When I was taking my first steps as a bass player, even the best beginner bass amp was nothing close to a real good-sounding amp. I’m happy to say that those times are long gone and that big bass amp companies have invested a lot in making some of the best budget amps in history.
Yes, when I set out to try the candidates for this list, I was pleasantly surprised time and again.
From high-end appointments and speakers to line-out options to built-in compressors, these amplifiers are the real deal in a small package.
Out of all those, I chose the best 8 so you can make an informed decision and take home the best amp for the money. Are you ready to meet the little beasts that make the world rumble?
Here we go!
8 Best Budget Bass Amps that You Can Get Now
Table of Contents
- 8 Best Budget Bass Amps that You Can Get Now
- A Good Bass Practice Amp for Every Step of the Way
- Top Benefits of Small Amps
- Let’s Talk Power & Size
- The Bottom End
1. Ampeg Rocket Bass RB-108
The first thing I have to say about this Ampeg Rocket Bass RB-108 is that it looks phenomenal. Yes, there’s something about that checkered tolex (called “Black Diamond”) and sparking grill that’s just haunting for the eye.
Well, the ‘60s reputation for being an elegant, sleek, and psychedelic decade isn’t in vain, right?
But moving on to my experience with it, I had a great time with this little thing. The control layout is as easy as it gets, therefore, you can just make minor adjustments to the tone as you play. This is both a pro and a con.
How so? You might be wondering. Well, on the good side, you’re ready to go within seconds of firing the amp up. It’s a 3-knob EQ which means you can cut or add on bass, midrange, and treble. Thus, dialing a good, usable practice sound wasn’t hard at all.
The con is when you plug in a more complex instrument like my Sire M7 6-string bass. In that scenario, I tried removing some of the super-low-end on the instrument but cut the overall bass. Therefore, I was left with a usable tone but that carried too much boominess making it muddy at times.
Finally, to take things to the extreme I maxed out the volume and engaged the SGT button ("Super Grit Technology") and a nice overdrive took over the scene. I played a nice rendition of “Around the World” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the small 8” speaker kept it together the whole time.
What can I say? This amp looks as good as it plays as long as you don’t hook up a 6-string beast to it.
2. Fender Rumble 40
The first thing that strikes you about this little Fender amplifier is that it’s indeed as light as a feather. The second is that it looks just like old-school ‘60s blackface Fenders (but without the bulky price tag attached).
Let me tell you that as soon as I powered it on and looked at the panel, I was very pleased. This amp packs a great tone-shaping tool that’s a semi-parametric midrange EQ. Yes, Fender divided the mid-range of the amp into “low-mid” and “high-mid”. Therefore, as I plugged my almighty Sire M7, I was able to cut a little on the boominess and have the 10” speaker give me a defined and usable sound for my bass.
Also, the rest of the tone-shaping qualities are very usable. The amp comes with three switches that change the overall sound.
- Bright – Adds a little top-end to the original sound. Great for P-Bass players, for example.
- Contour – Practically a low-end boost. If you switch from P-Bass to Jazz, this is a great feature.
- Vintage – Adds a little low end and adds some vintage flavor to the overall tone. Great for adding color to modern-sounding basses like Ibanez or Spector.
Finally, I used the footswitch from another amp to engage and disengage the overdrive and it worked flawlessly. Moreover, I set the “Level” knob higher and got a nice solo boost.
You can use this amp to warm up and walk with it onto the stage because it has an XLR direct out to go to the mixing desk.
The only caveat with this amp is that the cabinet is untreated, so it does rumble, but not in a nice way. I used some sound-isolation foam and fixed the issue.
This Fender Rumble 40 is a must-check before buying.
3. Hartke HD25
Hartke is a major bass amp brand. Yes, it has seen better days in the outrageously wild bigger-than-life eighties, but it’s still competing today.
That is, perhaps, the most notorious tonal aspect of this amp: it does the Hartke sound. But wait, what is “the Hartke sound?” you might ask if you were born after 1970. Well, once upon a time, speaker cones made of a mixture of aluminum and paper gave birth to a unique tone.
That tone is a warm one because of the paper but with lots of punch and edge because of the aluminum. In summary, the tone that made Hartke famous is very related to those records from the era. Moreover, since guitars were so focused on the mid-range and the higher frequencies (shredder alert!), there was more sonic space for these speakers.
I’ve played through a bunch of Hartkes wearing my super-cool oversized white basketball sneakers over the super-tight black pants back in the day. Let me tell you that the feeling and tone I got out of this little practice amp was very close to that.
What I did miss from my Hartke HD500 was the “Shape” control that allows you to select a frequency and boost it. Why is this important? Again, because a 3-band EQ might be too little when you want to accommodate several basses.
Also, I wish it had an XLR direct out so I could use it live.
But beyond those missing features from bigger incarnations of the “Hartke sound”, this little amp performs and works great. I played some Queen, The Police, and early Red Hot Chili Peppers tunes and they all sounded great through the small 8” speaker.
