The aggressive and often fast-paced basslines require an amplifier that can produce a lot of volume but still give you clean attacks and clear definition. The exact specifications that will be perfect for you depend largely on what style of metal you play. Larger speakers will give you lower bass and more volume, but many metal bassists prefer smaller speakers that can give the sound the edge it needs to cut through the heavy drum and guitar.
Experimentation with different amp styles will clue you in to where your own personal style falls on this spectrum—and the amps listed below are great places to start. They’re our recommendations for the 4 best bass amps for metal on the market.
Massive volume and a clean, quick response are the hallmarks of this Ampeg model. The deeper bottom port gives you an ultra-low frequency response down to 28Hz—the frequencies you feel in your bones more than hear. It’s fantastic in the rest of the frequency range, as well, with four custom-made 10” 100-watt speakers and a horn tweeter to fill out the higher end of the sound. The Speakon jacks have a parallel wiring that makes it easy to chain together multiple cabinets to enhance or further color your tone, while the heavy-duty construction and rear skid rails make it both durable and easy to transport. Bar none, this is one of the best bass amps for metal.
Fender Bassman 115
For a smaller and easier to carry amp that will still give you the solid, big sound a metal bassist needs, the Fender Bassman is the best model on the market. It’s narrower than other Fender bass amps, which makes it easier to move and carry and also brightens up the tone. The 15” Eminence speaker and high frequency horn driver give you optimal sound reproduction throughout the frequency range that will fill even large venues without sacrificing tonal quality. At half the price and half the weight of the models above, the Bassman delivers unmatched convenience and value. It’s among the best metal bass amps for the money.
Kustom Amps KXB20
Bassists on a budget should look no further than the Kustom Amps KXB20, the best-sounding amplifier you can get for under $100. The custom-made 12” 20-watt speaker delivers impressive power considering the size of the amp, which is also the lightest in weight on this list at only 33 pounds. Though you won’t get a huge stack sound, you will get a high-quality tone that’s suitable for smaller venues and delivers great tone throughout your instrument’s range. The 3-band EQ adjustment gives you complete control over your bass sound while the rugged construction means you can depend on it to work for years, whatever rigors you put it through.
Roland CUBE-120XL 120-watt 1X12 Bass Combo Amplifier
Roland is a big name for big sound, and this amp lives up to that reputation. It takes the electronics in their popular CUBE line and pushes to the next level, hence the “XL” in the name. There are seven included effects options, with classic choices like reverb and chorus and new effects like drive and poly octave (see full specs). There are also eight different amp models that you can flip between with the turn of a dial, giving you even more sound options. The custom air flow port gives you a punchy, deep bass that doesn’t sacrifice clarity in the articulation. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that it packs all of this into a compact 1X12” cabinet so you can still transport it easily to gigs.
Speaker size: Is Bigger Better?
The ideal size of the speakers is the most controversial and widely discussed topic when it comes to finding the best bass amps for metal. A larger speaker cone will generally have a bigger sound with more bass production than a smaller cone, and there are many metal bassists who swear by 4X15 amps and cabinets to give them the soul-shaking bass that a lot of metal music calls for.
But loud dynamics are only one of the important components of a killer metal sound, and for many bassists, the ability to play complex, driving lines is far more important. An amp that uses multiple 10” speakers will give you strong dynamics and more definition to the front of your attack, keeping your sound from getting muddy when the tempo goes up and maintaining the rhythmic intensity of your lines.
Guitarists tend to gravitate toward 12” speakers, seeing them as providing the best compromise between power and accuracy, and this size of speaker is a viable option for bass players, as well.
Another way to give you the best balance of dynamics and clarity is to use multiple speaker cabinets in conjunction with your amplifier. If you want to add more power to a 4X10 model—like the Ampeg (see full specs) above—you could buy a 1X15 or 2X15 extension cabinet to compliment it. The 10” speakers in your amp will provide the snappy response, while the 15” speakers in the extension cab will give that power boost you might find them lacking.
Setting Your Amp
People who don’t know much about metal think it’s just about being loud and angry and rarely appreciate the music’s rhythmic and melodic complexity. The ideal settings will obviously change with exactly what style of metal you’re going for, but even for death and grind metal, there’s a lot more involved in getting the ideal sound than pure bass power.
If you find your sound is overly heavy or thick, it might be the settings and not the amp itself that are causing you problems. In other words, your solution might not be finding the so-called best bass amp for metal but just tweaking a few things. Try adjusting your EQ to put your bass at around 5 and turn your treble up a couple notches above center. It can also help to drop the mid-level down even as low as 2. If the sound feels thin on those settings, turn your bass up a notch at a time until the tone has the fullness you’re looking for.
Also remember that sound is about more than just you and your equipment. The acoustics of the venue and the settings of your band-mates will impact how your sound fits into the overall mix. Flexibility is necessary to making your bass tone as powerful and musical as possible, and experimenting with your amp settings in practice time will help you get to know your amp’s tendencies so you can make quicker adjustments on the fly.