With the wave of tiny but powerful bass amps continuing to swell, bassists face a sea of opportunity amidst a plethora of features. This roundup is meant to serve as an intro to the possibilities out there and looks at a sampling of micro bass amps with varying sizes, weights, power ratings, and prices. The goal here is not to declare a winner or winners—at this level of amp, all are quality pieces of gear that differ mainly by their feature sets.
All of these amps accomplish their magic by using a class D amp design and a switching power supply. This approach eliminates bulky transformers that alone outweigh most of these amps. We’ve reviewed some micro bass amps in the past, including models from Carvin
, TC Electronic
, and Kustom
, but this roundup brings you a new bumper crop of mighty midgets.
We used two basic parameters to guide our choices of amps to review. First, an amp had to weigh 5 pounds or less. And second, no single dimension of an amp could exceed 12 inches. We asked manufacturers to provide their smallest model that met these criteria, but allowed them to submit a higher-powered version if it met the required specs.
On the smallest end was the Gallien-Krueger MB200, weighing in at just 2 pounds, putting out 200 watts, and selling for $249. On the other end was the Genz-Benz Shuttle 9.0, coming in at 4 pounds, 900 watts, and at a cost of $829. Sitting in the middle were two micro bass amps in the 500-watt range, weights from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds, and selling between $500 and $700.
You’ll also find a chart that lets you compare the amps, ordered from lowest price to highest. Regardless of price, micro bass amps tend to have a more basic feature set with a 3-band or 4-band EQ and a direct out for plugging into a PA—there’s simply no place for a space-hogging, graphic EQ on the tiny front panel of these puppies.
Regardless of how little a micro bass amp weighs or how much power it puts out, your total rig weight will be dictated by your choice of speaker cabs. Although there are some lightweight cabs out there, none weigh as little as the amps. So if you’re looking for a rig that keeps the weight down, you should think modularly. For example, consider picking up a pair of cabs with neodymium speakers that weigh below 40 pounds, such as 1x12 or 2x10. Use one cab for rehearsals or small gigs, and add a second cab for louder settings. Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from pairing a 2 pound amp with a 150 pound, 8x10 cab, but once you’ve committed to that much cab weight, the size/weight savings of a micro bass amp probably doesn’t matter.
Micro bass amps are also useful when you have a rehearsal room or gig that provides speaker cabs, but you want to work with a familiar amp. Some of these amps can actually fit into a pocket of your gigbag for simple travel and hauling. However, most of these little guys have somewhat more delicate parts that will be better preserved with a separate case, either from the manufacturer or an off-the-rack bag designed for a computer or other portable electronics.
For testing the amps, I used a P bass with fresh roundwound strings and a lightweight Euphonic Audio Wizzy cab with a 12" speaker. Because some of the amps had speakON connections and some had 1/4" jacks, I used a speaker cable with each type of connection on each end. To get familiar with the character of each unit, I first set all the EQ controls flat and played for awhile, then tweaked the features to check out the range of tones. While reading the specs in the manuals, just to be sure I understood how to use each amp and its features correctly, I revisited each amp several times.
OK then, time to take a look at the amps from smallest to largest.
The first four can be described as our micro-est of the micros
, each in the 200-watt power range and most selling for roughly $300 or less. At this power range, you should be able to comfortably cover rehearsals and smaller gigs, depending on the size, efficiency, and impedance of your speaker cabs.
Our micros in the middle
push out power around 500 watts RMS and sell in the mid to upper $600 range, although not necessarily possessing more features. At this level of power, you should be able to cut nearly any gig with the right combination of speaker cabs.
Finally, we look at one little big gun
micro-amp, which provides the power of a full-size rig in a portable package.
We've also broken down the features and size into a handy chart at the end of this article
. Without further ado, here's the roundup...