Do you need a bass rig with all the bells and whistles or can you get the same sound from a simpler set up?
Posted: 23 July 2019
When it comes to playing bass, there’s one issue that players just can’t seem to agree on. Should they go the whole hog and use a bass amp or just plug straight into the PA system? Diehard cab enthusiasts can’t imagine playing without a full rig on stage while PA users claim they wished they’d made the switch years ago. So which set up is better?
The primary concern for any instrumentalist is the sound they produce. Some claim that the sound from a PA can seem lifeless and that a cab will do more to colour the tone of your bass. Generally, 10” speakers give more punch and detail for rock or metal music, while 15” speakers offer a greater low-end rumble for jazz. However, some people prefer the pure tone you get from a PA system.
When it comes to sound, a full bass rig also gives you more flexibility to adjust your EQ on stage. With a PA system this responsibility lies with the sound tech.
A key reason why some bassists switch over to using a PA is portability. Unless your band has a good-sized car or van, carrying a 4x10” can be problematic. Using a small DI box or pedal and plugging that straight in is a more appealing option to many players. However, not everywhere you play will have a PA system. In this situation, having a small cab that you can take to rehearsals is probably more practical than sourcing and lugging around your own PA set up.
When you plug into a PA, you hand over the reins to a sound tech. Whether this a blessing or curse is really dependent on you as a player and the quality of your tech. Some bassists prefer to feel the air being pushed from a cab behind them and struggle to hear themselves without a speaker on stage. This can be made worse if there’s poor monitoring on stage.
The rig vs PA debate isn’t an easy one to resolve. Where you play, who you play with and what stage of your career your at are all factors that influence what set up is right for you. Whatever you decide, make sure your bass line shines on stage.