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NAD: Ampeg PF-20T Portaflex!!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Plucky The Bassist, Aug 23, 2018.


  1. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    **UPDATE**
    Mini basic review = NAD: Ampeg PF-20T Portaflex!!

    Been over two years since I've bought a new amp head! When I saw this puppy on Guitar Center's used section at 24 months no interest...they hooked me pretty good. I've loved the B15 sound and totally realize this will not be identical, but pairing it with my Eminence Legend-loaded 2x15 cabinet this should yield some sweet vintage style tones....albeit at rather polite volumes lol. The Pre/Post DI and the Transformer DI out will undoubtedly give some flexible tone options for recording and live, though ideally I'll be micing my 2x15s with this if I'm playing live.

    I am still at work so I haven't been able to try it out yet, but since my 2x15s are in storage I'll just have to settle for my Avatar 2x10 neo cab. This is the closest to to the B15 I've ever gotten, so it's going to be exciting playing through it and seeing what kind of sounds I can coax out of it with my pedals and wide gamut of basses. It's a cardinal sin to mod before trying it out too much, but I can see that Ruby 6v6 tubes are in there right now and my knee jerk is to get ahead on some replacement tubes, but I think I need to spend a couple weeks with this first. Usually for tubes I like the maximum clean headroom with very late distortion (I have so many dirt pedals that early breakup isnt my thing). Kicking around doing "Surf Indie" as the style in the current band I'm forming...I think this head might give an interesting dynamic to it. Will update with a full review and link to it here once I've had a few days to get acquainted with this thing.


    -PtB
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  2. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    The amp is below...
     

    Attached Files:

  3. The Chuck

    The Chuck

    Dec 11, 2013
    Wilmington, NC
    Nice! Good luck with it.
     
  4. JimmyM

    JimmyM

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Don't underestimate your humble little PF-20T for its vintage Portaflex tone-copping abilities, bro. You can cop a lot of the tones that a vintage Portaflex puts out if my PF-50T is any indication. I've got a 64 B-15N and I could cop my favorite tones from it with the 50T, so I'm sure you can cop them or get very close to them with the 20T.

    RE: Tubes, ya, no need to make wholesale tube swaps any time soon. I did a little tube swappig in my 50T and stuck with the Rubys. Just sounded better to me with them or JJ's than the other 12ax7's I have. The couple of NOS 12ax7's I still have left (Japanese Raytheons and an RCA gray plate) and a new Tung Sol sounded too bright and tight to me and I ended up putting the Rubys back in. And the only tube I noticed a change when swapping out was the preamp V1.
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  5. Wisebass

    Wisebass

    Jan 12, 2017
    Lost in Space
    Hi Plucky :)

    Happy NAD!!! :hyper::hyper::hyper:


    This will be another GAS feeding :( Ampeg tubes thread! :D Subbed!

    greetings


    Wise(b)ass
     
    Plucky The Bassist likes this.
  6. Agreed re the tubes.

    Mostly, I've found that amp's designed with a certain tube, sound best with that particular tube in.
    There are exceptions, and "best" is in the eye/ear of the beholder of course... but, like Jimmy, I've pretty often found little or no obvious benefit by swapping out perfectly good tubes. Power or pre amp
     
    Plucky The Bassist likes this.
  7. johnpbass

    johnpbass

    Feb 18, 2008
    Glen Mills, PA
    I LOVE my 20T! Amazing how much volume the 20T puts out with the right cabs.
    The 20T shines in the studio as well. I use the Tranny DI out straight into the DAW. My guitar playing bud who I record with and is all about bass tone (imagine that LOL!), when he first heard the 20T said "that's how bass should sound!".
     
    Wisebass and Plucky The Bassist like this.
  8. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    The Tung-Sols could be good then if using the amp for guitar.

    I see the PF-20T as having some heritage from both the Ampeg J20 and the Fender Deluxe. Not the same but having similar design elements. Those guitar amps were designed to distort sooner than the PF-20T, the PF-20T also has a better tone stage.
     
  9. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist ZOMG! I'm back from the dead!

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Putting a link to this post in the top of the thread, but here's my mini review while I'm still in the "Honeymoon phase", I'll do one in the reviews section when I've had it for a while.


