When you want to play something incredible with an electric instrument, you need amps and speakers to deliver results.
Although any amp and speaker combination works, it often helps to invest in a speaker cabinet to create authentic sounds.
You’ll find cabinets available for bass and electric guitars. Although they often look similar, there are some critical differences to consider between these two cab options.
Here is an overview of how they are the same, the differences you need to know about, and why that matters for your music.
Are Bass and Guitar Cabs the Same?
Bass and guitar cabinets, or “cabs” for short, are speakers housed in a wooden enclosure, but they are not the same. This technology hooks up to the amp to output the instrument’s sound. Combo amps deliver it and the speaker in the same enclosure, while standalone models hook up to the heads independently.
The primary difference between bass and guitar cabinets involves how the lower music frequencies get sent to listeners.
A bass cab is designed to handle the low-frequency range of this instrument. Although you could hook it up to a guitar cabinet, the sound might not be the same.
When cabs are designed correctly, they’re tuned to the bass or guitar drivers.
You can still use a bass with a guitar cab or vice-versa without damaging your equipment, but the audio production won’t be the same.
What Are Guitar Amp Heads?
A guitar amp head typically features a power amplifier and a preamp. There can be an effects loop between them in some cases.
You have solid-state or tube-driven options to consider, along with hybrid designs that use one or more tubes in the preamp while delivering solid-state power.
Although it is rare, you can also have a tube power amp with solid-state preamps.
A guitar amp head uses outputs with different impedance. That feature allows you to plug them into different cabinet types, use multiple cabs, or try unique configurations. Just remember not to turn them on if the cab isn’t connected to them.
You can plug a bass into a guitar amp head. Although the lower sounds can feel tinny or hollow, you’ll still get an authentic reproduction of the notes.
What Are Bass Cabinets?
Guitars must pronounce the middle frequencies to cut through an audio mix. Bass cabs focus on the lower end of the spectrum.
When shopping for amp speakers that accommodate bass guitars, you’ll see that they typically start around 40 Hz.
Some of the best models go as low as 20 Hz. Each has different bumps in the spectrum based on the model and instrument they support.
You’ll typically see the larger speakers (12 inches or more) supporting the bass cab.
The cabinets tend to be bigger for bass instruments. That’s not just due to the speaker size. The materials must support the extra vibrations produced by the speakers to maximize their contribution to the audio mix.
It’s a fair comparison to say that a bass cab is the subwoofer of a home entertainment system.
Some bass cabinets come with tweeters. These are smaller speakers that reproduce higher frequencies in the audible spectrum.
You’ll hear the overtones without disrupting the lower frequencies when you only play the bass guitar through them.
That’s how some bass cabs can serve a guitar. Since most tweeters are only one or two inches in diameter, they’re at a high risk of blowing out when hooking up a guitar to them.
That’s why it’s not usually recommended to have a guitar connected to a bass cab unless it’s an all-in-one design.
Can I Use a Bass Cab with a Guitar Head?
If you like to play a lot of bottom-heavy guitar notes, a bass cab with a guitar head is an excellent choice for your playing style. The cabinet will lose most of the mids and almost all the high-end frequencies in the mix, allowing the listener to focus on the undertones.
That’s an outcome that some guitar players enjoy. Combining the lower frequencies with a favorite distortion pedal allows you to get some bass-like tones from virtually any electric guitar. It’s useful for several heavy metal genres, including death, stoner, and doom.
You can even use the bass cab with a guitar head when you want smoother sounds coming from the instrument.
The best example of this benefit is in the blues genre because the setup offers a vintage tone that a regular guitar cab can’t achieve by itself.
It’s essential to test different combinations to find what you like with this approach. It’s experimental already, which means the natural sounds require consideration.
An intense solid-state amp could be smoother with a bass cab if you have a sharp solid-state amp. You might even get some warmth out of it, making it closer to a tube amp at some level.
To summarize, here are the primary reasons when it makes sense to be using a bass cab with a guitar head.
- You need a bottom-heavy tone with virtually no high-end with your instrument.
- The goal is to create a darker sound than what the instrument naturally generates with a standard setup.
- You want to achieve a smoother tone that delivers vintage tones and sounds without investing in significant gear to create that replication.
- You’re trying to achieve the warmth that tube amps provide without investing in that option.
When Should I Avoid Using a Bass Cab with a Guitar Head?
Although several benefits are possible when using this approach with a bass cabinet, some potential negatives also exist.
That’s because a bass cabinet wasn’t designed to work with a guitar head. You might end up dealing with a few unpleasant or unwanted surprises with this equipment combination.
