All tube Pre & Power: Demeter, Aguilar, and Mesa

Discussion in 'Amps [BG]' started by bassballs27, Feb 10, 2014.


  1. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Hey guys,

    Just trying to see if there are any people out there who have experience with the Demeter VTHF-300M namely with the HBP-1 Preamp, but the VTBP-201S will work as well. There's a few threads already out there, but I thought I'd like to see if people are still using some of these amps with the Class D's becoming so popular.

    I've got the opportunity to go own a HPB-1 / VTHF-300M and was curious if there are any experienced users that could offer some comments. Not many threads on this combo, but any I've read have been very positive.

    The Aguilar DB680 / DB728 seems to be more sought after piece in the rack mount all tube setup. Very heavy, like the Demeter, but with a whole lot more tubes under the hood and 400W of tube power, crazy! I really don't have need for 400W, but you know having a little more with bass always tends to help.

    A little more background info, I've got an Ampeg SVT-2Pro and a hot-rodded Mesa 400+. I like the Ampeg, but the Mesa is now my favourite as it now has an adjustable bias installed, some new Groove Tube JJ Power Tubes and Sovtek 12AX7's. Sounds fantastic. I really do like 6L6's for bass.

    The new Mesa Strategy Eight : 88 is on my list as well to check out, just waiting for one to make it up North. 465W of power seems deadly……but man that amp would be more expensive to re-tube than my 400+ these days.

    I have a feeling that the Demeter rig might be more what I'm after as I'm looking for a little more cleaner and hifi sounding amp. I will be using Aguilar Cabinets with whatever I choose to go with. Curious to get any feedback. Interesting thing that Aguilar has discontinued there pre/pwr all tube rigs years ago, yet Demeter is producing the VTHF-300M, and oddly enough hasn't integrated Speakons yet!

    Thanks for reading.
  2. Spent

    Spent Supporting Member

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    I have been using the Demeter VTPB-201s with a Crown XLS1000 class D on and off for about a year. Very clean and punchy with my Spector Euro and Hartke HyDrive. It's true what they say, if you like the sound of your bass, you'll like the Demeter. This combination is also very easy on the back, especially compared to an Ampeg or Mesa. I had an Ampeg SVT-3 pro and, many years ago, a Mesa 400. Great products, but not for me, I prefer a clean, hi if sound myself. I went preamp crazy last year and bought the Demeter, an Ashy SC-40 and a Yamaha PB-1 to compare to my SansAmp RBI. While these are all great preamps', and I love the sound of each, I'm keeping the RBI and selling the others (the Ashly just sold). This has nothing to do with the preamps' shortcomings (there are none) but with the fact that I'm using a SansAmp prorammable di and it works best with the RBI. I would keep them all, but I made a deal with the boss (wife) and she's holding in me to it. The Demeter is going to be the toughest one to get rid of, I really, really love it. My long range plans are to pick up the VTPB-201-800D.
  3. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the reply. The VTBP-201S has definitely been a tried and true pre for a very long time. I had the chance to play on that year, the old rack and half unit and was impressed. At the time, I had an Eden Navigator that I had for years. Amazingly enough, that was the time that I decided I wanted to go all tube and got the SVT-2Pro, then the 400+.
    Great amps.

    Good luck with the Sans Amp. I've owned a Sansamp BDDI for about 15 years!
  4. Spent

    Spent Supporting Member

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    I have the SansAmp bddi, programmable bddi and RBI. They've defined my sound for over a decade.
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  6. chaosMK

    chaosMK Supporting Member

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    Disclosures:
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    First... you've already "won"

    Second- Maybe you don't need to buy a power amp. Just plug your pre of choice into the FX Return on either amp and there ya go.

    If u want to be really sneaky, run your pre blended in the Mesa FX loop for the "next level."
  7. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for the reply.
    There's definitely truth and good guidance in what you've just mentioned. Unless the Demeter is dramatically different than the power sections in the Ampeg or Mesa. I know the Demeter VTHF-300M does have a pair of preamp tubes inside it so you could run your bass directly into it without a preamp.

    Using a separate pre on the Ampeg might not be a bad idea. Definitely a cheaper alternative for sure.

    I tried a few SVT's this past summer. I found I liked the SVT-2Pro over the SVT-CL with the added drive adjustment. Now, I'm looking for a warm but clean sound, got the cool overdrive with the Mesa that I really like.

    Maybe a DB680 through either of these amps could be very cool. And of course, with the fact that I own a QSC PLX2402, well, there's my solid state power section.

    Hmmm, going to have to give this some thought.
    Great ideas. Thanks man.
  8. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Bump for an update.

