Mesa Bass 400+ from Subway D800... First tube amp?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Alex Huddleston, Dec 15, 2017.


  1. Hi all, I'm considering picking up a Mesa Bass 400/+ as my first tube amp moving from the Subway D800. I love the tone and convenience of the D800 but I can't shake the feeling that it's lacking something. I've wanted a tube rig for some time now and have my eyes set on the Bass 400 after hearing some sound clips and seeing that they are much more affordable than I originally thought. I also love the classic SVT sound, but for some reason I am more drawn to the 400.

    as far as my other gear goes, I run a Ric 4003 and P basses, 2 Ampeg SVT410HE cabs and various pedals for distortion/fuzz sounds. I will most likely hang onto the D800 as a backup or bi-amp for rick-o-sound. Would the Bass 400 be a good, reliable first tube amp?
     
    murphy likes this.
  2. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    I'm going to suggest that you play one before deciding (or at least have to option of flipping it if it doesn't tick your boxes). Alternatively, you might try the D-800+ and see if that might get you a little closer with tonal options, but again I would recommend trying first.
     
    Wasnex likes this.
  3. moon-bass

    moon-bass Up to the moon and back Supporting Member

    May 10, 2004
    USA, New Orleans
    I had a Bass 400+ for many years and really regret selling it. I had no issues with it, but keep in mind that any tube amp is going to be more upkeep (for lack of a better term) than a SS amp ... but oh so worth it. I went lightweight many years ago but I still keep an all-tube amp in my arsenal for special occasions.
     
    Mark Andrew likes this.
  4. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    FWIW, I have a Mesa 400 and a D800 - while I'm definitely keeping both, if forced to choose between the two, I'd be keeping the 400... My thinking is that the D800 is easily replaceable, the 400 not so much - and, the 400 does bring something to the party that my other amps(D800, Streamliner 900, Shuttlemax 12.0, Rumble 200 Combo, etc..) don't... I do agree to try one first - the all-tube thing is not for everyone...

    I also chose a Mesa 400 over an SVT for several reasons - mainly because *I* prefer the Mesa sound over the Ampeg sound, and my Mesa 400 is still under 50lbs in an SKB rackcase, vs 85lbs for an SVT before any type of roadcase... I will acknowledge that *if* a clean SVT II came up before my clean 400, I probably would've bought it... Hope this helps...
     
    rodl2005 likes this.
  5. Razman

    Razman

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    I love the 400 - it gets stooped loud, but having multiple cabinets help with that. I seem to see more postings about issues with the 400+, but I don't think issues are common. I got mine used, played it out in the heat, played it on the edge of power tube saturation, and it just keeps going - haven't had to put a dime into it since getting it about 3-4 years ago. I just clean it once in a while (wipe down tubes, clean the fan) and crank it.

    Raz
     
  6. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    Yeah, my 400 is definitely a keeper - it's power tubes were a bit tired when I got it, so I had a good tech whose also a friend go thru it, set it up for adjustable bias - and I retubed it with JJ KT88s - which was a substantial upgrade... I don't gig it that much, but it's always a pleasure when I do - it's one amp I'll have 'til I quit playing... My Streamliner 900 can get awfully close , tone-wise - but the 400 has a 3D sound quality and authority of notes that even the Streamliner can't duplicate... I haven't played the D800 enough to form a solid opinion on it yet, but it does look really promising...
     
  7. Razman

    Razman

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    I have no idea how old mine are - they are Groove Tubes - but they work. I'd like to try KT88's but I've heard that the power supply isn't spec'd to feed them more voltage to make a difference. I have 6L6's in mine; 6550's would be interesting to compare to the KT88's.

    But even with the 'weaker' 6L6's I rarely (like, only once) played it live on the edge of power tube saturation - it just gets so loud! You can get that sound at a lower volume with a good 410 cab but through a fridge it just rocks. It spoils you for sure.