Here are the reasons why it’s not always a good idea to mix a guitar head with a bass cabinet.
|Problem with Bass Cab||Issues That Can Occur with This Bass Cabinet Setup|
|Dull Sounds||Although some guitar players want bottom-heavy tones, this setup can produce dull and uninteresting sounds. There’s little life to the notes. Guitars are typically designed to work in the middle frequency range, as are distortion devices and amps. Including a bass cab in the equation causes you to lose a lot of those options.|
|Additional Research||Since this approach is somewhat experimental, you’ll find that there aren’t any specific guidelines to follow. When your goal is to achieve a better tone, you’ll need to tinker with the various settings to see what happens. It can take a lot of time to use the trial and error approach.|
|Awful Sounds||Tweeters tend to scoop the tone when they’re included with a bass cabinet design. That means you’ll end up with a tone of high-end overtones that end up dominating the mix. That results in some low, some high, and no middle, leading to an undesirable result.|
|Impractical Setup||When you use special combinations for your music, you’re creating special handling needs to manage. With this option, you’re left with a bulky cabinet that you’ll need to take with you to achieve a specific tone. It might work at home or in the studio, but this option doesn’t make much sense for gigs.|
Most musicians make their money from gigs and touring, not writing music. That was true long before the streaming days significantly lowered artist compensation.
You’ve got to take a practical approach to your performance, and some stages don’t have enough room to handle a bass cab with a guitar head setup.
That’s why it’s generally better to have the bass cab work with that instrument and the guitar cabinet do the same.
What About Using a Guitar Cab with a Bass Amp?
Using a guitar cabinet with a bass amp is possible, although this option isn’t recommended. If you run a straight setup, it is possible to ruin your gear with this setup.
The best way to run it would be to eliminate all the bass from your mix. Allowing the mids and highs to come through works with the cabinet design to produce sounds that give you a unique audio mix.
You’ll find the issue with that approach is that the bass guitar loses its primary function. It’s typically used as a backing instrument to cover the lower end, which you can no longer achieve without significant issues.
What Is the Best Guitar Cabinet for Sale Today?
There is no question in my mind that the best guitar cabinet to use right now is the Marshall 2551AV Silver Jubilee. It supports 240W of output wattage while providing an angled design that promotes more audio comprehension for the listener.
A straight version is available, but I prefer the surrounding audio style more than the stuff that comes at your head-on.
Although the cab weighs 95 pounds, it’s on four casters to make movement as easy as possible on the stage. You have presence, middle, treble, and bass controls, along with a high-low output option.
The speakers are 12-inch Celestion Vintage 3, and you get four of them. All the components are heavy-duty and of high quality, allowing you to create faithful and consistent sounds with your instrument.
You’ll get the modern features you want with a guitar cab while enjoying Marshall’s signature tone almost effortlessly.
Although it is a reissue, you’ll still appreciate its visual aesthetics and presence, especially if you’re out there gigging most weeks.
What Is the Best Bass Cabinet for Sale Today?
When my music needs more junk in its trunk, I always turn to my Orange OBC Series OBC410 bass cabinet. It sounds so great because the cabinet is made from birch plywood. That gives it some extra twang while allowing the vibrations to reverberate throughout the room. When I mic it up, the sounds are incredible.
This bass cab offers 600W of handling RMS with eight ohms, creating the right amount of output for most situations.
The internal electronics and foundations are set to reduce vibration, ensuring that the acoustical strength of each note plays accurately.
You get four ten-inch heavy-duty Eminence speakers with this design, along with a high-frequency horn, to deliver a decisive result.
It punches hard when that’s what you need, but it can also provide the smooth tones you want for jazz and blues.
This Orange bass cab is easily the best gigging product in my collection. Although it weighs 110 pounds, it’s worth carrying around when you want to put on a great show. It’s worth every bit you put into it.
When Your Gear Is Safe, Anything Is Allowed
A musician’s setup depends on individualized preferences. If everyone is safe when using the equipment, there isn’t anything that remains off the table. That includes blowing up an amp. It’s crucial to remember that bass and guitar cabs are different when designing a stage presence to ensure the results meet expectations.
I love mixing a bass cab with a guitar amp head because the sounds can end up being doomy and gloomy. It’s such a great combination when you get the settings right.
If you darken it even more, you can get a nice sludgy sound out of the instrument. I used that setup to create custom dubstep riffs and loops back in the day that I packaged for music mixologists.
We had a show at a church and decided that this setup was what we wanted, along with some of that throbbing undertone.
In the middle of the second song, a strong attack ended up blowing out the facility’s A/V system. That’s how powerful it can be!
That’s why I highly recommend ensuring the safety of your setup before proceeding, even if you’re only practicing at home. It only takes one unwanted surprise to sideline your playing for a few days.
Most of the time, keeping the same setup between instrument and cab is the right choice. When you explore the differences between bass and guitar cabinets, you’ll have new ways to experiment with your music.