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Hartke LH500 First Impression

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by middy, Apr 11, 2014.

  1. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I received a brand new LH500 yesterday, just in time for rehearsal. Here are my first impressions, contrasted with my Ampeg PF500. I ran it through an Ampeg 810e-CL with my band; loud drummer, Mesa Triple-Rec halfstack, acoustic guitar and vox through a pa.

    This thing is loud and punchy! It's probably just a different taper to the pot, but the LH500 is louder at 9:00 than the PF500 is at noon with the gain just under clipping.

    It's very clean and open, yet warm. It has a nice throaty midrange and sweet high end. It reminds me of my Acoustic 320 in how open the sound is, but it's cleaner at high volume. The tube preamp definitely warms it up. The PF500 is warm, but sounds congested in comparison. Maybe it's the master volume setup... I'll have to A/B them with the Ampeg's master volume wide open.

    The LH500 stays clean until it's way too loud, which I like. Preamp overdrive generally sucks. Too me, loud punchy cleans with roundwounds growling is the "heaviest" sound there is when mixed with distorted guitars and loud drums. I don't really get the love for bass distortion. To my ear it just removes the heavy.

    The "Brite" switch is too bright for me.

    The limiter is ok for slap or heavy picking, but it messes with the lovely midrange too much for fingerstyle. This amp is very dynamic and touch sensitive, it would be nicely matched with a good compressor in a rack case, unless you're confident in your technique. I'm mostly confident enough, but it definitely doesn't cut me any slack. The sound of your individual technique and bass instruments and effects comes through loud and proud, for better or worse. This is the kind of tool I appreciate, one that rewards good technique.

    It had been a while since I played a tube preamp and it really struck me this time how they have a slight delay in the attack, which I think helps find the bass pocket. It lets you play more on top of the beat, while the sound follows into the groove. And the attack... wow. Full power at your fingertips!

    The Fender tone stack is kind of hard to get a grasp on at first because of how interactive the controls are. I like a mildly scooped sound that works for both picking and fingerstyle. I usually wound up around 11:00 - 3:00 - 11:00 when tweaking at high volume. The low end is still a bit pillowy after the boom is dialed out. I wish it had more low mid content like the 50s/Marshall tone stack. On that note, my MXR M80 can provide that, so this may come down to which amp sounds better with the M80... I strongly suspect it will be the LH500 because of its weighty punchiness and open voice.

    The PF500 has its strong points. A smooth Ampeg tone, a nice eq section, parallel effects loop, a decent compressor, preamp gain if you're into that. It's voiced nicely to sit in the mix and be more forgiving of technique. It's half the weight and less than half the size. However, it lacks the punch and clarity of the LH500, and those are more important to me.

    I'll be A/B-ing these amps more extensively next week to determine if the Hartke goes back or if the Ampeg is relegated to backup duty. The Acoustic is too big for backup, and not quite clean enough for me, but I'm not sure I want to part with it... First world problems... :scowl: :D
    Gospel Bass Player and zapped777 like this.
  2. markbmbass


    Apr 19, 2012
    Thanks for the review. Helped my decision. I wish the LH500 had a compressor, and I may go up to the LH1000 because of that.
  3. Igotsoul4u


    Nov 3, 2011
    I think the LH500 is one of the best bargains out there. Really good tone and power for the price. It's kind of like a poor mans SVT.
    Gospel Bass Player likes this.
  4. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I think the LH1000 has the same limiter.

    Meh, if you like compression it might be worthwhile to get a dbx 166 or something racked up with the LH500. Personally, I prefer to go without.

    I guess my review made it sound like it needs a compressor, but what I was trying to say was that the limiter isn't really useful if you like good compression for fingerstyle.
  5. Davyo

    Davyo Davyo Supporting Member

    Nov 26, 2008
    Las Vegas, Nv
    Thanks for posting your PF500 vs the LH500 thoughts.

    I'm so on the fence between these 2 amps to pair up with my just purchased new SVT410HLF cab.

    I did own the LH500 last year but only ran it thru my 410 and 810 Hydrive cabs when I had all my Hartke gear.

    The LH500 sure is a heavy beast thou,,, one of the reasons I have been gravitating towards the PF500 in my which amp to get dilemma.

    Gospel Bass Player likes this.
  6. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I don't know, 20 pounds is the weight of the dumbbell my 14 yr old son curls with one arm. ;-)

    It's kind of like the difference between a BMW 528i and a Ferrari. "Comfort and performance" vs "high performance and you'd better be paying attention!"
  7. The Thinker

    The Thinker Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    Nice review! The LH500 has been my gigging amp for probably the last 3 years. It replaced both a Euphonic Audio and GK700B (the II, I think). Tons of power. The sound is just how you describe--it has a very slight give on the front end and then punches hard and clean. To me, it's the perfect spot between mushy and "fast".

