Choosing The Best Bass Amp For Funk – A Hands-On Guide

While few amps are labeled as funk amps by manufacturers, some amps are a lot more “funk-friendly” than others.

A great funk tone can be achieved on any good clean amplifier that offers power and a flexible + transparent tone

Finding the best amp for funk involves looking for the right combination of speaker cone material, speaker size, power (wattage) and a control panel that matches the funk-specific needs.

EQ can play a big role in shaping the right funk tone and a good funk amp will have a dynamic mid-frequency response with lots of tone-shaping possibilities.

On the other hand, a high-performance tube amp with archetypal tube-breakup can be a serious contender to achieve vintage/retro funk tones. 

Some key features that make some amps (combo or amp/cabinet) work better than the rest for funk include:

  • No added tone coloration
  • High-quality Speaker Cone & Tweeter w/ toggle (if applicable)
  • Versatile EQ – Low/Lo-Mid/Hi-Mid/Highs
  • Preferably 10-band Graphic Equalizer
  • High-Pass and Lo-Pass knobs or Contour Knobs
  • Brightness and Depth Button
  • One knob Compression

These are some of the best bass amps for funk:

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Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 amp for funk

Do you like the John Patitucci, Paul Turner or Greg Porter Jr. tone? They all vouch for the power and tonality of the TH500.

It is an incredible light class-D bass amp head with a very dynamic 4-band EQ that can produce memorable Motown, vintage funk and mid-rich fingerstyle funk tones.

The thick punchy mids of the TH500 pair really well with a P-bass to crank out some old skool grooves. And, with the powerful output, you can crank it up a lot before it will begin to crack.

However, if you are gunning for a modern sound with more focused low-end, you are better off exploring a Markbass Big Bang or the LM800.

See it on Sam Ash

Hartke LH500 amp for funk (400$)

500 watts with 12AX7 Class A Tube, LH500 is a loud, clean and warm sounding unit suitable for a good funk tone.

Like Aguilar, it has throaty mids with a little more glass in the highs. It can maintain the open and clean sounds even at high volumes. It lets the dynamic touch and technique of your playing come across loud and clear. 

The limiter can be useful for slap enthusiasts but it does suck out some of the midrange for fingerstyle funk.

The slight delay in attack, as is the case with all tube preamps, helps the groove sit in the pocket.

Ampeg V-4B for funk ($1500)

This all-tube amp head is the axiom behind the legendary tone of the old skool funk masters.

Though the Ampeg SVT rules the roost in tube heads, the V4-B is equally worthy of being called the gold standard with an inimitable tube break-up people either love or hate. 

Fingerstyle funk players and old skool funk fanatics can tap into its all-tube tubyness with a P-bass + flats.

Modern players and slap enthusiasts, however, may find the limited headroom and assertive mids to be an issue at high-volume applications.

Either way, it can be pushed hard especially paired it with the Ampeg SVT-112AV and SVT-212AV cabinets.

Fender Rumble Series for funk ($300-$600)

Rumble 500 head

At $299, Rumble 100 (Amazon) can be a compact answer to the classic Fender-style funk bass tone. The amp pairs beautifully with any P-bass + Flats or J-Bass.

The Eminence 12” speaker is a mix of muscle and finesse and the 3-button voicing allows you to toggle between bright, contour and vintage voicing.

The Rumble 200 (Amazon) has a 15” speaker which can deliver more depth and fullness. The 200 offers better ‘glass’ because of the inclusion of a tweeter but may not perform as well as the 500 in dealing with slap transients.

If you can afford the amp/cabinet config, the Rumble 500 head has all the same features as the 200 with the addition of a premium compression horn that can be toggled on/off.

The overdrive is very functional and you have the option of hooking it up to a footswitch.

You can pair it with a Rumble 210 Cabinet that features two Eminence 10” speakers which deliver great tonal detail and low-end punch for funk playing.

GK MB112 amp for funk

The entire Gallien-Krueger MB series is loaded with funk-friendly and road-worthy amps that deliver a tight low-end with great focus and punch.

Among these, the GB MB112 is a great all-round option that is lightweight, versatile and compact

The 4-band EQ dials great funk tones and responds very well to mid adjustments. the amp has sufficient power for rehearsals, studio or live concerts and you can pair it with a compatible extension speaker when you want to be louder.

Mesa Walkabout for funk

You can choose between the combo amp version and the amp/cab version. They both offer an all-tube preamp, neodymium speaker (12” & 15”) with a premium horn and attenuator button. 

The control panel is very flexible. You can dial in all the funk you need with the flexible tone control options. The amp delivers great vintage and modern tones that are warm and luscious.

See it on Amazon

Eden WT400 and WT550 amps for funk

Eden has always been famous for manufacturing amps that are inherently voiced to reproduce great old school funk tones.

