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Aguilar Tonehammer 500 vs Little Mark iii (or any other suggestions?)

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by knoxy26, May 27, 2014.

  1. knoxy26


    Jan 17, 2007
    Hey Guys,

    I'm looking for a bit of advice/opinions of the Markbass Little Mark iii and Aguilar Tonehammer or anything else that you might recommend.

    I've played both these amps at some point however never in a live situation, really liked both. I really just looking for a lightweight amp that will give me a phat sound, so if you guys have any other suggestions of things in a similar price range would be sweet.

    I play a 5 string and theres a lot of low notes in my playing, so being able to sound big and fat whilst remaining defined in the low end is whats most important to me.

    What do you guys think?
  2. ObsessiveArcher likes this.
  3. I have a zillion gigs on both of these. Both fantastic and at the top of the solid state category for bass amplification.

    Since you've tried both, I'll keep it short. The LMIII is more 'neutral/even' and less voiced than the TH500. It has a cleaner top end and less complexity in the midrange. Very 'transparent but not sterile/clinical sounding'. The only two downsides to me were the strangely voiced low mid control that was relatively useless (too high to add punch, too low to control boxiness), and the limiter design that resulted in the max output being just a smidge lower than other 500 watt amps (you would only notice this if you were really cranking at 8ohms IME).

    The TH500 is my favorite amp of all time at this point. Super fat down low, amazing reliability record, fantastic DI (both pre and post) and a very powerful front end (lots of interaction with the drive/gain and midrange). It cranks HARD (as hard as some of the more higher powered solid state amps I've owned), and is just beautifully made. GREAT service if you would ever need it (assuming you are in the US... can't comment on overseas). If you like it big, fat and punchy down low, and relaxed/warm/organic up top, with lots of complexity (i.e., mild distortion) and character in the midrange (grind and growl), this amp kills. It will also get nicely clean with the gain set low, but never is 'transparent' or 'hi fi'.

    For a fat bottom that will not compress even at 8ohms, TH500 all the way. If you want a lot of sparkle and open, clean sizzly top end, the LMIII would be a better bet (or the GK MB series).

    Edit: The TH500 head LOVES P Basses, and also more classic J bass tone goals. It also does a great job of 'de-sterilizing' modern humbucker basses, warming them up and softening the top end (i.e., Roscoe with Barts, etc.). For the John King/Marcus Miller type thing... not so much.
    Last edited: May 27, 2014
  4. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    KJung keeps it short on the Markbass, but that's spot on - not much to say about it. It works really good.
    I found that i can get more sterile lows out of the Mark compared to the Tonehammer and it has a bigger clean headroom, but when i crank it i don't mind if the amp sounds like it's cranked. I kept the Mark after buying a Tonehammer, but the Tonehammer is my main and favorite amp.
    Both sport a relatively low number of knobs, but the Tonehammer is more complex and takes longer to get used to.
    I also like the way it is built. With the Powersection that is used by other companies 800-900W amps, it runs at max without breaking a sweat - but you should check on the static of the room you're running it maxed, the ceiling might come down ;-)
    AlexanderB likes this.
  5. +1 Another thing about the LMIII is that it is an EXCELLENT platform for pedals. Very clean and even and full range.... great amp to feed distortion or other effect pedals into. The LMIII with the VT pedal has become a classic combination on TB, that allows you to move from 'mixing board clean and neutral' to 'Ampeg-like grind' with a footswitch.

    The TH500 has a bit more of its own voice and character.
    Omiloh, AlexanderB and RumbleMan3 like this.
  6. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Great insights in the above posts. Just wanted to add one small thing about the TH500. (I've used and still own an F500 but have no experience with a Little Mark, so I can't do the comparison.)

