I guess this got started a long time ago. A recent customer brought his child’s bass guitar in for a diagnosis. Because it was not clear from the conversation on the phone, I could not tell if the problem was in the bass or the amp. Initially I told them I did not need the amp as I have a recording system and guitar amps. This set off a misunderstanding that one could not plug a bass into a guitar amp or a PA system as it would “blow” the amp. There seems to be a belief by newbies that a bass is somehow different from a guitar and that it has “Special Powers” to damage equipment. Let’s put this silliness to rest.
A bass guitar operates on the same principles as an electric guitar but the strings are bigger for lower frequencies and the pickups sometimes put out a more powerful signal than an electric guitar. But not always!
People tend to associate lower with bigger and bigger with lower, so a big bass guitar will stomp a little electric guitar and it’s tiny little amplifier. In fact, some famous musicians, including Chris Squire from Yes, played his bass through a guitar amp to get the sound he was after.
Now, because of the lower frequencies of the bass guitar it needs much more power to produce the sound level needed to fill a club. So, where the guitar player might be using a 50 watt amp, the bass player will need a 200 watt amp to blend properly. So if you took the bass player’s 200 watt amp and plugged the guitar players 50 watt speakers into it and turned it up all the way you would blow up the guitar player’s speakers because they will not handle 200 watts of power. And it says so right on the speakers. And the guitar player might pound your head for doing such a thing to begin with.
So the message of this story is: The bass guitar will not blow up anyone’s amplifier BUT a high powered amplifier will blow up anyone’s speakers if you hook it up to lower power rated speakers. But so will your stereo amplifier, Duh.
People often tell me how they like the sound of their bass when played through my little 5 watt Black Heart tube guitar amp and Aperio custom speaker cabinet with a pair of Jensen mod 70’s! They do sound good! Who would have guessed!