Epifani UL502 Head: the Jokertastic Review...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jokerjkny, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA
    hey all,

    spent a few weeks with my new Epifani UL502 head, and am extremely impressed. if you want hifi, stop what you're doing and buy this amp. its a detailed and articulate beast that'll expose every bit of whatever bass you're playing. is it the "Avalon U5 w/ EQ section" like i've touted before? maybe. but hyperbole aside, like the U5, it is very hifi, and yet, definitely its own thing.




    Sadowsky V-5 swamp ash / maple
    Fodera Imperial-5 Fretless walnut / kingwood
    Epifani UL210 & UL310
    Acme B-1, B-2, B-4
    Auralex Gramma Pad
    Alessandro cabling

    EQ & Tones

    what's striking is that after spending plenty of time with this amp and the Epifani sound, i'm realizing there's this "woody" upper mid aspect i've always noticed, yet couldnt put my finger on. but given these two pieces of epi gear together, its now all the more apparent. it's this soft woody clarity in the upper mids that seems to be a trademark of the Epifani sound. and what a great sound it is! instead of a blob of low end frequencies, that woody feel adds a tight yet interesting complexity to the ol' bass sound.

    breaking it down, the highs have all the hifi airy feel you'd want. the 3kHz and 6kHz switch is very handy, cause you can cut out the more harsher 3kHz, or add them in for a more cutting sound. with the 6 kHz, you can dial in a more airy presence that's gorgeous with my fretless and even my good ol' Eminence EUB.

    the semi parametric mids knob does an equally great job of either adding punch or eliminating those annoying mid frequencies that bug ya. not quite as precise as my iAMP, but does the job admirably with a nice musical feel. also, while using the UL cabs, if i center the freq. knob around 800Hz, i can get a psuedo "NYC" cab like sound! pretty cool for those who miss that tone.

    the mid cut knob is great for getting that slap sound, but for me, it was great for getting a nice subtle fingerstyle sound for slower songs and ballads.

    but what's really cool is the lows knob. the initial turns of the knob seems to add warmth, while the more extreme settings starting around 3:00 seem to extend the low end making for a more window rattling, room shaking kinda background of lows. quite cool!

    its quite different from the more familiar fattening, swelling up like sound found in most amps like Aguilar's AG500. to put up a crude analogy, its like a clear chicken broth kinda low end with the epi, while most others, aggie included is more thicker and clam chowder like. geez, i hope that made sense. :meh:

    again, its all about that hifi clarity. kinda reminds me of how the Fodera Pope preamp fills in the lows, and yet the Epi head takes it further by adding in said background of room disheveling extended low end. what's really cool is jacking the lows knob on my sadowsky for that more familiar rich low end, and then using a bit of the Epifani lows for a warmer sweeter sound. :cool:

    The Two Channel Debate

    while like most gents, i thought two channels would be one channel too much for my needs. but the Epi changed my mind. being able to go from one drastic sound to another with one flick is very handy. i.e from an aggressive fingerstyle sound heavy in the punchie low mids that i set for channel 2, to that aforementioned sweeter subtle sound for channel 1, i can go from assaulting to soothing in one press of a button.


    needless to say, the head sounds best with the Epi cabs. really brings out all the hifi detail you could ever want. and while the head sounded terrific with my Acme cabs, the real magic is with the epi cabs. sparkle, fatness, glory, heroic battle victories, its all there. besides being made for each other, they bring out one another's potential in the biggest way.

    but the Acmes arent any slouches either. actually, while i thought my iAMP would be the only head i'd ever use with the acmes, the Epi head does a great job, too. the parametric mids knob does wonderous things. and with 600 watts @ 4 ohms, drives it aplenty for my lower middle volume gigs. interestingly, while with the Epi cabs, the semi parametric sounds fat and bold, with the acme, the sound is a little more "pointed" shall we say, like the Q is much narrower when used with the Acmes.


    firstly, i wish each channel had a separate "volume" control, not just gain control. sometimes, with certain gain and EQ settings, the volume differences are too drastic. i.e. that subtle fingerstyle sound may be too low a volume compared to the more louder in your face aggressive sound.

    also, i dont understand why both channels cant have the semi-parametric middle EQ? its great to have, and would make the amp infinitely more versatile.

    and of course, the DI needs to be protected. seems like a HUGE oversight not to be done, especially given realworld gigging. but i did find a nice workaround by using the "preamp out" and sending that to the DI box. works like a charm.


    other than these minor niggles, this is a terrific amp! if you own an Epi cab, you need to do yourself a favor, and get this amp. it really brings out the goods in the Epifani sound.
  2. Ozbass


    Apr 11, 2005
    Excellent! Thanks for that. There is 502 and 310UL winging its way down to me as we speak!
  3. Toasted


    May 26, 2003
    Leeds, UK
    Thanks for the review :)
  4. Of couse it is a good amp, it has a blue led. :bag:


    Great review [as always]. Thanks for putting the time aside to do these reviews for us. They are always very detailed and because of the vast amount of gear you have comparisons are very objective.

    Ever thought of putting yourself forward as a full time reviewer for publications?

