New Amp Day... and some questions! Ampeg Portaflex PF-500

Discussion in 'Amps [BG]' started by ishouldbeking, Nov 24, 2011.


  1. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    As I recently reported in the Walkabout megathread, I am a fool. Spilled a beer INTO my Walkabout, and it's now in the hands of the Mesa dudes, hopefully being restored to good health. Sadly, this will take a week or two, and I've got gigs, man.

    So I ran out and bought the first amp I was able to try that sounded good and was cheap: AMPEG PF-500! Actually, I only got to try the 350 as I was in a hurry, and the last 500 was still boxed up in the back. For the extra DI features alone (which I will be using tomorrow night at a rock club gig), and the power, I figured this should get me through a show, and maybe make for a good backup should I decide to keep her (god bless GC's 30 day "rental" policy).

    Anywho, what with it being turkey day followed by the blackest of shopping days, I'm gonna have minimal time to play this thing before my gig. I've been trying to read through the megathreads, but there's a lot to take in. Tone wise I'm looking for a gritty/grindy SVT-like pickstyle rock tone. Not overly bright or clanky, but not dull or muddy. Here are some general questions; any help or advice will be GREATLY appreciated.

    (1) Gain / Clipping Light: do I need to pay attention to the light, or can I just crank the gain to taste? On my walkabout I'm usually running the gain up around 1:30 to 2:00... I like to dig in with my pick, and I like the grind. Will the preamp clip in the harsh/gross/nonmusical way like some solid-state preamps can if pushed too hard, or is it ok to ride that knob?

    (2) DI: Any weirdness with the DI that I should be aware of? The DI level isn't tied to output volume, is it?

    (3) EQ: I usually tend to push the low mids a bit, usually keep the mid-mids flat, and sometimes cut gank from the high-mids. With the 5 way selector I'm thinking I'll either boost a little at 220 or cut a little at 1.6, depending on the natural voicing of the amp. Any recommended settings for the pickstyle tone I describe above (full and aggressive, grindy but not clanky)? I understand I shouldn't be afraid of "turning the knobs" on this thing.

    (4) Anything weird I should know about this thing before I gig with it? Stuff to do or avoid doing?

    Thanks, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all!
  2. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    And for what it's worth, I'll be rocking my trusty Precision tomorrow night. It's a real nice custom build, but nothing crazy going on tonally, just the ol' standby Seymour Duncan Vintage pup in there... and my pick paired with a heavy right hand, of course. Cab-wise I'll be using my sealed LDS 610. My Mesa cabs are 8 and 4 ohms respectively, and I don't want to tempt fate by running this thing at 2.67 ohms.
  3. fivestringgecko

    fivestringgecko Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Happy Thanksgiving to you as well, King! I've been using my PF500 for a while now and it's a great amp for the money. Let's see....... some tips...

    Tip #1: Setting Gain Turn the compressor and master volume all the way off before setting the gain. THEN dial in some compression and master volume to taste. This is important because it IS possible to overload the preamp without the light coming on if you have the compressor on while setting gain and the amp will start to cut out on heavier notes (speaking from experience here).

    With the compressor off, I usually set my gain so the clip light comes on lightly and then dial it back a little bit (12:00 - 2:00 depending on which bass I'm using). From there, I dial up my compression to between 9:00 and 11:00, again depending on bass/taste.

    EDIT: Tip #1a: Compressor At lower volumes, you'll probably notice that you won't need the compressor at all. At higher volumes though (master volume around 2:00 for example), that compressor really helps add some control without subtracting from tone. When I first got my PF500/PF115 setup, I ignored the compressor until I noticed the speaker farting a bit at an audition. Dialed in some compression and boom! Taken care of.

    Tip #2: EQ Like you said, don't be afraid to turn the knobs on this amp. You can really crank the knobs around to dial in the tone you're after.

    Tip #3: Pick tone Personal taste is king of course, but for a full but grindy pick tone, maybe try this for a starting point (off the top of my head):

    dial the gain up a smidge for some grit
    bass @ 1:00
    mid @ 2:00
    mid selector on 3
    treble @ 11:00
    Ultra Lo on
    Ultra High off

    Dino's PF500 Rock Settings might also be helpful here.

