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Markbass Big Bang vs Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 - Review!

Discussion in 'Amps [BG]' started by stonecoldbass, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. stonecoldbass


    Jan 11, 2010
    Hey all,
    I thought I would post my recent findings about these two amps as I'm always scouring forums looking for comparison style posts.
    First some background and scene setting: I play mainly in coverbands, funk, jazz, and rnb groups. My bass is an F Bass VF5, ash/maple and my cab is a Sadowsky SA410, 4ohm.
    Both heads are rated at 500watts at 4ohms and both use class D technology. I will give the pros and cons for each head then say why I've picked one over the other.

    I've been using the Aguilar TH500 for about 2 months now (on loan from a good friend and Ozbass stalwart) and have a lot of positive things to say about this head.
    •First, it is insanely light. I don't know how aguilar have managed to get so much power from something that appears to be filled with air. Which brings me to my second point:
    • It is LOUD. This thing really kicks out the db's and can be cranked fairly high before it starts to crack (I never actually got that to happen a) because it wasn't my amp and b) because I never had to have it THAT loud)
    • It does vintage/rock thing really well, nice thick mids and plenty of punch.
    • I like the mute button

    So here are a few things I'm not so keen on:
    •The single parametric mid control is not enough to tonally sculpt some of the tones I wanted
    * The bottom end is not as tight and focused as I like
    • The power button is on the back (small gripe but personal preference)
    • The fan is reaaaally loud! After a practice session turning it off feels like I've switched off some white noise that has been going on in the background. Obviously at gigs this isn't so much of an issue.
    • The 'Drive' control seemed to be fairly useless for my needs, creating an unpleasant coloration of the tone.

    Now on to the Markbass Big Bang.
    I've only been using this head for around a week now but these are the positive things I've discovered:
    • It's TINY! This thing is narrower than the Aguilar but about the same depth, although it is a smidge heavier
    • It is also incredibly loud. They must use the same air technology...
    • The EQ controls are great, with lo and hi mid, bass, treble and markbass' now ubiquitous VLE and VPF contour controls, getting a wide range of tones is a breeze, especially that Marcus sparkle scoop...
    • Power switch is on the front
    • Has both Speakon and 1/4" outputs unlike the TH500 which only has speakon
    • Aux in and headphone out sockets are a nice audition, though not a big selling point for me as I have a mixer and monitors setup in my practice area.
    • The bottom end is really tight and punchy, even at high volumes it remains nice and focused.

    On the downside:
    • The mute function and selectable EQ2 portion are only able to operated via footswitch
    • It takes a few seconds between turning it on and it actually producing any sound
    • That's about it...

    So if you've managed to read this far you've probably guessed that I have chosen to stick with the Markbass Big Bang out of the two. The main selling points for me were the broader tonal capabilities, the tighter bottom end, awesome power and price - I picked this baby up for $490 in a pawn shop!!!
    The Tone Hammer is still a great amp, and it retails for a lot less then the Markbass too which should be taken into consideration. But for me, I just struggled to bring out the tones that I knew were possible from F Bass with the Aguilar and have them sound pleasing at high volume. I know that with my bass having 70's position pickups and a maple board, it's going to be fairly growly and aggressive in the mids, coupled with the rather forward sounding Sadowsky and it needs to have a head that can tame those frequencies. The Aguilar seemed to exaggerate them somewhat.

    So there you have it, just thought I would share my experiences with these amps and hope it might help some of you who have questions about them.
  2. eflat7

    eflat7 Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2013
    I actually used a Tone Hammer for the first time at a gig Saturday night. I had my trusty LMIII with me, but the bass player in the other band offered to let me try his TH with my cab (we both had Eden 410XLT's). I loved the sound, but the lows just didn't have that punch. Everything else sounded really great. I just couldn't get over that very loose sounding low end. Anyway, the TH portion of this review seems pretty spot on.
  3. mam1862

    mam1862 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Northfield, Ohio
    I have been using the BB for about a year now with a TC212 and it sounds great. I am real happy with the sound. Very full lows and great sounding mid and highs. Good review.
  4. stonecoldbass


    Jan 11, 2010
    Thanks guys! Just trying to be as honest as I can be. For years I've actually been a bit of an Aguilar fan and almost anti Markbass! The best rig I've ever had was an Aguilar DB750 into epifani UL410, just thunderous and clean. My disdain for Markbass was down to trying a bunch of underpowered combos in loud rehearsal room situations. But now, I am open to anything!
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  6. Bim1959


    Apr 15, 2009
    Naples Florida
    Sales and electronic tech/piano tech: England Music Center - Clinton IA - now closed
    Check again on the TH and see if that Speakon connector is in fact also a 1/4" connector. My 7 pro will let me put a 1/4" in the center of it and run it that way. A lot of the Speakons wont let you do that but there some that will. You don't have to force it. It'll either accept it or it wont. It should also mention something about it in the owners manual.
  7. MarkA

    MarkA Registered Schmoozer. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Re. the tight low end on the Markbass Big Bang, have you had a chance to compare it to any other Markbass heads (I've got experience with both and F500 and an LMII)? And does it remain both full and focused on the B-string? Seems staying full as you get lower without getting either loose or harsh-sounding can be a bit of a balancing act.

    I have a TH500 at the moment, as well. Haven't decided if it's a keeper yet, or not. The P-bass thing seems to work well with it. Slap on my PJ is crisper through the F500 and note separation in chords is better, but it's colder and the Motown thing doesn't seem to be in its bag of tricks -- or not as easily located in its bag as in the TH500's.
  8. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    I have the TH500 and I have a SWR Goliath II 4x10 and it sounds really good,however the bottom end isn't massively huge,but when I paired it with the Aguilar GS 4x10 it was hold different animal !,not only did it sound huge down low but it also was real rich and thick and very organic sounding too. I also pair it with the new Fender Rumble 115 v3 cabinet and I have to say that if you're a P bases cat, then this combo is the ticket for real !.

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