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The future of bass amplification...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by tombowlus, Dec 7, 2005.


  1. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Well, for some time now, I have been telling a few of you to hold off on any major gear purchases, because I was “in the know” with regard to a very exciting item coming down the pike. I have now been given the “green light” to go ahead and discuss this with my fine friends here at TalkBass.com and elsewhere! I am thrilled to be able to share this information, as I really do think that we have something special on our hands, here. The "mystery gear" in question is a new line of powered cabs from Jim Bergantino. I have been demoing (and ended up buying) a powered 322 (called the IP322) for some time now. It has a 1,000w (into 4 ohm) Class AD, switching power supply amp built into the back of the cab. This amp adds only 7 lbs to the overall weight, and would be reason enough for joy. But, Jim has also incorporated a DSP front end (with two "programs" to choose from) which provides tremendous EQ-ing possibilities. What Jim is doing is taking very detailed measurements of his cabs, and then crafting an EQ to make the cab as close to "flat" as possible [sort of – see below]. I know that this raises all kinds of concerns as to whether or not “flat” is good, but let me assure you, this is something different (and better, IMHO) than what we've seen/heard before. Prior to this, I had heard some cabs that I have thought of as being fairly “flat” which sound extremely "clear", but which are not as full sounding as some other cabs. Other cabs, which I have thought of as “flat” were very full sounding, but were not as clear as this first group. There are even other cabs, which kind of pick their part of the frequency range to hit clarity, and perhaps another part to hit fullness. Each approach has its merits, and in truth I have heard a growing number of cabs which do a very good balancing act between “clear” and “full,” while achieving decent tonal balance. And let me say that in general, I am a fan of cabs that don’t introduce a lot of coloration on their own, but rather allow me a “blank canvas” upon which to either draw my own tonal colors, or upon which to hear the nuances of my individual instruments.

    But these new IP-series cabs from Bergantino take all of this to a new level. You get extreme clarity, with a full, balanced tone that just feels really "together" and cohesive. When Jim first described this idea to me (powered cabs with DSP EQ), my brain really started clicking, and I formed some pretty high expectations of what this setup could sound like. So, by the time that I was able to actually hear the IP322 in person, I was already pretty geeked, and my expectations were very high. Even so, when I fired it up, it took my brain a while to realize just what I was hearing. With most other gear that I audition, I find myself listening for the little “extra this” or the “slightly diminished that” which add up to present the particular sonic character of an individual piece of gear. Listening to the IP322, it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t hearing “too much this” or “too little that”, but rather “just enough of everything.” I felt like Goldilocks and that third bowl of porridge! ;^] And of course, it has been an incredible tool for comparing/contrasting preamps and instruments!

    Now, it is unavoidable to say, “but Tom, not everyone likes a flat sounding cab, so even though you’re psyched, I may not like this!” True enough. I am positive that these cabs will not be for everyone. We are a diverse group, all with our own preferences. But, I do want to say again that this is “flat” like I’ve never heard it. There is no sacrifice of fullness for clarity’s sake, or vice versa. The sound is very “alive” and dynamic, so don’t even think of your father’s Oldsmobile (or anything else which you might consider to sound “sterile”, etc.). I think that this sense of immediacy and dynamics says a lot for the quality of the amp inside these boxes. It certainly performs better than I would have expected out of a switching mode power supply. Of course, a well engineered speaker enclosure doesn’t hurt, either!

    I did have a chance to try the amp section with my HT112/EX112. The DSP wasn’t dialed in for this combo, but one of the programs on the amp I had happened to be pretty close, so Jim encouraged me to give it a try. I wanted to compare the IP amp to the Walter Woods Ultra (especially since I really love the sound of the WWU with the HT112/EX112). Well, as good as the WWU sounds driving these cabs, the IP amp was several notches better, IMHO. The combo was much more punchy and present than with the WWU, and the upper mids and highs seemed just as sweet to me (though to be honest, the Woods does have some subtle coloration that makes for a “different”, though not in my opinion any “better”, tone). The low mids were definitely stronger, and the overall feel was more forceful and dynamic, but still remained open and airy. Fellow TBer’s Cory and emjazz were able to hear the IP112 by itself and with the EX112, so I’m sure they will chime in.

    I’m not sure what Jim has in mind with the two channel option, but one route would be to offer a "flat" setting and another, say "punchier" setting – we tried this at one point (Jim dialed up a “punchier” tone via the DSP), and it was pretty freakin’ cool! As mentioned, Jim will be offering this amp in the HT112 (called IP112), and in this case, you can drive an EX112 with the amp (for a total 4 ohm load). In this case, one setting could be for using the IP112 alone, with another for using it with the EX112. The IP322 will not be an official product (I own the only one - for now at least!), but Jim will be offering – GET THIS!!! – IP310's and IP212's!!! These cab configurations are smaller than his previous HT212/HT310 (probably very close to the size of the 310UL), and I think that they will weigh in around 85 lbs. I am super excited about these new cabs. Both can be DSP’d to sound “flat”, but you do hear the different characteristics of the particular drivers (10’s just sound different from 12’s). Cory and emjazz got to hear these as well, and I think they had a pretty good time!

    As for the “relatively flat” thing, it is my understanding that these cabs are not designed to be flat down to 20 Hz, or anything super low like that. The amplifier power and cone excursion required would be significant, I would think, and at this point, the low end might overpower the mids/highs. So, I think that there is a certain low frequency point below which the cabs are not technically “flat”. But Jim is able to dial in the EQ to make them realistically “flat” which gives the cabinet an octave to octave balance I’ve never heard in another amp/cab combination. I think that perhaps “tonally balanced” is a better way to think of this. And of course it is possible to dial in some “punch”, or perhaps a low-pass filter, or who knows what. It’s up to Jim to decide just how to program these DSP channels. All I know is that the “tonally balanced” setting is really something special, and has opened my eyes to what can be accomplished by a bass rig, both live and in the studio.

