I just put together my first proper bass rig and I referred to the Talkbass forums countless times in the process. I thought it's time I join your ranks and make a contribution to the knowledge base =)
All of the below is my opinion, and despite being an engineer and having dabbled in music and electronics since my childhood, some of my opinions may be misguided. I would appreciate comments from more experienced musicians in the community, so I can make more knowledgeable decisions in the future. Why I chose the Staccato'51
I tried numerous heads in the same class (see below) before settling on the Staccato'51. I wasn't able to play through the Staccato, but I had tried the RH450 and liked it very much, except for the price. I bought the Staccato for these reasons:
Why I chose the Mesa 2x10
- I found a used one for a very good price. I could probably sell it for more than what I paid for it.
- It is over-engineered, which I like. I am a mechanical engineer with experience in electronics, and I appreciate features like speaker-free operation, a pre/post switch for the DI, 110/220V operation etc. These, to me, signify a well-designed and well-built piece of electronics.
- I like the sound and the feel of the SpectraComp very much; even more than my EBS MultiComp and much more than the MXR Super Comp I used to have. This and the tuner mean two pedals I don't carry to rehearsals and gigs.
The second-hand market for high-end bass heads in Turkey is reasonably vibrant. Wait a few weeks and you will come across a good compact head. However, the same does not hold for cabs, since they are expensive to ship from overseas and import taxes for speakers are much higher than for other electronics equipment (don't ask). Few people own good bass cabs, and even fewer people will part with them. Thus, I did not pick the Mesa because I found one for cheap (far from it, it was probably the most expensive among the cabs I considered buying). I picked it for the following reasons:
How they sound together
- It sounded amazing at the store, continued to sound phenomenal in our rehearsal space, moved on to sound fantastic in my living room, and ended up sounding ridiculous in my bedroom.
- To my ears, most bass cabs seem to suffer from a notch at the frequencies where the crossover comes in. The Mesa seems to respond evenly across the frequencies produced by the bass. The guy at the music store called it a "reference" cab. I find his use of the term rather too liberal, but not entirely unwarranted. The cab seems to bring out the best of any bass and any amp I plug into it.
- State-of-the-art engineering and build quality. This is a 2x10 that can handle 600 Watts, and has more headroom and low-end "thump" than any of the 4x10s I played through. The adjustable crossover frequency and tweeter volume are very well-executed and useful features.
Other equipment I considered
- I can dial in a sound that is powerful, warm and clear at the same time. A thunderous low-end and great pitch definition can be had together, something not all rigs can do (certainly not many 2x10s). High-mids can be brought out so that effects can be heard, without overpowering the rest of the band.
- A friend once said that the TC has a "digital soul." I sort of agree; traces of a digital "soul" are slightly discernible in the upper mids. However, the amp is able to produce a ridiculous amount of clear and warm low-end without sacrificing clarity. This and its engineering and build quality make it, for me, a great amp for rehearsals and gigs. For recording I could use some tubes.
- The cab is a monster. It has absolutely no problem handling the Staccato's power, and no problem overpowering our rehearsal space and my ears.
- The adjustable crossover frequency and tweeter volume are great features which can be used to attenuate some of the TC's "digital soul."
I wanted a head that is light, compact and reliable with a good amount of headroom; so I looked into mostly solid state gear and some hybrids.
Initially I thought Markbass
was the way to go and I looked at the LMII
, and LMT
. Tone-wise, I found that these amps offer excellent presence and definition, but they all seemed to have a "clank" in the highs that I didn't care for and could not dial out. Moreover, some of their features, such as the preamp tube in the LMT being directly soldered to the PCB and that they are designed for country-specific voltages despite the solid state class-D circuitry, suggest that they are not as well engineered, reliable and repairable as their prices suggest. When shopping for cabs I again considered, and almost bought, a Markbass Standard 102HF
. Had I found one for cheaper than the Mesa, I would have bought one. However, for the same price, the Mesa had to be my pick. The Markbass cab, to my ears, produces a "growl" in the upper mids, which I think has to do with the neodymium speaker material. To kill this growl, I found I had to sacrifice pitch definition. It actually sounds great if you want to cut through the mix and be heard. However, I prefer my bass to be "felt" instead of "heard" (while maintaining pitch definition of course), which I could not accomplish with the Markbass but came instantly with the Mesa. In short, although Markbass gear sounds great; but they don't exactly sound the way I want to sound, and I could not find them at prices I'm willing to pay.
I looked at the Genz Benz Shuttle 6.0
. I remember I liked their sound and found the headroom to be ample. What put me off was that two friends who owned Shuttles both experienced problems with their amps at roughly the same time when the agreement between GB and their Turkish distributor ended, so they couldn't get their amps fixed. I found an Ampeg Portaflex PF-350
head and a PF-210HF
cab, but the head does not have anything near the headroom of the Staccato and the cab does not produce the kind of massive low-end I was looking for.
The Mesa Boogie M-Pulse Walkabout
was just great, but expensive. Similarly, the Eden WT550
received serious consideration, but I could not find one for a good price. In the future I might let go of the Staccato for an Eden or Mesa head (or add one alongside).
Various 2x10 4x10 cabs from Ashton
, Line 6
, Genz Benz
and Gallien Kruger
were considered, but none excited me anywhere near as much as the Markbass or the Mesa. Admittedly, I was initially looking for a more economical 4x10 instead of a high-end 2x10 and the cabs I tried out from these makes were largely of that variety. Nevertheless, none of the 4x10's came close to offering the ample headroom, the massive low-end and the clarity of the Mesa 2x10. Lastly, I looked at the TC Electronic RS210
, which offers a balanced and clear sound, but it didn't really compare to the Mesa or the Markbass at the same price.