    I can remember wanting a B15 since I saw the B-15R (100w 1x15 combo that people said didnt sound like it at all) and heard it at a Silverchair concert. That particular style was so unique and the tone was cool, but hearing the actual B15s of yesteryear meant that my dream of owning that vintage style amp was even further than I thought. The Heritage B15 was fantastic, but far too pricey for me to afford. All hope seemed lost until they released these amps....but would it be just the cheaper "close enough" that many companies do?

    First Impressions:
    It doesn't get much more "first impression" than trying to lift the box it came in. Holy crap, much heavier than I thought! This also stems from the actual amp being larger than I thought it was. I don't usually break out a tape measure or even look at dimensions for amps, so my ignorance was born of laziness, but it's a sizeable head to place on your cabinet....no worries about it looking "wimpy" on an 8x10 or 2x15 cab.

    Looks:
    Well the curves and silhouette of the head definitely says "B15" to me, albeit while missing the classic blue color (this head is black). No plexiglass slab with their logo etched in it, doesn't affect tone at all, but it would have been nice to add in. I can't imagine it costing too much to add in, but what do I know. I don't feel cheated in any way, it's a very unique looking head and made everyone in the office stop by to go "...what kind of amplifier is that?" and one person said it reminded them of those high-dollar Mcintosh amps they see in fancy audio stores. It does have a pleasing style to look at, I like it better than the basic box look of the SVT-CL, but we're comparing apples and oranges there. In short, the PF20-T looks cool to me...it's eye and ear candy.

    Build:
    As I said before, holy crap this thing was bigger and heavier than I expected. It's by no means an SVT or V4B reissue, but it's definitely not going anywhere once you plop it down. Knobs all feel smooth and look correct for the aesthetic. They have rocker switches on the back for power and standby. Would have been cooler to have metal toggle switches up front, but that may have been a cost-saving feature, not sure. I think it would have lent to the retro feel but it's not the end of the world. While lightweight is preferable for carrying gear, it's hard to not feel reassured picking up a solidweight tube amp. I'll stop gushing now...

    Features:
    Compared to the 50T version, the 20T has a slightly more basic tone stack. There is no ultra hi or ultra lo switches, nor is there a mid-selector switch. At first I was hesitant to jump on this because they were missing, but Ultra Hi/Lo are not something I use and the original B15s didn't even HAVE a mid knob...so when it comes to EQ, Jamerson only needed 2 right? ;)

    The back is where they really packed all the cool tech. While there is only one 1/4" speaker out, you can select 4 or 8 ohms and even run the head without a cab attached which makes this GREAT for recording. So what does this do better than a regular tube preamp? It has two DIs, one is your standard DI that can do pre or post EQ and another somehow uses modern circuitry along with the transformer and an ancient form of Sumerian witchcraft to give you some of that transformer character in the DI out. Definitely a big selling point for me, which makes using the Transformer DI live much more palatable than getting a bland, mid scooped tone from a lazy sound engineer. Oh, it also uses the standard amp power cord connector as well :D

    Tone/Power:
    So I did say in my post before playing through it that I wanted to put some higher quality tubes in there, but @JimmyM was on the money with his reply. I played through it and was surprised at how good it sounded right out of the box, I actually checked to make sure that Rubys WERE the OEM tubes for these, it seemed to me like someone switched them out to make the amp sound better. Before I go further let me talk about what I'm testing with...

    I tried two P-basses, my custom flatwounds-loaded one with a Fender original 1962 precision pickup and my roundwound loaded custom P with a DiMarzio Area P pickup. Since my 2x15s is in storage, I had to settle for my Avatar Neo 2x10 cab.

