A Skeptic's Review: Ashdown ABM EVO II 500

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by pablomigraine, Dec 19, 2005.

  1. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    So if anyone read my earlier thread on this amp, they know that I had SERIOUS reservations about this amp.... But I bought it anyway with the assurance that I Could return it anytime in the next two weeks if I was unhappy.

    My Current setup included a BBE Bmax-T preamp, Crest LT1000 power amp and a Schroeder 410. The power amp died, and I was forced to use an AMPEG SVT-5 Pro in the meantime. ( not recommended, but that's another story) I was not unhappy with my sound from the BBE rig, but I wasn't thrilled either, and the weight of this crap in the road-case was beginning to be a serious problem. I had this nice, warm sound from my rig, but it sounded a bit undefined and when paired with the Schroeder gave off some unpleasant frequencies live, which I couldn't quite seem to dial out. This was not boominess per se, but kind of a very low mid wave that had a tendency to sound unpleasant during breakdowns and softer parts.

    After much in store use, I bought the Evo. I was VERY concerned about not getting enough volume, as the Evo only gives 575 watts and I had been running almost 1300. I was also concerned about the Subwave octave circuit, as it seemed to track really slowly in the store. I was later to discover why.

    I Brought the amp back to the rehearsal space. The first thing I noticed was what a pleasure this thing is to move around. It weighs next to nothing for such a powerful amp. And it IS powerful. Perhaps something is lost in the translation between English watts and American, but from a pure power standpoint, the Ashdown 575 watts seemed more responsive to transients and seemed to have more in reserve than the 1000 Ampeg watts listed on the back of my Loaner SVT-5, but more on this later. Aesthetically, I loved the look. The controls were firmly mounted and had a very smooth feel, altho I would liked to have seen metal posts on the sliders as opposed to plastic, and the face lettering seems like it may wear off over time. I love having the DI on the front panel along with the tuner out and mute button, and of course the VU meter is a great touch. First off, this amp has a very powerful eq section. This is of the interactive sort where you can tell each control is run serially, so that if you bottom out all the controls, you have almost no signal left at all. The amp includes a FLAT / SHAPE button which is similar in effect to a lot of these type of controls, which aim to scoop out your sound a bit, and add punch. I left it flat. The main eq dials: Bass, Mid and Treble, are very cool. The bass Frequency seems to be set very low, and have a very limited bandwidth compared to the other two, in that you FEEL more bass as the dial turns, rather that actually hearing an increase in bass frequencies. This is an excellent sound in my opinion as a lot of amps seem to just increase boom and loose definition once the bass dial passes 3'oclock. The mid sections seems to have a much broader bandwidth than the others. If you listen really carefully, you can almost sense that the boosted bandwidth gets narrower the more you boost it. In other words, with the dial set at 2 o'clock, you get a very nice, subtle boost in a very wide range, and as you keep boosting, the center frequency makes itself more evident, as cutoff frequencies east and west of center are boosted slightly less. This is an excellent system, as you never find yourself adding honk or notching the tone at the extreme ends of the control. The treble Controls works in the same fashion as the bass, adding in a lot of boost gives you this nice high-end sheen to the notes, without any harshness at all, even with the cabinet crossover dimed. There are a world of tones available with just these three controls, and they are all useable. I can't stress enough how powerful and interactive these controls are. I've never had any experience with an EQ section this well sorted out with the possible exception of the Epifani UL series, and even then they're very different in feel.

    The In-between each of these bands are two sliders. The first two are labeled at 180 hz and 340 Hz. These seem to act quite differently than the main controls, in that they have a smaller bandwidth and boost or cut those frequency ranges more evenly. Boosting the 180kz slider ever so slightly gives that musical boom so many fans of the classic bass sound adore, however this control requires a judicious touch, as boosting it much past 75% of it's range can clip the amp....it's that powerful. I found myself cutting this band slightly, which doesn't affect that fatness of the bottom , but does lend a certain amount of clarity. The 340 hz slider is very useful, and a slight boost brings out that bump that helps you cut through the guitar at any volume. The second set of sliders are labeled 1.3khz and 2.6 khz respectively. There is A LOT of tone here at the first slider, and boosting it to about 80% lent a very serious edge to the sound, without sounding "clanky". The 2.6khz slider should be left alone or used for cut only IMHO, as this is a fairly noisy frequency range to the human ear. All in all, this is the most well sorted and musical eq I've ever used.

