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Micro Amp Shootout????

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Billy Low, Oct 4, 2010.

  1. Billy Low

    Billy Low

    Apr 14, 2003
    Sandberg Guitars
    Has there been one done yet? Not just here, but any other sites or publications? Don't recall seeing one, and really interested in getting a micro, but not sure of what I want to get. I have heard a few offerings over the last 2.5 yrs from GK, TC electronics, Genz Benz, Mark Bass, EA,and Ashdown but never in the same room, with the same instruments, thru a bevy of cabs.
  2. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I've owned (in order): GK MB2-500 (3 of them), Markbass LMTube, Tecamp Puma1000. I also have experience with the TC Electronics RH450, Genz Benz Shuttle 9.0 and the Mesa Walkabout (if you want to consider that in the same category). I've never done a proper shootout, but feel like I have a good handle on the capabilities of the units and their inherent tone. Anything in particular you'd like to know?
  3. Billy Low

    Billy Low

    Apr 14, 2003
    Sandberg Guitars
    Oh, yeah....forgot about the Mesa! Well honestly there was nothing in particular that I was looking for, just straight ahead comparisons regarding features, sound and pricing...just a general shootout.

    I have my opinion of some of the equipment mentioned, but once again, I used them all in separate settings, environments and configurations.

    I will openly admit that I considering buying a micro within the next week or so. Just wanted to compare notes before purchase.
  4. Crabby


    Dec 22, 2004
    Some may argue that the Walkabout is not a micro amp but I have owned the Shuttle 6 and currently own an LMIII and the Walkabout has them both beat as far as depth and character of tone. The lightweight amps sound two dimensional in comparison to the fat yet clear rich tubey tone of the Walkabout.

    I really wanted to like the other two amps and they are both very good but there is no comparison to the Walkabout. It just sounds better to my ears in every way. It might not be as loud as the Shuttle or LMIII but the tone is just so much more pleasing to my ears.
  5. Pedulla-Player

    Pedulla-Player Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2009
    Northern Wisconsin
    I just got my Markbass F500 two weeks ago but I've been working 60+ hours a week so I haven't had much time to play with it. I played one gig with it so far an my band mates and people at the gig that I talked to said they were really impressed by the tone / sound of the amp. My guitarist said that the sound filled the room nicely and wasn't over-powering like some of my previous amplifiers. That being said , I was just running everything flat (12 O'clock) because I hadn't had time to tweek the sound and play with the knobs. ;) All I can say is that I'm very happy with the sound and power and I have no time invested in experimenting with the full capabilities of the amp. Just my two cents on the F500 - Now I'm broke! - Lol.
  6. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Well, here's my tonal assessment of all the heads I mentioned previously. I'll keep it to tone as the power delivery is quite varied between each unit. These are my personal feelings, you might have a different feeling of them.

    GK MB2-500 (owned)
    Big, big, big, big, big bottom end. To get close to the flat tone of any of the other heads, this unit requires considerably cutting of the low end. Outside of the low end bloom, on all 3 of the units I owned, which ran from the initial release, up to A06, it sounded basically like any of the modern RB heads from GK. The upper mids had a slightly different character that I didn't like quite as much, but the difference was absolutely minimal. Huge bottom, not a ton of lower mids, aggressive, but not overly aggressive upper mids and a top end that was very high. This was a very usable head once you reeled in the low end, but never left me feeling like it was special in any way like the other GK heads I've owned (2001RB, 1001RB) and absolutely loved.

    Markbass LMTube (owned)
    I would put this into the "hi-fi" category of amps because of it's wide frequency response, but it only barely makes it into this category. It's wide, but not overly so. If you're looking for something that's a compromise between an old-school voicing and a modern, wide, hi-fi one, this is a great choice. As KJung has pointed out, the low-mid EQ center is a bit high and doesn't really help to fill out the usable bottom end of a lot of cabs. I really agree with this. If you have a cab with tons of low-mids, the Ampeg 410HLF springs to mind, this probably wouldn't be an issue. Something like an Epifani UL series cab and you're left sounding very thin in the mix. Great bottom end, weak lower mids, good, but not great upper mids (can sound a little harsh), and what feels like a top end that could be voiced just a little higher to add more sparkle and sheen than what's available on tap.

