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Swiss Frank

BASS AMPS: Class D vs. transistor vs. tube

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I play guitar with tube amps and have just played bass for years via a (big) home stereo.  I'm looking at getting my first bass amp.  Money's not really an object.  I don't gig but it'd be nice to be able to play a party in the park or a small bar if the chance came up.  I also would like the amp available for band practices at my place, so it needs to be be able to play in a room with acoustic drums.

I see a lot of class-D amps even by the big names.  Mesa seems to have discontinued its tube amps and now ONLY has class-D.  So:

Even if you have money for tube, even if you're not looking for 800W or what have you, is class-D good enough a lot of players are happy with that instead of the hassle with tube?

Or if some class-D amps are especially good while others are especially bad, any pointers of which ones to try and which ones to steer clear of?

Then more or less the same questions for transistor: do people who can easily afford a tube amp and for whom a tube amp would be loud enough still go for transistor anyway?  And if so any particular ones?

The most useful story I could hear is someone who literally sold their tube amp because their transistor or class-D sounded good enough...

(Genre could be reggae, power pop, funk.  probably not heavy metal.  Instruments include J, P, pre-EB SR, SR5HS, Ric, Alembic,  Peavey T-40)

Edited by Swiss Frank

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You say money is no object, in which case I'd get a powered (600w) Kemper and a nice cab. I realise that's probably way more than you want, but it's how I do bass. I use mostly Ampeg amp profiles and it sounds amazing always, plus I can add wah filter, chorus, compression, EQ, whatever I want per preset. The power amp is Class D, just neutral amplification, but the "amp character" comes from whatever amp was used to create the profile. 

In your case a good combo amp sounds like the right thing, but I'd go at least 200w if you're going to play with a drummer and not run the bass through a PA.

 

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I recently bought a class D amp. A Bugera Veyron 1000M. Plenty of power, small easily transported, sounds fine. I'm still dialing in the exact sound I want, but the fact that it doesn't have tubes doesn't seem to be a factor (there's also the 1000T, with a preamp tube, for people who insist on having a tube). I wouldn't say that it sounds better than my other gear, but different. The same is true of my all-tube heads as opposed to my tube preamp/class D power amp setup. There are good amps made in every configuration. What most appeals to me about the new amp is that I can put it, its power cord, a speaker cord and a guitar cord in a used laptop case and carry it in one hand or sling it over my shoulder, and it's at least as loud as any of my other amps.

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I have a conventional SS amp but if I were in the market for a new/used amp I'd take a hard look at Class D. As Isaac mentioned, the big advantage is weight. TC Electronic and others make Class D combo amps in the 250 Watt range that weigh less than 50 lbs. or so.

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I was very impressed with a couple of the MarkBass heads, the combos not as much...I really liked the Gallien-Krueger MB210, compact, lightweight, 500W/2x10"...punchy and deep.

Phil Jones makes some absolutely amazing lightweight amps that sound killer...pricey, but worth it. Eden [and stepchild Nemesis] make some outstanding bass rigs as well..

On the flip side...since you said price was no object, you can still get an Ampeg SVT Tube head, '300W 50th Anniversary Special Edition', 6550 output tubes [valves], XLR DI out, SpeakOn outputs and user biasing about US$2700.00 [€2433], plus a nice cab, like a Hartke HyDrive 1x12...around US$400.00 [€360].

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I'd go with class D in this day and age. The preamp makes all the difference in the world wrt bass tone from the different amp models.

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To the extent that power amps make a difference in tone, I prefer solid state over tubes. The low end sounds more solid to me. I think it may be the damping factor.

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