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Carvin BX500 or Ampeg PF500 or TC Electronics RH450

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ERIC31, Feb 13, 2016.

  1. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    These are my choices. Same power, same price. I've read about them all. People love them or think they suck. It seems like every single amp head gets that sort of rating.

    So tell me which one and why you would buy it.

    I'll be running the head with 2 Hartke 8 ohm XL210 cabs rated at 200 watts each.

    fritzk9 likes this.
  2. sjrash


    Nov 30, 2007
    Tampa, FL
    I have several Ampeg tube heads, and I have the PF500 because it has that great Ampeg tone in a light weight, portable head. I've used it through a 2/12 and a 4/10 cab, and it sounds great with either one.

    Edit: I've had this PF500 for several years without having any problems. I know some of them had issues.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2016
    spaz21387 likes this.
  3. pcake

    pcake Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2011
    Los Angeleez
    are those the only heads we can choose from? of the three you list, i like the sound from the ampeg PF500 - i really like this amp, but they've had a history of problems that makes me nervous of them. i've played carvin for years, and currently have the BX250, which is a good head and a great value, but i'd consider a gallien-krueger MB500 ahead of the ones you list - it's absurdly small and light weight, sounds really great and is intuitive to use. of course, each of us have different preferences, but a 500 watt head you can carry in a large gigbag pocket is a good thing in my world.

    btw, the PF500 weighs less than half the ampeg.
  4. I’ve owned all three, and moving straight to my conclusions, I think the same person could be happy with any of them. All three could be suitable to the same uses.

    Some assorted observations:

    The PF500 gets my ease of operation nod. Of the three, it is the most straight forward in terms of controls, layout and consistent results. I found the sound to be unremarkable in terms of solo/practice/bedroom tone, but it really showed up in a band setting (which presumably matters the most). Great rock sound.

    The BX500 (to a lesser degree) shined more in a band setting than by itself. The BX500 offers a slew of shaping controls…drive, contour and both semi-parametric mids and defeatable graphic EQ. To me the EQ seemed to have redundancy in function, which can easily get to be too much. It doesn’t have input gain, and I've seen where the drive control cause some confusion on that front. Personally, I found the effect of preamp tube to be almost nil. I run with a soft bag and found that the lack of resistance/detents on the controls led to everything easily be knocked out whenever it was put in the bag.

    Comparing these three, the features on the RH450 stand out for me. I’ve always found the RH features that I become used to having (mainly the fantastic tuner and presets) are missed when I go to other amps. Not that not having any of them are the end of the world; they simply become comfortable and expected very quickly. The RH has semi-parametric control for all bands. The ability to recall three presets can be a great convenience. Compared to having setting knocked out in the bag, using only one recall is great convenience. Like the BX500, the amount of control can get be too much (though in a different way and not to the degree that the overlap on the BX presents), if simplicity is more highly valued than the ability to tweak and perfect. The EQ can be very sensitive, and in that, lack of understanding or control of the EQ can lead to some not-so-good sound…basically, it’s only plug-n-play if you happen to prefer the defaults, which some people do…some do not.
    JackANSI and ERIC31 like this.
  5. Your choice of cabs can only handle 400 watts total input so the RH450 is the only one to safely drive them (236 actual watts "rms" output on the RH450).

    (I'd go with the PF500 and get better cabs if they blow.)
  6. I've owned the PF500 and still own and use a BX500 so I can't comment on the RH. I use the Carvin fairly frequently and like the tone shaping options and I disliked the lack thereof on the Ampeg. I think the Carvin has more perceived power in my opinion than the PF. I felt like the PF had pretty much one baked in sound whereas the Carvin has more variety available. I had problems with the BX but after sorting the ribbon cable issue its been trouble free. I never had any problems with the PF but when someone put an ad on CL to trade a Genz Benz 6.0 straight across for a PF I couldn't get to his house fast enough to trade him my PF. I have no regrets in fact I'm still elated because I had buyers remorse long after the return was a possibility. Please don't think I don't like Ampeg, I do, I have played their tube amps since 1966. As to the RH I formed an opinion about the Co. From their duplicitous behavior that makes me disinclined to be a customer.
    ERIC31 likes this.
  7. In fact, I've had none of them but owned a RH750 which is similar to the 450 (I think).
    It's a real good amp, comes with tube emulation, compressor, tuner, programmable presets, variable frequency response...
    In the end, this was too much fiddling around for me.
    Nonetheless a very, very good amp in terms of sound.
    I just found myself not getting the most out of it since it just had too many parameters to control. Sold it therefore.
  8. ScottTunes

    ScottTunes Gear-A-Holic

    Feb 7, 2011
    So Cal
    I have the BX500 and RH750 (the latter quite similar to the RH450). The above comments about both amps being too fiddle-y are accurate. Once settled on one or more settings, however, the RH750 is highly recommended! More usable features than most, and founded upon an Ampeg-ish tone. Any one of the many features would be reason enough to have it! The multi-band compression is outstanding! The 3 presets quickly become necessities. The EQ is highly adjustable (and store-able). The output is regulated much like a tube amp would throttle its output... The TCE design goal is/was to emulate a tube amp, and, IMO/IME, it has accomplished this goal. Never mind all the backlash re power output. The feel of this amp is outstanding (IMO/IME)!

