3. Typical Features of the Amp

Amps generally feature several controllers or pots (short for potentiometers), which serve various purposes.


Usually, you'll find the gain controller next to the bass input socket. It serves to set the input volume of your bass.

EQ Section

The EQ (equalizer) section customarily follows. Similar to a hi-fi system, treble, middle and bass can be mixed into the sound using these controllers. For example, giving a sound more bass makes it a more saturated foundation, while more treble makes it easier to distinguish the bass signal within your band's sound. The middle is generally important in lending your bass the growl tone many players aim for and which also helps it stand out better in your band.

Depending on the philosophy of the manufacturer, this EQ section may be restrained and uncluttered or very extensive, with a wide array of choices to influence your sound. Some amps may induce a little anxiety thanks to their comprehensive range of EQs. For example, there are models featuring so-called semi-parametrics. In semi-parametrics, a specific frequency range is selected using a pot, and this is then boosted or cut with a second controller. Semi-parametrics are a great tool if you wish to manipulate the sound in detail, but they do require some experience with bass sound to be used to their full potential.

And then there are those amps that feature so-called graphic equalizers with varying numbers of frequency bands - seven or twelve are popular choices, for example. Usually, every band is controlled using a slide, which is used to boost or cut the corresponding frequency, likewise resulting in almost surgical interventions in the sound. As with semi-parametrics, some experience with bass sound is advisable if you really want to avail yourself of the full potential of these versatile models. Usually, it is a good idea to take your time and have a sales assistant explain the various functions to you in the shop - that is, unless you have the good fortune of knowing an experienced bass player who introduces you to the subject, and who may also be able to pass on a great deal of useful advice in so doing.

This Hartke 2500 features a ten-band graphic equalizer, allowing for minute interventions in the sound.

Master Volume Controller

Finally, practically every amp will feature a separate controller for overall volume, the so-called master or master volume controller. Once you have set up the amp properly, you use this controller to adjust your volume to that of your band. When rehearsing at home, a few millimetres' worth of rotation will probably do, while you may have to turn it up almost all the way when you want your bass to be noticed in a concert if your band plays at greater volume. However, you should probably not turn up your amp to the limit. If you find yourself constantly turning the volume up all the way, the time has probably come for you to invest in a new, more powerful model!

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