    Now on to the Subwave. In the store this effect seemed to track slowly. This was due to the fact I wasn't using enough input volume. The input stage has a lot of room in it and seemingly the more you give it, the better it works. I also learned in application this is meant to be a more subtle effect than a regular Octave pedal, in that it will add a bigger bottom to your sound at it's extreme, and fatten things up slightly when used more carefully.

    The Valve drive works this way also. Only at it’s's extremes will you get a really distorted tone, and you hafta be past noon to get a real overdrive, but I found engaging this control and setting it at about 10 o'clock gave me the sound I wanted and retained the clarity I need.

    Now, The power section. As I said, I was very nervous about these 575 watts. Not only because I was used to a lot of power, but because I was concerned about under powering the cabinet. I gave Jorg Schroeder a call, and he said that under powering was unlikely, and that he knew several Ashdown / Schroeder users who were very happy. Now here's the clincher: This thing actually SOUNDS louder than the previous 1200 watt setup. Now there's a lot of argument regarding loudness vs. watts and perceived volume etc, and I will leave that to the tech-heads, but I can tell you this thing SEEMED louder than the old setup. I had the Input about 3 o'clock ( so that my loudest B String transients just hit the red-zone on the VU meter ), and the master at about 3 0'clock as well. Just rockin. Filled the room up in a way the BBE never did even with 1200 watts behind it. Maybe it was the eq, who knows, but am VERY satisfied. On the downside, the speakers did begin to fart out at a certain volume due to the lesser wattage, and you could hear and feel the power section losing it's grip on the cones a lot sooner, but this was only at volumes which almost noone would need in a live scenario. In return I'm developing a softer touch with my right hand, and the volume is just killer. And the fans are barely audible even after playing at these settings for over 3 hours. A bonus.

    All in all the Ashdown has quieted all my concerns and ended up being a peasant surprise. I highly recommend this amp for players of just about any style.

    GMC and crguti like this.
  2. lowmid


    Feb 2, 2005
    I would say, ......+1 :bassist:

    Can I give a little scoop on here??? I mailed at ashdown one week ago, they told me the evo3 will come out in mid 06 with a 5-6 buttons footswitch and for overdrive they told me, wait , and see! :hyper:
  3. lowmid


    Feb 2, 2005
    I would say, ......+1 :bassist:

    Can I give a little scoop on here??? I mailed at ashdown one week ago, they told me the evo3 will come out in mid 06 with a 5-6 buttons footswitch and for overdrive they told me, wait , and see! :hyper:
  4. fenderx55


    Jan 15, 2005
    You know, I just got over gassing for that amp and resigned myself to my hartke combo (which most people here use as a practice amp). And frankly, I like the aluminum cone... which is just to say i can't complain about what i have.

    Oh yeah, and it is probably more than I would ever need cause my volume is never passed 12o'clock.

    How would it sound paired with a hartke cab?
  5. GRoberts

    GRoberts Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2003
    Tucson, AZ USA
    Congrats! I am not surprised you discovered the ABM500 EVO II to possess the power and performance that it gives. I too was skeptical when I went to use one with my Bergantino HT322 cab since the Bergie cabs are so notorius for craving power. But my ABM500 has power to spare.

    I also learned that the sub harmonizer performance is directly related to how much bass boost you use on the amp. It is still subtle and rightly so, otherwise it could be very tubby and muddy. I think they nailed it quite honestly.

    I have yet to dial my Master Volume above 1 O'clock! and that is almost stupid loud in most cases. I only use that much volume at louder outdoor gigs. I also drive my input gain as strong as possible so the VU meter does not quite hit the redline. That gives the best signal before noise and the best performance I have found.

    I find the ABM500 EVO II to be a price/performance/power and leader in the industry. Considering its size and weight, it's even more cool. I have the rack mount version and I might score a stand alone head just to have one. They are sweet amps. Thanks for a great review. Nice post! Happy Holidays! Gary
  6. dave_bass5


    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.

    Thats a great review, best ive read. thanks
    i have just got the 300watt version and although i love the tone i wish i had got the 500watt now.
    Funny thing is ive been giging for the last 2 years with a MAG 307 C-115 and hoped the ABM would be louder (in to the C_115 cab at the moment) but im not finding that.
    anyway, can i ask you how well the mute button works. on my ABM it cuts the sound down but it wont mute the sound completly. also do you find the sound cuts out momenterily when you use some of the buttons, again mine does and just wanted to know if this is normal
    thanks again

  7. Yamarc

    Yamarc Supporting Member

    Jun 25, 2002
    Northville, MI
    Looks like the ABM 500 is plenty loud but that the 300 isn't?

