A record of my Amp Quest
After a 6-year diversion into guitar playing, I have been happily back into bass for the last 10 months or so. A lot has changed! In my usual obsessive manner, I have rolled through many amps and cabinets in the quest for Tone. I will summarize my opinions, in the hope that it may help, or at least amuse, others. :o
I am very grateful for all the information I have gleaned from TalkBass – here is my effort to give back, in a small way. I may revise this list if I remember additional useful details.
Preamps: I tried various pre/power amp combinations.
Demeter – VTB-201 (the original 1.5 rack space version): Clean, open, pure. Does one thing, and does it well.
SVP CL: Clean, warm, with a huge bottom end.
SVP-Pro: Dirty, warm, and versatile.
Tube Channel 1-space: Nice, great for low $.
Tube Channel 2-space: Excellent! Too many options for me, but I am keeping it for future recording & PA use. The preamp section is better than the 1-space version’s. Comp and parametric EQ are very good.
Tech 21 –
Para Driver: A useful box that makes many amps sound better.
VT Bass: A very useful box for recording. My only objection to the Character series is that the knobs create huge changes with small movements; live, they are an accident waiting to happen. Also, I hear a little graininess in all the Character series pedals. I’m sure that no audience would ever notice it.
PSA-1: If you want to have 20 different amps available at the touch of a button, these are awesome. I know some small studios swear by these.
SVT 3-Pro: A good head, when biased and tubed correctly. I think it was probably a great choice 5 or 10 years ago, but I sure wouldn’t pay $1k for a new one today.
SVT 7-Pro: Very good amp! If you like the Ampeg tone, it is a real winner.
PF-500: Liked it a lot at low-to-moderate volumes. I couldn’t get past the limiter – I hate that “kkcchh” sound when I run out of headroom on a Class D amp.
Notes: I still need to own & experience a great SVT and a B15. I have discovered that, in general, I am not a fan of the Ampeg “Boing”, but it is a very useful sound.
MB500: I bought one used from a fellow TB’er, and loved it for a week or so, until a clumsy friend dropped it and it died. Needs a new power board, so it is currently serving as a pretty paperweight.
400RB: I had to try the classic. David Sims of the Jesus Lizard used to get a fantastic sound from one of these through a pair of Dietz 15’s. I didn’t, but they are definitely impressive little amps.
700RBII: I didn’t find it to be all that different from the 1001, except that the bottom end got flabby sooner. Which leads to…
1001RBII: Great amp, especially in a loud band setting. I could happily gig one of these for the rest of my days.
2000RB: Loved it, but one of the power boards went all smoke & sparks on me. The board is in my “learn how to fix this” pile. The remaining board makes for a sweet 500 watt amp. I like the EQ options on these better than the 1001 and 700 – the Bottom, Contour, and Presence controls add loads of versatility.
Fusion 550: Fantastic amp! The preamp is great, tons of power, and the motorized knobs are cool. I will miss this one – like the 1001, I would be happy to be stuck with this amp forever.
Notes: Sr. Gallien makes great bass amps. I plan to buy an MB800 Fusion when it comes out.
SWR – SM500: If you like super clean and fairly warm, and the Eden aesthetics bug you, the older SWR heads are excellent. Not my sound, but worth a try.
WT550: If you like brass faceplates and multicolored knobs, and want a clean and warm tone, this little monster is a great choice.
WT800: The big gun of the Eden family. If you like the 550, but want to run two cabinets or biamp, she is the one.
Markbass - LMT800: Really nice, with some good overdrive on tap. I wanted this to be a keeper (small size, lightweight, tone o’ power), but I compared it to the Edens and back it went to GC.
Orange - TH500: I was surprised at how good this little lunchbox sounds. Not a clean machine, by any means, but for a warm & loud rig, it is a decent option. I think they are waaay too expensive for what is inside that metal case, though.
Trace Elliot – AH250SMX: Loud, punchy, and versatile. This amp taught me that “scooping the mids” isn’t a bad thing, if you scoop ‘em right. Sits really well in a rock band mix, and the 2-band compressor is awesome.
Walkabout: Keeping this one. Everything they say about it is true – warm, loud, and wonderful. It taught me that “tubey” may not work well for rapid pick playing, even though the tone is perfect.
M-Pulse 600: Not for me, but an impressive amp. Also, not much louder than the Walkabout.
400: If you like the tubey tone and play fingerstyle, I doubt you can do much better than this. I loved the way you can send different effect chains to the two inputs, and mix to taste. Sounds great at moderate volumes, too. As a fast pick player, the tube sag doesn’t work for me. For solo playing, slower music, or sheer self-pleasure… this is the best amp I found. Selling it to a friend, so I can visit her occasionally.
400+: Louder and even brighter than the 400, but otherwise similar.
M9: Perfection, for me. I was amazed to find out that I get my ideal tone with the gain, bass, mid, and treble knobs all at Noon. BTW – I can coax oodles of grit and overdrive out of it. I swapped in a nice old Philips/Mullard 12AX7, and it is a substantial improvement over the stock Mesa tube.
Big Block 750: Wow! Very surprising. At low-to-moderate gain levels, this is a very warm, responsive amp. The OD is impressive, and can really nail the fuzz-drenched, sustain-forever thang. At 4 ohms, it is not super loud (probably adequate for most any gig), but at 2 ohms, it is a monster. The BB750 is a perfect match for the fEarful. This may be a keeper, too, if I can pawn a kidney. :bawl:
Ampeg – 610HLF: I did not like it, but you might. I hated the tweeter. A strong guy can one-hand it into the back seat of a mid-size car.
Bag End – S18B-D: What a cool box o’ low end! I am using it as a sub for the rehearsal space PA.
Mesa – 1X15 Diesel: 20 years ago, the EV15 was my favorite speaker – articulate, strong, and efficient. Still a good option, but I like modern drivers more.
Peavey – VB-810: If you want an 8X10 cab, I recommend this one. Built like a tank, too.
Genz-Benz – Neo 212t: An awesome cab – lightweight, sturdy, and it sounds very good.
fEarful – 1212/6: This one pushed the GB 212t onto the classifieds. I can carry it up and down stairs myself. Paired with the Walkabout, it can easily be heard in a loud rock band without PA support.
Aguilar – GS-412: I worked my way up to this one, and I love it. Paired with the Mesa M9, I like it even more than the fEarful.
So that 1212/6 hitting the block any time soon?
I think the 1212/6 will be my "backup/small stage" cab. makes an awesome PA cab, too.
I need to spend a little time with this combination to make a judgement. I am concerned it might be really bright, but we'll see if that can be EQ'd out.
I think your observations are spot on, especially re: the mighty Walkabout. I also love Mesa's whole Carbine line, and think the M3 is the best of the bunch, even though it has the least power. Most of the other amps mentioned also give me much the same impressions.
do not know if there is any difference between the two.
edit: he had absolutely GREAT sound using ampeg v4b, too.
Good to know - my memories of the late 80's are a bit cloudy, to say the least. :D
I remember being amazed at how small & lightweight his amp was.
Good review of all the gear you tried. Well done!
Thanks! A few updates and corrections.
A few more updates:
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