    I started with the flats P first and it sounded pretty great. Thumpy and big, but thats to be expected as that cabinet has great bass and the flats P is an awesome bass. What I did notice is how it handled the high register notes differently. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but they just seemed to have more presence and were more "smooth" than most of the other amps I've played through. Could just be my eyes doing the hearing for me, but the high end was very pleasing. I played a bit with the EQ, and though it's basic it does what you want it to in very subtle ways. It's not a super extreme change compared to other tone stacks, but it's good for tasteful tweaking and keeps you from going overboard. I was also surprised at how clean, even at higher volumes that the amp was. I was anticipating a bunch of breakup really early, but it kept a nice round tone throughout. Excellent match for my NOS style P-bass :)

    My aggressive P with rounds (played with a pick) yielded expected results. I've used that bass on many an all-tube amp, so I sort of knew what to expect. It was a nice, present tone with some hair on the ends when it really got cranked. I really wanted to crank it and get some overdrive, but it was actually getting too loud before I could get some solid breakup. I am not worried at all about this as I have PLENTY of great dirt pedals (Idiotbox Blower Box and Blackout, along with a Wren and Cuff TFR). If anything, I think the super round and clean tone of this amp is a plus....but onto power!

    From reading on here, I know that 2x the wattage doesn't mean 2x the loudness. Doubling loudness usually calls about about 10x the wattage of the amp in question. So if my math serves me correctly, this should be about half as loud as my Traynor YBA200 was. Maybe I'm not slicing it right in my mind, but this thing was pretty freakin loud. I did glob on some generous EQ (Bass at 2 oclock, Mids at 4 oclock, treble at 1 oclock), but nearly diming the master and having the gain at 8 oclock made for some serious thunder. The "Crap my neighbors are gonna come up here" thunder. Light fixtures in my bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen were all rattling quite noticeably and I wasn't even close to pushing the gain (or getting any breakup). Best to turn it down before I angrily awaken some volcano god from his slumber. The rounds P bass seemed...quieter somehow. There was still lots of volume, sure, but it didn't seem to hit as hard. I figured the Area P was a hotter pickup than Fender, but maybe I'm wrong. It still sounded good and might just need a little nudge from an OD or fuzz to make the rounds P shine.

    Now this is all in the bedroom with no other instruments in the way...so bedroom volume is far from a good judgement call on the amp's practical horsepower. I also have yet to try it with the giant 2x15s fridge cab, so who knows what kind of thump that will render. One thing I did notice is that even with the midrange knob dimed, I don't quite get that unpleasing and boxy tone that too much mids will render unto you. This makes me a bit nervous since you find the sweet spot for cutting in the mix JUST before that threshold. I've yet to try it out with a drummer or other guitarist, but we'll see how well it cuts. Most of the "complaints" from people online have been that it doesn't hold up well against a band live. While I went into this knowing full-well it would be the case, seeing how much volume it puts out makes me want to see how far it will go. It would be amazing to plop this on my 2x15s and do some gigs with it....it's a very cool little amp.

    As far as recorded tone, I haven't tried recording yet so I can't comment. I'd also like to see how it does through a PA at a gig, just have to convince the sound guy to use the magical DI and not the bland boring one. My dream is to have a band that focuses more on tone rather than volume...but part of that is the sound crew at the venue. It would be awesome to just set amps up and play without the audience needing earplugs. but I digress....


    Overall:
    I've still got some untreaded territory (recording, gigs, etc.) with the amp, but I have to say I'm very pleased with my purchase so far. To counter the online review complaints about the volume...for me, it feels like I went to buy a solid, base-model car and the base model just so happens to come with a backup camera, bluetooth, and basic car alarm. Even if they aren't great, it's nice to know they are in there and may yet have a use in the proper context. For someone who wants to get into the Ampeg tube arena, this seems to be a great place to start. I'm debating on grabbing the Portaflex 1x15 or 2x10 cabinet to go with it as well....but I'd want to try that cab out with the head extensively before pulling the trigger. It would be easier to ignore if the amp wasn't so dang pretty!





    If this ever turns into something where I'm REALLY loving this tone and MUST get something that can stand up at gigs on its own, I'll spring for a V4B when the time comes (or SVT-VR if I get rich and become a power lifter). Not tossing my GK gear, but I am definitely happy to get a place among the Ampeg owners. Every gig I can, I'm bringing this one with me :)
     
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2018
  10. johnpbass

    johnpbass

    Feb 18, 2008
    Glen Mills, PA
    Great review. Thanks for sharing!
     
    Plucky The Bassist likes this.
  11. Briton

    Briton

    Apr 4, 2009
    London,England
    Nice Review mate!........I am like you, I really like my PF-20T but I just use mine for home playing/recording but I will be interested to see how it fairs for you in a band situation in regards to its output
     
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