    I love the simple controls! With the Euphonic Audio I was constantly tweaking all the dials and slides. With the LH500, I typically just tweak the lows depending on which bass I'm using. Sounds great every time.
  8. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I've noticed a distinct lack of punch in the two micro bass heads I've tried. Here's my pet theory, and I could be totally wrong. I'm not an EE.
    These micro amps are so small mostly because of the SMPS (switching mode power supply). They don't have current stored up in a transformer, so they lack power on the initial attack and any loud transients. They are loud, but not punchy and "heavy".
    This would not be a problem if they had enough capacitors to store sufficient current. The higher end SMPS amps probably have enough capacitance and don't suffer from this problem, but I have a feeling that the cheaper ones, like the PF500 and the LMII that I've owned, don't have enough capacitors to be truly punchy like an amp with a linear power supply.
  9. tgriley62


    Jan 25, 2011
    S.E. Mo
    Have had mine since Feb I still am amazed at the tone's you can get out of this head

    Gospel Bass Player and zapped777 like this.
  10. The gas. The gassss…
    If there's anyone here in Australia wanting to sell one of these - contact me pronto♠️
  11. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    Ok, finally an update after the first full band rehearsal.

    Combined with my Ampeg 810 and my new Bill Lawrence Wilde P46 in my Highway 1 Precision, I finally have "the tone in my head!" Punchy, but smooth and deep bass. It sits in the mix perfectly and just sounds like a bass should.

    This is Talkbass heresy, but I find I prefer the eq with all knobs at noon. Yes it's scooped, but not Fieldy scooped. It's just perfect. And the 500 watts into the 810 is plenty to heard, even a bit scooped with a loud drummer and guitarist. I keep the volume at 10:00 at rehearsal and have no problem hearing myself, and I have plenty of headroom and power to spare.

    The Bill Lawrence pickup is amazing, by the way.

    I'm so happy with my sound now. Yay me! Thanks Larry Hartke and the late Bill Lawrence. You guys give us the goods without charging an arm and a leg.
  12. hennessybass

    hennessybass Supporting Member

    Oct 11, 2008
    North East Texas
    I'm really interested in the LH500. A '77 Bassman 100 has been my #1 amp for a while now, and I love the fender sound. I've often wanted a version of my Bassman with more headroom, and I think a LH500 would fit the bill. I tried an Alembic F-1X, power amp rig, but it was just WAY too much of a good thing, and ended up not sticking with it. Could have had a used LH500 for probably half the price of the pre-amp alone.:rollno: The GAS will get you sometimes.

    Congrats on the amp, and not heresy one bit to put your knobs at noon. I feel like people get way to hung up about "the fender tone stack" and having a "scooped" sound. Who cares. Every guy who play a Jazz with both pickups wide open has a scoop. Bass cabs and amps have scoops built in that people don't even know about. If it sounds good, it sounds good - period. Who cares what it looks like on a graph. This is what I love about the fender tone stack. No matter where you set you knobs, it sounds good, IME. All at noon = good. 2-10-2 = good. Just different flavors, but all tasty. I just can't really make my bassman sound bad. I can make it produce a tone that I don't really care for (not MY tone), or that I personally wouldn't use, but it's never a bad tone. Not my experience with some other amps.

    I feel the GAS coming on!!
    middy likes this.
  13. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    Good point about the Jazz bass scoop. I imagine I'll feel differently about the eq when I get my Jazz finished (currently waiting on a new neck pickup).

    Maybe that's why so many people here recommend a mid bump or a flat eq... They're not playing a P bass with a good pickup.
  14. Beserkerbass


    Jan 9, 2014
    Anybody have experience with swapping out the stock tube in the LH500?
  15. spaz21387


    Feb 25, 2008
    Portland oregon
    I swapped out the stock tube. Its just a sovtek so there are way better tubes out there. I have a couple jan phillips 12ax7wa's they rock in the hartke....
  16. Thanx for the update,Middy
    That just fuelled the fire even more so!
    I've yet to hear a bad rap re. this line(500/1000). And the price they go for is also a win.
    Even here in Oz,where we get ridiculous mark ups,they're decently priced.

    middy likes this.
  17. middy


    Mar 14, 2007
    I hope you can get one soon.
  18. Orpheus55

    Orpheus55 Supporting Member

    Nov 7, 2006
    Port Charlotte, FL
    I have the PF500 and run it through an 8 ohm Avatar 210 Neo. It is a nice match, but you really have to crank the head to get it going, and the tone isn't as thick as my SWR WorkingPro 12 combo. I have had the odd and admittedly rare cut-out problems (usually when first powered up) and just don't get a feeling of reliability--as many others have reported. I am going to get the LH500, and I think it will be a good match for the Avatar 219 (350 at 8 ohms through a 400+ cab); we always have PA support anyway. I need something solid and reliable, and I guess I am a bit old school when it comes to amps; just can't see the class Ds taking the punishment. I do wonder if anyone racks their LH500; even at 63, I don't care about the weight. I think a full-size rack would make the total package a bit large, so I just might carry it "naked." Feel free to chime in with any thoughts, as I will likely order this soon.
  19. JoeH


    Jul 28, 2014
    Chattanooga, TN
    I just got my LH500 last night and all I can say is wow! I am running that with a vertical stack of 210 XLs. Nice punch, great tone that is clear and seems to cut right through the mix. Looking forward to rehearsal on Monday to put it through the paces! Orpheus, I do have it in a 4 space SKB rack just for some protection and ease of moving it around to gigs, rehearsal, etc.
  20. Tbone76


    Aug 24, 2013
    Upstate, NY
    I love my LH500. It's a simple amp with a great sound, and it's not only a great amp for the price, it's really a great amp overall. I like that there aren't 50 different parameters to tweak (but I can see how some people would want more adjustability), and the few controls on the amp are very interactive. I currently have it paired with a HyDrive 4x10, and I also run it thru a Hartke AK115 cab.