Will A Bass Damage A Guitar Amp?

So, you want to know, “Will A Bass Damage A Guitar Amp?” Maybe you are a guitar player and want to learn to play or record a bass guitar? It could be that you are having a friend over who plays bass, and they want to plug into your guitar amp? Whatever the scenario, there are some things you should be aware of if you are going to play a bass through a guitar amp.

Will A Bass Damage A Guitar Amp?

You can play a bass through a guitar amp at low volume without causing any harm to your guitar amp. A guitar amp is not going to give your bass a good thick beefy tone and will more than likely sound thin and somewhat distorted. It will be fine if you are doing low volume bedroom practice so you can learn your way around your bass guitar. However, if you want your bass to sound it’s best at any volume and take away any anxiety of ruining your guitar amp, I recommend getting yourself a good bass amp.

Video Credit: Phillip McKnight

What’s The Difference Between A Bass Amp And A Guitar Amp?

The bass amp and guitar amp may look similar but there are some distinct differences in how the amps are made.

1. Speaker size

Generally, a bass amp will have a thicker and possibly even a bigger speaker. (You can only put so big of a speaker in a small practice amp.) The sound coil on a bass speaker is also usually bigger and able to withstand more sound pressure levels.

2. Power Output

Bass amps need more power output than a guitar amp. The amplifier drives the speaker. Bass speakers are moving larger and lower frequencies than a guitar amp and require more power to push the larger and thicker speaker to push (Throw) the sound wave out of the bass amp.

3. Frequency Range

The bass amp is designed to work with lower frequencies in the range of 35Hz – 3kHz. This means a speaker is placed in the amp that will be efficient at working with the lower frequencies.

When a manufacture builds a bass amp, they take all three of these factors into consideration to put together an amplifier that will provide you with a good sound and perform well with a bass guitar.

Some bass amps also have other bells and whistles like effects, EQ, and line outputs.

What Happens If I Play My Bass Through My Guitar Amp?

Just like a bass amp, the guitar amp is designed to work with a certain set of frequencies.

This means the speaker for the guitar amp will be different from a speaker designed to work with a bass amp.

So, when you play a bass through a guitar amp the speaker in the guitar amp is working harder to reproduce the lower bass frequencies.

Often times the speaker in the guitar amp may be a little thinner and with a smaller sound coil.

If you push the speaker too hard with volume you can damage the sound coil.

When the sound coil gets damaged it can develop a short and cause damage to the amplifier.

So now you have a blown speaker and a fried amplifier.

You can play a bass through a guitar amp, but you won’t get the thick and punchy low end from a speaker designed to work with the higher frequencies of a guitar.

At low volumes the bass guitar will sound ok through a guitar amp and will work fine for low volume practice sessions.

How Will A Bass Guitar Damage A Guitar Amp?

The speaker will be the weak link when playing a bass through a guitar amp.

Bass amps and guitar amps both amplify the incoming signal.

Bass Frequencies

Bass frequencies are lower which means they have a much larger sound wave pattern.

The larger sound wave pattern also means the speaker will have a much larger throw distance to reproduce the lower sound wave.

It takes more amplification to push the larger sound waves.

Guitar Frequencies

This is why there are speakers designed to work with larger low-end frequencies and speakers designed to work with higher frequencies like a guitar.

When you start playing a bass through a guitar amp the speaker starts having to travel further than it may be designed for to reproduce the low-end wave form.

This will be ok at lower volumes but when you start turning up the volume this is when the problems start.

The more volume you demand from the amplifier the harder the amplifier pushes the speaker.

This increases the distance the speaker moves back and forth. The speaker is trying to throw the sound out to create more volume.

At first the guitar amp speaker will start to distort and eventually will fail because it’s not designed to work with large low-end frequencies at high volumes.

Bass Speaker Frequency Range And Wattage

Not all speakers are created equal.

In general, the bass speaker is designed to work with frequencies between 35Hz – 3kHz and a power range of 200 – 500 watts.

Remember, we said that bass frequencies are larger than higher frequencies and require more speaker movement to reproduce the sound wave and it takes more power to push these larger frequencies out of the speaker.

So, bass speakers are designed to take the amplification required to drive the low frequencies and the bass speaker is designed to travel further than other speakers.

Guitar Speaker Frequency Range And Wattage

So, we know not all speakers are created equal.

In general, a speaker designed to work with a guitar has a frequency range of 70Hz – 5kHz and a power range of 50 – 100 watts.

Because the guitar is working with a higher frequency range this means the speaker has less travel distance and is moving back and forth much quicker than a bass speaker.

It also means it takes less power to drive the higher frequencies at the same volume as the lower bass frequencies.

Since the guitar speaker is moving quicker with the higher frequencies and traveling less of a distance to reproduce the higher frequencies this speaker is designed different than a bass speaker.

Good Bass Practice Amps

If you’re not sure what bass amps will make for good practice amps allow me to make some good recommendations.

Yes, you can play your bass at low volume through a guitar amp, but I think you will get more satisfaction from an actual bass amp.

