After a 6-year diversion into guitar playing, I have been happily back into bass for the last year and a half. 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.
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. Ampeg
SVP CL: Clean, warm, with a huge bottom end.
SVP-Pro: Dirty, warm, and versatile. ART
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.
SWR Interstellar Overdrive: What a cool piece of gear! Very flexible. Warm, rich, and the best distortion sounds ever. Heads: Ampeg
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.
SVT II non-pro: Finally scored one, and I love it. Sooo responsive and fat. Gets great tones at a reasonable volume, with plenty of power available to make the Loud. The graphic EQ is very handy, too. A keeper. GK
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. Eden
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. Mesa
: 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: A great amp. 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. UPDATE: it lost out to the Aguilar DB750.
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. Aguilar
DB750: Outstanding amp! My only beef with it, is that it just doesn't sound right until it is turned up just a little too loud for most of my needs. Kind of like a big tube guitar amp, in that regard. Otherwise, just about the perfect amp.
TH500: Still checking this one out. It may be my favorite little class D amp. Peavey
The Classic 400: Amazing. Blending the clean & overdrive channels produces the biggest, fattest, warmest bass tone I have found, and at a reasonable volume level, to boot. Paired with the DB810 cabinet... 280 pounds of awe-inspiring sound. Cabinets
– 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.
410HLF: It really does go deeper than anything I've tried, but the mids and highs were not so great, for my tastes. 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
-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 loved it. Paired with the Mesa M9, I liked it even more than the fEarful.
DB810: I scored a beat-up one, and it is amazing. I sold the GS412. However, at 186 pounds, it will spend most of its time in the rehearsal cave.
Current favorite (movable) cabinet: an SWR Big Bertha sporting a pair of Faital 15PR400 neo speakers. Just outstanding, and lightweight to boot.