Compact amp opinions

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by ric426, Aug 24, 2005.

  1. ric426

    ric426 Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    I'm thinking about a trade deal with a local shop for an amp and speakers. I've pretty much settled on a pair of 1x12's (Aguilar or equivalent) but have several amp possibilities, and others not at the shop, that interest me. I'd welcome any comment pro, or especially con, on any of the amps on my list. I know the power ratings cover a wide range, so setting that aside, do you have any strong feelings about any of these. I should probably add that I'm playing 4 string basses, 90% fingerstyle, favor more of an old school tone and my aging back places a premium on light weight.

    EA iAmp350 or iAmp500 (I've had both and the 500 would be my 1st choice, but they're hard to locate used)

    Eden WT-400, WT-405, WT-550 (I've had a WT-550 and regret letting it go)

    Ampeg PortaBass (No experience with these or Ampeg in general, the 250 is probably underpowered for my needs)

    Mesa Walkabout (No experience with these or Mesa in general, but I've heard a lot of good things about the Walkabouts.)

    I have done searches on these in this forum, so I guess the main thing I'm looking for are comments personal experiences with these amps, especially if there's a reason to avoid any of them. If there's one I haven't mentioned that's worth considering, please mention it.
  2. I've either owned or played out of the amps on your list. All, except the portabass (IMO) sound great. The iAmp350 is an older analog design that is no longer produced.... I really liked that head (I had it in the old iAmp110combo), but the 500 is better IMO.

    The best way that describes the sound of the Eden550, iAmp500 and Walkabout is on a 'tube-like' sound continuum...

    The iAmp500 is the most 'transistor' sounding head of the 3.... very clean, quick... some would say a little sterile.. powerful EQ

    The Eden550, to me, is the best of all worlds among these three.... the quickness of a transistor amp with that little bit of tube warmth and character due to the preamp tube among other things... also the most 'plug and play'... a slight tweek to the enhance control and a touch of bass and you are ready to rock (I prefer the hybrid Eden designs over the pure transistor models you list).

    The Walkabout is one of the most 'pure tube' sounding heads of any hybrid I've ever played. It's fat, warm and juicy... but not particularly quick... if you like all tube amps, this is the closest you are going to get without hauling around the big iron. The treble control on this amp is shelved at a very low starting point.... 750 hz (vs. the more traditional 2K or so of most amps)... so, I had trouble getting true sparkle out of it (even with the very good semi-parametric mid controls that extend to 4K)... but that's not what the Walkabout is about anyway.

    All of these amps are plenty loud running at 4ohms... the Walkabout is surprisingly loud for its rated wattage.

    PS The Thunderfunk550 with switch option is definitely worth considering... it's currently my favorite... lot's of posts/reviews if you search.... falls between the iAmp and Eden on my continuum above and is also very 'plug and play'.
  3. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I highly recommend the Acoustic Image Focus 600 if you don't ever need less than a 4 ohm load, although it can be run lower, if you aren't trying to bust out peoples eardrums. If you get a couple Aggie or Bergie 112's at 8 ohms each, the AI will push 'em with no problem. I"m personally a Schroeder bigot and if you can get a single Schroeder 1210 or 1212, at less money and total weight, you will get more tone, volume, and punch than any two 112's I've heard.

    But, I realize your question is about heads. I'd characterize the AI's sound, like every other amp I've ever tried out, as needing more equ'ing than is availble on the head and in my case, more than on the bass too. A 12 band to 31 band outboard eq for $75 to 150 will solve any head's inability to get you what you want. If you're not as picky ass as I am, then this head will certainly give you a lotta power and as a benefit weighs a big time 4 pounds.

    Good luck....all the heads you listed are really decent. I feel the AI is definitely "louder" than the Mesa and the Ampeg, and can't render an opinion about the Eden.

  4. +1 Per Larry's comment... I also own a Focus and it's great for what it is... my primary reason for not recommending was exactly as Larry mentioned... the EQ is limited... it really is a one sound amp... which is good if you like that sound. Carrying an extra EQ didn't seem to me to be where the thread originator was heading. The EQ on the Eden550, iAmp500, and the Thunderfunk and to a lesser extent on the Walkabout are very powerful and more than anyone would ever need in a vast majority of situations.
  5. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    I own an iAMP500, but have some experience with the Walkabout. Before I got my Epi112, I played it through a Walkabout. It sounded wonderful. I am really fond of the Walkabout's. If I did not like my iAMP so much, I would have a Walkabout. The above comments are completely accurate about the Walkabout. It is very warm, squishy, "chainsaw through pudding" sounding. If you are big into turning up the highs, you may want to stay away from the Walkabout though. It will get up there, but it won't sound as crystal clear as the iAMP.

