How Many Watts Should My Bass Amp Be?

If you thought guitar amps had too many wattage variations, wait until you see the wattage alternatives for bass amps—they’re dizzying! Bass amp wattage can range from as low as 20 to as high as 2000. Yet, what does choosing 20 watts, 2000 watts, or any wattage in between even mean?

At Guitars Report, you’ll find that the right bass amp watts will depend on your purpose. Today, we’ll go over the different types of bass amps and the wattages they come in so that you’ll know which amp to choose for your needs.

What Are the Types of Bass Amps?

Wattage is a key factor that plays a part in bass amp selection. However, how much of it you need depends on your intention for your bass amp. Below are the four basic categories of bass amps:

  • Beginners and practicing
  • Home-use
  • Gigging
  • Playing in a band

Let’s put it this way. Wattage can range from the needs of beginners to the requirements of a seasoned band that does gigs regularly. The failure to consider one’s purpose, more often than not, leads to wasted money on an amp that doesn’t live up to their expectations. Bassists also have individual power requirements, which they must contemplate to ensure optimal gear selection.

Practice and Beginner Bass Amps

On the lowest end of the wattage scale are bass amps for beginners and practices. They’re among the more portable types due to users needing to move them regularly. These lightweight, easier-to-manage amps are perfect for lessons that take place in different locations.

Don’t buy into the dated notion that small bass amps are generally awful-sounding. Back then, they just weren’t designed to handle a bass guitar’s low-end frequencies well enough. In older models, low-bass frequencies tended to shake and rattle their parts. Nowadays, you no longer have to worry about practice amps having this problem.

Band-Playing Amps

A one-thousand-watt bass amp is what’s typically required in a band scenario. It also isn’t because you want to be heard. Instead, it’s because you want there to be enough headroom when cranking up the amp. More often than not, more wattage translates to more headroom.

The level of power you can unleash before distortion occurs is known as headroom. In the practical sense, it’s the amount of clean volume at your disposal after turning the amp up to the level you desire. Headroom is a critical element for bass amps because we want our devices to deliver clear, rich sounds that don’t distort.

Like wattage, headroom is also relative. You won’t need a lot of it, similar to how you won’t need high wattage when playing for a small group. Still, the safe bet would be to go for a little bit more headroom than you think your purpose requires.

Gigging Amps

Gigging is where bass amp selection gets interesting. You could need either no bass amp or a high-wattage one for your particular gig. One might simply need a bass preamp, which is comparable to a basic effects pedal. For some gigs, this would actually be enough to shape the tone so that there would be no need for a bass amp.

The more gigs you do, the more control you start to lose with a bass preamp as opposed to an actual bass amplifier. With that said, you can find a way around this by running a line to your house system, given that your venue makes it possible.

Home-Use Amps

If you simply play the bass guitar as a hobby, you might not need anything other than an amp for home use. These amps allow you to play effectively and in peace in the comforts of your own home.

Since these are more personal scenarios for playing the bass guitar, there is no solid set of rules for choosing a bass amp. You can do whatever you want, including doing trial and error to figure out the amp that suits your individual specifications for home playing.

You can go for something as little as a 20-watt bass amp or something as powerful as a 2000-watt stack. Who knows? You might have the venue to pull off the latter more effectively without doing damage to any set of eardrums.

Wattage and Bass Amps

The way humans anatomically digest sounds means we need higher wattage to hear lower frequencies. For us, lower frequencies are more difficult to hear, and therefore, require amplification.

Additionally, bass amps typically come in solid state, resulting in poor-quality sounds when they distort. Higher wattage ensures there’s enough power to keep sounds from distorting even at higher volumes. This is where headroom comes into play, and that’s something bassists shouldn’t forget.

Which Bass Amp Should You Get?

How do you intend to use your bass amp? The answer should determine the type and wattage you get.

Don’t go for anything lower than a 300-watt amp if you’re in a rock band. Alternatively, don’t aim for anything higher than a 10- to 30-watt tube for practice sessions. And if you’re playing nowhere else but at home, you get free rein on your bass amp type and wattage.