1. Fender Rumble 40

Fender Rumble 40 Bass Practice Amp

The Fender Rumble 40 is a great little 40-watt, solid-state (No Tubes) practice amp.

It has an XLR output that you can run direct into your audio interface for recording, or you can run it directly into a PA system for live gigs.

This amp will probably be too small for a live gig, but you can if you want to.

The Rumble 40 has a 4 band EQ and 3 preset sounds available for different styles of music.

It also has a foot switch available to kick in the overdrive for a more distorted or gritty sound.

This bass amp is perfect for any bedroom jam session or recording live tracks with your DAW.

2. Vox amPlug 2 Bass Headphone Guitar Amp

Vox amPlug 2 Bass Headphone Practice Amp

Maybe you prefer to keep the noise level way down and practice with your headphones only.

This little headphone bass guitar amp is just what the doctor ordered.

It has an aux input to connect any audio player or YouTube jam tracks directly into the headphone amp.

You can jam all night, and no one will know.

3. Orange Crush Bass 50

Maybe you prefer a little bigger speaker for your practice amp.

Orange Crush Bass 50 Practice Amp

The Orange Crush Bass 50 comes with a 12-inch speaker. This will give you a little more low end and punch than a 10-inch speaker.

The Orange Crush Bass 50 is a solid-state amp with a built in 3 ban EQ, headphone output, and aux input so you can jam along to backing tracks from any audio device.

It also has a foot switch connection for built in overdrive.

This is a great little practice amp with more low end than some other amps this size.

Good Bass Gigging Amps

If you want to play live gigs, you’re going to need some power to drive the bass frequencies at louder volumes.

Let’s take a look at some bass amps that will get the job done for you.

1. Hartke HD500

Hartke HD500 Bass Amp

The Hartke HD500 is a 500-watt solid state amp with two 10-inch speakers.

This little amp is light weight and gives you a lot of punch for your buck.

The Hartke HD 500 has a 3 band EQ, and onboard sound molding to easily get the right sound for the songs you like to play.

You also get an aux input so you can connect with any audio player for jam tracks, an XLR output to connect directly to a PA system or Audio Interface, and a 1/4-inch headphone jack so you can practice in private if you want.

This is a great light weight gigging amp that will handle small to medium size venues.

2. Ashdown Rootmaster RM500C210

Ashdown Rootmaster RM500 Bass Amp

The Ashdown Rootmaster RM500c210 is a 500-watt solid-state amp with two 10-inch speakers.

The Ashdown has built in compression, overdrive, and a sub harmonic generator for ultra-lows.

You also get an XLR output to connect direct to a PA system or audio interface for recording.

Don’t forget the aux input to connect your backing tracks for practice and a headphone jack to keep things completely quiet.

This is another great little gigging amp and also great for recording.

3. Gallien-Krueger Fusion 410

If you really want to double down on some serious low end with a kick then this is a great gigging amp.

Gallien-Krueger Fusion 410 Bass Amp

The Gallien-Krueger Fusion 410 is an 800-watt bass amp with 4 10-inch speakers for some serious pump.

You can play a larger venue with this bass amp, and you can also plug this amp directly into a PA system, mixing console, or audio interface for recording.

You also get an overdrive channel to create the gritty low end or choose a clean channel for warmth and punch and the footswitch is included.

This bass amp also comes with an aux input for jam tracks, a headphone jack for private practice, and is a great lightweight gigging amp or is also great for your home recording studio.

Good Bass Amps For Recording

You may also be interested in which bass amps are good for recording.

Any of the amps I mentioned above will work to record with or you can choose any bass amp you like.

I personally think the bass amps with the XLR direct output will work best.

It’s a quick connection that you can run straight into your audio interface or mixer to get a great bass sound for your recordings.

You can also mic up your favorite bass amp and capture your bass recordings this way.

Simply connect your microphone you are using on your bass amp to your audio interface and set your gain level appropriately.

Can I Plug My Bass Into My Audio Interface?

Maybe you are wanting to set up a home recording studio and are wondering if you can plug your bass guitar into your audio interface.

The answer is Yes.

You can plug your bass, guitar, keyboard, drums, vocals, or any other instrument you like into your audio interface and playback your sound through your studio monitors.

An audio interface makes for a great practice amp and allows you to connect headphone so you can practice late at night without disturbing others.

An audio interface is a great way to set up a home studio to record all your instruments and vocals with your computer and DAW (Digital Audio Workstation).

Relevant Article: Do Expensive Audio Interfaces Improve Sound Quality?

