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Amp and speaker shootout

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Adrian Cho, Feb 19, 2004.


  1. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    This morning I had a chance to try out a number of amps and speaker cabinets. Here's the setup:

    My bass - mid-20th century German fully-carved bass setup with Olivs (G & D) and Eudoxas (A & E). Average action is about 10 mm measured at the end of the fingerboard. I used the AMT mic with the tailpiece mount and a long gooseneck so that the capsule is located just below the end of the fingerboard.

    My friend Jake also brought his bass along - Chinese fully-carved bass setup with Olivs (G & D) and Obligators (A & E). Not sure how high his action is but it's lower than mine. We used the Realist on his bass. Although he has a Stat-B he forgot to bring along the cable to connect it to the Stat preamp.

    Unfortunately I was also not able to get hold of a Dyn-B in time for this test but I plan on trying one with some of these speakers at a later date.

    Amps and speakers tested:

    Acoustic Image Series II Coda
    Schertler Pub 2/280
    Acoustic Image Clarus 2
    Ampeg Portabass 110
    Ampeg Portabass 112
    Gallien-Krueger 112MBX
    Mackie SRM450
    Yorkville AM50

    I could write pages and pages about this but basically we tried my bass with all the Coda, Pub, Clarus + Portabass 110, Clarus + Portabass 112, Clarus + 112MBX and Jake's bass with the AI Coda, Pub, Coda, SRM450, and AM50.

    Disclaimer: This is totally subjective and you can be guaranteed that with different players, different basses and different mics/pickups/strings, etc. that you might get different results.

    Unfortunately the room we were in was pretty small and had a lot of carpet. This meant two things. Firstly we couldn't really crank up things because the mic would feedback and and secondly, some of the rigs were quite boom in this small space. This was particularly true for the Coda although using the lifter or the high-pass filter helped.

    In summary:

    The GK 112MBX sounds exactly like what it is - a metal cabinet. The sound is metallic, hollow, and at times boxy. Yes it's light but that's about all it's got going for it. I also thought the cab rattled slightly in a few places but I couldn't be sure it was the cabinet itself or something else.

    The Portabass 110 and the 112 are ridiculously light. Both of these are 4 ohm woofers plus a tweeter in an Italian Poplar plywood cabinet. They are supposed to be 20 and 23 lbs but they feel like half of that. I couldn't believe how light they are. The 110 had a very nice sound - clear in the low end. I liked it better than the Coda although I don't think Jake did. I didn't like the tweeter (which you can dial-in) so much and found it a bit harsh. The big problem was that the grille on the front rattled like hell which was a big disappointment. I can only assume this was unique to this particular unit because no one else I know has complained about this. And the 112 did not have the problem. The Portabass 112 was muddy and slow to respond and did not sound anywhere as natural as it's little brother. It was quickly ruled out.

    The SRM450 was a disappointment. At 51 lbs it wasn't in the running anyway but I have been waiting for the 32 lb SRM350 to be released (supposed to be sometime in the next few weeks). The sound was overly dry and flat and basically quite lifeless. It sounded like perhaps it was really EQ'ed for rock music.

    The Yorkville AM50 was horrible and made Jake's bass sound like an electric bass.

    Yesterday at home I spent two hours A/B'ing the Coda and the Pub and the test this morning only confirmed my thoughts. The Coda is a great unit. The functionality built into the head and the clarity and depth of the resulting sound is better than most other units out there given price and weight. However it can't compare to the Pub. The Pub is so much clearer and more defined especially in the lower register. When you hear the Coda you think - that's a pretty natural sound. But then you try the Pub next to it and you realise how much the Coda is colouring the sound. It's so good that you have to crank it up a bit before you even realise it is on because it's so quiet and clean and the sound is so transparent.

    I've had experiences before where I played a CD I was very familiar with on a super high-end stereo system and I could hear things that I had not heard before. I had a similar experience with the Pub. When I played arco, I could hear the buzz of the hair on the strings via the mic. It wasn't a bad thing at all and was just part of the overall arco sound but it was interesting to note.

    One important thing is that the Realist did not sound all that great through the Pub and definitely sounded better through the Coda. It not only didn't sound that great but it wasn't the sound of that bass without amplification. Now although one could assume the Pub is voiced for the Stat-B or Dyn-B, the AMT sounds great with it.

    For a great all in one package, the Coda is hard to beat and it would be interesting to try the Clarus with another Portabass 110 that didn't have a rattling grille. If time had permitted I probably could have taken the grille off that unit. If you could get one of these units not to rattle (and bear in mind it was just the grille - which was clearly attached with approximately six screws to the cabinet - and not the cabinet itself that rattled) then it would probably be the best sound for weight.

