If you are interested in playing bass, you might be wondering if you can connect a bass to your guitar amp.
Whether you’re recording a song and need to add some simple bass lines, or you’re just trying to learn a new instrument, you’ll probably end up buying a bass at some point on your journey.
If you’re ever playing with friends or playing a concert and your amp breaks down, can you use a guitar amp for bass?
Find out if you can use a guitar amp to play bass. Before connecting a bass guitar to a guitar amp, make sure you understand everything in this guide.
In this guide, we will discuss the differences between an electric guitar amp and a bass amp. Then we’ll answer the common question: Can you use a guitar amp for bass?
Table of Contents
Can You Use a Guitar Amp for Bass
Yes, you can use bass in a guitar amp. While guitar amps aren’t designed to handle bass input, they will work. But there is a risk that you can damage your guitar amp with the bass at a high volume.
Connecting a bass to an amp is straightforward, as both the bass and the guitar use the same cables.
Simply connect the bass to the input of the guitar amp.
But before connecting a bass guitar to your guitar amp, let’s look at the potential risk and how to make sure your amp doesn’t explode.
Bass can be amplified through a regular guitar amp that can double as a low-cost practice amp.
However, normal guitar amps are not designed to handle the “low frequencies” of bass that compromise the tone and potentially damage the speaker if the volume and bass vibrations are wide enough.
How to Use Bass with a Guitar Amp
The fact is, you can safely connect a bass to any guitar amp. This is not going to break the amp, as amps are basically all the same in construction.
However, using a guitar with an amp that has been designed for a different type of guitar means that you are compromising sound quality.
You can safely use a guitar amp to practice and hear how it sounds. However, there is a caveat: it is advisable to stay at low volumes; otherwise, it may damage the speakers. At low volumes, you can still practice effectively and hear your mistakes.
There is an important distinction between active and passive basses, which you should know before trying to use them with a guitar amp and I’ll get into that in a moment.
However, for general practice and for bedroom play, a guitar amp can serve as a good bedroom practice amp when you keep the signal clean and the volume low. Some of the reasons you would use your bass with a guitar amp maybe …
- Guitarist wanting to learn bass on the side
- I can’t afford a bass amp
- Don’t own a spare bass amp
- You want to record the bass for a band recording
Note that there are situations where you should avoid using a bass with a normal guitar amp, which I’ll talk about in a second.
Will There Be Any Difference in Sound?
To better visualize this, we need to make a quick distinction between the two types of amps:
- Bass Amp: Bass boosters are putting their emphasis on low frequencies.
- Guitar Amp: Guitar amps are putting an emphasis on the upper mids.
With this in mind, we can safely conclude that using a bass with a guitar amp will give us more mid-focused tones and less deep, thick bass.
If you listen with guitar amp headphones, you’ll hear how the bass sounds thick and rich in tone. The amp gives the bass plenty of clarity for a nice clean tone.
Even if you manage to find a guitar amp that can handle bass without blowing up the speaker, your tone will be adversely affected by the change.
The drastic differences in components between guitar and bass amps mean that they are optimized to output fundamentally different tones and won’t sound as good with the wrong instrument plugged in.
Guitar amps just can’t provide the same low-end sound as bass amps. That fact is responsible for most of the speaker damage bassists cause to guitar amps, but even when you’re playing at a safe volume, the difference will still affect your tone.
Bassists who use guitar amps will find that their sound lacks the usual punchy, powerful bass.
In fact, guitar amps will often turn the low end of the bass into a fuzzy, indistinct sound without any definition or impact.
The preamp stages in many guitar amps can also damage your tone with a bass. Certain amp models can handle input better than others, but some preamps will distort when faced with the onslaught of low frequencies.
This becomes a problem as you go up with a guitar amp; You will almost always find that you have less headroom than a traditional bass amp.
On the plus side, some guitar amps will actually provide a clearer, fuller high end than many bass amps. The highest note that bass amps can put out really lands right in the wheelhouse of many guitar amps.
Occasionally, professional bassists will split their signal between a bass amp and a guitar amp, filtering the low end to the bass amp (which is best equipped to deliver traditional punch and punch) and sending the high end to the guitar amp for added. clarity. and precision.
This setup is expensive and doesn’t make much practical sense unless you frequently play high up.
The sub-optimal tone is simply one part of the package when playing a bass through a guitar amp. However, you do hear a crackling or “farting” sound coming from the speaker, but the bass drops and stops sounding.
That noise indicates that the speaker is beginning to give way; pushing it harder could ruin it completely.
Avoid High Volumes
This will undoubtedly lead to sound noise and distortion.
This is not only unpleasant for the ears but also very dangerous for the amplifier speakers. They are not designed to handle such low frequencies at such a high volume.
Due to excessive movements of the cone, creases will appear that will eventually tear. The amp will be fine, but you risk blowing the speakers.
Avoid Noise and Distortion
The main characteristic that is true of all guitar amps when connected to bass is when the master volume is increased beyond a certain threshold.
The amplifier speaker will start to vibrate and distort when played, producing an aggressive and unpleasant sound that is not ideal for practice.
