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Markbass R500 initial impressions

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JGR, Sep 4, 2008.


  1. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    I saw that UPS delivered my R500 this morning so I ran home on my lunch break to get it off the porch and gave it a quick whirl - actually, it turned into about 45 minutes! :bassist: Good thing I live close to work!

    I see a few folks on here that have the R500, but it seems like a less popular model, perhaps because it is a bit of a departure from the tone Markbas is known for, and the fact that it is less versitle than their other offerings. The R500 is geared as a "rock" amp, and being that is what I play, I was curious to check it out. In addition to being able to conjure up some tube grit, I was drawn to the R500 due to where it's EQ points are set - Bass @ 80Hz and Treble @ 3kHz instead of the 40Hz and 10kHz on most of their other offerings. As a 4-string pickstyle player, I've found that these ranges suit me better.

    So I gave the amp a quick spin through my NV610, NV215, and Bag End S15-D stack using my trusty Hamer Cruise 2-tek and Schecter USA Model T (P-J config).

    Gain: the R500 has some of the most useable grit/grind/overdrive I have encountered yet. It won't produce distortion/fuzz, but it will produce a fair bit of natural sounding overdrive with gain settings past ~2 o'clock. I own/have owned a lot of amps that can get gritty, and this is the best I've heard so far. I've only had brief expereinces with the LMII and SD800, and I don't remember them being able to produce grit - the VLE is cool for what it does, but I don't think you can replicate the R500's overdrive/grindy character. Well done.

    EQ: like most folks comment on Markbass amps in general, it does sound great flat. On this head, the EQ doesn't seem ultra-powerful and capable of major tone sculpting, but it sounds very musical even at extreme settings, and being that the amp sounds great flat, I think it offers more than enough capability to compensate for different cabs, basses, rooms, etc.

    Power: I was a bit concerned with the 500watt rating as most of my amps are pretty high powered and heavy, and this is my first experience in the lightweight realm. I ran the amp with the master full up :eek: and it maintained full control over the speakers with no audible distortion, and barely got warm - admittedly this was a farily short time duration, but the fan seems to do a good job of keeping the unit cool. Woud I like more power? - yeah, but probably not becuase I would need it - I think it has plenty of juice for most situations when used with a decent size cab. That said, I like to play at stupid volume and always crave more headroom - too bad the R800 is on hold, but no biggie. The 500 watt rating seems honest and the R500 hangs well with my more powerful amps in the volume department.

    During the brief demo, it sounded great through both of the Bergs and the Bag End stack. The Bag End's high sensitivity makes for one powerful yet compact rig. The Bags have pretty good high end extension and really bring out some top end grit. Out of all three cabs, the NV610 seems like the perfect match as they compliment eachothers midrange character very well.

    Anyway, I think all the rockers out there owe it to themselves to give the R500 a whirl - it is an absolutely killer amp if you like a bit of color to your sound.

    JR
     
  2. Very cool. Thanks for the review.

    I played one at GC through one of the MB Classic cabs and it was great. Really good sounding amp. I can see it pairing well with the NV610.
     
  3. barebones

    barebones Supporting Member

    Jan 3, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Thanks for the review. I have definitely wondered about this one!

    Matt
     
  4. Nice review and very cool! I dig the way MB has all these different lightweight heads with different voicings for different types of players. Nice!
     
  5. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Nice review!

    I played the R500 at the 2006 Winter NAMM, and at the time, it was my favorite sounding of the Markbass heads I tried (and I tried them all).

    I was recently able to gig with the Classic 300 (which will be reviewed in issue #2 of BGM), and it was a really awesome experience. I'd love to take the R500 for a spin, too, but like you guys, I am watching for the R800 and the MoMark.

    Tom
     
  6. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    Thanks Tom. I'm thinking the Classic 300 and R500 share the same preamp? - they look pretty close anyway. I've been wondering about that head though it's pretty $$.

    I thought Peter Murry said the R800 is on hold now due to the introduction of the Mo Mark?

    Lookng forward to issue #2 - when is the release date?

    JR
     
  7. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    Thanks Ken. Yeah, its cool they can do so many things so well!

    BTW, have you had a chance to play the TA503? I'm thinking that it might be a nice compliment to the R500; TA503 into the NV215 and R500 into the NV610...

    The TA503 is appealing because I like being able to pick all of the EQ points and have the tube front end.



    JR
     
  8. Vinny D

    Vinny D

    Jan 9, 2007
    Warwick, RI
    The R500 looks interesting, I couldn't down load the specs on my work computer but does that head have a real tube preamp or is it simulation tube circuit?
     