    I would think that the modest power rating would be the same across the board...has anyone tried the 300 and found it to be louder/quieter than other comparably rated 300 watters?
  8. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    The mute on mine does the same thing. I think that's pretty cool actually. When you engage pr disengage the EQ midstream it does cut out momentarily. No biggie in my book.

    Really a cool piece isn't it?
  9. And another one goes off to Ashdown :bassist: .

    I'm loving my MAG300 and thinking about the EVO as my next upgrade.
  10. One of the best reviews I have seen. i'm looking to buy something to use at shows because I'm tired of lugging my Ampeg SVT CL... maybe the Ashdown is a good alternative...

  11. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    Awesome review! I still miss my Ashdown Evo-II. I exchanged it for my Mesa Bass 400+, I wanted something more tubey. I love the Ashdown preamp though. I may get the best of both worlds and just get one of those new Ashdown preamps to use with the Mesa power section, or maybe blend it with the Mesa inputs. I cannot express how much I loved the EQ on that thing! Very powerful, yet easy to dial in.
  12. Great review. This is how all reviews should be written!
  13. dave_bass5


    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    Exactly the way i have gone. had the MAG 2 years now and gigged most weekends.
    Struggling to really like the ABM (see above) but it will grow on me. once i get a decent cab sorted out ill be happy.
    Going to get a Aguilar GS 210 after xmas. think that set up will be more than a match for the MAG

  14. dave_bass5


    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    thanks for the reply. yeah its got a fantastic tone, just wish i could of got the 500 instead of the 300.
    I never thought of it before but its such a different sound to the MAG even though they look very similar and have the almost the same controls. looking at the spec of the 2 i can see the EQ is totaly different. i went for the ABM as a better replacement for the MAG but now find its quite a different sound. a lot more punch and stronger tone so im not complaining.

    I agree its quite useful to not have the sound totaly muted but why then do Ashdown advertise it a mute button and say you can tune in silence? better saying its a pad button.

    Anyway, thanks again you have put my mind at rest over most of the issues i had.

  15. Keeaumoku


    Dec 29, 2004
    Yeah... me, too!

    I just recently discovered through some revelation and help right here in good 'ol TB that I could run my ABM500-RC as a preamp to my Aguilar DB750. So, I did this only yesterday at practice, and I've found a whole new dimension in bass amplification. My speakers: NV215 and D410XLT. The Eden was rather bright... with that horn going on, so I cut it completely off. I'm waiting on the NV425 that I ordered... should get here to the islands in about a week from now.

    My next purchase is an 8-space rack, so I can mount my tuner, power conditioner, Ashdown, and Big Daddy Aggie... gotta get some wheels for this rack. I figure it'll weigh-in at around a 100 pounds! :help:
  16. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I've heard the ABM300 and it can be a very loud amp. I think it has to do with the cab more than your amp. I heard the 300 through a Berg 610 and it was very LOUD. I'm guessing there are two things going on for you. One, you only have one speaker (115) doing the work for the amp. You can only get so much sound out of a single speaker. Second, you're only using 8ohms from a 325 watt amplifier. That means you're only using around 200 watts probably from your amp. That really cuts the power down. I suggest that you either get a second cab to make 4ohms, maybe a 210. If you prefer a one cab does it all solution than try your amp through a 410 or something of the like. Make sure it's a 4ohm cabinet though.
  17. dave_bass5


    May 28, 2004
    London, UK.
    thanks for the reply but my point was that im using the ABM in place of the MAG 307 to power the cab. so im comparing the 2 amps through the same cab.
    Im looking to get a Aguilar GS 210 as its loud (103db) and 4 ohms so i guess that will give me a much better volume than the mag used to.
    the cab has to be very small as i dont have much space in the car so im looking for somthing just a bit bigger than the MAG but with the above spec. quite hard to do

  18. Zero Cool

    Zero Cool

    Mar 20, 2005
    See my post from the Problem with Ashdown Mag300 post earlier.

  19. Achey


    May 6, 2005
    Northern Ireland
    Excellent review man.

    I am going to buy the rack mount version of the ABM 500 Evo II in April or May after I have saved the money I need. I can't wait.
  20. MrBonex


    Jan 2, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Great review! I am struck by your observation about the wattage/percieved volume issue. I own, play, and love my Trace Elliot V300H amp. It's "only" rated at 280 watts (hence the "300" name :rolleyes: )

    But it seems SO MUCH LOUDER! Hmmm. Trace and Ashdown are so closely related. I wonder if there is some common power-amp DNA? Or just a philosopy of headroom, power supply or whatever.