What Others Are Saying

Direct QuoteSource
“Yes, you can plug a bass into a guitar amp. While guitar amps aren’t designed to handle bass input, it will work. But there is a risk you can damage your guitar amp with a bass at a high volume.”https://guitargearfinder.com/faq/bass-with-a-guitaramp/#:~:text=While%20guitar%20amps%20aren’t,What%20is%20this%3F&text=Plugging%20a%20bass%20guitar%20into,guitar%20use%20the%20same%20leads.
“At high volume with bass frequencies, most guitar speakers will fart out and likely be damaged. For bassists who like to dial in with little or no low end, it’s less of an issue…well, depending on the speaker.”https://www.talkbass.com/threads/how-will-a-bass-damage-a-guitar-amp.754199/
“A bass guitar can be amplified through a regular guitar amp which can function as a low-cost practice amp. However, regular guitar amps are not designed to handle the ‘low frequencies of a bass compromising the tone and potentially damage the speaker if the volume and low-end vibrations are extensive enough.”https://tonetopics.com/plugging-a-bass-into-a-guitar-amp-all-you-need-to-know/
“There is a reason Bass amps are very high wattage. It takes a lot of power to move as much air as a bass requires. It is not unusual to find Bass amps running 400 or 500 watts. Guitar amps by comparison only need 40 or 50 watts to run with these bass amps.”https://www.quora.com/Will-playing-a-bass-guitar-through-a-guitar-amp-break-the-guitar-amp-Does-it-depend-on-the-size-of-the-amp-How-could-possible-damaged-be-avoided
“As you might expect, a guitar amplifier is designed and voiced to respond to higher frequencies than a bass amplifier would be. This is influenced by the choice of speaker in the cabinet, as well as the setup of the electronics. Bass amps on the other hand are designed to be less responsive to highs, focusing more on the lows and mids.”https://killerguitarrigs.com/can-i-play-bass-through-a-guitar-amp/
“Heat is what kills speakers. You can drive them like mad and bottom out the voice coils and they will be fine. If they get too hot, however, they will fry. Heat is caused by distortion, which is essentially a square wave.”https://www.reddit.com/r/Guitar/comments/12q96f/does_running_a_bass_through_a_guitar_amp_damage/
“Yes. You can play a bass through a guitar amp. But be careful with the volume, because playing really loud with bass can hurt guitar amps speakers. Also, I would not recommend playing bass through a tube amp.”https://guitaristnextdoor.com/can-you-use-a-guitar-amp-for-a-bass/
“For the record, I have a bass guitar but no bass amp. I run through either my Mesa/Boogie F-50 or Roadster into a V30 loaded 4X12 and make sure the volume is good (you’ll hear from the speakers when it starts getting dangerous). It doesn’t have the low end reach of most (good) modern bass amps, but does sound quite good and in my opinion, there is still plenty of low end.”https://gearspace.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/354268-what-point-will-bass-damage-guitar-amp.html
“Speaker damage is caused by either the cone moving too much, or the voice coil overheating from distortion.”https://music.stackexchange.com/questions/20801/will-playing-a-guitar-through-a-bass-set-up-damage-the-amplifier-and-or-speaker

Final Thoughts

So, Will A Bass Damage A Guitar Amp? At low volumes you should be fine.

However, you will get your best bass sounds, low end, and punch from a bass amp.

If you are interested in playing, writing, recording, mixing, and producing music then you are in the right place.

Take some time to look around my website.

There are lots of great articles to get you moving in the right direction.

Feel free to leave your questions and helpful comments below.

6 thoughts on “Will A Bass Damage A Guitar Amp?”

  1. We have my uncle’s old bass guitar that we sometimes like to mess around on. It has a small speaker with it, which I presume is the one that came with the guitar, and it is not very loud, but fine for our purposes of playing for fun at home.

    I never even thought to get a bass amp, although friends have suggested it to get a better sound. now I am thinking we need to get this old guitar a new amp after reading this article.

    Thanks for the recommendations below and I think we will definitely stick to the bass guitar amp section. 

    Reply
    • I think guitar heirlooms are the best!  It’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get!

      As for a bass amp, I think you will get your best sounds this way and be more satisfied. 

      Reply
  2. I love playing the guitar and want to learn to play the bass but I don’t really have time. I don’t even know much. My friend plays a lot of guitars from home. When I have time I also go there to play the guitar. As he goes, he tells me a lot of things. Sometimes when we play there is a strange sound in the bass. Maybe it’s because of what you said. Does that sound different? I will definitely send this post to it. Thanks so much for this post. Put more like this in the future.

    Reply
    • It takes time to learn a new instrument and the time spent is fun and well worth it.  If you can already play guitar, then the bass is similar.  I’m not sure what strange sound you are hearing in the bass?  If you are playing a bass guitar through a guitar amp, then you may be hearing the speaker distort.  Keep the volume low and see if you notice if the strange sound goes away.  Thank you for stopping by and I hope the article was helpful to you.

      Reply
  3. Thank you for your informative article.  I am new to the music world and was wondering if there is an easy way to know if an amp is meant for a bass or regular guitar. For example of I came across an amp at a garage sale would there be an easy way to know what kind of guitar it is for?

    Reply
    • Thats a good question.  Most of the time an amp is labeled in a way that will indicate if the amp is for a bass.  It can be hard to tell on the very small practice amps if they are not labeled.  When in doubt you can plug the serial number into the manufacture’s website and can usually find an answer this way. 

      Reply

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