If you want a bedroom or backstage practice amp that can deliver the Hartke tone, this HD25 is it.
4. Boss Katana-110 Bass
The Boss Katana 110 is way more than just your average practice amp. Indeed, we’re talking about a true bass workstation with all the features you would expect from a much bigger and pricier bass amplifier.
To begin with, I was struck by the control layout. We’re talking about more than a dozen knobs and several other buttons and switches. But that’s not all, because the rear panel also features an effects loop, Aux in, USB connection, the connection for a foot controller (Boss GA-FC), and even a direct out with an active ground lift.
At first glance, though, with the 10” speaker, this amplifier looks very much like a practice unit. And let me tell you that it is. Why do I say this? Well, because I called my friend Mark to jam with this thing and it felt a little short. I mean, to avoid the tone loss this amp suffers when pushed, you would need an extension cabinet. Frankly, I couldn’t compete with the drumkit and have a good tone at the same time.
That said, when in a venue, you can always use the active DI out and the amp remains as an onstage monitor.
Speaking of sound, the 4-band EQ and the multiple tone-shaping switches are more than capable of handling anything you throw at it. Yes, including my infamous Sire M7. But that’s not all, because you can store three different tone configurations and recall them from the footswitch.
Yes, I was able to go from one bass to another adjusting everything at the press of a button.
Also, I used my looper pedal quite a bit since this unit has a built-in FX unit (complete with a tap-tempo button!). I mean, adding a little delay to those lead lines got me playing for a while and having lots of fun.
This is a lot of amp for the price tag. If it fits within your budget, don’t overlook this Boss Katana 110.
5. Orange Crush Bass 50
Orange is not just a cool-looking brand, it has provided the tones for several generations of serious rockers. Glenn Hughes, John McVie, and Geddy Lee are just a few examples of rockers who have been playing Orange amplifiers for decades.
Well, this amp is a worthy heir of such a legacy. Indeed, the 4-band EQ mixed with the “Gain” and “Blend” knobs can take you from clean to dirty and everything in between. Moreover, the distortion from the “Blend” knob is also footswitch-friendly. This makes it a great addition since you can engage it in a live situation.
Speaking of the live situation, I just can’t believe Orange didn’t add a direct out. Why do I say this? Well, because it’s a great-sounding 50-watt amp that sounds stage-ready but is not loud enough for big drums. Not even maxing the gain and engaging the blend. Which I did, to play “Ace of Spades” (the spirit of Lemmy occupied the entire room), but couldn’t compete with the drums.
If you lower the gain and connect an active bass (or engage your compressor), you can get some smooth sounds that are great for playing melodic lines and styles like soul.
Finally, the built-in chromatic tuner is such a handy addition to this amp that makes you wonder why it isn't more common in other brands.
If you’re looking for a great-sounding 50-watt amp that can rock and also play well clean, this Orange Crush 50 is a serious option.
6. Bugera BXD12
Let me start this review of the Bugera BXD12 by saying that it sounds great, but it’s not even close to being a 1000-watt unit. That’s what I call addressing the elephant in the room. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get started (at real volume).
But before we talk about sounds, let me tell you about the controls to shape that sound.
This is, by no means a complex amp. Yet, it has enough options to handle anything you connect to it. I liked the compressor because it sounds musical and doesn’t crush your signal. On the contrary, it takes away all peaks and gives you a smooth, even tone that’s good to play most styles.
Also, having an extra switch to engage a bass and a treble boost and five presets for the parametric midrange EQ makes it a powerful tone-shaping powerhouse. By the way, I just loved the oversized volume knob. It doesn’t just look cool but it’s also a handy feature. I mean, it’s the most used knob of any amp.
But how does this Bugera amp sound? Well, it sounds fairly modern. It has that typical low-end thump and clear mids that make it perfect for slapping as well as playing with your fingers. Perhaps, if you’re looking for something with more mid-range and warmth, you can add it from the EQ.
Yes, the tone-shaping power gives it uncanny flexibility.
Furthermore, the tilt-back construction and DI out allow you to take that flexibility on the stage. In the same vein, it’s fair to say that at 48lbs (21kg.) it’s a middle-weight amp that’s not too bad to carry to a gig above the convenience store at Joe’s bar.
Moreover, with a mute switch and a headphone out, it can go from bedroom to stage without problems.
7. Peavey MAX 100
Most of us, players who took our first musical steps in the nineties, played through countless Peaveys. In other words, Peavy bass amps are the unsung heroes of the underground indie rock music scene.
But a long time has gone by since that time and this Peavey is a way more modern and well-made incarnation of that same spirit.
The good news is the modernized aesthetics but also its weight. I remember breaking my back with those heavy Peavey TNTs. This Peavey MAX 100 weighs only 23.8 lbs. (almost 11kg.) which is way less than you would imagine for a 100-watt 1x12” bass amp.
Also, it’s worth noticing that the cabinet is not tilted, but the speaker inside of it is. This means the sound hits you right in the ears, but it occupies regular space.