    The OP asked about B string definition. I've been using a .043-.142 Circle K balanced tension set on my Sadowsky Metro vintage 5 (alder, rosewood) with the TH500. Big but tight (the drive control sometimes comes in handy; rolls a little off the bottom and bumps the upper mids as it's turned up), clear (the amp doesn't break a sweat, even at high volume), good pitch definition. My feeling is that if your bass and strings speak clearly down there, the TH500 won't detract in any way.
    KJung likes this.
  7. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I pretty much agree with this review of both, except I'd say take a look at the PF800 and SVT 7 Pro as well, being a righteous Ampeg pimp ;) For my money they sound just as good as the TH and the 7 Pro sounds a little better to me. I like all three, but after flipping over the LMII/III initially, almost immediately, other amp manufacturers came out with micro amps I like better.
  8. RumbleMan3


    Apr 14, 2018
    Sorry to start zn old thread, but was just playing with the search button and this thread caught my eye too. Im looking to compare these two amps. Maybe a LMtube instead of LM3, because i like the added mute switch, and the colour scheme/design better. (The LM3 and LMtube should both sound identical right?)

    Anyway Im curious, just how different do the Markbass LM and Aguilar TH heads sound? As far as i know, both are known for their high clarity, and a warm midrange punch sound. Perhaps the aguilar leans more to a wamer lo midrange sound, and the markbass leans more to high mids and trebles, correct?

    The aguilar seems to have a better reputation for a nice clean tone, and solid build, but they also cost a fair bit more than the Markbass too. Ive heard extremely mixed reviews on markbass... some can't part with theirs at all, and others think its just overpriced trash!

    As a budget alternative, I also wouldnt mind a v3 rumble head if i could find one. Great tone and great features, but not sure how similar the sound is to what im after though. Is it closer to a LM sound or TH sound?

    Basses i use are beautiful maple board fender jazz bass, with roundwounds, cs60s pups, and a rosewood board sterling SUB ray4, sometimes rounds sometimes flats, all stock electronics.

    I play a wide range of music, but the music that I play most and enjoy most is pop/soul/funk... Chic, MJ/Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, Vulfpeck, to name a few.
    Sometimes blues and rock too.
    Mostly 70s and 80s music, sometimes 60s. A bit of original stuff too with my band, all kind of the same styles.

    I like a nice midrange punch in my tone, to really get that fullness and clarity in the mix, a tight bass, and nice subtle highs, not overly bright, but just enough to balance out the sound and make it sound crisp. Play mostly fingerstyle but like to slap too! Hardly ever play with a pick

    I apreciate if anyone could further fill me on which amp would be best suited for me!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2019
    AlexanderB likes this.
  9. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I've gigged both (well, an LMII) and think that you could do alright with either. I know a dude who plays a beautiful old P-bass, playing the sort of music you mention, through a Markbass combo and sounds good doing it. A lot of the "sound of the amp" will depend on you, your instruments, your cab(s) and, most subjectively, how you interface with all of that. That's why you have people saying things like, "I like how other people sound through that rig/playing that bass, but not me."

    Based on what you said, though, between the LM3 and the Aggie, I think that you'll find the TH500 to lean a little more naturally in your direction. For my taste, it was just a bit wooly around the edges and just a bit rolled off up top, but harmonics will speak nicely through it and you can pull off a nice, slightly old-school to old-school slap sound with it. It has a little more harmonic interest in the mids than the LM does and is a bit more voiced.

    Fender Rumbles -- I've only played the combos or through the Rumble cabs. Personally, I am not a huge fan, but that could have more to do with the cabs than the head.

    You might consider a Quilter Bass Block. Pros: More juice and a bigger low end than any of the other amps. Bit of a more relaxed feel, too, in terms of the note envelope. Decent mids (harmonics will speak pretty well). Cons: Limited EQ, fan (on the ones I've played) is slightly annoying (wouldn't want it near a mic if recording -- then again, I think the TH 500 was that way, too), treble response is more rolled off than the LM or Aggie.

