#1
Since im soon gonna head over to the States, I want to spend about 400 dollars (the budget is somewhat flexible) on a new bass amp. I mostly play ska and metal and I want it to be somewhat powerful, but tone comes first. So far I've checked out the Ashdown Blue Line series since ashdown allegedly makes good amps, but any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. On another note, are the workers at the large music stores trustworthy if you have to ask them for their opinion? I only ask this because I don't want a noob choosing some crap bass amp for me.
#2
I would look at Carvin. They have cheap amps, but awesome power and tonal flexibility. The only problem is that you can only try them if you're in California (I think).

www.carvinguitars.com