    On the issue of weight, the Pub does weigh more (44 lbs vs 27 lbs for the Coda). Although the shape of it makes it easier to carry. When you pick each unit up the additional weight doesn't feel that bad but when I got home I did lug the Pub and the bass from my garage up through my house and into my studio (three flights of stairs in total) and I was not amused at the end of the trip so a trolley is definitely required. Also, the Pub has a single combo XLR/line input. No preamp, no EQ, no multiple inputs. The output of the Realist is pretty low so we had to use the preamp on the Clarus to test the Realist with the Pub (into the high or low Z input and out through the effects send). With the AMT, it was loud enough but if I wanted more, I would have to open the AMT preamp and adjust the gain level pot. And then there's the problem of needing an additional channel for a mic even just to address the audience. Which means I need a blender or a small mixer.

    However the sound of the Pub has me sold and I have decided to purchase one.
     
  2. Thanks, Adrian! Great post.

    I was planning to buy a Coda, but now I'll have to consider the Pub. How do they compare pricewise?
     
  3. Monte

    Monte

    Jan 9, 2001
    New Albany, MS
    The Pub lists @ $999, but Lou Roten of Lou Roten Music had 1-2 that had been used as demo models for $799. lou@lnrmusic.com is his e-mail.

    Keep in mind that it is different from the Coda. It is JUST a powered speaker. Input that accepts 1/4" or XLR, volume, ground lift, and XLR out are all that it has. If you have a good preamp or a small mixer it can be a great solution. I just picked up a second one and will use it with a small Mackie mixer as a portable PA for these private gigs where the leader keeps bringing his crappy 100w Kustom PA. I'll also use it for bass only in a couple of clubs I play in where the house PA is pathetic, and one of the Pub's is not quite enough.

    Monte
     
  4. Would my KK Power Pack do the trick as a preamp? Or are we talking something more sophsticated?
     
  5. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    It should work fine but bear in mind that the Pub is very hi-fi which means it will reproduce exactly what you put into it. With a mic (and undoubtedly with the Dyn-B) it sounds great. However I am guessing it may not be completely flattering with some pickups. The Realist as I mentioned, sounded better through the Coda.

    I owned a Series I Coda for two years and then had a Series II on eval for three weeks (the one I used in this test). It is a great box but I think in terms of sound, the Pub wins hands down easily. The downfiring woofer in the Coda has some advantages but as many have found out it has drawbacks too.

    Lou Roten (who used to run Schertler US and now is an independent Schertler dealer) has said that the Pub is likely to be withdrawn from the US (and possibly Canadian) markets because the dealers and Schertler can't come to an agreement on the price (Schertler would like to sell it at a higher price). I myself am purchasing a slightly used demo model Pub from a local dealer at a discount. The prediction is that once the inventories are emptied then the product will no longer be available here (at least through local dealers anyway).
     
  6. JohnThomasson

    JohnThomasson Supporting Member

    Feb 3, 2003
    Nashville, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Mesa Boogie, DR Strings, Fender, Source Audio & Fishman
    Have you guys tried the Schertler Unico for bass? I thought about picking up a 280, but I wanted to try a Unico. I LOVE my AI Clarus II/ Begantino 12" combo, but I would like something thats a little more natural sounding for some of the smaller gigs.
     
  7. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Some of the Portabass cabs have that loose grill problem. For some reason the screws don't hold well. I think it has something do with the grill being curved under pressure and the holes being too big for the screw or the wood being to soft. It's easily fixed by either tightening the screws if possible or by placing a plastic piece(available from Home Depot) in the screw hole which will provide something secure that the screw can go into.

    I had the 10, but I like the 12 better because I double on BG.
     
  8. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    The thing about the Unico is that it has all that Schertler specific stuff in the preamp section. Look for the Side which is basically the Unico without the preamp - like a smaller version of the Pub. It is already on Schertler's main site (Schertler.com) and I have been told it will be released here in March. I wanted to wait to try one but just decided to go with the Pub instead.
     
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Hrm... I used to an a different Ampeg amp (guitar amp: JT-12). The JT-12 is a reissue and was notorious for a rattling problem and I cured it. Perhaps this is a common Ampeg problem. On my guitar amp, the problem that the square nuts that held the screws had these weird metal cages around them. The entire grill would rattle if any of the screws were loose. All I did was take some clear rubber caulk for bathrooms and the like, smeared it thick in every screw hole and any contact point that rattled. Let it cure and screwed everything back in through the caulk. Never rattled again and sounds great today (some 10 years later).
     
  10. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Great shootout! It's too bad that you didn't have any EA heads or cabs to throw into the mix. Or a Walter Woods head. Or one of Larry's LDS 2x8's. Or an Accugroove Tri 208. Obviously, I could go on and on (and regularly do), but again, thank you for a very helpful review!