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Electric guitars and bass guitars are both incredibly versatile instruments, if you have the right gear along with the instruments themselves. Unlike acoustic instruments, electric ones need amps in order to have any kind of feed back.
Sure, you can play electric guitar without an amp, and hear what you are playing to a certain extent. However, when it comes to electric bass guitars, things are different. If you want to play electric bass without an amp, you will hardly have any feedback at all.
Practicing without an amp is a great way to develop bad habits like playing too hard, which shows once you plug your bass into an amp.
So in order to avoid this problem, you need to get an bass guitar amp. There’s a lot of models to choose from, with various features.
We looked into the amps that are somewhat affordable, and found three models that we think are among the best under 500 dollars. Without further ado, let’s dig in.
Performance on a Budget
Peavey is one of those brands that you can count on to deliver a workhorse amp that will serve you well no matter what application you need it for. They are mostly known for their guitar amps, but their bass amp selection is impressive to say the least.
Peavey Tour TKO 115 we are reviewing today is definitely one of the best combo amps under $500. It’s powerful and versatile at the same time. Just the combination we want.
This amp is capable of delivering a maximum of 400 Watts. However this power output is only capable when you hook up an additional speaker cab. Otherwise you are looking at 200-300 Watt range.
There are two speakers in Peavey TOUR TKO 115. One 15-inch ceramic speaker that was specially designed by Peavey, and a small high frequency tweeter that takes care of the trebles.
In terms of controls you have a master volume knob, 7-band graphic EQ that comes with hi and low shelving options. There’s a pre shape contour switch, a bright switch and an active/passive pickup switch. Peavey TOUR TKO 115 also comes with an effects loop and DDT speaker protection.
This amp brings a pretty massive sound. If you bypass the EQ completely, you will hear a very deep and fat tone that is very smooth and somewhat muddy. Once you start playing around with EQ controls, you can pretty much shape the tone into anything you want.
The contour button allows you to get a very nice slap bass tone. Overall this Peavey is built like a tank. It brings a powerful sound that is very versatile, while having more than enough power.
Gallien Krueger is no strange in the world of bass amplification. They make some of the best small bass amps on the market right now. However, when 100 Watts is not enough and you more power, they have you covered with their MB115-II.
This amps a light weight solution for those who need a quality sound for everyday use. This combo amp is definitely one of the best bass amps you can get in this price range.
Gallien-Krueger MB115-II sports a somewhat retro design that is reminiscent of vintage bass amps. It’s capable of delivering some 200 Watts of power through a 15-inch ceramic speaker. In terms of controls you have a -10dB switch, followed by the gain knob. Next to those there’s a contour switch and active EQ.
Unlike the standard EQ, GK’s active EQ features treble, hi-mid, lo-mid and bass controls. Next is the aux in, headphones out, and XLR direct line out. Overall it’s a no nonsense amp that was built in United States, and made to deliver a great sound to professionals and enthusiasts alike.
Straight out of the box Gallien-Krueger MB115-II offers pretty sharp and defined sound. It’s very balanced throughout the frequency range, with crisp highs and very rich lows. Once you start messing with the active EQ, you add a whole new dimension to the tone.
Active EQ is something that is unique for Gallien Krueger amps, and definitely gives you more versatility compared to a normal three-band EQ. The 200 Watts you get is enough power to gig with this amp, however there’s no expansion support for extra cabs.
Ampeg is a household name when it comes to bass amplification. They are probably one of the most respected brands in the business. Their BA115v2 is their more affordable model which claims to deliver that legendary Ampeg SVT sound in a compact package.
While this claim is up for debate, we definitely find this amp to be a pretty capable contender considering the price tag which comes with it.
Ampeg BA115v2 delivers 150 Watt RMS through a single 15-inch Ampeg Custom15 speaker and one 1-inch HF tweeter. Controls that come with the amp are pretty basic, although you get some features that are unique to Ampeg amps.
Starting from left to right, fist thing we see is the Scrambler overdrive section with its drive and blend knobs. Next there’s a volume knob followed by Ampegs trademark Ultra Hi and Ultra Lo buttons. Moving on we find the standard three-band EQ and Aux knob.
Ampeg BA115v2 delivers a decent sound that can be shaped in several ways that is unique to Ampeg amps. While the three-band EQ is pretty capable of shaping the sound, the Ultra Hi and Ultra Lo buttons give you a boost in their respective ends of the frequency range.
These two features alone are just impressive. The Scrambler feature gives you a very gritty overdrive that turns your tone into a more aggressive one. All in all, this Ampeg is very versatile and impressive amp no matter how you look at it.
These three amps are all great, and definitely are among the best bass amp under 500 dollars. Which one you’ll choose depends on what you need in terms of sonic fidelity.
The Ampeg is a bit under powered compared to the other two, but it also comes with unique features and has a powerful sound. If you want something more conservative in terms of tone, the Peavey is a good choice.