    I found the BX500 amp rather bland, and lacking any tube tone/feel (the switch-able tube in the pre accomplishes nothing, IMO/IME). But, if you prefer a "straight-wire-with-gain" type of amp, the Carvin is pretty good at that. Very clean, and crisp, with a good attack and satisfying power (for most sits anyway). I prefer more feel and flavor. YMMV, of course...
    ERIC31 likes this.
  9. timber22

    timber22 Supporting Member

    I've owned the PF500 and BX500. I have not owned the RH450, but do have a TC 115 Combo (2 of them actually) which I know is not exactly the same thing.

    Honestly, I was underwhelmed by the PF500. The first one I had died a few days after getting it. I got a replacement and it did not have a reliability problem. But as said here the tonal options are somewhat limited compared to the others. It also had less perceived power or volume than the BX500. Certainly not a bad head, and lots of people love them. Just for me, not as good as the BX500.

    The Carvin BX500 has been my main gigging head for a while. I have 2 of them, a main and a spare. I agree the controls can move in the soft carry case. I mounted my main gigging head in a light, shallow SKB hard case. Works great and is still small and light, and protected for gigging. Lots of tonal possibilities. I've never needed more power. As stated, some of the controls are a bit redundant, but that's OK. As far as being gritty or tubey, it can do that but you have to turn up the Drive knob pretty far. Overall, I love it.

    As I said, I've never had a BH450. I have the 1x15 combo which basically has the 250 head in it. Some people like the TC "tone" and others don't. I actually like it. With the Specracomp and Tube Tone, and the basic Low/Mid/High controls, I get the tone I like. I have gigged it with a full band and it has performed well. Not the same as the RH450, but I imagine there are similarities in tone. Again, I like it.
    ERIC31 likes this.
  10. groove pump

    groove pump

    Oct 24, 2006
    Just my story.

    I'd been using a preamp/power amp rig for a few years, but my preamp is rather limited in terms of tone controls. It's an Ampeg BSP with separate clean and overdrive channels that can run independently or be blended. Nice clean channel tone, but the EQ controls include only three knobs; lows, mids, and highs. Rather limited.

    I picked up a Carvin BX500 from the classifieds here for a great deal, figuring I'd try something in the wee lightweight family of heads with more controls to offer. I agree that there's some redundancy given the graphic EQ in addition to the semi parametric that I typically use, but everything is right there ready to go in a straightforward layout.

    So my Carvin was delivered to me on a Friday afternoon and with no time to really get to know it, I took it to a gig and used it all night. No surprises, no issues or hiccups, and this gig was a fill-in where I had to "roll with it" a little more than I typically would with my own band that I play with all the time. Everything went fine and I was even playing without PA support for my sound.

    Not saying that this head is better or worse than anything else, but it was obviously easy to use right out of the box. I think I get a "warmer" tone with the clean channel of my Ampeg preamp, but the tone controls on the BX500 are more than ample and I even like its simple compressor - one knob and rather mild when not cranked all the way up.
  11. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    Never played through a TC but have one being delivered this Tuesday. Added a BH250 to my stack so I can use the Rick-O-Sound feature in my new Ric. Also wanted an inexpensive, lightweight backup head that I could fit in my gigbag.

    Ampegs have a personality to them, and IMO either you like them or you don't. I have a rough time getting the sound I like whenever an Ampeg is the house amp. I'm terrible with describing tone, but I get deep, dark, sometimes muddy from ampeg. I have a rough time getting sounds I like, as you'll see in the vid below.

    Carvin BX500. I have lots I can say about this, though I'll try to keep it brief. First and most important is that I'd skip the 500 and jump up to the BX700, which is going for only $80 more. Both heads are voiced the same, same size, same weight. You get a little more headroom and a lighted faceplate - but the most important thing is that some of the 500s have issues. Mine did, and crapped out on me 2nd song in a gig. I didn't have backup. A neighborhood guy in club was kind enough to race home and get me a head to use for the rest of the show. I still see reports of this happening with people, and while it's not an issue with every BX500 it's enough of an issue for me to be happy to be done with mine.

    As far as the 700 goes, no issues whatsoever in about 6 months of use now. I don't understand the difference between "gain" and "drive" that @drpepper mentions, the drive does what I'd expect either to do. Kicks the sound into a bit of overdrive. I also don't find myself overwhelmed by the myriad of EQ shaping options, I don't do a whole lot of tone shaping, but LOVE the fact that I'm certain I can get this head to mock any other head out there. I generally just boost the bass/treble to around 1 o'clock, and add a touch of upper and lower mids with the parametric EQ. By toying with the other EQ, you can change the entire personality of the amp. I have a Carvin combo where I've switched things up radically, and the capabilities are astounding. Other bonuses for me are the contour, which isn't as overbearing as on some other amps, and compressor which I use just a touch of. IMO it's useless past 2 (the 8:00 position), but just a touch gives some real natural sounding punch and definition. I love this head. I've gotten tons of compliments on my sound since I started using it.