  9. That looks like an amazing unit. I'm so thrilled with my F1 at this point (and also dig my SA450 and of course my LMII!) that I'm kind of all loaded up on the MB stuff. For my basses and cabs and tone goals, the fixed EQ points work very well for me, and I mostly run the heads flat anyway.

    However, this builds on the fact that they really do listen to their customers. Want variable EQ points, we have them! Want more power, we do that! Want it really small... yep! Want an all tube head with some cool modern features... we got you covered! Want a more vintage tone in a lightweight head... OK! Etc., etc.

    Very impressive company!

    Let us know how that amp does on the gig!
     
  10. It's a real tube pre, and tone control center pointes meant to more capture a 'classic vibe'.
     
  11. Funny you mention that Tom. Ive owned a couple Little Mark IIs, and a TA501 and Ive also played an SD800. When I played the R500 I thought it was the best sounding amp that MB made.
     
  12. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    You, sir, have excellent taste! :D ;) :cool:

    But that Classic 300 is awfully nice, too! :bassist:
     
  13. Well I havent tried that. Id more than likely flip over that amp. I like what it shows on paper.
     
  14. CapnSev

    CapnSev

    Aug 19, 2006
    Coeur d'Alene
    I really like this amp with my SR5 a lot. Between the EQ freq. points on the R500 and the SR5 preamp, it covers the exact frequencies that I like.

    I have yet to put it on top of my Bag Ends and try it, but I bet it sounds really thick.
     

  15. +1 I'm very pleased with Markbass thus far. It's great to actually care about what amp I happen to be using for once. Usually, I just use backline rental stuff. I've had a few rigs here and there recently, but all of them quickly went back to the store.

    I have not been this impressed and interested about bass amplification since I played through my first Trace Elliot rig back in 1986.

    Markbass are just like a great bassist - versatile, dependable and the best value in the business.:D

    Cheers,
    Paul Theriault
    Bassjones

    http://www.myspace.com/paultheriaultmusic
     
  16. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    It's 10 pm and my ears are ringing so I guess its time to stop playing for tonight. :p

    I played the R500 for a couple more hours through the same cabs and all of my initial impressions still hold true. I spent some more time playing it through the Bag End stack and it's a really killer sounding combination - and crazy loud - the double S15-D stack has a sensitivity of 106 dB, and weather or not you believe any of the manufacturers specs, one thing is for sure - its noticeably louder than either the NV215 or 610.

    Perhaps of more interest, I also ran a little experiment - I took the balanced DI out (rocker switch set to post EQ) and ran it into the balanced input on my SWR Power 750 power amp. It worked like a charm - the DI signal was quiet and I had no problem driving the Power 750 into full volume/clip with the DI volume at around 1 o'clock. If you aren't going to run the DI to the house, its an easy way to get more power or drive more speakers. I did this mainly to get a feel for the power section of the Markbass compared to a more traditional lead sled design, and also to get an idea of what the R500's power amp contributes to the tone as a whole. I was quite surprised to find that the tone was almost identical, as was the available volume and headroom (the SWR is rated at 750 watts into 4 ohm, 850 into 2.6, and is quite a powerful amp contrary to popular opinion surrounding the SWR 750 head, which suffers from a perceived lack of power due to it's preamp voicing, but I digress...;)) Anyway, the tone was a bit clearer with the SWR which is pretty transparent, and a bit warmer/more organic with the Markbass - very nice. Not sure I would want to give up that quality to go to their higher power digital amps.

    Anyway, better late than never to the MB party.

    JR
     
  17. Red Planet

    Red Planet

    May 29, 2005
    Atlanta
    If I had a Markbass I would want an amp that is a cross between the T501 and T503 with about 900 watts of power. It could be a little heavier. None of that digital power section for me.
     
  18. EliasR

    EliasR

    Jul 29, 2008
    Anchorage
    No pics no amp. :D
     
  19. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    I was thinking the same thing - maybe a stereo head with two of the 500 watt power sections that could be bridged mono... or I'm sure they could figure out how to build a more powerful version of the current 500 watt. The whole line is small and light enough that a few pounds more wouldn't make a difference IMO - the R500 is one of their biggest and heaviest amps, and it's still so small and light.... I think we've reached a point of diminishing returns with the whole small/light thing.

    JR
     
  20. JGR

    JGR The "G" is for Gustav Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 29, 2006
    Maryland
    President, CEO, CFO, CIO, Chief Engineer, Technician, Janitor - Reiner Amplification
    i knew someone was going to say that... here ya go. :)

    DSC01221.
     

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