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Markbass TA503 brief first impressions

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by JGR, Sep 18, 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
    Well, my TA503 got delivered so I ran home again at lunch to give her a whirl. Some may recall that I got an R500 a few weeks ago as well. In short, I think the TA503 can do everything the R500 can and more - it CAN produce a suprising amount of grit and grunt at higher preamp settings - but it also has a much wider, less compressed voicing that I actually prefer even for straight ahead rock. The sound is big and clear but with a nice harmonic cheweyness - kind of the best of both tube and SS worlds. I wasn't sure how much flavor the tube front end would have - in some amps, the tube is just there to provide additional "warmth" with the preamp remaining clean, but in the TA503, it adds quite a bit of character which I think is a good thing. That's not so say that the preamp doesn't have plenty of clean headroom - it does - the grunt starts to happen after about 1 o'clock with my passive jazz (SJB-2 pickups). Something worth mentioning too is that this amp has passive and active inputs which not all/any? of the other MB amps do. I briefly plugged my bass into the active input and the tone was cleaner and darker, but there wasn't a big volume drop. The specs show the passive and active inputs to have the same input impedance (which is a bit unusual), with the passive input having much lower headroom (4Vpp vs. 10Vpp for the active input). I really dig the flexibility of the parametric EQ though as expected, the amp sounds great flat.

    I'd say the tone is pretty much perfect and I can see why this is sort of their flagship model. My only concern (along with the R500) is power/headroom. Not to say that these are lacking - but I like to play loud and I am finding that the level I play at is right at the edge of where they start to run out of gas - the limiter works well in that their is no nasty artifacts (the R500 actually uses a different limiter which adds more distortion, but in a pleasing manner), but it does squash the low end. With the lead sleads, I'm used to hammering the low end and having the amp grunt back with more volume. So in short, I wouldn't keep the R500 now having experienced the TA503 - I think its worth the extra $300. That said, I wish their 750 watt power section was available on more of their offerings - I know it changes the tone somewhat, but for me, I need (or at least want) the additional headroom. To sum it all up, If 500 watts is enough for your needs, I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the TA503 - it is an exceptional sounding head.

    JR
     
  2. dezspet

    dezspet

    Mar 21, 2007
    Hungary
    Mine has arrived last week, and I pretty much agree with everything you wrote; though I never tried the R500.
    I don't know how loud you play, but I had two rehearsals with it and I found it extremely LOUD. I used to play a huge Aguilar rig, but this one is much louder.
    And the sound is incredible!
     
  3. 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 hear ya. Both of these heads really shine with my Bag End stack (the TA503 may be darn near perfect), but I am wanting more power to drive the Berg NV's - don't get me wrong, they sound great pushing them, but would sound even better if there was more juice on tap to push them even harder. I don't want to speakers to distort mind you, but I find I prefer the sound of speakers pushed close to their max right before they start to exceed their limits - it adds a certain richness to the tone, and it takes some juice to get the bigger cabs up to the level I want if that makes any sense. I'm thinking a TFB750 may do the trick?

    JR
     
  4. Subscribed. Stnading by for MB push the output power up to 500W @ 8 ohms....
     
  5. How does the TA503 sound compared to the LMII?? I don't need a lot of power for my needs. Is it worth the extra dough??
     
  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
    hard to say since it's almost double the price but i thought the tube preamp and the eq section were great. i sent mine back because i need more power but it was one of the best sounding heads i have ever heard.

    JR
     

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