  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    nice review Jae,
    we got to get together and do an A/B with the Thunderfunk, especially now I have an UL-210 :)
  6. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Very nice!

    Thanks, Tom.
  7. Thanks for the review Tom.

    What do you mean by 'protected' concerning the DI. Is that a physical thing or something electronic.
  8. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    The review was by jokerjkny, as you can tell by the well-thought out and concise writing style! ;)
  9. Sorry Tom (and Jokerjkny)...

    Thanks for the review Jokerjkny! :)
  10. Thanks Joker. Very informative. I'm sure you'll find even more to share before long.
  11. inazone


    Apr 20, 2003
    Thanks for the review joker!
    Ive played the 502 several times but only in the store, I really liked it. I was impressed with the EQ. I thought that its kinda like the eden, as in when you change and turn the knobs it really changes the tone but at the same time, its like aguilar in that you can crank the knobs all the way and still get a useable tone. It keeps the epi tone no matter where the EQ is set. I like that a lot.

    The epi site says you can have a jenson DI as a option but I agree with you. It should be standard. I like your solution with the DI box, and correct me if Im wrong, but if you want to use the 502 as a preamp you could still run into the DI box and through to a power amp.

    If you had to choose, what would you go with, a Iamp 800 or the 502? The 502, so far, is one of my top units as far as pre/heads. I have been excited about the Iamp but I haven played it live so Im still on the fence.

    Thanks again for the review and so far Ive been impressed with the 502ul, great piece of gear.
  12. mgmadian


    Feb 4, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Ditto what inazone said... great review, joker! I'd love to hear about the iAmp800 comparison, also. Note: I've spoken to the guys at Epi a few times about the 502, and even the Jensen transformer option is not compatible with phantom power. Now... I didn't speak with Nick directly on this particular point, but Frank over there stated that phantom power wouldn't cause anything to blow up per-se, but it wouldn't sound particularly good. Take this with a grain of salt, however... Nick would be the best guy over there to talk to on it.

    Yup, all good direct boxes allow you to pass the signal thru untouched, so you could still route the preamp out signal to another power amp if you ever needed to.
  13. Great review! It was Jokertastic!

    Yeah it's great amp. If you want to run both Epi cabs (2x10 and 3x10) can you the stewart 1.6 poweramp and use the preamp from the 502?

    The rack ears are ready. I got mine so now I put my 502 into my Rockbag
  14. inazone


    Apr 20, 2003
    Yes, Ive talked to Nick and he said you can use the 502ul as a preamp only and line out to a power amp.
  15. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA
    mos def,

    course, this time i wont be 3 HOURS LATE. :eyebrow:

    omg, the pic doesnt quite show it, but that LED is massively bright! i have to stand in front of it sometimes, cause i can see people in the audience squinting!

    you kiddin'?!? considering the 2am post, i'm surprised i made sense at all. :meh:

    but all good, hopefully, i'll follow in your footsteps and put up my own blog. :p

    sure, i guess using the "thru" jack on the DI box, you can run into another power amp.

    or while still using the preamp out for the house PA DI, you could run the UL502's balanced XLR DI out to your power amp. sounds counterintuitive, but i guess that could work.

    and heck, if you got the money, you could use something like an Acoustic Image Focus SA as a power amp to run the second cab at about equal power.

    WOW, very tough question.

    both are great amps, but IMHO, if you have Epifani gear, there's no question: UL502. yes, it sounds that much better. :p

    but the EA is like tonal velcro. the key is in the EQ, which makes it that versatile chameleon. unfortunately, soooo many guys dont take the time to unlock it, which IMHO is a real shame.

    again, i am the mad tweaker these days, and most times i wont look at a head / preamp unless it has a variable mids option. i need knobs / buttons / whatnot, and the iAMP is literally perfect for me.

    that said, the UL502's first channel is as plug and play as they get, and yet, gives me plenty of great tones with only 3 knobs. and for me, that's pretty cool! as terrible as it sounds, i've sold many preamps / amps, cause it just wasnt versatile enough for me to find my sound.

    but i'm really rambling now, cause i should be working... :rollno:
  16. Funkyaurora


    Aug 21, 2002

    I also would like to know what you ment by " DI is not protected" ? Are you thinking of a mechanical security lock for the XLR plug, or electronical protection when feeding a 48V powered line; or perhaps something else?

    I have used the UL 502 for quite a few gigs now, and always used the DI balanced output for feeding a channel strip at the FOH mixer/PA with now problems at all. However, I do not know wether the 48V option on the particular mixer channel in use was turned on or not. The unbalanced preamp-/line- output were used for feeding an external poweramp simultaneously (to avoid impedance mismatch since I run two 5.3 Ohm cabinets (2.65 ohms in parallell)- the UL502 has a 4 ohm minimum load spec.)
  17. Nightbass


    May 1, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Not to mention the piquant use of food imagery... :)
  18. Which Poweramp do you use?
  19. Funkyaurora


    Aug 21, 2002
    Labgruppen 1300C, ca. 2x650W at 4Ohms, ca.8.5 kg (18.5lbs),works like a charm.
  20. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    yeah, I'm always hungry after reading one of his reviews :)