Aside from drummers, bassists generally have the most weight to carry at load-in. Bassists stand out among the rest of the band with their huge, heavy bass cabinets that often take two people to move and have a huge onstage footprint. Of course, smaller combos do just fine at smaller venues, but there are still some bassists who prefer the headroom of a “big rig” in nearly any gigging situation. These players, contrary to popular belief, are not necessarily egocentric showoffs who like to have the biggest rig onstage and the loudest instrument in the mix- in fact, there are many reasons why a big rig can help support the overall sound of the band.
- Speakers closer to ear level. With a taller speaker cabinet or two 4x10s stacked, the bass player’s amp will not be projecting all the sound at his or her knees. What often happens with smaller combos that are not tilted upwards is the bassist cannot hear himself, so he will raise the volume to compensate, which can make the bass too loud in the mix. Taller speakers provide better onstage monitoring.
- Better stage coverage. While PA support is always a good thing for any sized bass rig, there may be instances where the bass is not fed through the PA or the onstage monitoring system is inadequate. For example, there may not be enough monitor wedges to accommodate each member of the band. In these instances, a big rig can carry the bass onstage, allowing the bass to be heard clearly onstage by the other members of the band.
Stack two Carvin Audio BR410 cabinets and pair it with your amp of choice for a full stack that covers any gig..
- A cleaner sound. When it comes to bass, it’s much better to have more amp than you need and turn it down than to crank up an amp that’s not big enough for the job. Doing the latter can cause unwanted distortion, a harsh sound, and may even blow your speakers! Ensuring your rig has adequate headroom is something we discuss often, and its importance cannot be overlooked. A big rig can cover a wide variety of gigs and venues with authority and gives bassists peace of mind knowing they always will have enough power to be heard clearly.
- More low end. The low frequencies of the bass guitar take a lot of power to reproduce accurately. That means in both wattage and number of speakers. If you’re trying to push massive lows at stage volume through a single speaker or a small speaker setup, most of your amp’s power will be used on those low notes and you’ll run out of juice very quickly. This is not to say that combos don’t work- if your band plays at moderate volume or at small venues you can get by with a smaller amp, or if the venue has adequate PA support you can let the PA do the heavy lifting. But generally speaking, bassists who want the biggest, loudest, cleanest low end possible will find a big rig fits the bill.
- The intimidation factor. On a more humorous note, having a big rig onstage just feels and looks awesome. Many bassists enjoy providing a wall of sound to support the band, both literally and figuratively. It’s not just bassists, too- other band members (especially the drummer) enjoy having the presence of a big bass amp onstage, cranking out stage-rumbling low end.
So next time your bassist rolls up to the show with his big rig, cut him some slack- he’s helping your band sound its best!
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