    Um, I misspoke - I did have to add some resistors to the cooling fan circuit. When I got it only the high-speed setting worked; I did some research and added a couple of resistors to the 'low' side so now it actually behaves like a hi/low switch should. But that's all I've done to it.
     
  8. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    It is a myth that the 400 can't use KT88s - I bought a matched sextet from Eurotubes that was specc'd for my amp... Although my tech installed an adjustable bias circuit, he said the bias was already pretty close with them anyways... Regarding the difference between 6L6s vs KT88s in the 400: I gained some available volume/headroom, and my low end became a bit more "forceful", for lack of a better description... I'm happy with my decision on the KT88s - and they have been 100% reliable, as well...
     
    Razman likes this.
  9. Tim1

    Tim1

    Sep 9, 2005
    New Zealand
    I used to have a 400+ many years ago. Very grunty and as has been pointed out much lighter than an svt. I seem to remember that I replaced one of the preamp tubes (possibly the first one) with a 12AU7 to reduce the gain somewhat - this was a common mod at the time and made it considerably easier to control.
     
    mesaplayer83 and dukeorock like this.
  10. Razman

    Razman

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    My 400 seems plenty ‘forceful’ as is - sounds like a cool upgrade, which is why I prefer the 400 to the 400+. KT88 400 vs. 400+? @tombowlus - any thought thoughts?

    I tried this but it brought the gain down too much - if anything I’d like a grindier ch. 2 to get more OD but the gain difference between it and ch. 1 makes it unusable for that purpose as it’s too hot. Makes overdriven power tubes sound sweet though!
     
    dukeorock likes this.
  11. mesaplayer83

    mesaplayer83

    Jun 27, 2017
    Mine would be now, but back then I was playing in a much louder band - I would regularly push the poweramp tubes with it into an SVT810e:




    I also used to gig this rig with that band:

     
    murphy and Razman like this.
  12. chaosMK

    chaosMK

    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    I think it is a great choice.

    Experience: First tube amp, main amp 2005-present

    I use the 400 non-plus and really liked JJ KT88's in it (more than the 6550s I have in it currently).
     
  13. Razman

    Razman

    Feb 10, 2005
    Orange Park, FL
    What differences are there?
     
  14. chaosMK

    chaosMK

    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Too much hip thrust
    The JJ 88's have a little more character and voicing in the amp (dark smooth sound, massive almost boosted open lows, silky highs), and also what I thought was a very nice saturation/threshold response range. I used to play pretty loud where the power section starts behaving and compressing, and particularly loved the 88's when you can push them into that range.

    My 6550s are fine. Flatter frequency response, more hi-fi. I really like them in guitar amps (where they benefit from the massiveness and also flatter midrange than a 6L6), but did not like them so much in my 400.
     
  15. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I am running KT88s in my Bass 400, but at the time I made the switch, I had a tech install a variable bias, and unfortunately, they screwed things up. Thankfully, British Audio Service was able to set things right (and really did a great job fixing what the other guy screwed up). That all being said, I was not able to do anything close to a fairly close in time A/B comparison between the 6L6's and the KT88's, but I can tell you that my Bass 400 is plenty loud and forceful in its current condition.
     
  16. I love my 400+. Also had a 400 but traded for an SVT, then sold the SVT. The way I've always described it is the 400+ hits you in the chest and the SVT makes my molars shake in an unpleasant way. The 400+ stays home most days because the TC450 is lighter and fits in a laptop bag, but for band practice at home, it is glorious through an old Bag End 2x10.

    I may re-case it (currently in a shockproof mesa case that weighs as much as the amp) in a plastic case, then maybe it will follow me out as much as it used to.
     
    dukeorock likes this.
  17. Tim1

    Tim1

    Sep 9, 2005
    New Zealand
    I used to house my 400+ in a four unit rackmount Gator case with holes drilled in the side around the fan area. Nice and light and worked perfectly.
     
    dukeorock likes this.
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