Tim's answer at Can playing an amp at minimum volumes (<1%) be harmful to it? states that playing a large amp quietly is safe, but that the sound quality is often disappointing.

Is the poor sound quality a matter of running a big amp at low volume or of running any amp at low volume?

If the only need is for low volume is one better off running a small amp in the middle of its volume range than a large amp turned way down?

For context, I'm currently happy playing electric guitar through a Roland M-Cube (2W / 5" speaker) at about 3-5 / 10 on the volume knob. My wife is happier at 2-3, but isn't always home. I recently got a bass and it sounds awful at those settings - unsurprisingly the speaker can't handle the lows and just rattles.

I've been looking for a bass combo amp. There are several well rated ones in the 20-25W / 8" range that I could pick up new, or I could get something bigger (e.g. 10"-12" versions of the same) used for about the same price used. If the smaller amp is better for the practice scenario anyway then there's little point in the hassle of bargain hunting.

There's been enough background noise in the toy^H^H^Hmusic store when I've checked them out that I can't hear much of anything at the volumes I'm likely to run at home.

  • 2
    What's true for a guitar amp isn't necessarily true for a bass amp. With guitar you're looking for pleasant distortion when driving the amp hard (which you won't get at low volumes), with a bass amp you're basically using a clean sound and looking for bass extension and headroom. You'll also need a higher wattage to get the same volume. So get a 12" or even 15" and turn it down when you must and up when you can. Apr 17, 2019 at 1:39
  • If your existing amp has a port for an extension speaker, it's worth considering getting a speaker cab only. For playing in a room at home, a 10" speaker will suffice (in a good enclosure), a 12" even better, but not necessary. If not, it's an easy job to put a jack socket on the amp that cuts out the internal speaker. Need to watch the impedance. And, the guitar will sound better, too.
    – Tim
    Apr 17, 2019 at 6:26
  • Horses for courses, but I'd disagree on a bass amp always needing to be 'clean'. 8/10 tracks I've ever played want it to be cooking a bit at least, some even hotter. The 2nd speaker idea might work... then again it might not...
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 17, 2019 at 8:44
  • @Tetsujin Do you drive the amp to the extent that you couldn't get the same sound at lower volume? Apr 17, 2019 at 10:58
  • No - but that's because the amp has pre & post gain stages. Post contributes nothing except actual volume, all the tone-shaping is in the pre-amp. The amp itself has a DI output right before the op amp, so for recording or large venue live work, that's where I feed to the desk. [It sounds a lot better than miking it, too. The actual enclosure is a bit "thrummy" at full tilt.] Dynacord BS 412 - it's rather a nice bit of kit, I've had it since the 80s. Found it in a studio I once worked at as a session engineer & bought it off them when I left, wouldn't take no for an answer ;)
    – Tetsujin
    Apr 17, 2019 at 11:11

2 Answers 2


You have a solid state amp, so there is probably not much of an issue---just turn down. If you have a tube amp and were playing guitar this would be an issue since the main attraction of the tube amp, to most players, is the ability to control the edge or overdrive with your guitar volume pot. The ultimate example, put a 5 watt champ with an 8" speaker on 9 with a 335 or LP and you'll get that early Joe Walsh sound when you crank the volume on your guitar. Pull back on the volume pot and you'll get a creamy sound with just a touch of edge. My experience with solid state amps is that is not as much the case.


Valve or Tube amps when using overdrive will often sound better when they are played loud. Because of this, it may be better to have a small amp that you can push harder. This is sometimes used in recording to get a good sound without having to blast the amp more than necessary

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