    Tecamp Puma1000 (currently own)
    My personal favorite. Extremely wide voicing that goes subterranean in its low end and stratospheric in it's top end. The low mids are voiced to really thicken things up and the upper mids are polite and very Marcus Miller'esque. That all sounds great, except that you're not left with much else. I would never use this head in a rock or country setting and be blown away. For pop, jazz, funk, etc. I absolutely love it, but it's relegated to those contexts and little else for me. When I use it in another setting, I always put something in front of it to reign in it's wide tone and add a different midrange character, specifically to the upper mids.

    TC Electronics RH450 (used, but never owned)
    I'm the black sheep on this one. Hated it. Absolutely hated it. The lows were big, but not overly so. The lower mids were warm and filled things out nicely. The highs were slightly muted giving a greaty old-school character.... But the upper mids... Oh the upper mids... Yuck. No amount of semi-parametric EQ tweaking could get the upper mids to sound anything other than overly aggressive, ganky, nasal, etc. I tried as hard as I could. A lot of people have great results with this head, but I simply did not. I messed with the Spectracomp, the tube drive (can't remember the name of the OD on this unit), the EQ, the gain... Basically everything and was left with horrid upper mids that simply did not work. I went as far as to try the head through almost all the cabs at BassNW and could not find a combination that I liked. I really wanted to like this head, but it just didn't do it for me.

    Genz Benz Shuttle 9.0 (used, but never owned)
    Similar in its hi-fi nature to the Tecamp Puma1000. This is my favorite Genz Benz head to date. I've owned a GBE750 and was not impressed in the least with the Genz Benz tone. I tried the 12.0 and found myself thinking it was basically the same as my previous GBE750. The 9.0 surprised me in that it was much better. It's a very hi-fi sounding head. Compared to the Puma1000, it goes just about as high, but not nearly as low. I find myself EQ'ing in bottom end on most Genz Benz heads to fill out a mix, and the 9.0 is no different, but by far the best I've tried. The lower mids sound good, the upper mids sound good, the top end sounds good enough, but can get a bit harsh at times. The low end is where this head lacks to my ear. It just seems thin. Again, this is, to me, the best offering Genz has in the low end department, but there's always the feeling that it's either too thin, or too bright, sometimes both when I'm using one of these heads without drastic EQ'ing. That's not too big of a deal for me as I do believe that EQ knobs are meant to be turned. The problem is that I find myself EQ'ing into a corner to get a starting tone that works and am not left with much room to maneuver in tricky rooms.

    Mesa Walkabout (used, but never owned (previously owned an M-Pulse 600))
    Tons of booty, tons of mids, muted top end, lots of "give" and "sag" that makes you feel at times like you're playing a tube amp and an overall pleasing tone right from the start. This is a very easy amp to make sound good. I frequently find these amps, and the M-Pulse models, to sound a bit mid-heavy in a mix, but not unpleasantly so. There's a character to the midrange of these amps that the other amps in my write-up simply don't have. That said, it can definitely sit too far forward in a mix. It's not nasal sounding midrange though, so you may or may not feel the same way. It's a really hard thing to put my finger (ears?) on and describe accurately. It's like there's too much of a good thing going on that you dislike, but also don't mind. Talk about cryptic huh?
  7. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    I've own(ed) the following amps:

    Shuttle 6
    Shuttle Max 6
    EA Iamp 300 Micro

    All great amps in their own way, but I keep coming back to the LMII. It just has the tone, weight, power, eq section and value I want in an amp. Paired up with the Tech 21 VT Bass its just superb.
  8. ::::BASSIST::::

    ::::BASSIST:::: Progress Not Perfection.

    Sep 2, 2004
    Vancouver, BC Canada
    Excellent reviews Silky. You are dead right about the Shuttles. Really tried to like those amps because the customer service is so great, but tonally no cigar.
  9. TrevorOfDoom

    TrevorOfDoom Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    I currently use an Orange TerrorBass. It's freakin' LOUD!! great dark british tone, and ungodly loud (maybe too loud. Maybe).

