Going Ampless

Hi All,

So I’m at the what to buy stage and, damn, there are plenty of choices.

Bass-wise, my head tells me to go for a Fender Squire Classic Vibe 60’s Jazz Bass in Daphne Blue and that’s probably what I’ll go for although plenty of other basses have caught my eye, including this Gretsch G2220 Junior Jet II.

What I have struggled with is amp choice. Nothing out there at a reasonable price particularly excites me so I’ve started looking outside of the box (cabinet?).

It occurs to me that, during the B2B phase, I’m going to be tethered to my laptop so I’ve come up with two ideas. The first is to use a USB audio interface such as a Focusrite Scarlett Solo 3rd Gen which would allow me to use headphones, or my PC speakers when practicing (both are quite good). The second is to use a preamp/DI with both a headphone jack and a line in such as this Palmer Pocket Amp Bass or this Ampeg SCR-DI. Both has their pros and cons; the audio interface would allow me to use my PC speakers and also record into a DAW whereas the preamps would allow for various tone shaping options.

Am I making life too complicated for myself by over-analysing the problem (a life-long habit that has never served me well) or does going ampless make sense until I can afford an amp that actually excites me?

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I’ve been ampless for months and love it.

I run my bass into a pedal chain (which you can ignore for now) through a preamp/DI, and take the XLR out from the DI into my USB DAI in. I run some very good headphones from an out on my DAI.

This is advantageous for many reasons, not the least being:

  • I can record to/playback from my computer through the DAI
  • I have a huge amount of tone shaping (pedals, preamps, etc)
  • I have exactly the same setup at home as I would playing out with others; unplug my DI from my DAI and go, effects and all
  • I can play ridiculously loud through the 'phones
  • I have a ground lift between my pedals/preamp and DAI (or mixer, if live)
  • I am nearly silent when practicing

I haven’t wanted an amp for a long time, this works so well.

Some of this is about my own tastes too though. I like effects in music a lot. I like recording into a DAW. I’m also an effects and sound programming geek. I just love that stuff, so it was always in the cards that I would have a bunch of effects. And preamps were a natural part of that.

I actually have four preamps in my signal chain - one on my bass, an EHX Battalion for tone shaping and overdrive, a BDI-21 at the end of my chain I am using as an amp sim and DI, and a neutral gain in my DAI.

I used to own an Ampeg SCR-DI. It was a fine DI and had a great Ampeg tone - but I wouldn’t recommend it again. Its overdrive was just not good.

However, I would strongly recommend taking a look at the Behringer BDI-21. Super, super cheap, sounds great, and will give you amp-like tonal qualities and sound shaping to run in to your DAI.

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I take it you’re still quite young.

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Nah. old and with tinnitus from when I was young and dumb. These days I need to play loud. But you bring up a good point, not hearing-damage loud.

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Thanks @howard, so I’m not completely crazy.

The reason I suggested those two specific preamps is that they have both a headphone jack and a line in so I could hear both my bass, and the audio coming from my PC. If I were to get an audio interface and a separate preamp, that would certainly give me more options (although it would also push up the cost and make my practice area even more of a rat’s nest of wires than it already is.

I’ll see what else I can find.

That’s exactly what I meant howard lol.
I wish I could turn the clock back and skip the damage my hearing part.

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I play mostly ampless these times and I will very probably sell my Ampeg, because I’m in a love/hate relashionship with it (10% love / 90% hate). I will probably get another amp after that but that’s not an urgency and for now I mostly use the Ampeg as a table for one of my preamps.

I can use two setups : bass > (pedals) > Line6 POD preamp (Bass POD Pro / Bass POD XT) > DAI , or bass > (pedals) > DAI (Line6 UX1) with PodFarm for software amp simulation.

Note that with some recent preamps, you can have your DAI and your preamp in the same device, it’s the case with the Line6 POD HD line for exemple.

The sound go out through my monitors which are KRK VXT8. no power problem at all and it sounds pretty good.

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There are many things that I support technological advances for, but music is not one of them. I’ve never enjoyed using a computer and just use that for recording when needed. I personally prefer an amp. I find it more motivating and less sterile. Each to their own though. BTW, if you do get an amp, the Fender Rumble series is highly regarded.

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Hi @JT,

I’m with you on the no computers in music thing. In fact, me taking up bass is partially motivated by a desire to spend less time in front of them.

This is more a temporary measure while I’m doing the course (during which, I’ll be tied to the computer anyway).

If I don’t manage to come up with a workable solution, I probably will go for the rumble 40; it’s a safe, if unexciting choice.

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Sounds logical. I’m always battling between PC gaming and playing bass. However, Josh’s course is the first time I’ve had as much fun learning music as playing games. I do think it’s healthy to play games sometimes. Just need to get the balance right. It’s a constant struggle for me personally though. Not sure if you were talking about games or not, but there you go. :upside_down_face:

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You could consider a Rumble Studio 40, @Timberfist, which is different from the Rumble 40 - it offers amp modeling and effects, but is also a bit more expensive.

However, if you ever want to record yourself - and I think you might want to; if nothing else then for @terb’s “Post your cover” thread - you will need a DAI in any case, and then you are really not so far away from an ampless system (if less sophisticated than @howard’s setup). For sound shaping, you could refer to the amps and effects of, e.g., GarageBand, which also takes care of the recording. However, again, this is not a “portable” solution like @howard’s and thus will do you little good for gigging (unless you bring your DAI, your laptop and something like MainStage) :grin:

There are many options (which can be a curse or a blessing).

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I’d have to agree with JT on this - there’s something about hearing bass coming out of even a less-than-exciting amp that makes a huge difference for me. I’ve been using headphones lately due to the temporary living situation I’m in (thin walls n floors/neighbors above/below/to the side), and it’s just not the same. I miss the boomy feeling coming out of a speaker, and it sucks because I just upgraded my amp!

If possible, maybe buy something like a Rumble/Studio 40 used, play around with it, and sell it back when you’ve narrowed down amps further. But it’s all personal preference, at the end of the day :slight_smile:

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On reflection, I am definitely overthinking this. I’m getting the Rumble 40.

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I thought you did live gigs terb. Don’t you need an amp for that?

The Rumble 40 Studio (the bluetooth one) is fantastic.
What do you feel is unexciting about it? It’s an amazing bit of kit.

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I did gig at a time, but I don’t right now : I see this pause as an opportunity to sell the Ampeg and take some time to choose the next amp :grin:

that said, I know at least one bass player who gigs all the time and who doesn’t own any amp. he always asks the bass players of other bands if he can borrow their amp, and he do this since a few years :grin: so he only gigs with a bass and his preamp.

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Chuck Berry style eh?
He didn’t even bother with a band. He just used to get on a plane with his guitar and it was up to the promoter to sort out the backline and the backing band.
He never set foot on a stage until after he’d been paid either.
No flies on our Chuck :wink:

Rumble 40 (non bluetooth) in a live setting…

Rumble 40 is a solid choice!

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Around here you don’t. Almost any place you’re likely to be gigging or jamming will have a PA and lots have amps and cabs. Finding practice space with amps and cabs is trivial. Never seen this myself but apparently some karaoke places even have boards with XLR in for jamming :slight_smile:

I was wondering what the hell drummers do here (as there is no way you’re setting up a drum kit in a typical Tokyo apartment) and it turns out many venues have drum sets too, and the drummers just show up early to set them up.

I have often said that the main reason I want a time machine is so I can go back and kick my own ass.

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