The silver-bullet to my non-bass-y bass guitars.
Here is a cautionary tale for you, in what not to do when picking up a new musical instrument (for the first time (in my case a bass guitar) and starting off with mis-matching gear and being cheap.
So, I embarked on my bass playing journey perhaps 15 months ago- when I first started I started off with old guitar gear which we had taken from my sister- a old Yamaha electric guitar and an old rock amp. And when I got my hands on my first borrowed practice bass guitar, I naturally just plugged the guitar into the rock amp, as that was all we had to give the guitar voice. As I wasn’t going to run-out and buy a bass amp, when I didn’t even know if I’d take to bass playing.
So, fast forward 6 months, and I’m totally in love with playing bass guitar, but because I’m not a large man I decided to go down the Short-scale bass guitar route. And since then, I’ve been annoyed that my short-scale bases aren’t bass-y enough. That is compared to others at church, compared to recordings I was playing to from Spotify, and compared to youtubers who were also playing the same short-scale guitar as me. Grrrr!
At the start of the year, I decided that I needed a proper bass amp, as it seemed that everyone who was serious about bass had one. So, at first I had my eye on the Fender Rumble 40 V3, priced around $350 Aussie dollars. But then I fell prey of marketing, and then the Fender Rumble Studio 40 seemed so much more appealing (the model up), which was around the $550 mark. And what was appealing about the Studio 40 was the fact that it had all these built in tones, imagine having a pedal board, but all of that functionality was built into the amp. But at the time $550 seemed a bit steep, as it was a whole $200 more than the same amp without the tones.
But then I stumbled upon the Fender Mustang LT 25, which to me seemed like the no-brainer option. It also had different tones to choose from, and it was even cheaper than the Rumble V3, at sub $300. But of course, it was just an amp for electric guitars (not bass guitars), but my thought process was, I’d been using a regular electric guitar amp for the past 6 months, it does the job, so why wouldn’t this one?
So, I bought the Fender Mustang LT 25, and hated it from day one! 1. The digital signal didn’t sound anything like my sister’s old-school analogue signal amp (the difference was night and day). 2. Out of the 50 tones, only 5 or so worked for a bass guitar, the others would cause so much ear-piercing feedback and hum that it was utterly unbearable. And 3. Somehow plugging our other guitars into it, like acoustic guitars, it just wouldn’t work or it would create so much feedback that we had to turn the volume right down. So, the Mustang LT 25 was unplugged and placed on a shelf, never to be used again. **Note: In hindsight, it was probably on me, the LT Mustang 25 was just not designed for a bass guitar, although it still baffles me in why it didn’t work for the acoustics either.
And then in the next subsequent 9 months, I’ve been on a short-scale bass guitar buying spree! In the constant search for that elusive bass guitar which would actually sound bass-y. And after buying my 4th (G&L Tribute Series Fallout bass) and changing the strings to La Bella flat wound strings, as a Youtuber had done the same and his sounded great afterwards, again my bass sounded nothing like theirs! In fact, it was unplayable on my sister’s rock amp due to the amount of reverb. So, then I decided again to buy a proper bass amp. As otherwise my latest bass (a total investment of $1,199) was totally wasted.
And in the span of 10 months, I was back here again, going through the exact same processes of reading and watching bass amp reviews, trying to determine what was the best amp for my needs. Which was basically just a practice amp which I could play at home.
And here I was again, weighing up the pros and cons of either the Fender Rumble 40 V3, or the Fender Rumble Studio 40. Price difference of around $200. Initially I thought I just need a stock out of the box bass amp, as I’d been burnt with the experience with the Mustang LT 25 and wasn’t much impressed by the fender library of tones. But the more I read up about the Studio 40, the more I wanted it! Perhaps I’m the type who always likes all the bells and whistles. But I did end up deciding on the Studio 40, I was thinking since I was already in $350 for the basic Rumble 40 V3, why not go that little bit further and not have any regrets later!
So, after making the order and awaiting its arrival I still had 3 reservations. A. Is the bass amp still going to sound crap, as these days it’s all digital signals, and it’ll never compared to the good old analogue signal amps? B. What if all of my short-scale guitars still sound non-bass-y even being plugged into a proper bass amp? And C. Being blind, am I going to be able to navigate all the features of the amp independently?
