My goal was a super-portable rig that would last a long time at small gigs.
It's not rock/metal, so huge volume was not a priority. The likes of Epifani, Bergantino, Vanderkley etc were outside my budget, but I still wanted the grooves to be what they deserve to be.
I ended up with a Barefaced One10 and a Taurus Qube 300, all of which fits into a cajon bag along with all the cables I need. I am very, very happy with it. I can use public transport to get to gigs, and have a few beers after. (It's zero tolerance for alcohol in the Highway Code where I live.)
I have considered many alternatives, my budget ever-expanding. There's a list of rejects at the bottom of this writeup for those as anal as myself.
I have properly trialled the GK MB200 and Warwick LWA 500 heads with the One10 cab, neither of which did it for me.
I'm writing this up because I feel Taurus needs your attention. Taurus needs your attention.
For context: my only bass is a Yamaha BB passive P/J with Thomastik jazz flats on, and I like the Sly Stone to Me'shell Ndegeocello kinda approach to sound. Middle of the road, no fancy sheet, but it should sound like an old tree with gnarly roots. Be the meat in the mix rather than "cut through the mix", y'know.
So, to the point:
Yamaha BB passive P/J + ...
1) GK MB200
I so, sooo wanted to like it. Great size, ridiculously light, QUIET, fair price, beautiful build, headphone socket, the knobs and switches are sexual... but I couldn't get a natural tone out of it.
During my research, I kept hearing about The GK Sound. For others like me who didn't know what that meant: the bass in Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name is that. It's iconic; you hear it once, then you die knowing that tone well.
But, at least with my bass, my fingers, my cab, and my sets of headphones, that's it. No matter how I EQd the living soul out of that thing, it felt like it didn't want to amplify MY bass, but to enforce that one tone. I don't get it; it has 2-band mids, and a contour toggle. The math doesn't add up on paper, but in practice I didn't want any of those tones with me on stage.
Bottom line: try before you buy. If your bass tone is less scooped than my P/J, you might be lucky, and have this wonderful amp do what you wanna hear.
2) Warwick LWA 500
This is the opposite of the GK. It doesn't want to interfere with your tone, so much so that the EQ targets frequencies which are mostly outside your bass' notes.
I think it was designed for active basses, where you shape your tone on the built-in preamp. The LWA is equipped to EQ the room characteristics out of your stage sound; that is, extreme highs, and boomyness. And there's the built-in (optional) compressor, which indeed messes a bit with the volume, but not to an annoying extent. It's good enough if you like compressors. Overall the amp is like a "final touch" for your active bass on stage.
My impression of the overall design was not so good. The knobs are small and difficult to read, compared to the GK. The feet are small and hard plastic, very slippery. I took it apart and I was not impressed by the airflow design.
It did sound exactly like my bass at the jack though. But I want my amp EQ to have more shaping options in the bass' tonal range.
3) Taurus Qube 300 (winner)
There's no headphone output, it's heavier and pricier than the MB200 or the LWA 500, and there's a noisy fan cooling it (not noticeable while playing).
It's all because this was built for the stage, to amplify what you already have going, with a leeetle added salt, pepper and thick.
The EQ options are very well designed. You've got toggles for quick fixes, and pots for setting up the basics during soundcheck. It can shape your core tone, but not by killing your bass' character. All the EQ combinations are usable sounds, because they are all the tones of your bass, shaped for different rooms and/or co-musicians.
I've heard people compare Taurus to Ampeg as a "rock" brand. Don't get sidetracked by the genrealogy. It's a thick sound, it's what I expect from a small bass amp. On stage I vary styles by moving along the strings and/or pickups, not by tweaking my amp.
I got compliments on the tone from all sorts, including an old Epifani/Warwick dealer. My bass is a stock BB414 with good strings (and minimal DIY saddle dressing). Go figure.
If you have a passive bass, give a Taurus a go. Their combos are also killer, if a tad bright for my taste.
The deserved praises of the One10 cab have been sung by others, I won't repeat them here. It's all true.
(If I had cash to spare, I'd buy another one and use it as a coffee table until I need to run a loud gig with my own rig.)
APPENDIX - Rejected alternatives
Fender Rumble series (silver cloth grille):
* 100: magically amazing value, super lightweight, great sound, but not loud enough for even small outdoor gigs.
* 200: 15 inch speaker doesn't work well at low volumes (with everyone else in the band going acoustic).
* 500: bulkier than what I wanted, why lug around two drivers and a big box when one good speaker should suffice.
GK MB combos (110, 112): see below for GK sound.
* EC10: good sound, but heavy for the volume it can do. Fender Rumble 100 is better for the price.
* EC15: heavy!
Ibanez Promethean: didn't get a chance to try one out, but low-cost Ibanez electronics never impressed me, so I was OK with missing out.
TC Electronic: pricey for the (to my ears) a bit sterile sound. YMMV.
The rest were either heavy or very meh (Peavey, Ashdown, Ampeg).
Blackstars came out later.
Traynors were impossible to get where I live.
Trace Elliot ELF: I don't trust anything that heats up so much.
Eich/Puma, I couldn't get my hands on, and too pricey to buy without trying.
Most others were too heavy or expensive.
I hope this is of use to someone!
PS: I do have sound recordings, but I have overdone it and my playing is bottom shelf shite, so I'll never get around to sharing it.