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Ashdown ABM 500 Eco II vs Mesa Boogie 400+

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Axelorox, Oct 25, 2018.

  1. Axelorox


    Mar 31, 2014
    Thoughts wanted on the differences between these two heads. Though I listed cabs I'm more open to options with those.

    1. Ashdown ABM 500 EVO II, Ashdown 4x10 cab
    2. Mesa Boogie 400+, Mesa 2x15 cab

    I'm getting back into playing bass after several years away from it and need an amp. Mainly playing at home for now (and recording in the future), but also I want something capable of playing small to medium sized indoor and outdoor gigs with a full band. I am the type who would rather buy something that is exactly what I want from the get-go, rather than keep flipping and upgrading. I also do not like having a bunch of amps around the house, so versatility is a huge plus.

    My current bass is a Hofner 500/1 V62 (German reissue), though I will be getting a Rickenbacker 4003/4001 at some point down the line. As the instrument choices imply I am a huge Paul McCartney fan. These heads are the two modern ones that Paul has used in the past few decades, hence my gravitation towards them. Of course I love the Beatles era music, but to me, his playing on Wings Over America is THE bass sound and I'd like to be able to recreate that when I have a Ric in the future.

    Paul also has the best live bass sound I have ever heard (and I have seen some other well-known old classic rock stars). Cuts through the mix perfectly without being overwhelming. So maybe there is something to those Mesa amps he loves so much... He seems to use the Ashdown a lot in the studio and the lower cost is appealing, but I am not sure if it could cut it live.

    Edit: Oops, mispelled the name of the Ashdown in the thread title ("eco" instead of "evo". I would greatly appreciate if a moderator/admin could fix that.
    BrentSimons likes this.
  2. jeff7bass


    Apr 9, 2009
    Won't the Mesa rig cost like WAY more than the Ashdown? Also that Mesa rig is designed for huge rock sound, like Black Sabbath huge. If money is not a concern, the Mesa wins hands down. On the other hand, you can tame a massive rig but if you tame it a lot, maybe it's too much rig?
    BrentSimons and Lance Bunyon like this.
  3. jeff7bass


    Apr 9, 2009
    I would still get the Mesa. My friend had that rig and stage volume and big tone is there in spades. I also prefer a 2x15 cab over a 410. Mesa makes great quality cabs.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
    BrentSimons likes this.
  4. I think these two amps are very different from each other. I've been an Ashdown user for about 7 years and I'm still in love with this brand. My favourite rig is my ABM Evo II with an ABM 410 cab. It obviously costs a lot less than the Mesa. Both have a very different sound and tone. The Ashdown is IMO more low-mid oriented and the Mesa is more transparent. But I don't think you will go wrong with any of these two.

    Cabs however, are different. I love my ABM 410, but I currently play with an Ashdown Rootmaster paired with a Mesa Powerhouse 210 and Mesa cabs are really good. Not that the Ashdown are bad, but they colour the tone.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2018
    xroads likes this.
  5. Axelorox


    Mar 31, 2014
    This was my first time reading the terms transparent and coloring, so I want to make sure I am understanding the terms right from what my searches have pulled up. Is the following correct?

    A transparent rig will transmit the sound/characteristics of the instrument, without adding much of its own tonal characteristics to the sound. A rig that colors the sound will impart its own tonal characteristics on the sound, masking the distinct tonal features of different individual instruments.
  6. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    The Mesa Boogie head is the Rolls-Royce of tube bass amps. Ashdown in my opinion is Meh.
  7. Lance Bunyon

    Lance Bunyon

    Jul 17, 2018
    The only downside of a big head like the base 400 + is weight. And please note for a full tube head of its power it's considered extremely light, but it's still heavy.
  8. That's right. Even though every amp adds something I think, some of them are more "intrusive". Ampeg or Ashdown have a more specific tone for example
  9. I have owned the preamp version of the Ashdown, but never tried their 4X10. I have owned a 400+ and just about every old "Diesel" cab they made.

    I personally found the Ashdown pre to be quite flexible, I was able to get a variety of clean and dirty tones out of it, from dirty, mid heavy 4 string to clean, mid scooped, clanky 5 string. I liked it quite a bit. Eventually, however, I sold it. Good memories, but it wasn't something I could not live without.

    I personally found the 400+ and Diesel 2X15 combo to be more limited in terms of usable tones. The old EVM equipped Diesel 2X15 did not lend itself to clean, mid scooped, clanky 5 string especially. It seemed to me to have a strong midrange presence which was difficult to EQ out even with the graphic. It's difficult to describe tone in words. I could say it has a smoky, groggy, mid heavy tone that is inherent in the amp and can be shaped, but not fundamentally transformed into something else. When the music we played started moving more into clanky downtuned 5 string territory I realized the rig wouldn't cut it anymore. Good memories, but it wasn't something I could not live without.

    So, my response to the OP would be MESA. Especially considering your basses. I have no experience with the later model cabs so can't comment there, but an old Mesa tube head with a Diesel 2X15 is one of the most perfect rock n roll rigs in history. I can't say if it's in spite of its limitations or because of them. Even though I sold my big rig, I held onto a D180 and an EV 1X15 so I could still have that flavor if I wanted it.
    Lance Bunyon likes this.
  10. Axelorox


    Mar 31, 2014
    Thanks for the input all. Seems I should spring for the Mesa. Are there any significant differences between models from different periods? I'm finding ones made in the 80s through the 2000s.
  11. Rockbobmel

    Rockbobmel Supporting Member

    I have had 2 Mesa 400+ heads, the last went this spring. While they are a powerful amplifier, I found them to have a baked in tone that lacks low thunder. I also have a Berg 215,an Eden 410, 2 Aguilar 12s and it did not matter much.

    I also have had an older Ashdown ABM500. It has a very flexible, wonderful deep tone, tube preamp mix, and a sub harmonic feature that I don't really use.

    Others will say the 400+ is a glorious tone monster. I disagree (for me). For my taste reference, I also have a Reeves C225, Sunn 2000S (1969), an Ampeg V-4 (1972) A GK800RB and GK400RB that I'm keepin.
    javi_bassist likes this.

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