Sound-wise, although I don’t really like 12” speakers on bass amps, the tone-sculpting tools are very handy. Yes, the 3-band EQ is complemented with “Contour”, “Mid-Shift”, and “Bright” switches. Along with those, I especially liked the “Kosmos-C” enhancement switch. When you engage it, the bass tone smooths up. Peavey calls it “bass enhancement”, which is, to me, quite accurate.
I did some muscle work and played my favorite Chris Chaney lines in Jane’s Addiction and it sounded perfect. Well, almost perfect because the midrange of the 12” speaker was always present. Perhaps, the company could have used a 10” or a 15” for this amp. But that’s just my personal taste.
This is a worthy heir of those endless hours of underground rock and sweat ready to rock any stage.
8. Vox VX50BA
This Vox VX50BA is the perfect example of a practice amplifier. To begin with, it’s not even 10 lbs. (4.5 Kg.), which makes it perfect to go to the gig riding your bicycle.
Also, it can be powered using an included 19V DC adapter and has a very handy 1/8” Aux in to play along with your favorite tracks. Moreover, I particularly liked the 4-band EQ and the available compressor and gain. Those sliding switches allow you to go from crystal-clear punchiness to pick-driven nasty grittiness.
The inclusion of a headphone out makes it a great silent practice amp for backstage or your bedroom.
Speaking of connections, though, if the fine folks at Vox would have placed an XLR out, this amp would be much more versatile. Yes, they added a ¼” jack for a TRS cable, and is before the preamp. This means you can’t use the knobs on the amplifier to change the sound hitting the front desk.
If the output was XLR and post-EQ, you could take this amp from the bedroom to the stage effortlessly. But why can’t you do so? Well, because there’s not enough power or headroom to compete against a drummer with this amp. Furthermore, the fact that Vox chose an 8” speaker instead of a 10” speaker makes this a bedroom-friendly amp rather than a gigging one.
Speaking of speakers, sound-wise, this amp sounds small and light. Yes, those qualities that make it an easy-to-carry-around apparatus also affect the way it sounds, and not in a positive way. I tried slapping and playing fast with my fingers with and without compression and grit and the results were great, but felt a tad small.
It all changes when you plug in your headphones, though.
So, if you want a great bedroom amp, this is a serious contender. For gigging, I would look somewhere else.
A Good Bass Practice Amp for Every Step of the Way
When looking for a good cheap bass amp, you’re looking at an amp that can accompany you throughout your musical career. I know what you must be thinking “But I will sell the cheap practice amp to buy a good mid-size one to play live!”
Well, when you choose certain brands, that doesn’t have to be the case necessarily.
On the other hand, if you love the sound of your practice amp, and it comes with an XLR out, you can take it to the gig and play your shows with your favorite sound.
Furthermore, regardless of how many gigs a week you have, your practice time at home is very important. Well, having a good-sounding low-wattage practice amp with a headphone jack and easy maneuverability can be a great advantage.
So, a good practice amp is always a good idea. Moreover, if you choose wisely, chances are your practice amp can accompany your sonic adventures for some time to come.
Top Benefits of Small Amps
Here are some of the benefits of a good-sounding cheap bass combo amp.
- Maneuverability – Good small bass amps tend to be easy to carry around. Nowadays, neodymium speakers and class-D power amps make heaviness something from the past.
- Volume – Small amps have the benefit of sounding good at low volumes. Yes, small speakers tend to be moved by little wattage, thus, you can move enough air to sound great without disturbing anyone at home or backstage.
- Features – Some small amps have some great features that make them stage and bedroom-ready. For example:
- XLR direct out (with ground lift)
- 4-band EQ
- Headphones out
- Dirt channel
Let’s Talk Power & Size
Before we wrap it up, there’s one final thing to say about power and size. This is something I’m forced to clear out to my students every now and then.
Sound is a physical phenomenon. Although we don’t see the air carrying it around, it does. Air needs to be moved for sound to come to life. Well, if you want to get that deep, growling low sound a 15” speaker can create, you need a 15” speaker. There’s no way to create that booming sound physically without it.
Therefore, buying a small amp with an 8” speaker and asking for a big 15” sound is madness.
In a nutshell, power and size play a role in the resulting sound. You need enough power to move the big speaker. But if the speaker can’t handle the low frequencies, they won’t be present in the resulting sound.
PRO TIP: If you’ll be playing out a lot and want that 15” big sound, buy a practice amp with an XLR direct out so you can go straight into the PA. That way, you’ll carry a smaller amp around and still sound huge to everyone while you hear yourself through the monitors.
The best affordable bass amp is always the one that best adjusts to your needs. In this sense, there’s no right or wrong. So, play the ones we propose on the list and make an informed decision knowing if they fit your bill.
Your practice bass amp is always the keystone to building your personality as a player. Just choose wisely and put in hundreds of practice hours until it becomes an integral part of your playing.
Happy (low-volume, big-bass) playing!