    Before that i had the Ashdown Little Giant 1000. DO NOT BUY. Poor gain staging left me severely lacking in volume constantly. Quietest 500watt amp ever. The tone was nice, voiced like the MAG series, but without volume it did me no good.
  10. tifftunes

    tifftunes Guest

    I tried a friends LMII and his custom made 2x8" mini cab. The whole setup was really great! Vintage tone for days! The only thing missing from this great little amp is the tube amp "feel."

    While looking at the LMII for myself, I tried and bought the TCE RH450. I'm struggling with the eq with this amp using my Hofners. However, all of my solid body basses sound great through it!

    What I like best about the TC head is that elusive tube-like feel. You can tweak it from clean, to slightly pushed, to raging tube amp! I set it to get that "sweet spot" in a tube head just on the verge of distortion - just where the transformer saturates, and the harmonics are evident, and a slight sag when digging in... Wonderful! I sold all of my tube bass heads because they could only get that sound/feel at a certain point, which was then either too loud or not loud enough at various gigs. This TC gets it at any volume! Very handy!

    Now if I could just get the EQ set properly for my Hofners... I know it's in there... But the weird thing is, when I find a setting I like through all my cabinets at home, it sounds completely different at the gig... That's never happened with a tube head... Methinks it has to do with the tube head being voiced, where the TC head requires EQ tweaking... Never heard the Hofner sound bad through a tube head... But I'm a bit stumped with the TC head...

    I recorded a friend's band last spring... The bassist brought his Shuttle 6.0, and ran it through my sealed 2x12 cab. It sounded like they were made for each other!! He liked the pairing so much, he bought the cabinet!! His sound is considerably different than mine - more modern and snappy/twangy w/ RW strings and a Jazz 5 string, as opposed to my old school RnB sound. I was quite impressed with the GB head, as he used it however. I've heard the 9.0 is more stout, due in part to the extra power no doubt.
  11. Billy Low

    Billy Low

    Apr 14, 2003
    Sandberg Guitars
    Thanks to all that are chiming in on this!

    Silky: Thanks for your input, this is what I had been looking for. I believe that most of your reviews are in line with the opinions that I had about many of the models that you posted (especially the Genz-Benz, GK, and TC Electronics). As for the Mesa, I believe that "it" that you were talking about not being able to to explain, I kinda explained as a "midrange thickness". It was not a honk type of sound to the mids, but definitely present. Seemed to me that those that were looking for the 70's Fender, Jaco-ish bridge pickup midrange would love that tone. I also believe that all of the products are great products in their own right; all deserve a positive nod and a thumbs up!

  12. I'll +1 on Silky's review also. While some may love or hate some of these heads, Silky's tone descriptions are right on.

    I will just add that the Markbass F500 (my favorite micro) 'fixes' the low mid 'issues' with the LMII/III by including semi-parametric mid bands (and also a mute switch and a full featured DI... very nice). If you like it tight, articulate, punchy, it is hard to beat that head.

    The Walkabout (had one for quite a while) is just a totally different thing, and really does vibe an all tube amp to my ear. Not my thing, but beautifully complex and warm, with a lot of character in the mids. Really nice head also, and much louder than its rated wattage spec would lead you to believe.

    All good stuff, as you say, in their own way. I have quite a few clips of some of these heads on my Youtube channel that might at least provide another data point for you. Of course, my basses, my cabs, and my 'tone/technique' will result in all of these heads sounding a certain way, so keep that in mind.
  13. naturalkinds


    Jan 22, 2009
    Savannah, GA
    I've had a handful of micro heads. Here would be my own descending order of preference. Your milage may vary.

