Combo or Head/Cab

Hi all - I apologize if this thread has been done already; I did a quick look and didn’t see it. I’m getting ready to upgrade my amp to something that I hypothetically could use to play with others (if that’s ever a thing again). I’m not sure whether to keep it simple and get something like a Rumble 200 or 500 combo, or go with a separate head/cab. The Orange Little Bass Thing has my attention for sure, although it’s quite a bit more money.

I’d be curious to hear from people who like combos and why as well as from people who prefer a separate head/cab and why.

Hopefully this doesn’t start WW3.



Ha - when I saw the Ampeg/Rumble discussion in a different thread today, I was about to ask the exact same question! We probably have touched upon this before, but I wouldn’t mind hearing again what the experienced gearheads in here have to say.

From my experience (and, mind you, this is strictly from reading about this subject), it seems that most people would recommend a head/cab combination rather than a combo (even though this is potentially the more expensive option). And the main argument, it seems, is flexibility, as you, for example, can start with a smaller cab and upgrade later (selling your current cab) or add a second cab. Or, you can just carry your head to a gig and go directly to the house PA, but use the pre-amp to dial in your tone (many of these modern heads have pre-amps in them as well; just like the Orange Little Bass Thing).

But, take my word with a grain of salt… I am also still trying to understand all the many possibilities available these days. I am sure some more knowledgable folks will chime in as well :grinning:


I started with a Rumble 25 combo (or was it a 40?) then upgraded to the Rumble 100 combo. I now have a Rumble 500 amp head and a 115 cab. I like the combo idea simply because I could potentially go to a gig that already has a sound system, and just bring the amp head, rather than lug a big heavy combo amp around.
Either way is fine though.


I like having separate pieces of gear. I bought an amp head that will probably last me the rest of my life. It’s just an engine with clean power. I can change out or stack different types of cabinets or combinations of cabinets all I want and change my mind over time. If I want a “sound” I get it from the cabinet choice or from a pre-amp/pedal choice. My priority is changing out pieces and parts without trying to re-sell and buy the whole thing. I also like that I get to keep my pre-amp sound no matter what I do with the amp head and cabinet; I don’t lose a tone I like because it goes away in a combo set. This is probably a more expensive day 1 spend, but may not be as expensive over time. There are lots of other priorities one could have that would lead to a different answer. It depends what you care about most.


First - assess the need for the new amp:
Need to be louder?
Not getting the sound you want?
Your amp is being made fun of by the Cool Gear Kids?
Too heavy and you need something lighter?

Once you know why you’re buying, you can target things that the bass world recommends in that arena… and then:

My criteria on buying is priortized as follows:

  1. Budget
  2. Sound
  3. Space/Weight

If you can afford the gear you want and the perfect sound, awesome. If you have strong back muscles and a big car/garage, you have the Triforce; the Infinity Gauntlet; the One Ring. You are all powerful, and I’m jealous.

For small gigs, I like a lightweight combo… but my favorite sounding amp I have (that is also small) is a separate head (Eden The Traveler). I have a cabinet to go with that, and it’s rad. BUT! It’s another trip to the car.
I usually use a Rumble 500 - it’s light and plenty loud.

For super rock gigs, I have to go to the big guns and grab the huge amp and huge cabinets (4x10s).

Whatever you can do to balance the 3 factors above to get what you need… do it.
Unless you’re somehow wielding the powers of Voltron and your world knows no limits.
In which case… please buy me an Ampeg SVT Classic from the 70s.


The Rumble is a weird niche here because Fender did such an amazing job at keeping them light while still sounding good.

If I were buying I would be with @DaveT above - separate head and maybe a couple nice Eden 12" cabs or something. But @Gio covered it well.


Joerg, you’re spot on. This is exactly what I would have written, if you hadn’t beat me to it.

Not meaning to nitpick, but I want to offer some clarification here. All bass amplifiers have a pre-amp. I hope I didn’t confuse this issue with all of my talk about separate pre-amps and power amps.


And hire a roadie to haul it around for me. :smiley:


One roadie or four groupies, I’m not particular.


Oh! Oh! @howard!
I want the four groupies!
I would definitely take four groupies over one roadie.


Will the groupies do roadie things?
I don’t really need groupies but I could really use four groupie sized assistants that are at least willing to help out with the roadie-ing.
One more thing, do I need to get the massive rig first or will the groupies deliver it?


If you buy a guitar it comes with groupies. And booze. They all do.


I’ve been cheated.
:rage: :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:


Please do, Eric! Otherwise, my half-truths will never be corrected :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I was just hesitating to say “all” instead of “many” because I indeed thought that you and @DaveT at some point were looking for that pure power amp without any pre-amp… probably should go back and re-read that thread again :wink: :face_with_monocle:


I oversimplified what I wrote in the context of answering the question.

Yes, my amp head does have a pre-amp in it with tone control. I do think @eric.kiser researched a list of pure power stage compact amps, but they got so pricey so fast I couldn’t justify the cost of most of them. There was one that I think would have worked, but I already own the integrated tone control amp head and it’s not that difficult to set it flat. I didn’t want to pay yet more money to take knobs off. PA amps most often do not have an integrated preamp, but are too large and heavy to make a good bass amp head for me.

In my case I prefer using a pedal preamp with tone control that I use to feed my amp head even though it also has tone control. I no longer like using the tone control on the amp head because I don’t want to get used to a new set of knobs just from changing amp heads. I’m not a knob twiddler and don’t like trying to figure out what they do. The problem with my strategy is that there’s still a knob on my amp head that I like better than my pedal preamp, the sweepable frequency midrange. It’s the one thorn in this idea and I don’t want to add yet another pedal to solve it, so I just deal until someone makes exactly what I want.

@howard has suggested using the tone knobs on the amp head to adjust to the room. My system would allow for doing just that since I don’t want to use them otherwise. I only play at home so far, so I haven’t tried that method in practice in a venue.


Thanks for clarifying, @DaveT

Understood - but wouldn’t changing to a new pre-amp pedal force you into the same exercise!?!


Well sure, but I don’t have any way to avoid that one!