What’s the difference between bass amp vs guitar amp? The main differences between a bass and a guitar amp are the wattage requirement, size, frequency, and range. Nonetheless, you can still use a bass amp for your guitar, but using a guitar amp for your bass is not advisable for a number of reasons.
A bass and a traditional guitar produce somewhat different sounds. This means that they also tend to have different amp power requirements. While you can, theoretically, use their corresponding amplifiers interchangeably, we suggest that you don’t do it and just invest in a dedicated amp for your instrument.
That’s because there are a lot of differences between a bass amp and a guitar amp. Aside from reducing the quality of your sound, using the wrong amp may damage your gear. So, how exactly do these amps differ?
You’ve come to the right place. We’re going to show you the key dissimilarities between these two types of amps.
Bass Amp vs. Guitar Amp
If you’ve ever gone to band concerts or gigs, you might have noticed that some gig amps are bigger while some are smaller. Each amp is used for a specific instrument, and the two most common ones are bass and guitar amps. Here’s what you need to know about them.
Their sizes are the first thing you’ll notice when comparing a bass and a guitar amp. While there are high-quality guitar amps that are rather large, common ones are relatively smaller than bass amps. Furthermore, a bass amp of the same high-end quality as a guitar amp will surely be bigger.
This is also because of the speaker inside the amp. Bass guitars often need larger speakers to play low notes, sometimes reaching more than 15 inches. This allows bass amps to move more air and produce low-frequency sounds. However, having these installed inside the amp will also cause it to be larger.
On the other hand, traditional guitars don’t often need large speakers. They often use speakers somewhere between eight to 12 inches. Using larger speakers is a waste of space and power since high frequencies don’t need more wattage. Because of this, guitar amps tend to be smaller.
Because of their size and inner workings, bass amps have higher wattage requirements than guitar amps. Standard bass amps often operate somewhere between 150 to 500 watts. Some bigger models could even reach 700 watts or higher.
On the other hand, a guitar amp traditionally operates somewhere between 50 to 100 watts. Some higher-end models may reach up to 150 to 200 watts, but really, you could get decent sounds with just a 100-watt amp.
Perhaps the most important difference between a bass and a guitar amp is the frequency at which they operate. This is also related to their wattage requirements. As you may have already known, bass guitars play bass notes, which are lower in frequencies. Low frequencies mean they have longer waveforms, which then means they need more power. Otherwise, the low power would make the amp and the speaker unable to produce clear low-frequency sounds.
Traditional guitars, on the other hand, produce relatively higher notes than bass guitars. Higher notes mean higher frequencies. High frequencies have shorter wavelengths, which means they also require less power.
The bass and a traditional guitar have a number of differences, one of which is frequency. Bass guitars produce low frequencies, while traditional guitars produce high frequencies. However, the frequency range between their respective amps significantly differs. Traditionally, bass amps have a frequency range of 30 Hz to 400 Hz.
On the other hand, guitar amps have a frequency range of 80Hz to 1.2kHz, which includes the bass, treble, and mid. This is to ensure that each instrument can perform its necessary function properly.
Can You Use Bass Amp for Guitar?
Now that we know the differences between the two amps, perhaps the pressing question we need to answer is whether or not we can use a bass amp for guitar or a guitar amp for bass. First, let’s talk about using a bass amp for your guitar.
When it comes to power, you don’t have to worry about your bass amp taking a beating. As we’ve said, bass amps are designed to take in more wattage, therefore, more power. Since a traditional guitar produces high frequencies, they use less power. This means your bass amp will do just fine when providing the necessary power to your guitar.
However, power isn’t the only thing we have to worry about when using a bass amp for a traditional guitar. We also need to consider the sound quality it produces. As we’ve said, the highest frequency of most bass amps is at 400Hz. This means that they would have trouble producing clear sounds past their frequency range. It’s better to use a dedicated bass amp for a bass guitar.
Can You Use Guitar Amp for Bass?
The next question we need to answer is whether or not we can use a guitar amp for bass. Technically, yes, you can, the operative word there being “technically.” That’s because we can assure you that it will function. You just have to plug it the same way you do when using a bass amp. However, we suggest that you don’t do so for two major reasons.
Let’s go back to the previous lesson; bass guitars produce lower frequencies, which means longer wavelengths, which in turn need more power. If you use your guitar amp for bass, you’d be driving a tremendous amount of power to the amp, sometimes more than it can handle. This can significantly damage your amplifier and cause it to overheat.
Additionally, the sound quality produced by the guitar amp will definitely not be what you want to get out of your bass guitar. While frequencies above 80Hz will be tolerable, frequencies below it will cause distortions and warps in your sound.
Your skills will significantly influence your sound. Advanced skills mean better sound. However, skills aren’t always the only defining factor. Sometimes, you also have to consider your equipment.
If you want to make the most out of your instrument, it’s best to invest in a dedicated amplifier that enhances its sound. Additionally, this also lessens the risk of damaging your equipment. Having said that, be sure to get a bass amp for your bass or a guitar amp for your guitar.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.