Arming the Artists

The Difference between bass and Guitar Amps

Posted: 10th January 2023

Have you ever wondered why you can’t plug your bass into your guitar amp and crank it up? Well, you’re not alone. Here's a beginner's guide to the main differences.

Read time: 4 mins

In order to better understand the differences between a bass amp and a guitar amp, it’s important to have a basic understanding of the types of sound frequencies the two instruments produce. Electric bass guitars produce lower, cleaner frequencies than electric guitars. These lower frequencies need a boost so they can resonate loud enough when using a solid body electric bass. Electric guitars produces wider and higher range of frequencies. This gives the electric guitar a greater range of sound that can be adjusted with various pedal effects.

Getting technical

The two main differences between these types of amps are the size of the speakers and how the preamp works, so let’s take a look.

As we’ve already mentioned, a bass guitar generally produces lower frequencies. Consequently, bass amps will have a preamp stage which focuses on those low and aggressive tones, so the speaker vibration (or response) is more pronounced and stronger. 

You will also find much bigger magnet in the speakers housed in a bass amp. These push air and help the sound resonate, producing a louder sound while being able to handle the more aggressive frequency response.

Guitar amps, on the other hand, have preamps that focus more on mid and high ranges. This, teamed with the thinner speakers, means that this is a much simpler and more direct process.

In summary, a simple preamp with a large speaker makes up bass amps. Whilst a complex preamp and smaller speaker make an electric guitar amp

What happens if I plug into the wrong amp?

A guitar through a bass amp will sound very dull as there are missing frequencies from the highs and mid areas that a guitar amp will have, but the good news it is very unlikely you will damage it greatly. In fact, some guitarists in certain genres of music like Doom Metal or Nu-Metal use both guitar and bass amps at the same time, especially if they're down-tuning.

However on the flip side, if you were to plug a bass into a guitar amp you might not be so lucky… Depending on the set up the results can cause some damage, especially if you have a small amp. The circuit board and the speaker of some guitar amps are not commonly manufactured to handle low frequencies that well. If you were to turn up the volume you might blow the speaker and damage the electronics in the amp.

That being said, if you plug a passive bass into a big guitar amplifier, you can get some amazing sounds. Lemmy from Motörhead, for example, created his own sound by playing a Rickenbacker Bass with a pick, through a distorted Marshall. However, we always reconmmend you consult with the manufacturer or your local dealer before experimenting with these elements.

Check out the video below to listen to Lemmy's signature bass tone.