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Markbass Big Bang vs Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 - Review!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by stonecoldbass, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. stonecoldbass


    Jan 11, 2010
    Hey all,
    I thought I would post my recent findings about these two amps as I'm always scouring forums looking for comparison style posts.
    First some background and scene setting: I play mainly in coverbands, funk, jazz, and rnb groups. My bass is an F Bass VF5, ash/maple and my cab is a Sadowsky SA410, 4ohm.
    Both heads are rated at 500watts at 4ohms and both use class D technology. I will give the pros and cons for each head then say why I've picked one over the other.

    I've been using the Aguilar TH500 for about 2 months now (on loan from a good friend and Ozbass stalwart) and have a lot of positive things to say about this head.
    •First, it is insanely light. I don't know how aguilar have managed to get so much power from something that appears to be filled with air. Which brings me to my second point:
    • It is LOUD. This thing really kicks out the db's and can be cranked fairly high before it starts to crack (I never actually got that to happen a) because it wasn't my amp and b) because I never had to have it THAT loud)
    • It does vintage/rock thing really well, nice thick mids and plenty of punch.
    • I like the mute button

    So here are a few things I'm not so keen on:
    •The single parametric mid control is not enough to tonally sculpt some of the tones I wanted
    * The bottom end is not as tight and focused as I like
    • The power button is on the back (small gripe but personal preference)
    • The fan is reaaaally loud! After a practice session turning it off feels like I've switched off some white noise that has been going on in the background. Obviously at gigs this isn't so much of an issue.
    • The 'Drive' control seemed to be fairly useless for my needs, creating an unpleasant coloration of the tone.

    Now on to the Markbass Big Bang.
    I've only been using this head for around a week now but these are the positive things I've discovered:
    • It's TINY! This thing is narrower than the Aguilar but about the same depth, although it is a smidge heavier
    • It is also incredibly loud. They must use the same air technology...
    • The EQ controls are great, with lo and hi mid, bass, treble and markbass' now ubiquitous VLE and VPF contour controls, getting a wide range of tones is a breeze, especially that Marcus sparkle scoop...
    • Power switch is on the front
    • Has both Speakon and 1/4" outputs unlike the TH500 which only has speakon
    • Aux in and headphone out sockets are a nice audition, though not a big selling point for me as I have a mixer and monitors setup in my practice area.
    • The bottom end is really tight and punchy, even at high volumes it remains nice and focused.

    On the downside:
    • The mute function and selectable EQ2 portion are only able to operated via footswitch
    • It takes a few seconds between turning it on and it actually producing any sound
    • That's about it...

    So if you've managed to read this far you've probably guessed that I have chosen to stick with the Markbass Big Bang out of the two. The main selling points for me were the broader tonal capabilities, the tighter bottom end, awesome power and price - I picked this baby up for $490 in a pawn shop!!!
    The Tone Hammer is still a great amp, and it retails for a lot less then the Markbass too which should be taken into consideration. But for me, I just struggled to bring out the tones that I knew were possible from F Bass with the Aguilar and have them sound pleasing at high volume. I know that with my bass having 70's position pickups and a maple board, it's going to be fairly growly and aggressive in the mids, coupled with the rather forward sounding Sadowsky and it needs to have a head that can tame those frequencies. The Aguilar seemed to exaggerate them somewhat.

    So there you have it, just thought I would share my experiences with these amps and hope it might help some of you who have questions about them.
    darius8 likes this.
  2. eflat7


    Feb 25, 2013
    I actually used a Tone Hammer for the first time at a gig Saturday night. I had my trusty LMIII with me, but the bass player in the other band offered to let me try his TH with my cab (we both had Eden 410XLT's). I loved the sound, but the lows just didn't have that punch. Everything else sounded really great. I just couldn't get over that very loose sounding low end. Anyway, the TH portion of this review seems pretty spot on.
  3. mam1862

    mam1862 Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2008
    Northfield, Ohio
    I have been using the BB for about a year now with a TC212 and it sounds great. I am real happy with the sound. Very full lows and great sounding mid and highs. Good review.
    darius8 likes this.
  4. stonecoldbass


    Jan 11, 2010
    Thanks guys! Just trying to be as honest as I can be. For years I've actually been a bit of an Aguilar fan and almost anti Markbass! The best rig I've ever had was an Aguilar DB750 into epifani UL410, just thunderous and clean. My disdain for Markbass was down to trying a bunch of underpowered combos in loud rehearsal room situations. But now, I am open to anything!
  5. Bim1959


