It’s only really been in the last 10 years where light weight, portable bass amps have started to hold up in the bass market / live gigging situations. It’s a question that all bassists ask themselves ‘Can I get the output and tone from an amp that weighs less than my toaster?’
D Class Bass Head Amplifiers have really made an impact in the market with brands such as MarkBass, Aguilar and Gallien Krueger leading the way in light-weight amplification technology. A practical solution to cutting out lugging a ‘heavy’ amp around to each gig maybe, but when did we start to sacrifice tone over weight? As bassists are we just settling in favor of an easy load-in?
Some of the most iconic bass amps of all time were backed by some ‘reassuring weight’, let’s take a look at a few…
Ampeg Portaflex B15
One of the most recorded bass amps of all time, we have all heard James Jamerson’s smooth tones through countless records from the Motown era, the Ampeg B15 can be found on most of these recordings. An all-valve combination that is by no means a ‘two finger lift’ the average B-15 head unit alone weighs 13kg.
Gallien Krueger 800RB
Introduced in the early 80’s the Gallien Krueger 800 RB is a solid state LOUD bass amplifier. This was amongst the first bass amps to include the legendary bi-amp function and the addition of a DI output. Heaps of head room combined with useable tonal shaping options, the 800 RB stands proud in the bass-amp hall of fame for all the right reasons. Found as a staple on nearly every backline company’s rig list, most gigging bassist have plugged into one at some point. Not the heaviest amp but still sits at around 11kgs.
The late 60’s seen the Acoustic 360 bass head break into the scene, twinned with their matching 361 cab this amp pushed some serious air. Rated at a solid state 200 watts (barely giggable at D Class) the Acoustic 360 has punch and volume for days. Used by Jaco Pastorius to help create his iconic fretless tone, the Acoustic 360 will continue to be one of the most iconic bass rigs of all time. Very similar weight to the GK 800 RB at 11kgs.
There’s no doubt technology has advanced enough to give us options as bass players to combine an 800 watt bass amp in a tidy small package, but do these amps embody the bass tone we all seek? Tone is subjective that’s for sure but are we beginning to sacrifice tonal qualities for ease of transport?