    Tip #4: DI for the DI, if you're noticing that the signal is too hot to the board, don't forget about the -40db button next to the XLR out. It'll cut the output to a more manageable level if you're having problems.

    Hopefully that helps at least a little! I'm happy to (try to) answer any more questions you might have.

    5sg.
  4. fivestringgecko

    fivestringgecko Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Out of curiosity, what cab will you be running the PF500 with?

    5sg.
  5. Register to disable this ad
  6. jumbodbassman

    jumbodbassman Gold Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    Location:
    Stuck in traffic -NY & CT
    Disclosures:
    Born Again Tubey
    haven't heard any cutting out issues on the 350 just the 500 so hopefully you are good to go. if it starts to cut out more compressor should get you thru the gig... moree details in the ampeg 350/500 thread..
  7. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Thanks for the tips! I've been reading through a lot of your posts in the megathread(s), thanks for chiming in here!

    I'll be running through a tweeterless sealed 610; it's a custom build from Low Down Sound. Basically an SVT fridge in a smaller package. That thing will go a long way towards getting my basic tone anyway.

    So with the gain, this isn't one of those amps where it's ok to clip the hell out of it? I'm generally a "dirty amp" kind of guy and I usually push the gain on most amps right up until I start to lose definition. I can't tell if this preamp is capable of that (at least until I have some quality time to spend with it).

    Thanks again.
  8. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    so with the 500 I need to be wary of it cutting out then? what triggers the cutting out usually?
  9. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    1. Crank the gain to taste. It has a really nice mild-to-medium grind when you do.

    2. The DI is tied to the gain knob and can be either pre or post EQ. If you crank the gain, it can be really hot to the board, but you can just lower the gain on the board or hit a signal cut button.

    3. Turning knobs is great, and the knob-nooned sound is pretty cool as well, though a little bright for my tastes.

    4. Stuff to avoid doing...I don't know that I'd try to avoid doing anything with the possible exception of turning everything to 11.

    Just saw your latest post...yes, it's a "crank the gain" type of amp. You definitely don't have to have it running clean. You can, but you don't have to.
  10. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Just saw your next latest post...if it's cutting out, you're either cranking it harder than it can put out at its highest wattage and it went into protection mode to keep from burning it up, or there's something wrong with it. Happens sometimes. They sell a butt-ton of those heads. I don't own one but I've cranked them pretty hard at the music store and couldn't get them to cut out. I'd just avoid extreme settings on the gig until you're more familiar with it and you'll likely be fine. But definitely give the gain some gas.
  11. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Excellent. Sometimes on the forum it's hard to tell if people are recommending mild gain settings because you can run out of clean headroom or because you'll be hard clipping the preamp and getting some real nonmusical nastiness. Even-order harmonics are my good friends, and in my mind 'clean headroom' isn't a selling point on an amp. :bassist::D
  12. fivestringgecko

    fivestringgecko Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Mar 28, 2007
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Jimmy's right, you can definitely crank the hell out of the gain on this amp...
    I've got a clip of it fully dimed here: PF500 full gain

    The cutting out problem I experienced was because I was leaving the compressor dialed up when I was setting my Gain level, and I have a couple basses with VERY hot signals, like my JazzV with Quarter Pounders. I chalk it up to my inexperience with an amp that has an on-board compressor I guess. Ever since I started making sure to shut the compressor off before setting Gain (at the suggestion of Rebecca Boich at Ampeg), I haven't had the problem again. I'm not really smart enough to know WHY that works though! ;)

    To prove it works (and a shameless plug ha ha ;p), if you feel like listening, here's an instrumental version of Come Together we did at a recent gig... my Jazz V through my PF500/PF115 x 2 stack. Worked awesome and sounded GREAT.



    5sg.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2014
  13. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Cool. I just had half an hour to dial it in, I think I'm working with a pretty good sound. I actually like the gain a bit low for my usual tastes, but mainly because the amp sounded sweeter without a lot of overdrive. Right now I've got the gain around 1:15 and the compressor around 9:00, and I'm setting the master a bit higher than I initially was. Bass is at 1:00, Mid is at Noon but in position 4 (don't know why this sounds slightly better), Treble at 11:00, then rolling off a little bit of treble on my bass. Getting some sweet tones.

