Markbass comparison cmd121p and F1

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Joshbazz, Apr 22, 2016.

  1. I know I'm late to the Markbass party, but I find this is pretty relevant, and am a faithful proponent in taking advantage of using great used equipment in new applications. Case-in-point, as a web designer, I buy and upgrade 2012 macbook pros with SSDs/Ram for around $500 instead of buying brand new $3000 mbps, and it's working out swimmingly :)

    I had always heard of Markbass during my touring days, and didn't get a chance to play any until a couple years ago, where a cmd102p was in the backline at a club. Man – my bass never sounds so good from something so small! I knew I had to get my hands on one of these.

    After using almost all of the major brands during 20+ years of gigging, I wanted to go light-weight/high-power and went with a Genz Benz Shuttle 9.0/Uber410 setup. It was massive loud, but I couldn't get into the tone as much. I don't like to EQ the crap out of an amp, if it doesn't sound great flat, I move on. The GB sounded brittle... and fake to my ears... like I could tell it was class D, and was hollow in some way - if that makes any sense. I can hear the difference in bass cables, so my ear may hear some things others do not.

    I finally bought a Markbass F1 amp (500 watts, class D) on ebay, and then just scooped up a first version Italian made CMD121p that was in a music shop a couple days ago. I had played a brand new CMD121p made overseas (Indonesia, I think) last month and thought it sounded great, and loved the footprint.

    I have played both, trying them side by side here are my thoughts.

    The setup:
    CMD121p (300 watts into it's B&C 12" with piezo tweeter, 500 Watts with extension)
    F1 into a Genz Benz NX2-212T
    SWR 210 with Celestions
    Warwick Thumbbass 5 NT and Stingray 5 basses

    As you may know, the F1 is a class D solid state amp, which means it uses a lighter weight technology to produce the same amount of volume as a traditional class amp (such as A, B, or A/B). The Combo Amp in the CMD121p is a class A/B. The tone controls are the same on both amps

    I had been playing the F1 through my GB NX2-212T for a while and love the air this setup moves. The GB 212 can take all 500 Watts without a sweat, and you can destroy your eardrums very easily, and feel it in your chest (and guts). The tone is very clean. You "hear" what your bass sounds like at a deep level. Some describe this as "sterile", however I would argue it's more of "surgical precision" sounding (not "precision" as in "precision bass" but as in "accurate" and "articulate") I found it quite warm for solid state, and it would lend itself to players who care about each individual note they play, especially finger style soloing and tapping. The tone is very sculpt-able with the amps controls, with the VPF and VLE filters doing their expected jobs faithfully (one provides a vintage tone, the other hi-fi scoop) and are very musical. The only thing missing from the F1 is dirt. So if clean is your thing, I can't suggest a better amp. You can, of course, add a darkglass or sansamp (or other) preamp/predal to get that "tube/grit" into your tone.

    When I played the CMD121p I heard the classic Markbass tone, with a very "tube-like" warmth that reminded me of why I wanted try these in the first place. There is definitely a thicker sound, but less punch than the F1, and less clarity. It's something I wouldn't have noticed had I not played the F1, but since I was comparing side by side, the clarity difference is night and day. There is more edge, and you can get close to the "ampeg" sound by adjusting the EQ and filters. I really like the B&C 12" cab, it's authoritative, punchy, and seems to be able to handle a lot of volume. I did not notice any "farting" that I have read from other reviews.

    When I added the 210 to the combo (1x12 and 2x10) it got LOUD! Nice mix of tone, the 210 adds more low end, and the horn more sparkle (which I like). It may be too much fret noise for some, but the 210's tweeter can be rolled off. Quite punchy with this setup.

    To do an equal comparison I tried each amp driving the GB 212, and an SWR 210 loaded with Celestions (I had blown the original PAS drivers some time ago).

    The piezo in the GB was less appealing than the CMD121p's one, which I was surprised about, since I read so many reviews about the poor piezo in the MB cabs. I thought it was smooth and musical to my ears, though not as nice as a horn tweeter. While the F1 was clear, round, and loud in the 212; the CMD121p's combo amp (same as the Little Mark 2) was smooth, warm, and seemed to "break up" nicely. Jaco-esque lines jump out using the F1, but finger style funk was gritty with the combo amp.

    A very clear difference in how the amps sounded was when slapping the bass. The F1 is loud, as the transients seem quicker (a compressor would be handy). The piezo in the 212 was a bit harsh, less so in the horn loaded 210 SWR. The Combo amp though sounded AMAZING during slap. The tone was articulate and pops were musically "sizzley" (I think that's a word).

    Both amps will kill in the mix, they seem voiced mid heavy, though in a very pleasing and musical sense. You can definitely get some extended highs and lows, as well as cut the mids as you like. I love them both, and my wife is giving me the "eye" which seems to say "pick one!" haha. Playing them both together is MONSTROUS, both tones at the same time at an inhuman testing level of 1000 watts - loud enough for outdoor stage concerts. However, my big stage gigs are behind me and my goal is small and light, which both of these amps, and the speakers I have support (the GB 212 is under 50lbs).

    If you don't slap, love and I mean LOVE to hear every note of your bass in full complete clarity, go for the F1 and be amazed, tame your slapping with a compressor, and make sure to get a horn loaded cabinet. If warmth is your game, then the combo amp (or little mark 2/3/250) is for you. I love both, I like to play very articulate, but also like to slap and groove. I also can't get over the size/volume of the CMD121p which is the ultimate decider for me.

    If they made an F1 into a CMD sized box with a horn tweeter, then THAT would be IT!

    I'm very happy to be a new player of some older Markbass gear. When I get busy playing more, I'll check out what they have new – or just scoop up more of their quality used pieces ;)

    bassomane likes this.
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