    Apr 15, 2009
    Naples Florida
    Sales and electronic tech/piano tech: England Music Center - Clinton IA - now closed
    Check again on the TH and see if that Speakon connector is in fact also a 1/4" connector. My 7 pro will let me put a 1/4" in the center of it and run it that way. A lot of the Speakons wont let you do that but there some that will. You don't have to force it. It'll either accept it or it wont. It should also mention something about it in the owners manual.
  6. MarkA

    MarkA *** Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Re. the tight low end on the Markbass Big Bang, have you had a chance to compare it to any other Markbass heads (I've got experience with both and F500 and an LMII)? And does it remain both full and focused on the B-string? Seems staying full as you get lower without getting either loose or harsh-sounding can be a bit of a balancing act.

    I have a TH500 at the moment, as well. Haven't decided if it's a keeper yet, or not. The P-bass thing seems to work well with it. Slap on my PJ is crisper through the F500 and note separation in chords is better, but it's colder and the Motown thing doesn't seem to be in its bag of tricks -- or not as easily located in its bag as in the TH500's.
  7. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.
    I have the TH500 and I have a SWR Goliath II 4x10 and it sounds really good,however the bottom end isn't massively huge,but when I paired it with the Aguilar GS 4x10 it was hold different animal !,not only did it sound huge down low but it also was real rich and thick and very organic sounding too. I also pair it with the new Fender Rumble 115 v3 cabinet and I have to say that if you're a P bases cat, then this combo is the ticket for real !.
  8. FrenchBassQC

    FrenchBassQC Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Gatineau QC CA
    I have in the last couple of years used Eden WT550 (with an Accugroove tri 210l), Genz Benz Shuttle 6.0 and 6.2 (with Bergs HT112 and CN212) and now I own a TH500 and I have only used it with the HT112 so far and I have not experienced what you've mentioned about the bottom is not as tight and focused as you like. With my 5 string basses (Roscoe LG3005, Sadowsky MS5 and Bass Mod K5 Pro fretless) the B string is loud and clear with punch and focus.

    I haven't tried the amp with my CN212 yet but that will be something I will do next week at our rehearsal studio. But again, you mentioned, as "you like" and I cannot argue with someones personal taste but so far this has not been my experience with the amp.
  9. Low Class

    Low Class Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2005
    Orange Park, Florida

    The HT112 probably has a lot to do with tightening up the low end on the TH500.
  10. MarkA

    MarkA *** Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Nice to see this thread pop up! :). It didn't generate as much traffic as I'd have thought. Maybe not a lot of people have played both heads. Or maybe because Markbass seems to be less the "flavor of the minute" (at least on TB) than it was not long ago (though I still think they make decent heads).

    In any case, I ended up selling my TH500. Another local player heard it and thought it was the poopie. I thought it was a good head, for sure, but most of what I liked about it I liked more in my Mesa Walkabout. TH does a nice approximation of a tube tone with some harmonic complexity. Walkabout does it better and has a bit of "bounce" in the feel besides. The TH does go louder (at least if you want to maintain dynamics), but always sounded like an mp3 to me compared to the Walkabout's vinyl (or at least CD ;)).

    Still, I dug the TH more than the F500 (which I still have) on my P bass. Definitely sat more naturally in old school grooves. The guy who bought it also bought my Epifani PS-112 - a surprisingly synergistic combination with the TH. It did sound good with his ash/maple Jazz. He preferred the TH to the WA, BTW.

    I might feel differently about the TH if I tried it now or through a different cab, or if I had to cover everything with one micro head. It's capable and the tone is certainly useable. Right now I'm experimenting with tube pres and solid state power - I'll stop there before I wander too far afield!

    The Big Bang I'd be curious to try - the description of it in the Bass Gear mag review as sitting in between an F500 and LMII sonically but quicker than either sounds like something I'd like -/but I haven't been compelled enough to buy one to try it.

    FWIW, I have one of those KXB 500s on order. If I like it enough, it might bump the F500. All the little 500 W micros seem a bit of a compromise to me in tone and low end feel anymore, though. :/ That's not to say that you can't kick ass with one.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  11. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    Interested in that comparison for sure.
    I'm hoping the KXB500 will generate enough sales to push Kustom to come out with a micro KXB1000...