    I did have an odd clipping experience when I was testing the range of the controls though. At first I had the gain around 3:00 and was really digging it, but even with just a little bit of bass boost, if I'd dig in the amp would make this sudden horribly grinding sound... there was a major jump up in volume, and it was just gross. To be fair, the clip light was solid red the whole time, and I was probably running right into the wall. That said, the master was only around 8:00-9:00 and really wasn't very loud. Also I had the compressor completely off. But I backed down the gain a bit (now it's barely clipping, if at all), dialed in a touch of compression (9:00) and I think I'm good to go.

    I'm sure I'll do some more tweaking at the gig, but I'm definitely getting some serious Ampeg tone outta this thing. Reminds me a lot of the SVT-CL and SVT-VR I've used at our rehearsal space. Good stuff!
  14. slaphappychappy

    slaphappychappy

    Joined:
    May 25, 2011
    I find mine reacts better with my active basses rather than my passive. It seems to clip really easily no matter how much I back off. Loves the Active though. I run bass at about 3 o'clock, mid at 11, treble at 3-4 and selector on 3. Gain with the Active sits at 1 o'clock, comp at 9 o'clock, whereas with the passive 11 o'clock gain and same for compression.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    The gain does have its limits. Just because you have room on the dial to turn it up more doesn't mean you're going to get more out of it ;) There's a point you can saturate the circuit with too much crunchy goodness. Does a darn good mild-to-medium overdrive, though. Glad you're enjoying it...I think it's the best selling amp on the market for a reason.
  16. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Yeah, I wish I had this thing when I was starting out. Like, this is hitting at least 80% of the goodness of the all tube heads I've played. I spent this same amountt on a junk Fender combo in the mid 90s when I was just learning. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't half this good.
  17. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Wow, that's interesting... I think Ampeg knocked it out of the park by bringing a quality sounding piece of gear out at such a killer price point. When I got it home I was really surprised to see and feel how nicely it's made. They definitely didn't try to make it the lightest thing out there, but the result is an amp that feels satisfyingly solid. The steel casing in particular just feels... nice. Definitely doesn't feel "cheap" in any way, which was a surprise. I think the Loud guys are on the right track with Ampeg these days.
  18. Daniel J

    Daniel J

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2007
    Location:
    Maryland
    +1

    Just got my PF500 today (GC 15% off).

    I'm a happy plucker today :)
  19. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Nice! I wish I had waited two days to save some cash, but I also can't imagine going to the Hollywood Guitar Center on today of all days. Kudos to you, brave sir -- hope you dig the amp!
  20. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Well??? Gig report???
  21. ishouldbeking

    ishouldbeking

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2007
    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Disclosures:
    Endorsing: SIT, Eastwood, Hanson
    Haha, gig report indeed! I officially love the form factor of this thing. So easy to grab and go, and it really looks great on top of my vintage-styled silver-and-turquoise grill clothed sealed 610.

    Tonally speaking it did the job well. Will it replace my Walkabout? Probably not. I like more drive than I could get out of the PF-500, but generally speaking it did sound pretty darn good. I kept tweaking knobs all night, trying to find the perfect balance between bright definition and punch-you-in-the-chest girth. Ultimately I realized I just needed a bit more stage volume, and once i cranked her up I was pretty happy with my tone. I do need to get a better handle on the mid control and the frequency selector... I know what it does and how it works, but for the most part I was leaving the mids flat and only adjust bass and treble. I have a feeling I could do a bit better with some selective boosting or cutting of the mids. As people have mentioned, you can really crank the volume knob higher than I'm used to. I had it up around noon, or just beyond, which on my Walkabout would be completely maximum volume.

    But more importantly than my niggling concerns: the crowd was digging it. The show itself was great, we were direct support for a much bigger signed band, so our crowd was solid all night, and they were dancing, screaming, and enjoying themselves. I got compliments from several folks on my playing as well as my tone, so everything was working the way I wanted it to. My fiance noted that I sounded "clearer and less murky" than with my Walkabout, which makes sense considering how much gain I usually use.

    So my initial evaluation still holds true: this thing is an OUTSTANDING $400 amp. Sure, I prefer my more expensive amp. But if I had bought this when I was starting out I'm not sure I would have bothered upgrading for a loooong time.

    Anyone got a recommendation for a gig bag that fits this thing?

Share This Page