I started my musical journey as a guitarist, so when I began playing bass, I was surprised by how many watts bass amps needed. Bass amps require a lot more power due to the low-end frequencies that bass guitars produce. So, if you play a bass amp with 100 watts and a guitar amp with 100 watts side-by-side at the same volume, the guitar amp will be much louder.
How many watts does a bass amp need? And how do you choose the right wattage for your specific needs? I will answer these questions below.
Short answer: I recommend looking for bass amps in the range of 100W at the VERY minimum and up to 800W for pro bassists that need some power. There are amps out there up to 1400W, but that kind of power is unnecessary for most bassists.
What does wattage mean?
By definition, wattage is simply the measurement of electrical power. So an electrical appliance with higher wattage has more power. Guitar and bass amps are measured by their wattage, so most musicians believe that more wattage automatically equals louder volume. While wattage does play an integral role in the amp’s volume, increasing the volume of your bass amp is a bit more complicated than that.
Watts must increase exponentially to make a perceivable difference in bass amp volumes. For example, if you have a 100W amp, it is only twice as loud as a 10W amp, and a 1000W amp is only twice as loud as a 100W amp.
Wattage is not the only factor determining how loud an amp will be. The speaker size and the amp type also go hand in hand with volume. For example, tube amps generally produce a louder sound than solid state amps.
Bass amp watts vs guitar amp watts
Now you know what watts are and how they affect the amp’s volume. But why are guitar amps louder than bass amps at the same wattage?
As I mentioned earlier, wattage is the measurement of electrical power, not volume, so just because two amps have the same wattage doesn’t mean they can play at the same volume.
Bass amps require much more power than guitar amps because they are designed to pick up lower frequencies. Some guitarists even choose to play through bass amps because of the broader range of frequencies bass amps can pick up.
Guitar players won’t usually need an amp over 100W, even for playing live gigs, while bass players will need a lot more power.
Check out my article that compares guitar amps and bass amps for a more deep dive into this topic.
How many watts does a bass amp need?
Knowing how to choose the right wattage for your playing needs is important. A bass player playing live gigs should ensure that their amp has enough volume to carry the bass line and hold up to the drummer’s volume. On the other hand, it would be a waste of money for a bassist who only practices at home to invest in a massive gigging rig. Most bass amps range from 100 to 400 watts.
It is also worth noting that a more powerful amp won’t have to work as hard when getting loud. So, if you plan to play loudly, investing in a higher watt amp is always safer to avoid overheating.
How many watts do you need in a bass amp for a live show?
If you plan to play live shows with a drummer, you should use an amp with at least 300 watts and up to 800 watts. It is also vital that the speakers in your rig can handle the amp’s power. High wattage is useless without the proper speaker size.
How many watts do you need in a bass amp watts for practice?
For practicing at home or rehearsing with a group, I recommend a bare minimum of 100 watts. Although there are cheap bass amps with much less wattage, I wouldn’t recommend anything less than 100 watts as you will be very limited in volume.
I can’t talk about wattage without mentioning the speaker size. The size of your speakers and quantity also significantly affect your volume, not to mention your tone and overall sound quality. Bass amp speakers generally range from 8” to 15” in diameter. Each speaker size has pros and cons, but I prefer 10” speakers because I find them to have the best sound and projection ability.
My favorite speaker combination for a bass amp is 4X10, meaning there are four 10” speakers in the bass rig. Anything bigger than this needs a massive amount of power. And frankly, I don’t want to carry around a “fridge” amp.
When purchasing a new amp, it is important to look at the speakers in conjunction with the watts. If you buy a powerful, loud amp with just two small speakers, you won’t be getting much volume from the amp. Conversely, if you purchase an 8X10 “fridge” amp with less than 400 watts, your volume level will be much lower than expected.
Are tube bass amps louder than solid state amps?
Tube bass amps pack a lot of punch and generally are much louder than solid state amps at the same setting. That being said, you should not turn up your tube amp all the way. Doing this will put the amp at risk of burning out your tubes, which can be very costly.
Why do bass amps need more watts?
Bass amps require more power to drive the lower frequency notes bass guitars make. This need for more power is why bass amps generally have much higher wattage than guitar amps.
Is a 50-watt bass amp loud enough?
50-watt bass amps may do the trick in terms of volume if pushed to the absolute limit, but they will lack the depth and tone that a larger setup can give you. Therefore, I recommend investing in a bass amp with a minimum of 100-150 watts.
Can you play bass through a guitar amp?
Guitar amps are not made to handle the frequency range of bass guitars. You won’t immediately blow out your guitar amp if you plug your bass into it. But, if you play at high volumes or for long durations, you risk damaging the amp.