    If you're cool with something a little bigger and more old school, I just picked up one of those Handbox R-400 amps and am digging it so far -- folks' descriptions of it as a more open, higher-powered Walkabout (though with a simpler EQ) are not that far off. 400 Watts, class AB. Playing it next to the Quilter, the Handbox is more open, more focused, more flexible both in terms of EQ and in terms of what the Gain control does to the sound (can really clean it up or bring in a lot of harmonics or get dirty if you push it). Lows are well-sorted and "tight-enough" but not super-tight (if that makes sense).

    The Quilter would, I am sure, go louder -- probably get bigger in the lows, too, if you wanted it -- though it, too, is not a "super tight" amp. I have a feeling I'll like it better with a band than I do at home, though -- feels like it will sit/support well in a mix, with enough mid content to poke if you want to. (It's not bad at home, I just like the HB better.)

    I'll throw out another "big" amp, relatively speaking: the Orange 4-Stroke 500. 500 Watts, class AB, shallow, 2U, 4-band semi-parametric EQ. Not at all what I expected from Orange -- reminiscent of a Thunderfunk TF 550B, but more open down low and up top (without being glassy or "hi-fi"). The Handbox is more compact (same ballpark as a Walkabout, maybe a smidge bigger, but as easy to one-hand) while the 4-Stroke is full-width. Of all the amps mentioned so far, this is the fastest/most articulate feeling to me.

    I do the compact class D thing, too (and have owned and enjoyed several of them) but, lately, honestly am digging the feel of class AB amps more.

    You might check out an Ampeg PF-800/500 -- see what you think of those.

    Note: When the Little Marks went from a class AB power section to a class D power section, there was some debate over whether the tone and feel changed any or not. In my opinion, it did, slightly, and I slightly prefer the older, AB Little Marks, but you can play and see for yourself how you like them. All of the other compact amps being discussed are class D, anyway, and what matters is how it feels to you and how you like it with your bass, in your rig.
  10. SJan3


    Dec 8, 2010
    I own both. Both excellent and both versatile enough to get the job done. Agree that the Aggie is whoolier with less inherent top end. Maybe a bit bigger in the low end as well. If you're dependent upon the onboard preamp, the Aggie is a bit more versatile but if you use external devices, I'd prefer the Markbass as I find it a better platform for preamps, pedals, effects etc. The Tonehammer is more colored; the Markbass a bit more neutral sounding. Honestly, I usually reach for the Littlemark lll as I find it easier to dial in any adjustments based upon room acoustics. I may even sell my Aguilar. I'm on the fence.
    AlexanderB, Zbysek and jeff7bass like this.
  11. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Thought about these, but don't have any experience with them (unless you count listening to a Youtube demo). If they channel the sound and feel of the old 400/800 RB heads successfully (vs. the vibe of the MB500, etc.), they could be worth a look -- mid knobs dialed up a bit, treble and bass rolled back a bit or left at noon (or to taste -- whatever) might get the OP where he wants to go.

    Dunno, though. OP, what do you think? (There are timestamps for the different styles/EQ settings in the description on Youtube.)
    jeff7bass likes this.
  12. RumbleMan3


    Apr 14, 2018
    I have a rough idea of what the Aguilar th and markbass lm3/lmtube in ss mode sound like.

    I’d like to see a side by side comparison though. Doesn’t anyone any both and would be willing to upload an audio A/B test of an aguilar th500 and a markbass lm3/lmtube? Preferably line out, to get the straight sound of the amp, without additional coloration of a cab speaker.

    The closest I’ve been able to find on YT is a head to head (see what I did there?) comparison of an ag700 and lm3. Both sound great, in there own way. I could hear the markbass had a slight more scooped sound, in comparison, with a deeper bass, and higher midrange, whereas the Aggie was more Lo mids prominent.

    Not sure how close the th500 sounds to the ag700 though. I think the ag700 has a much bigger sound.

    As far as rumble v3 heads go... I love the rumble tone, but I’m speaking out of only ever playing a combo, so I’m not sure whether that tone is more the head or the cab. The only rumble heads still available are the 800HD. Costs less than the Aggie or MB. Correct me if I’m wrong but is the head 4ohms only, at 800w or something? Whatever head I get, I want to pair with either a 115 or 210 cab, and they are usually rated about 250-350 watts... much much less than 800! So the rumble 800 is I think TOO much power for what I’m after, and the 200 and 500 are discontinued and are nowhere to be found anywhere around me, even online.