So, it arrived after less than 3 days in transit from Melbourne, and first impressions was that it’s a lot larger and heavier than the Mustang LT 25 (although the Rumble has already been praised as a much smaller and lighter bass amp). It weighs slightly under 10 Kgs, it has a soft rubber handle so it’s easy enough to pick-up and move like a suitcase, but it’s a little bit bulky so you need to be careful when going through narrow doorways.
The layout of the Studio 40 is quite similar to the Mustang LT 25, although the nobs are of a higher quality (soft touch plastics Vs hard plastics), while the panel of buttons and screen has now moved, from being at the front top of the amp, to the back top of the amp. Which at first I thought was a downside, but this is actually beneficial- as the amp is large enough and sturdy enough to sit on. So, 50% of the time I use it as a bench and play seated on it.
And getting started was pretty easy, power in, guitar in, power switch on and sound is already coming out of the speaker! And OMG! My least bass-y guitar which I have and happened to plug in first, it damn well sounded bass-y now! Thank you Jesus!
The muffled disconnected feel/sound of the Mustang LT 25 wasn’t the case here. The sound coming through the amp was crystal clear, and it was full bodied! Reservation A, eliminated!
And then over the next few days I tested all my 4 short-scale guitars, and I’m pleased to say that they all sound bass-y! On the clean setting it’s ok, but there are enough tones that you’re bound to find one which makes your guitar sound uber bass-y! So, reservation 2 or B, also eliminated!
And the awesome thing about the Studio 40, aside that it has 100 built in tones, is the fact that it comes with a companion app. The Fender Tone app. It took a little bit longer (perhaps 5 minutes) to download the app, sink the app to the amp (did I say the amp has both Bluetooth and WIFI?), and once the two devices are paired then you can tweak and adjust all sorts of options on the app, which then automatically sinks with your amp.
For example, you can click into any of the 100 tones, and then you have the option to add or adjust the pre-amp effects, then you can also change the amp cabinet/amp model, and you can then add/adjust the post-amp effects. Not to mention you can further increase and decrease various inputs. So, the options are pretty much limitless!
And the beauty of the app is that it’s accessible with Apple Voiceover! So, for the first time, I was able to tell which tone I’m using and able to identify it by its name! On the Mustang LT 25, I just had to count the number of notches I turned and remember that twist 11 was a sound that I liked. So yeah, reservation C, also eliminated!
And you’re not only limited to the 100 pre-set tones, but after you have tweaked them to your liking, you can save your adjustments as a new pre-set. You can also create your own custom sounds, making it tone 101, 102 etc. And there is also a Fender community, who are sharing their own creations with other users (all through the app), so you can test and download these community created tones as well and add them to your pre-sets! So, you’re not buying a device which remains the same and stuck in 2022, but this thing evolves and gets better with time! Now what piece of tech gets better over time?
So, I think it has been fully worth it to pay the extra $200 and get the Studio 40, compared to the Rumble 40 V3, as it almost gives you 20+ amps in one, because you can adopt the sound from any of Fender’s previous bass amp models.
I’ve had the amp for almost a month now, and I’ve barely investigated this devices’ potential. I think I’ve only tried 10 tones in total, so I’ve got 10 times more to muck-around with! I haven’t tried adjusting or adding effects, and I haven’t tried creating my own custom tone. So, I can see myself still discovering new things 6 – 12 months down the track. And most importantly, it sounds super bass-y, which makes all of my bass guitars sound like the real deal!
So, this is what I’ve learnt and what I’d like to pass on to you as a ‘what not to do’. Don’t be cheap! And don’t go against expert advice! Here I was, trying to save a few bucks here and there, and I thought I knew better than the experts (when they say, never play a bass through a standard electric guitar amp). If back in January 2022, I paid the extra $60 bucks for the Rumble 40 V3, I would have found that my first and only short-scale bass guitar (the Fender Mustang PJ), was already bass-y enough, when plugged into a proper bass amp. But instead, I saved $60, bought the wrong amp, then spent $$$ in buying 3 more bases in the hunt for that elusive proper sounding bass. And in the end I still came back to square one and bought a Fender rumble, and the silver-bullet was the amp, not the guitar. But hey, on the bright side, at least I got the better of the 2 Rumble 40 amps now! Not to mention I do love all of my 4 short-scale bass guitars. Haaha.
So, if you’re in the market for a bass amp, check-out the Fender Rumble Studio 40 bass amp, I can’t highly recommend it enough!