    - Mesa Walkabout. (Takes the cake. Oozes tubes, despite the fact that the power section is solid state. Complex, responsive, warm. Semi-parametric EQ is very useful. Love the shelving EQ on the bass and treble. Sounds great with different cabinets. One of the most pleasant bass sounds I have heard. No hype here.)
    - Markbass LMII. (Everyone should own one of these at some time. For the price to performance ratio, I do not think there is a single head that beats it. Totally frustrating EQ -- huge gap in functionality between the bottom two EQ points. Nice clarity and warmth, though I am one of the people that hears it as having a particular voice, despite the relatively flat spectral response demonstrated in Bass Gear Magazine. I would be happy playing one of these without any hesitation. Killer.)
    - Shuttle 3.0. (All things considered, this is a great head. Wonderful DI. Check out the comparison of the Shuttle DI to a Countryman by UkiahBass on Talkbass. Light as heck. Makes the F1 seem like an SVT. Flexible enough EQ. I like the tone. Very high quality. I'd like to buy one just to keep around for emergencies.)
    - TecAmp Puma. (Arguably overhyped in my mind. I had the combo version, and the cabinet just sounded boxy to me. When I paired it with other cabinets, it sounded a bit better. But just way too deep in its voice. I could not find a way to make it sit with a band, no matter how much fiddling I did. Way too expensive for what it is. I wouldn't pay half the price what I did for one if someone offered it to me. Very challenging tech support, and I even bought one new from an authorized dealer. Diglo had a very frustrating time with his Puma, that took months to fix. Not many dealers.)
    - Markbass F1. (Too bright. Too much grind. Too much sizzling character that I found impossible to dial down, even with dark cabinets. Sounds good in rehearsal, but painfully bright in quieter contexts. Even a Precision with Flats through an Aguilar mini-stack could not dull it out.)

    FWIW, I play primarily finger style on a passive P or J bass. Not a slapper.
  14. Quadzilla

    Quadzilla Supporting Member

    Spot on! The F500 is the best head I've owned to date and I've had MANY!
  15. I've been telling myself to do some kind of review seeing as all the heads I've own have been micros (Genz-Benz Shuttle 6.0, Markbass LittleMark II, Eden WTX-500, Ibanez Promethean, Markbass F500). Maybe I'll just do something comparing the F500 and Promethean since I actually own those two currently.
  16. Is there any micro (under 8lb) head that sounds like the Mesa Walkabout? If I ever replace my Walkabout (for features like mute, headphone out, etc...) I would like the replacement to sound exactly the same and have the nice DI but be lighter and have some of the features mentioned above
  17. naturalkinds


    Jan 22, 2009
    Savannah, GA
    Not to my knowledge. I would claim that there is no DI even CLOSE to the Walkabout in tubeyness. The Aguilar DB750 is fine, but not even close in the give or complexity that the Walkabout has in its tone.

    The TC450 is the closest that I can think of, but it's really, really, really not a substitute for the WA.

    Is 5 lbs really that big of a deal?!
  18. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Just to add a couple of thoughts...
    I happily using a Shuttle 9.0 as my main amp. Even though I would rarely do this on most other heads, on the 9.0 I often engage the bass boost button and turn the low knob down a click or two. This really extends the lows and sounds great with smaller boxes lacking a big low end.

    The F1 (F500) does lack some extension in the lows and has a pretty forceful mid and upper mid. When paired with Epifani or boxes like them, its a great match. I really like the F1 with my UL112/UL110 stack. The F1 loves the UL310 too.

    Still, one of the best set ups I've had in recent years has been
    a match up of an Acoustic Image Focus head, bypassing the preamp section of the Focus using a Sansamp Paradriver. Maybe its just a good power/pre match but this setup sounds really good, with about as much headroom as the 9.0. It also makes for a killer DI out for soundmen. Although, the 9.0 is a less complicated package.
  19. desertsolace


    Feb 10, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB
    +1 once I learnt that button isn't so much a boost as a bass extension I realized again how fantastic my 6.0 is. I tried the lmii and thought it was good but I prefered the ability to dial in the crisp and grind with the 6.0. I also prefer the 6.0 DI, mute and eq (it took me a while to learn how good it was) BUT I know both heads are great and lots of people like both: this is a great example of differing preferences not quality.
  20. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Not yet.

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