The speaker rattles and distorts when you play notes that exceed a certain amount because the speaker can no longer handle the low vibrations from the bass, especially at higher volumes. The tone will also sound brittle and harsh, which is not good listening.
This is to be expected because normal electric guitar amps are designed for the typical mid frequencies of an electric guitar and not for the powerful low frequencies of the bass.
Playing at low volumes It is certainly fine to get a workable bass tone for general practice, depending on your amp. Just remember to keep the master volume to a minimum.
Differences Between a Bass Amp and a Guitar Amp
The main differences between a bass amp and a guitar amp are the size of the speaker, the power output, the characteristics of the amp, and the frequency range.
The bass uses very low frequencies that move a lot of air. When you listen to bass at a concert, you will feel the air move more than you hear it.
To do this, bass amps tend to use larger speakers (say 15 inches) and use a lot of power to drive the speaker.
Guitars use a higher frequency range compared to basses, so guitar amps are designed to use smaller speakers (ex: 8-12 inches) and drive those speakers in different ways.
That is why there is a potential risk to your guitar amp when you connect a bass guitar to it. Guitar amps are not designed to drive the speaker in the same way that a bass amp is designed to drive it.
If you were to power up your guitar amp with a bass plugged in, the low frequencies of the bass can quickly become a problem for your guitar amp speaker.
While small bass practice amps use small speakers (8-inch for example), they are still designed to handle the speaker in different ways than a guitar amp with a speaker of the same size.
The following animation shows a vibrating subwoofer. Notice how far the middle of the speaker moves.
Subwoofers and bass amplifiers must be moved a great distance to reproduce low frequencies.
Now imagine a guitar amp trying to vibrate up to here. Guitar amps don’t need to handle super low frequencies, so they aren’t designed to move very far when vibrating.
If a guitar amp is turned up in volume and you try to play a bass through it, the sound will cut out and may damage the speaker.
Guitar Amp vs. Bass Amp: Table of Comparison between a Guitar Amp and a Bass Amp:
|Bass Amp||Guitar Amp|
|Wattage Requirement:||Higher wattage (150-500 watts or even higher)||Lower wattage (15-100 watts)|
|Speaker Size:||Usually bigger||Usually smaller|
|Waveforms or Frequency:||Lower frequency waveforms are longer and require more power to produce a clear sound from the speaker||Higher frequency and shorter waveforms; require less power to transmit|
|Ease of Transmission/Control:||More difficult to control/transmit to speakers||Less difficult to control or transmit|
The Difference in the Speaker Size
Bass amps usually have larger speakers. The reason for this is that a larger speaker is better suited to produce those deep bass frequencies.
These frequencies require more movement and you will see that the cone movement is significantly more prominent.
Guitar amps have thinner and smaller speakers that may not be able to handle the dynamic range that bass can produce medium to high volumes.
Turning the volume up too high will result in unpleasant audio fidelity, rattling, and potentially can even turn off the speakers.
This is one of the main reasons why medium or high volumes should be avoided when using a guitar amp with bass.
The Difference in Power Output
The next big difference is power output or wattage.
Bass amps typically have higher power output. They can come in from 100 to 500 watts and more (with a few exceptions, of course).
Bass amps have regular controls like volume, mid, high, bass, some may have gain and contour control. However, they usually do not have distortion or reverb.
Should You Use Your Guitar Amp To Play Bass?
However, you need to make sure that the amp matches the speaker and not push the speakers too hard.
Some of the best bass sounds have been made with guitar amps; of course, they were high voltage like the Marshal 100 W.
However, a major disclaimer should be placed here, as you are limited in a way that you can do so as not to permanently damage your amplifier speakers.
When you’re sure to use a bass guitar amp:
- In low volume.
- With passive bass.
- With an active guitar with reduced output.
- To practice and develop casual skills.
- For informal and practice recordings.
When it is NOT safe to use a bass guitar amp:
- Medium to high volume.
- With an active bass.
- With tube amps.
- For your main concerts on stage volumes
- With expensive amplifiers.
Do You Need to Buy a Bass Amp for a Bass Guitar?
So if you want to learn how to play bass, do you really need to buy a dedicated bass amp?
Well, if you already have access to regular guitar amps, you don’t need to buy a new bass amp.
It’s perfectly acceptable to use the guitar amp you already have to play bass.
Just be aware that the sound quality may not be optimal.
You should also keep the volume low enough to prevent the guitar amp speakers from turning off.
If you are primarily a guitarist and only want to play occasionally, I recommend using your guitar amp instead of buying a new dedicated bass amp. It’s perfectly fine to use it as a practice amp.
On the other hand, if you are looking to become a more serious bass player and need an amp for live performances, then you should definitely consider a dedicated bass amp.
Bass amps have larger speakers and are specifically designed to deliver the lower frequencies that bass produces.
So is it okay to play a bass through a guitar amp? The short answer is “maybe”. If you keep the volume low to practice and play through a guitar amp with a decent-sized speaker, you should be fine.
However, no bass player should use a guitar amp as a long-term substitute for a proper bass amp.
If you’ve just bought a bass and want to check out some matching amps, take a look at our list of the best bass amps for some ideas in all price ranges.