    I spent some time with all of the Eden amps you listed. They have a nice warmth to them, without getting bogged down like the Walkabout can. I agree with the fact that they are the most "plu and play" of all your choices. It doesn't take much tinkering to get a variety of sounds from an Eden amp, probably because of the powerful EQ.

    I left Eden for my iAMP. The iAMP is just too perfect for me. Clear, clean, quick, and versatile. I love everythign about it. I still haven't unlocked the power of the EQ, but when I do I will love it even more. :D

  6. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    when I try something out, if I can't get a tone I love within a few minutes I don't wanna mess with it. When I bought the Focus and tried tweaking it, I knew within minutes that it would do the job I want. Add the 31 band eq dependency I've developed over the past 12 years, and in about 30 seconds we had ecstacy, especially using the Schroeder 1210. all I can say. The only think I do with the AI on the job is adjust the preamp and master volume down or up a little and I will reduce the bass to flat if the room's a boomer. It's a 4 pound volume pusher with a little extra and a nice direct out. Add the eq I always use and it sounds great.

    Now getting to your comment about the iamp and Eden. I've tried both....I hate the Eden and dislike the iamp. However both with the same 31 band eq I have will sound pretty good, both are compact and both cost about the same as the 600 although the 600s are much less now with their new 800 models coming out.

    My personal ear bottom line is that I don't like the way I sound coming outta any amp I've ever tried without the EQ intervening even though it's not anything drastic boost/cut wise. As my strings get older I boost the highs more. That's about it.

    Just though I'd throw that in. I'm definitely a warped animal when it comes to running a bass naked through an amp or PA. It just doesn't sound the same as when treated with a little DOD.

  7. Kael

    Kael Supporting Member

    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    Wow you got a tone dialed in on a 31 band graphic eq in a couple of minutes? I must be too much of a chronic knob tweaker. :p
  8. It sounds like that 31 band EQ really works for you. I can't imagine 'hating' an Eden head... I don't play out of one any more, but would be OK with it. Anyway... I also can't imagine not being able to dial in a decent tone if you have a decent bass with shelving bass and treble, multiple bands of semi-parametric EQ and an enhance control. However, what works for one doesn't always work for another :) That being said... the EQ on the AI stuff is pretty useless.... they even fess up to it on their website. But... those amps have a very nice, warm inherent sound that doesn't need a lot of screwing with.
  9. BigMikeW

    BigMikeW Banned

    May 25, 2005
    Nashville, TN.
    Banned by TB Administration for refusal to account for funds
    Agreed. You CAN NOT go wrong with an Eden amp in my opinion.
  10. Fellow TBer Wilbyman just picked up an Eden550 to use with his EB and DB with his shiny new Epi112UL and totally loves it also. The Thunderfunk is very similar (actually looks similar in the front end layout... I think there's some common ancestry to a lot of these amps but don't know the history). It's a little more 'transistory' than the Eden, which some people prefer. Both GREAT amps for the dollar.
  11. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    The Focus is a great amp, but I'd take issue that even with a ton of EQ (31-band even!) you'll get the same low-end performance as a good conventional amp. I've tried running a bunch of preamps into the Focus (both into the effects return and straight into the front of the Focus). The Focus just isn't going to hit you in the chest the same way an Eden/Aguilar/Mesa head will. The Class D power section won't put out those lows no matter how much you tweak the signal. The Focus sounds wonderful and, if you double, it's a no brainer.