    I've been doing a fair bit of research on the DB680 and I'm not completely sure it's for me. They are getting tough to find and are not cheap when they come up. As much as I love Aguilar cabs, and have had some experience with their on board preamps, I've noticed that in general their equipment does make bass sound 'good'.......in fact 'very good' to some. However, my research is telling me that the DB680 tends to colour or shape the sound of your bass a certain way. It makes me also wonder why it go discontinued. Too expensive to produce? They wanted to try something new and go lighter weight?

    And I've always heard this line about Demeter. "If you like the sound of your bass, you'll like how it sounds through a Demeter". Plus, Demeter is still around making the same stuff. If it ain't broke don't fix it?

    I have a feeling that Demeter might truly be the route I need to check out.

    Been hearing lots of a good buzz about the new Mesa Prodigy and Strategy as being very organic sounding.
  9. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    possibly slightly off your original topic, but I have used an Alembic F1X in front of Mesa 2:90 and 2:100 tube power amps. Both combinations sounded great. With the 2:xxx power amps, you pretty much need 2 cabs if you want the full power the amp offers, but still, great combinations, particularly if you are good with the Fender tone stack of the F1X.

    Other possibilities are the Mesa M180/M190 mono block tube power amps as well as the original version Strategy 400 and 500 power amps. chaosmk also pointed out that you can run your tube pre of choice into the fx returns of either the new Prodigy or the Strategy all tube amps too.

    Slight correction: Mesa Strategy Eight:88 is rated at 465w not 425 as you listed in your OP. Also, in terms of retubing, it will be fairly expensive to retube any amp that needs 6 or 8 power tubes, but you should not have to do that for many years if the amp is even close to being correctly biased, and these new Mesa's are self biasing so they should not eat power tubes at all.

    You posted about several Ampeg configs, but also said you like your Mesa 400+ so I thought I'd toss all this potential Mesa goodness into the thread.

    enjoy!
  10. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for your reply pfschim.

    What are the power ratings on your Mesa Power Amps?
    Are they both Stereo, so that would be 2x90 = 180W and 2x100 = 200W?

    Yes, you're right. Made the correction to the OP on the Mesa Strategy's total rated power. Seems a little odd at 58.125W per KT88. KT88 are the most expensive power tube produced today and I believe they can be cranked up to using somewhere around 75W or so (give or take).

    I was taking a closer look at the Demeter specs and realized that the VHTF-300M uses 8x6550's @ 300W. Yet, the Aguilar DB728 uses the same specs and produces 400W. I thought 6550's were generally rated at 35W each? More confusing is the Mesa Strategy's output at 465W, aren't KT88's rated at 42W roughly? This would make the true output around 336W? I know my SVT-2Pro has 6x6550's which is supposed to be 300W, yet maybe it's only producing 210W with the specs I just mentioned. Wondering if anyone can comment on this. Obviously output transformers are being overlooked, but maybe they getting more power out of these tubes that I figure. There is definitely something mixed up here.

    Anyway, I was very vague in my last post. I was speaking more about preamps than poweramps as the pres are what give the amp the character.

    It's sounding like everyone is pointing me in the direction of keeping the SVT-2Pro and using it as a make shift power amp or slave to a different preamp or putting the preamp in the effects look of either the SVT-2Pro or 400+. Not bad ideas at all, from what I explained above, it might not be worth investing in any bigger of all-tube power amps than I already have. I should just be checking out pres. The Alembix F1X is on my list to check out for sure. As well as Monique.
  11. bassgod0dmw

    bassgod0dmw Supporting Member

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    There are two separate amps in each one. You've got two 90w amps in the 2:90 and two 100w amps in the 2:100. You wouldn't sum them together.

    The 2:90 was designed to run with the Triaxis preamp. You can run a stereo cab setup, or a wet/dry rig, or basically anything that you'd use two separate amps to do. It's an AWESOME guitar rig, if you like that sort of thing.

    Since you say you are looking for a hifi tone I'm not sure either one would really give you the muscle you'd want to stay clean. I would definitely look at the Prodigy & Strategy though. They can do the clean thing very well, and with the extra power on the Strategy I'm sure it will stay cleaner at a much louder volume (although the Prodigy gets stupid loud too and stays clean doing it if you want)
  12. popgadget

    popgadget

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    I've got the Demeter HPB1 as well as the Alembic F1X, and much prefer the Demeter.
    To me it's clean and uncolored, supporting "the sound of your bass" claims.
    I also prefer the parametric EQ to the Fender stack.

    My F1X is pretty much parked these days. I've been thinking about finding it a new home where it would be loved.
  13. thefunkgorilla

    thefunkgorilla Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Hello,
    I have been playing a Mesa Prodigy for a month now. It has redefined my sound. It makes each of my basses sound more like themselves and makes me sound more like me. It is amazingly responsive to touch and dynamics in playing, and is very three dimensional sounding.

