Solid State vs Tube Amp - Head, not combo

Wondering if there’s anyone here who has an educated opinion. I’ve been playing through a Marshall guitar amp (not mine) for practice, and the one gig my group did, through a Hughes and Kettner 410 (mine). I need to get myself a grown-ass bass head, and have been down the rabbit hole of gear reviews (My HK head went away with some boyfriend of my daughter’s years ago…). The Fender Rumble 350 is one I’ve heard and really liked the sound of, but the guitarist is a staunch proponent of tubes. Everything I’ve read seems to point to the fact that tubes are less of an issue for bass sound. I’m playing a Fender Precision with combination split P and Jazz pickups, and right now it’s mostly cover songs with the current group. I need something affordable. I have a Carvin 110 practice amp combo at home, but need a bigger sound for the room when the full band is practicing. Thanks, all!


I am sure there are some gearheads in here that could come with some suggestions, but it would probably help if you gave a clearer indication what you mean by “affordable” :grin: 300$? 500$? 800$?

Here one of the cheaper ones to give you 600W:


I have two main amps that I use, a MarkBass LittleMark 800 Tube and an Ampeg PF-500 Solid State.

When we’re talking tubes and bass (for me) it’s all about the pre-amp and shaping the sound.

For me, my go-to amp is my Little Mark. There is a tube pre-amp that you can mix with the solid-state pre-amp and tweak your sound the way you want it. It is a little warmer, perhaps not as ‘crunchy’ when I’m mostly in the tube pre-amp. I usually keep the mix about 75% Tube, 25% Solid State.

But in terms of the Power section, both the Ampeg and Little Mark are essentially the same as Class-D amplifiers (or variations on the theme for most bass amps nowadays). You get that punch, high efficiency and small sizes. And even though the Ampeg is ‘only’ 500 Watts, it’s still loud as can be. I’d be hard-pressed to go to an amp with a tube power section (maybe if I could get my hands on an old SVT, I’d change my mind :smiley: ) In terms of price, I bought both of them used. The LittleMark was just south of $500 (great deal, IMHO) and the Ampeg was $249.

What I think it would boil-down to for you is the tone you’d like out of your amp - and you already know what you like. I really, really like the tone of the LittleMark. The Ampeg has a great tone, too. I tend to use a lot of effects with that one, so I don’t need it’s natural tone to be great. Again, it’s not bad at all, just not what I get with the MarkBass.

I would say try an amp with a tube pre-amp and see if you like it.

And for me, both the Ampeg and the LittleMark cut through the mix pretty good - which I think would be a big concern in the long-run as well.


They might even be using literally the same class D power amp. It turns out a lot of companies source their class D power amps from companies like ICEPower.


Thanks to @howard, @numberman2000, and @joergkutter - good questions and good information. Meanwhile, my barber mentioned that he was selling some gear, mostly guitar. I asked if he had any bass gear…

So I’m “borrowing” an SWR Working Pro 15 combo for practice tomorrow night… Probably until he tells me how cash he wants, at which point it’ll be mine! The little I played around sounded fantastic!


class D power amps are, from an electronic point of view, mostly monolythic components. so, yeah, it’s not something unique to an amp model.

those chips look like this :


Yeah. And like most solid state power components I am guessing it’s more the quality of the capacitors that matter and differentiate models than anything else?

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the capacitors are important, yes, but in class D there is a heavy signal computing that is crucial too



I have the SWR WorkingMan15 combo amp and I LOVE IT.
It is loud AF, and will cut thru the mix. Mine is not the PRO, it is 160w, or if I add the 4x10 - 8ohm cab it is 200 watt.
I don’t know if the workingPro is higher watt, or just a different amp head in the combo.

I love the SWR sound and this combo so much that I wanted to get the smaller one for my in home practice.
I really wanted a combo with a 10" speaker and at least 75w.
The SWR WorkingMan 10 is a 10" 80w combo.

The only one I could find was on Reverb, NEW / OLD stock, WITH the add on speaker cabinet, which is another 10" cabinet, or it might be a 12", turning the combo into 120w from 80w
it was in northern cal, and cost $350 plus $50 shipping, and they would not separate.

I paid $100 for the SWR WorkingMan 15 combo AND $100 for the SWR WorkingMan 410 add on Cabinet, So I was not prepared to spend $400 plus tax to get the smaller one.

I ended up getting a Hartke HA1200 KickBack10. A great amp, 120w, LOUD AF, tight and punchy, has their aluminum cone. found it on Offer UP for $100, it was listed for 26 minutes, I saw it and went and got it.

Within a week of getting it, somebody listed a SWR WorkingMan10 combo amp. He lived in Riverside, about an hour inland from the coast where I live. I asked him if he was going to be coming by the coast anytime, to save a trip. He said he worked in Santa Ana (a neighboring city) and I met with him the next afternoon, and for another $100, I now have the amp I had been looking for for about 4 months.