    Below is the BX700 through a 6x10 Fender house cab. I usually use 2 Carvin 15s. The head is set pretty much flat except for a the very minor tweaks mentioned above.

    Last edited: Feb 14, 2016
    TC424, pcake, Waltsdog and 2 others like this.
  12. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    Thanks so much everyone for your replies. This is really helpful in making a good decision of what to get. :)
  13. wmhill


    Aug 20, 2012
    upstate NY
    MTD basses endorsed artist Bartolini pickups emerging artist TECAMP bass players gear endorsed
  14. arginator


    Feb 28, 2009
    Upstate NY
    GK MB-500. Just sayin'...
    B-string likes this.
  15. I think it’s great when you can get a good handful of examples like this, of direct/owner comparisons.

    Just to be more clear on two things that, the way they were put forward and/or glossed over by multiple people (including me), could overshadow the points behind them…

    1. “Over-adjustablity” - This isn’t necessarily something to avoid or be leary of, UNLESS you're already firmly decided that you value simplicity more than configurability (which is completely valid); it’s only overboard in that context. The highly adjustable controls in both the BX and the RH can be nothing but positive, IF you put the effort in to bring them under your control and make them work to your advantage.

    My own experience with the RH was that I ran for a while without really understanding or having control over the EQ. That led to results being more hit-or-miss. With understanding and some time put in on finding/making optimal settings, or even just one base setting, the results can be consistent and controlled. One of them main points that I came to understand is that semi-parametric setup isn’t necessarily (to be viewed as) a tool to get to a specific sound, but it can be the key to initially optimizing each EQ band’s adjustment point for maximum effect and effectiveness with a specific cabinet and bass (and hands).

    With the BX, I think that control is in the hands of the user when the redundancies are understood…rather than just (more or less, blindly) turning knobs and adjusting sliders, searching for a sound. Yes. You can land on something that works fine that way, but you can also run into trouble and frustration. With the BX, one thing to understand is that contour, semi-parametric, bass, treble, and graphic EQs can all potentially affect the same aspects of the sound. What that means is adjustments to each can unintentionally be working against one another (i.e., cancelling each other out, to some degree, or creating negative effects), or they can unintentionally cause compounding effects (also with potentially negative results). The operative word in all of that is “unintentionally”…with understanding (especially from time/experience), comes the power of control.

    2. The power rating of the RH - This is a point that inevitably comes up whenever someone makes a post, as you did, saying something like “I’m comparing amps X, Y, and the a TCE amp because they all have similar power/wattage.” The inevitability has come to be that some number of people will pop up and make drive-by statements like “TCE lies about wattage” or “They don’t have comparable wattage; the RH450 and RH750 are both only 236 watts.” What’s almost always missing is the (correct) reason, meaning and significance behind these kinds of statements. Unfortunately, it’s a far more complex circumstance than can be understood from reading other people’s brief conclusions, which are often opinions formed out of second and third hand misunderstanding of the available facts and information.

    Some salient facts are that TCE has said that they chose to label their amps, that employ their Active Power Management (APM) design, for the power rating of the power module in each. Their specifications, which used to generically label the power, were changed some time ago to specify the rating of the power module. Information on APM is available from a few sources; TCE’s white paper on it and some articles.

    My opinion is that someone considering/seeking information on one of TCE’s amps with APM, especially when using TalkBass to gather information, would be best served by developing their own understanding and conclusions (rather than taking others’ opinions/conclusions at face value), starting with understanding what TCE’s marketing is and then reading the Bass Gear Magazine article that was the basis of this matter becoming “scandalous.”

    Bass Gear July 2011-Issue 6 Page 100
    ScottTunes, JackANSI and arai like this.
  16. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    I currently am running a TC BH250 with my Hartke cabs and want more power. The head sounds good, I just need more juice. :)
  17. Nice one :thumbsup:

    After someone pulled up the Chickenfoot cover of this on youtube, one of my bands has started working on it. Definitely fun to play.
    Joe Nerve likes this.
  18. I realize that this is a completely unsolicited opinion, but that being the case (and without knowing what your needs are), I'd throw out there that you might consider making your next move on cabinets, rather than the head.

    What are the shortcomings you're finding with the current setup? What kind of playing situations are you in?
  19. I have the PF500 and have heard the TC and liked it. I've had the PF500 for 4 years with no problems and have used it in all kinds of settings; sitting on top of my 2x10 at 8 ohms, stacked on top of 2 sets of 2x10s at 4 ohms, head only through the house, cabinet as stage monitor and sound through the house, in really hot weather baking in direct summer sunlight, outdoors just above freezing in a snow squall, etc. I can't say enough about it, but I know there are a lot of other great options to choose from. Match a head to a cabinet(s) that sounds right to you. That's the configuration you will play most often.
  20. ERIC31


    Jul 1, 2002
    Maricopa, AZ
    I love my Hartkes. Never give them up.:)

    I was reading through the MASSIVE TC amp debacle thread and I'm not liking what I heard about the RH450 actually around 236 watts (!)

    What's the deal? If it's true, I don't want it.

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