    It is very clear, shockingly loud, skin crawling gritty and driven, just depending on what you want and how you tweak the knobs. The combination of active bass and treble EQ and the 5 position mid voice knob give tons of EQ possibilities. The Gain and volume work great together. Clear as a bell if you want, gritty, gravelly grind if you want. The half power option(125 watts)is quite loud enough for a lot of gigs. It only uses two power tubes, so you can run 1/2 power for a year, then change tube position and get a lot longer life before replacing tubes.

    Oh BTW, I have a bunch of Rackmount Gear for sale now that I have the Mesa.......F1-X, SF-2, Ampeg SVP Pro, if that tells you anything....
  14. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

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    I have a VTHF-300M, plus the HBP-1, VTBP-201s (and VTBP-201) preamps, and yes, this is a glorious and fantastic setup. My fave is probably the older black face 201 with the 300M, but both the HBP-1 and the 201s pair up nicely as well. The 300M is very easy to bias, and also has pentode/triode switching, plus variable feedback control, which let you fine tune its response quite a bit (from more raucous/growly to more clean/pure).

    I also have a DB728, and I had a DB680 for quite a while, but ultimately sold it, as I prefer the DB659 (both with the DB728 and with other amps). The 659/728 is much more in-your-face, more "textured," versus the more "smooth" Demeter rig, and hits like a ton of bricks. Hard to pick a favorite, as each setup has its strengths. The Aggie tube rig is more inherently "rock-n-roll," though that doesn't mean that the Demeter can't rock out. The Aggie is more aggressive, the Demeter is more refined.

    In all honesty, those big tube power amps are not all that fun to schlep back and forth to a gig, especially if you have them in a nice shock-mount rack. Then there's the preamp, and whatever other rack gadgets you feel inspired to throw in. When all is said and done, a tube head is a far easier solution. The Bass 400+ is an awesome head, and if you like it, I might suggest you just stick with it.

    Or get a new Mesa head... :D

    If that is the case, then yes, the Demeter rig would kill. As would a Sadowsky SA200, though those are very hard to find, as well.
  15. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    The way I look at a stereo amp is similar to using two cabinets with a mono amplifier. If you use two cabs, rated for the maximum power per side of the stereo amp you have the total power. But, I do understand that you're not working with the same headroom or intensity persay. Plus, you couldn't run one cabinet with the two power outputs. Thanks for the correction Bassgod0dmw! Great suggestions as well for the Mesa gear.
  16. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Great input. Thanks popgadget!
  17. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Thanks for your reply thefunkgorilla. You kind of have my thinking on way I'd like to go. I had rack gear in the past and as much as it is cool.......sometimes the integrated heads just seem to have it. Did you ever own a Titan V12? I had one this past summer, great amplifier, very powerful, but I actually prefer the 400+ better. And no it's been worked on......it's incredible.

    I really want to give the Mesa's a whirl. I'm not sure what I'll see the Strategy for a little while as of yet.
  18. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    This is the post I was waiting on. Thank you so much for replying tombowlus. Bass player's are well into using the Class D amplifiers right now. Lighter weight options are always being explored. The Demeter or Aguilar All tube rack rigs, although amazing sounding to many, are not all that common, probably due to weight.

    I personally don't like the idea of lugging around my 70lbs SVT-2Pro in a giant SKB 6 space (the one with the built in dolly) that has a power conditioner and tuner. It must weight 85 to 90lbs and is quite awkward. This rig definitely stays at home. If I did pursue the Demeter rig, it too would stay at home. And that is something that has to weighed out as well. I like the idea of more portable rigs. Getting into the 100lbs range for amplifiers is quite a bit. And the Mesa Strategy is about 1/2 of that.

    Bah, decisions, decisions. All relatively good ones. Some short comings. But, amazingly Demeter rig would be cheaper than the Mesa Strategy!
  19. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

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    One more head that you might consider is the Reeves C225. Man, that is a glorious beast, with big, deep lows, pretty "quick" mids for a tube head, and some of the prettiest highs in the biz.
  20. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

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    Hmmm.....sounds cool. I'm going to do a little research on this Reeves amp you've mentioned.

    To be a little more clear of what I'm after, I'm looking for an amp that will reproduce my basses without or very little coloring at all. I've got the 400+ with my Aguilar GS412 to cover all the rock tones, even have an Epifani UL502 with a UL410 to cover a more hifi spectrum, but when I caught that Demeter for sale.....it made me take a second look at my SVT-2Pro, but I won't let go of the Aguilar DB810 that I have paired with it.
  21. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

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    If you want all-tube amplification, AND as little coloration as possible, then that Demeter rig is going to be tough to beat.

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