I am selling the Hartke. it is a great little amp, I would have been perfectly happy with it, but I found what I was looking for and went ahead and got it. I could not be happier with it.
For 80w, this thing KICKS ASS. it is loud AF, tight and punchy, and has that great SWR sound and features (Aural Enhancer and Transparency) which I know the Working Pro 15 has.
Aural enhancer kind of works on the highs, as the SWR sound is very deep, and the Transparency is a presence control which boosts the mids and helps you cut thru the mix.
The EQ is also Bass - MidRange (Level and Frequency) and Treble.
The Midrange lets you select the frequency you want to level up or down with the level control. All the EQ are level at 12 o’clock, and at 12 o’clock, the Mid frequency is at 500, so if you adjust the level, you cut or boost based on 500. you can adjust that up or down by about 50 or 100 each way, I forgot for sure, and then boost or cut that frequency, so you have a lot of tone control on this amp.
You can get a good mix, and punch thru, and not be all HIGH and SCRATCHY in doing so.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the SWR as much as I do, and then I hope he gives you a great deal on it.

I paid $100 for my WorkingMan 15, and that was a fantastic deal. I see them sell as high as $300, but usually between $179 and $229.
I am guessing, first, if you like it, and 2nd if he gives it to you for anything less then $250, you are probably doing pretty good.

Keep in mind, you can get a 4x10 small add on cab for pretty inexpensive, and really turn it into a beast that should work in most situations if you are gigging in smaller venues.

Both my Combo amp and the add on cabinet are pretty light, and not huge, I can actually fit them both in the back seat of my car, and I can lift them in and take them out by myself, just to give you an idea.
I know SWR has some heavier combo amps, like the RedHead and some of the PRO’s, so I don’t know for sure, but what I have is very manageable,
Oh yeah, My workingman15 is on wheels, that easily come off if you lift it up to sit on the add on cab.

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Yeah the way they actually work is super interesting. It also makes it clear that all the tonal characteristics should be in the preamp, because if there were any tone that the class D power stage added at all it would be very very odd :slight_smile:


Actually, just looking them up on Reverb, and I think the Working Pro replaced the WorkingMan line in 2006, so they may be almost the same amp, just the Pro is a few years newer, and has the shiny grill.

Looks like they can sell for up to $500, but that pricing is all subjective, as there is a WorkingMan 10 (like the one I just bought for $100) selling for $499, which is outrageous. I still think $250 would be a fair price and if you can get it lower, all the better.

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yeah sure ! and sometimes it happens if you connect the wrong speaker, as it acts as a pair with the output coil to recreate the “analog” signal. if the speaker doesn’t match, the output filter is wrong and doesn’t work well, creating strange artifacts.

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@Melissa6742 Welcome back. It’s been a while.

These are supposed to be great (although pricey) cabinets.

And this is all you needed to prove he wasn’t a keeper.

I looked up the SWR WorkingPro 15 and some people complain it doesn’t have enough power to keep up with a full band on a gig. This is pretty subjective since it depends on what and where you’re playing.

If it does sound like it can’t keep up, and you like the SWR sound, you could get an SWR head with twice the power for what the WorkingPro 15 typically goes for and it should work great with the cabinet you already have.

This one is less than $300 Used SWR SM400 Bass Amp Head
I’m not saying you should get this one. Just showing it as an example.

:rofl: I think this goes for all guitarists.

They make the assumption that since tubes work so well for guitar, it must be that good for bass. This isn’t, necessarily, the case. You don’t need tubes to get a great bass tone. You only need tubes if you want a ‘tubey’ bass tone. There are people who prefer solid state amps, believing they give bass more clarity and punch.

It’s always best to go with your own ears on this.

Good luck and let us know how it works out.

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I have also thought about getting a head like this for my 4x10 cabinet, for use without the Workingman15 combo.
Do I need it. ---- NO
Do I already have a working Gallien Krueger Backline 250 head to use with this cabinet ------ YES
Do I need it -----NO
Do I already have a semi working Fender BRX 300 head for the cabinet------YES
Do I need it -----NO
Will I ever need it-------???
Do I want it--------YES

Based on that yes / no scale, will I get one ---------probably. :rofl:
maybe, someday, when I run out of other things to do


i agree with eric. one reason why guitarists love tubes is they can get away with a 50W amp in a band. bassists need a couple hundred, which tubes generally can’t do. that is why so many tube bass amps are hybrid tube/solid state. and for bassists, we can get that warm tube amp sound with any of a billion different effects, like a simple OD pedal. tons of solid state amps have some way of emulating the “tube sound” built into them anyways. also, tubes are giant hot and heavy in general. old solid state amps are big too, new class D amps weigh less than a gallon of milk and fit in your back pocket.


There’s also the hybrids.

Five pounds, tube preamp, class D power amp :slight_smile:


yep, nice :+1:

you could also just put a tube preamp in front of a SS amp, like the 2 notes preamp/di pedal.


I know I’m resurrecting this slightly old thread, but I picked this up yesterday at a local pawn shop.

There’s 12 power tubes in this thing.

And it’s loud. Really loud. I was driving 4 ohms and it was crazy loud and awesome.

And the tone was like a growly rock and roll tone. No effects and flat controls. Amazing.

I’m amending, slightly, my post above.

If I were to gig in a place where I needed to be loud and cut through the mix in a rock band, I would totally use this amp.

It weighs like 6000 pounds and has road wear from the previous owners, but just a couple hours with this amp has moved me to alter thinking a little :grin:.

I got it for $275. Again, it’s beat up and ugly, but it works very, very well.



I love the 90’s Mesa Boogie sound. I would probably trade my SWR gear in for Mesa Boogie if I could get equipment in the same condition that my early 90’s SWR gear is in, and if I could afford it.

That is sweet, congratz on the great deal


Its Battle worn and beautiful