, the power tubes, sag, bias, etc. It has explanations for how things alter the sound, too, and some of the stuff has “British” or “American” styles, there’s diode clipping/settings, all sorts of stuff.

And then you can load it as an amp in Bias FX 2, which is basically their version of Amplitube/Guitar Rig/etc with stomp boxes and whatnot. If you have the Elite version or the separate Pedal purchases, you can customize your own distortions, mod pedals, or delays. It’s a little lacking on reverbs, imo, but the few it has are decent enough. I believe they have Distortion, Modulation, and Delay hardware pedals you can load these onto, too.


This makes too much practical sense Howard. Although, at almost 40 years old and having just started this musical journey I’m on, I would like to experience the old school feeling of lugging around a ton of equipment a few times. Then I’d probably be on board with just using a PA. I have yet to play a gig, but I hope it happens this year.


With all things audio, the answer is “It depends.”

People make different choices based on:

What kind of music do you play?
How big of a room do you play?
How much gear are you able to carry?
How much gear do you want to carry?
How well can you hear you?
How well can the band hear you?
How well can the audience hear you?
Is anyone’s hearing in danger?
Are you in danger of disturbing the neighbors?
Can the band’s PA make the desired bass sounds?
Can the house PA make the desired bass sounds?
How good is the mixing console operator?
What combination of the varying conditions do you need to be prepared for?

Mixing console operators generally prefer to have control over the sound that reaches the audience. Otherwise, their efforts can be undermined.

It’s possible that some amount of the sound a bassist loves would actually work against the good of the group and needs to be tempered.

A PA component capable of the equivalently sized bass amp and cabinet probably won’t cost less.

For me I’m mostly at home with no neighbors listening to myself. I love the sound of sound, so I sit next to a 4x10 cabinet with the amp set to 1. If I ever leave the house, we will see how many times I carry it before getting a Rumble.

I’m starting to like tapping and the higher strings so I’ll probably stack my 2-way 6” and horn PA speaker over my 4x10 and have a hybrid full range system.


A lot of good questions with those two on top.

Next question: Which amateur band can afford a skilled sound engeneer who joins practice sessions and gigs?

Almost same here, but it’s a 2x10 and a 1x15 cab