    But yeah, as KJ said, I just bought a 550. It moves that air I couldn't get going with the Focus and still sounds very clear and musical, like the Focus.
  12. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I don't know how my Bartolini 3 band is set as far as the frequency for the bass boost cut on my Mike Lull M5V, but with both the 410 and the 1210 Schoeder with the focus bass at 12 to 2 oclock and my bass boost cut on the bass up around full blast, and with the 30hz to 80 hz running FLAT on the eq, I can almost blow out candles with the cabinet without it having a whole lotta volume .... preamp at 9 oclock and master volume around 10:00. As you guys know the focus is full blast at 5 or 6 oclock and is off around 7:00. The main "keys" to my tone eq wise is the 100 125 150 200 250 slides being slightly boosted, everything from 30 to the 100 being flat, all the mids from 300 to 1250? slightly cut, but on the bass itself I boost the mids at 250 as high as I can get them, I boost the final 8 to 10 slides "highs" wide open. I have my passive tone and treble boost close to if not wide open on the bass and the treble and bright wide open on the focus. My strings sound like Joe Osbornish in that I haven't changed them for almost a year, so the treble is totally necessary to get a nice cut outta the bass. The SWR and Eden heads I've owned and tried out, with just my bass have never sounded anywhere near as clean, punchy, and yet phat and full as running the 31 band in between the bass and the amp head. I owned an SWR 900 and 350 , tried out an Eden 800 and roadrunner, and have tried EA 350 and 800 at Beaver's store in Orlando. I've also owned a GK 2000RB, a Sunn 1200S, and Ampeg SVTII all tube, a Sunn 300 all tube, an Ampeg SVT 350, several Peavey's, Hartke 400, and others. I've tried several different Mesa's, other Ampegs, the blue English amps, and others. I had an Aguilar DB356. None of these sound as good as just adding the stupid eq in the signal chain. Then all of 'em were acceptable,,,,,but with the power available at 4 pounds with the focus combined with the inherant cut through and efficiency of the Schroeders, this is a real winning combo for me.

    I try to run my bass boost on the guitar as high as it will go without making me and others close to me sick on stage. The more rumbly the room the more I cut back the bass on the guitar, try to boost the mids, and add volume on the Focus. Now you guys might think I'm a bit nutso but this rig sounds fantastic. My other rigs alos sounded good and I consistently got compliments from trusted audience member musicians and friends along with all band members. It's just now with the Schroeders and the Focus the compliments have not stopped..they've actaully gone up a bit, but I"M "COMFORTABLE" too. I'm playing better because of it. The quickness of the cabinets make me try and do things that in my opinion can't be done with 15inch speakers or typical 12's or more "polite" one's like I believe Aguilar cabs are for instance.

    I haven't moved anything on the 31 band eq except the 125 hz and the high slides up as the strings get more and more dead. Once I change 'em, my guess is we'll start around flat on the high end too, It just is amazing to me that even with the 31 band set totally flat, how much different the bass sounds than when I deactivate the EQ. Theoretically it shouldn't affect the tone if everything's flat, right? but it does.

    again have fun, find your tone, and drive the band.

  13. Larry, I'd still love to see pics of your rig, EQ included.
    How is it set up? Is the EQ rack mounted?(etc. etc.)
  14. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    Yowsah!! I don't have enough patience for 31 bands of EQing. I wish they made an amp with nothing more than an on/off switch and volume.

  15. Larry Kaye

    Larry Kaye Retailer: Schroeder Cabinets

    Mar 23, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    I look at the 31 bands in 4 or 5 sections. from the bottomest lows to 80 as "Phat" from 80 to 250 as punch, from 250 to 1250 as nasally mids which I don't like but try keep the cutting only slightly, and everything else is highs. As I mentioned earlier , i'll only tweak the 125 hz slide and the "high" group and take advantage of the boost cuts on my bass which are tremendously useful.

    Again, I don't think it's me, but if I run the entire EQ flat, no boost, no cut, with ANY of the amp/speaker combo's I've had over past 10 years, the rig sounds entirely different than when I shut off the eq entirely. Although this should make more sense, it doesn't to me BUT it works. Phat's flat, punch slightly boosted, squirrely mids, slighly cut, highs boosted and increased as strings become deader. The formula works, set it once and forget it!!

    Again, it seems that with the schroeder cabinets, the eq, the Focus and bass work much better together than my last several rigs which were the same eq, either a GKRB2000 or Sunn 1200s, SWR SM900, Ampeg SVTII pro, an Aguilar db356, with either 3 EA VL110's, 2 EA 208's, 1 EA CXL112, an Epifani 310 or 212, 2 SWR Goliath Jrs, and 2 LDS 2x8's. Whatever these cabinets were "lacking" either by being too flat or having mids cut response wise, the Schroeders aren't, yet weigh and cost a whole bunch less than these other makes, especially when using pairs and trios of cabinets on one gig.

    The 31 band also allows me to get a much more consistent tone everywhere we play. It's MY sound, but it's also sounds great.

  16. Christopher


    Apr 28, 2000
    New York, NY
    I have the Eden WT-400 and have auditioned some of the other lightweight competition, including the Mesa, but not the EA or Ampeg.

    I chose the Eden for its size/weight, versatility, and price. It has a very pleasing, warm old-school tone with the EQ flat, which I appreciate because I generally don't like fiddling with controls. That said, the EQ is extremely versatile and you can get a *lot* of variation out of it. I wound up blowing the tweeter fuse in my cab after I dialed in a "Marcus" tone. I also like the simple, intuitive control layout.