iAmp 500 Review

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Touch, Dec 6, 2005.

  1. Touch


    Aug 7, 2002
    Boulder, CO
    Well, here is my report back on my new EA iAmp 500. This amp could very well be the last one I ever buy.

    A little background on why I ended up choosing this unit. I have been using an SWR WM-12 along with a SansAmp ADI for many shows. While I'm not crazy about the tone, the small size was a big plus. At 100 W however it just wasn't producing enough volume for those occasions that I play with a drummer. I did try extension cabs with the WM-12, but again, I wasn't crazy about the tone, even with the ADI in the return effects loop.

    My larger rig is a Rane AP-13 preamp along with a QSC RMX-300 power amp and an Acme B-2. A great power amp (I also use them in one of my PA rigs) but heavy. The AP-13 has two channels, phantom power for a mic, great blending and output options but the EQ isn't terribly flexible. The B-2 is a great cab for string bass but as many here have observed it does like a good amount of power. The RMX-300 bridged into 4 ohms delivered 600W which it seemed to require.

    I made a conscious choice to use a pickup only for this new unit. I will always take the sound of large area condensor mic over a pickup. However I have found that using a mic live on an upright bass usually doesn't work if there are either stage monitors involved or moderate volumes. I have done a number of bluegrass festivals with a single mic for all the singers/instruments and a mic on the string bass. Even this can be difficult in a room as opposed to an open-air stage.

    For the new, smaller rig I first chose an EA VL-110. I did look for a VL-208 with no luck. My plan was to keep the B-2 for the louder shows and combine it with the VL-110. I considered a B-1, but was keen on trying the EA speakers.

    I did consider the Acoustic Image products but believed that they didn't have the power I required. I also seriously considered Walter Woods amps however I wasn't convinced that the older units would have enough power and I just wasn't willing to pay at least 2X the cost of the iAmp 500 for a new unit. Maybe if I needed a kilowatt of power my decision would have been different.

    Based on all the good reviews I thought the EA amps would probably fit the bill. I considered the iAmp 800 however I never play THAT loud and the times that I get "stupid" loud it is usually coming out of the house and not primarily my rig. I believe that the 500 is compact enough for the trio shows as well as having enough "beef" for the larger and louder stages that I play. I rarely double, but I wanted enough juice to keep up with a drummer when I do.

    So enough of why I chose the amp and on to the amp itself. The construction of the iAmp 500 is quite solid despite its mere 13 lbs. The input and output level controls are quite smooth (fluid filled?) and seem more like the volume knobs on a high-end stereo. The jacks on the front are solid and gold-plated. The speaker connection on the back is exclusively a speak-on.

    I really dig the iAmp's EQ. Four bands of parametric EQ (low and high bands are shelving) voiced for bass are just perfect. While I tend to keep everything flat (there is a in/out switch for the EQ) all that EQ will help you dial in your sound and or remove boominess from a room. The unit also has 4 preset sounds which can be used by themselves or combined with the EQ.

    The unit has a switch that turns the DI on or off and one for turning the speaker on and off. This allows one to tune silently without blasting either the stage or the audience. I really find this feature useful and can't believe that more manufacturers don't have a mute switch like this... oh well. The DI is switchable pre- or post-DI.

    I tried out the unit with my main bass, my 1890's Bavarian (equipped with a K&K pickup and Obligatos). I also tried it with my "outdoor festival" bass, a 1942 Kay (Underwood and Obligatos). The similarities and differences of these two basses are easy to hear through this rig. I also tried it with a couple of slab basses including a Fender and a Ron Oates custom 5-string fretless. Just for fun I tried the suggested "Jaco" EQ settings. This gives a really nice growl on the fretless. Same thing on both uprights.

    The short story is that with the EQ set flat, my string basses sound like.... well... themselves. I can understand comments that say folks can't tell whether their iAmp is on or off. The VL-110 sounds just like one of my studio monitors. Flat as can be with a tight low end and no midrange bump. The B-2 by comparison has lots more bottom, however tweaking the iAmp's EQ can make them sound quite similar.

    I could notice no noticeable hiss or background noise and the unit has plenty of headroom. Ditto for the DI output. The EQ on the iAmp I believe can be as dramatic or as subtle as one might want. For example to dial out the mid-range bump of more common electric bass speakers or to make your upright sound like a fretless if that's what you're after. There are so many options for dialing in your sound. I found that the "Contour 2" preset was great for bowing solos.

    I really am enjoying this new amp. An iAmp 500 and a VL-110 is my dream rig for string bass. Way to go EA! I've got a couple of rigs I won't be needing anymore.

  2. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    I am glad that you are digging it. Your review speaks exactly to the design parameters of the 500. Welcome to the club. If you want to be listed on the EA site, with a link to your band - send me an email to [email protected]


    Mike Dimin
  3. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
    Excellent review. Like Mike said, welcome to the family.
  4. 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 rig you have there! :D
  5. jmain

    jmain Oo, Uhn't uh, Yes!

    Apr 23, 2005
    Alexandria, VA
    Great review. I have a similar setup that sounds awesome for slab. Your review and the others I've seen are reassuring that this rig will definitely cut it for DB, and be a great doubling rig. Besides the fact that I've had to wait far too long for a DB, your review makes me that much more anxious. Good to hear.

    When I die, someone will be lucky to get this amp. :D
  6. Nice review! I have an iAmp 350 (must be one of the last made) - I've used it a few times with my CXL-112 and occasionally with my CXL-110, and a couple of times with both - I only use it when I need more power than I can get with my AI Clarus. I've been very happy with the EA, great sound and nicely made. Would it benefit me to upgrade to the 500? What are the differences in the tone controls? I seem to remember that the 350 has ½-octave switches for the bandwidth, which is not quite fully parametric. Is the 500 much lighter than the 350? Just curious…

    - Wil
  7. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    The tone controls are identical. The difference between the 350 and 500 would be (1) the power supply and (2) the 500 has a class D amplifier. The 500 weighs in at 13lbs. I can't rmember the weight of the 350

  8. I actually prefered the sound of the 350 over the 800 I bought to replace it.... seemed a little warmer and punchier to me, I assume for the reasons stated above. Just personal opinion though... both great amps. However, IMO, I like the analog 350 the best of all the iAmp models.

    Edit... this is coming from an EB perspective... so 'grain of salt', etc. I just love these small rigs that all you DB guys use and cruise over here every once in a while!
  9. Mike Dimin

    Mike Dimin Inactive

    Dec 11, 1999
    What would my day be like if you didn't take the time to disagree with me, Ken :)
  10. Ha! Actually, I don't think we are disagreeing this time... both great but different sounding designs.... pure personal taste!!!!! Hope all is well! :)