The WT400 was a top selling unit around the world for many years because of its user-friendly interface and exemplary tone-shaping capabilities. It is now phased out and replaced with the WT550. 

You can either look for a used WT400 or opt for a new WT550, which is essentially the same unit with a higher output.

The unit has enough juice to cover rehearsals and club gigs. It pairs well with a Bergantino HT210s, Eden D113 XLT, Eden D210XLT and Aguilar GS112 cabinet.

Markbass LM800 & LMT800 amps for funk ($850)

The Markbass 800 series heads have different inherent tonal character compared to the F1/F500 Series and the A/B heads (like SA 450 & LMIII, LMtube etc). 

The LM800 and LMT800 are gig-ready models that offer a lot of depth in the lows and an emphatic presence in the hi-mids, which results in a modern-funk-friendly tone.

The EQ is versatile and the VPF (Variable Pre-Shape Filter) knob allows you to dial in insta-slap tones on the go.

SWR Workingman 12/15 Combo for funk

SWR made some memorable amps that became famous as versatile workhorses with clean and clear tones.

If you can find one in the used market, the SWR Workingman 12 and 15 are good options for a durable albeit heavy combo amp. 

These amps use 12” Celestion speakers and a low noise tweeter to widen the mid and high frequency response. The 12” is a good option for more focused lows and growl, the 15 is fuller but relatively muddy.

SEE ALSO:   What is the difference between amp and head?

The Workingman has been recently re-launched as the SWR WorkingPro series after Fender acquired it for their portfolio.

The overhaul includes a piezo tweeter, aural enhancer and 15” woofer. It is a good tilt-back amp for funk bassists looking for an easygoing bass boost and some high-end sparkle.

Fender 30W Sidekick combo amp for funk

If you can score a used Sidekick 30, you could record an entire funk album without any remorse.

The mids on the EQ control panel are very responsive and the overdrive is reminiscent of a decent quality tube amp.

Traynor SB110 combo amp for funk

If you are on a budget and hankering for good funk tones, the Traynor Small Block is a compact bass combo amp that is capable of serving as a workhorse with all the essential features. 

The SB110 has active/passive instrument inputs, a 4-band EQ, low-frequency expander and XLR DI out.

The low-end response is easy to tune-up to achieve incredibly focused lows. The 10” woofer and 30” watt tweeter are very responsive even when you crank it up.

Greatest amp & cab options for funk

The following table recaps some of the most common funk tone/EQ characteristics along with some good heads/cabs (including the ones above), as well as some of the basses used by great bass funk players.

Type of SoundTone / EQ General GuidelinesHeadCabBest Bass for ToneFamous Players
Old Skool Funk Tonegritty, mildly distorted, thick in the low end with loads of mid presence and overall fullnessMarkBass TTE500, Acoustic 360, Aguilar TH500, Ampeg VB-4Ampeg SVT 810E, Acoustic 361, Hartke 410Split Coil – P-Bass with or without flatsBob Babbit, James Jamerson and Verdine White
Modern Funk ToneFocused lows, tight mids (no scooping!) with a touch of high-end glass, but not too much if you want to slap without clanking.Mesa M6 or M9, Markbass LM800, Carvin BX Series, GK Backline 600, SWR Red 350, Glockenklang Heart-Rock IIBergantino HT and IP Series, EA NL210, Mesa PH210, SWR Redhead 210
Alembic, Sadowsky, Dingwall, MTD and Ken SmithMarcus Miller, Jaco, Brian Bromberg and Hardrien Feraud
Slap Bass ToneScooped mids – Smiley shaped EQAcoustic B1000HD
Epifani UL, EBS ProlLine 410, SWR 410, Gallien Krueger RBH410 J-Bass, EBMM, Sire, IbanezFlea, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, Les Claypool
Fingerstyle Funk ToneSimilar to slap with scooped mids but boosted lows and highs – M shaped EQ or Highs -1, Lows + 2, and Mids – 0GK 1001 RBII, EA iAMP 800, Sadowsky SA200, Aguilar dB750, Glockenklang Soul,Sadowsky SA410, Eden XLT, Schroeder 21012L Bergantino 112 or 210P-Bass, Roscoe, P/J, Yamaha, Stingray Classic,Francis Rocco-Prestia, Bernard Edwards, Joe Dart, Stu Zender

Choosing an amp for funk bass

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For a good funk amp, we aren’t looking for tone coloration. The amp’s job here is primarily to ‘amplify’ what goes in it. A good funk amp will give you the truest representation of tone across the spectrum of frequency and volume. 

For this true representation, it is vital to have an amp that can maintain good clarity and depth, even at high volumes and when the EQ is as flat as possible. 