    Ampeg is not the sound I’m after, even though they are good price too, and GK is way too harsh and modern for the sound I’m after aswell. So the Aguilar and Markbass are the two that I think are best suited for me at the moment. It’s a shame, because they aren’t cheap! But I’m willing to spend the money if I know it will get me what I want, and I can get good long use out of it for years to come.
  13. RumbleMan3


    Apr 14, 2018
    Sorry haven’t checked this out yet. Will have a listen now and get back to u
  14. RumbleMan3


    Apr 14, 2018
    Yeah that GK legacy amp sounds good, just a touch aggressive. Not really what I’m into. Even on the clean tone demos, it still sounded a little overdriven, maybe just the way he was hitting the strings so aggressively? It sounds really full, but just a touch scooped, and a bit too much treble for my liking. In my opinion, treble only needs to go a certain amount on the bass to bring some added clarity to the sound. After that, it’s just sounds harsh. But if course, it would suit certain types of music.

    I hardly ever change eq on my amp, more as a subconscious thing really. I like to know I sound good flat. I like an amp where I can just plug in, not have to dail in any thing different, and get pleasing tones that I want. If for some reason only if I’m having trouble sitting in the mix right, I will cut/boost frequencies accordingly.

    Part of the reason I love the rumbles is because I hardly ever touch the eq, and everything sounds well balanced and just right.

    I’d love to be able to compare the TH and a LM head side by side to hear which gets closer to that ‘perfect’ tone in my head.
  15. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic

    I owned both at the same time. I ended up selling the TH, keeping LMIII. There were two main reasons for my decision: 1. I felt that LMIII had little more power than TH500, 2. I could get more cash for TH than for LMIII...and didn't see enough added value in keeping TH to satisfy the difference in costs...
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2019
    AlexanderB and SJan3 like this.
  16. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    Me too
    R Upsomegrub and MarkA like this.


    Jan 29, 2019
    Wow lots of good suggestions ! This is my set up I own 2 MB 2/10 combo amps and a MB 1/15 extension cab for outside gigs. I run that Aguilar Tone Hammer Out Board preamp to get that Aguilar bottom and tight mids you guys are referring to with my MB combo amp. So I get the best of both worlds. Boomy bottom tight mids and crispy highs and never do I have to turn my master volume or gain past 4 max on inside or outside venues. As for the Tone Hammer which is preamp obviously not amplified with wattage I run the master at 5 or 12 o'clock and gain at 4. Bass and Treble on TH both Maxed out at 10 with Mid freq at 5 and Mid level at 6. On my MB amp all Tone freq's are at 5. The only knob on the MB amp I adjust is the VPF filter so I can adjust all freq's at the same time to get what I need for the style of music I am playing. I use a Melvin Davis MLD 5 string bass basically a Jazz bass sound but on steroids, when I say the sound is superior I not blowing smoke. I not saying this set up will work for you or anyone else but what I am saying is I am very particular about my sound like yourself especially in the low end area while at the same time not having my mids over powering my lows and still getting those crisp highs. The Aguilar Tone Hammer preamp and MB amplifier oh so tasty and clean.
    Zbysek likes this.


    Jan 29, 2019
    I forgot to mention you cant use a out board preamp with a bass that does not have a preamp on n off switch on the bass to make it passive and then being able to use the out board preamp. Well that's semi true you can run the preamp in your bass with a out board preamp also but the preamped signal going into the amp might make the amp clip and or shut down to protect the circuitry in your amp. Just a little foot note for ya !!!!!
  19. SJan3


    Dec 8, 2010
    The best reason to choose the Tone hammer over the Little Mark III is if you want to get dirty. The Aggie does dirt; the MarkBass stays relatively clean but still manages warmth.
    Zbysek likes this.

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