The old school funk sound will need something with lots of bottom end, slurpy compression squash and tube break up (or a little overdrive).

Almost all the great old soul and funk records (think Motown) use tube amps, usually Ampeg, which lean heavily towards a dirty and gritty sound.

SEE ALSO:   Ampeg Portaflex vs Fender Rumble: Battle Of The Titans

Slap bass, modern funk tone

People who play slap bass, however, should avoid valve based pre-amps. The snap/slap causes spikes in the transient that can eventually destroy the preamp valve. It is better to stick to solid-state amps rather than keep replacing valves.

Funk bassists looking for an ultra-modern funk tone should steer clear of valve amps and combo amps. The modern tone, in this case, means a high-fidelity sound – focused lows, rich mids and some glass in the highs.

This is the domain of tweeters and/or compression horns. In this case, the focus should be on a top-shelf cab with the right tweeter. Bergantino, Accugroove, Mesa, Epifani etc.

Amp power for funk

When it comes to funk, lack of power results in lack of ‘oomph’ in the tone.

An amp under $500 may work fine for rehearsals and small gigs, but don’t expect the hybrids and kickbacks by Hartke, GK etc. to replicate the depth of funk players like Flea and Miller.

These are just not powerful enough to maintain low-end warmth because of the smaller speakers.

Sufficient power starts at say 300w (for the amp head) through a 1×12” speaker. If you have the budget, bigger speakers won’t hurt. You can start with a single cab and then add a second one once you need it or can afford it. 

Conversely, if you are using a combo amp, get a unit that allows you to use extension speakers (like the GK MB112).

Or, you can pair a 300w head with a 2×10 cab that can handle 8ohms to start with. Then, as you upgrade and buy another 2×10 cab you can run it at 4ohms.

Let’s look at some bass amps that have proven to work great for funk.

EQ Tips & Amp Settings for a Funk Tone

If you own a high-end bass, then the pre-amp or control panel on your bass will likely outperform any basic combo amp.

In such cases, it is better to keep the amp EQ flat and dial in the tones using the pickup blend and bass preamp/EQ.

You can get great funk tones from a good neck pickup and seasoned playing technique.

Vintage funk tone & amps

The vintage funk, Motown era and retro funk vibe have a lot of history with P-bass, flats and Ampeg tube amps.

The bass never dominated the mix as it does today. The amp cabinets didn’t have tweeter cabs so the highs were yet to be unleashed. It was just sheer SVT810 magic with lots of great feel. 

The Mesa M-Pulse Walkabout, GK RB series, Ampeg Hybids and Ampeg Micros can come close to a vintage funk sound.

Amps like Eden WT-550, Tone Hammer 500, Tech21 Landmark 600 and Mesa Prodigy are all good choices for the old skool funk tone.

Slap tone & amps

The slap tone can vary from Larry Graham to Flea to Marcus Miller.

The bass players usually get the snap from scooped high-mids and boosted lows & highs. The active electronics and pickups also play a big role in the resulting tone. 

The older generation of passive bass slap players did not scoop the lo-mids, that trend only came about in the 80s and 90s.

Today, the smiley face EQ is considered somewhat passé. The current day amps may need a 400Hz boost to cut through the mix, especially if you are playing alongside loud or busy guitars.

Fingestyle tone & amps

The fingerstyle funk tone, especially in its modern day avatar, has a lot to do with driving the tube amp and digging in hard when you play.

You can see this in Joe Dart’s playing, he uses an Ampeg B100R in a lot of the early Vulfpeck recordings and the tracks are usually run through a Vulfpeck compression plugin. 

Rocco-Prestia would often dial down the bass on his amp and crank up the low-mids. His P-bass usually had bright chromes and the tone knob all the way up.

Modern funk tone & amps

Many bassists confuse the modern funk tone with the 90s slap-happy smiley face EQ.

The modern (funk) tone is the result of very focused lows, tight mids (no scooping!) with a touch of high-end glass.

You can hear this in any rig with a high-end bass and a hybrid high-fidelity amp like the Mesa Boogie M6 or a Markbass F1.

The modern bass master’s predilection for glassy highs and pronounced treble can only be satiated by the inclusion of tweeters to amp cabinets. Bergantino makes some of the best tweeter-based amp cabinets in today’s market. 

The Accugroove cabinets, though pricey, are another solid option with commendable silk dome tweeters and mid-bass drivers.

The good thing about modern bass cabinets is that they come with an attenuator switch to toggle the tweeter on/off. It is always good to have that extra tonality in case you need it.

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Photo credits:
Featured image: “John Fisher & Rocky George” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by auggie tolosa
(2) “7e3_a191611_phf-my-bass-my-amp” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Wolfgang Lonien