    Speaking of live use, I have been able to gig out with the IP322 in three different rooms. The first room I tried had a boomy stage, and after conveying this experience to Jim, he added the variable high pass filter to my line driver. Problem solved! And to be certain, this was not a “problem” with the IP322. The stage was just very resonant, and it made certain parts of the stage area sound very bassy and boomy. But, with the VHPF, I can dial out those offending low frequencies without changing my tone (weird, but true!). The other two venues were pretty good, acoustically, and the IP322 sounded awesome! Actually, the last venue (played just last Saturday night) has given me problems with boominess from other rigs, but just kicked bootay with the powered Berg. I was able to keep up with two loud guitarists and a medium loud drummer with no problems.

    Oh, and one more thing that’s pretty neat. While the IP322 can crank out the volume when you need it, it also allows my tone to have the sense of dynamics and force that I crave, but at lower volumes, too. Previously, I had to get a certain level of volume before I’d really hear/feel that special “impact” and “girth”, but the IP322 seems able to capture this at nearly any volume level. Very nice!

    If I sound overly excited about this line of amps from Bergantino, it is because they represent, IME/IMHO, probably the best sounding solid state rig I have heard. Some of my other absolute favorite combinations might get close, but I can’t think of any off hand that equal the sound of the IP322 – and certainly none exceed it (again, IMHO, and for my personal preferences). Of course, if you are into the tube sound, then there are other routes to take, but for solid state, this is a good as it gets, IMHO.

    And the mandatory disclaimer: I do not work for Jim Bergantino or Bergantino Audio Systems, nor am I affiliated with them in any way. I’m not a dealer, I’m not a rep, nada. I am a satisfied user, and I am also fortunate enough to have a good deal of gear on hand. This is why Jim wanted me to give the IP322 a listen. When I heard how good it was, I asked if I could buy it, and I did pay a fair price to Jim for this demo unit, so no “free” or even “discounted” gear has exchanged hands. Y’all know that I love my EA gear as well as several other brands (and I still do), so I hope you accept this post as my truthful opinion.

    To be honest, I think of this as quite a bold move by Jim, and I think he could be onto something really, really good. Sure, there are other powered cabs out there, but I don’t think anything really directly compares, and this is without factoring in what you can accomplish with the DSP. Your opinion may vary greatly from mine, and that’s cool. They are sure to be too expensive for some, too heavy for some, too “non-scooped” for some, but personally, I am as excited about this new line of cabs as I possibly could be.

    All I can say is that I strongly encourage anyone looking to pick up a new rig to give these cabs a try. There’s no way that you can even appreciate them without hearing them (and hearing them at least twice, if possible!).

    Check out the Bergantino website for more information.
    There you go, Tom.
     
  2. tplyons

    tplyons

    Apr 6, 2003
    Madison, NJ
    Sounds cool, hope to check 'em out soon.
     
  3. Cool! Quick question... what is a DSP front end? Do you use a preamp with these cabs or just plug your bass in?

    Looks very interesting! Thanks for all the detail.

    Ken
     
  4. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    It is designed to be used with the preamp of your choice in front of it. I know that Jim has a line driver/DI in the works. It might be possible to drive these with a really hot onboard EQ, especially if the program were set for higher gain. I have not tried that, though.

    Tom.
     
  5. Very cool. The idea of taking the one or two rack space preamp of your choice depending on the gig/bass/room, etc. is pretty cool!
     
  6. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    Tom, I had a chance to see one (not hear it, but see it) and my first question was: why the balanced XLR input and what is the sensitivity of it? I think Jim has a killer product on his hands but that is going to be the first thing that folks are going to want to know. If that input is +4db, for example, then the next question is: what device is going to get a passive or active bass up to +4 without needing a channel strip or other large outboard device that takes the advantage away from having the built in amp?

    Still, nice gear. And that might be the biggest post I have seen, ever. Take an Ibuprofen and tell Jim ya did good :ninja:
     
  7. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Yes, indeed! Or there are a number of small table top preamps (like True Voice, or Skjold Session Pal) or foot pedal preamps (Sadowsky, EBS, etc.) which would make for an even more compact rig.

    Tom.
     
  8. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Sorry, but I don't know the sensitivity. I do know that it works well with either a balanced or an unbalanced (1/4" to XLR cable required) connection. I've used it with several preamps, including the True Voice table top, and it does not seem to need any more gain than what I would normally send to an external power amp.

    Tom.
     
  9. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    Ken,
    The amp has an internal EQ section that uses digital signal processing to do it's work. The unit I saw had no external tone controls but it can be programmed. I have no idea if it will be field-programmable, etc...

    Lots of questions, but this is a very cool looking piece of gear.
     
  10. Its a good idea, but, i dunno, i always like having everything seperate, however, it will be great for alot of people, hell, if you've got a powerful enough onboard pre, you would just need your bass and the cab
     
  11. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member

    So much for the scary lead sled paradigm. :cool:

    What's Class AD exactly? Any online references? It's a new one on me.
     
  12. Wow. Very cool. How did I know that this was going to be a Bergantino thing? :D

    I need to get my hands on one to check it out.
     
  13. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    Corrupticut
    The answer to the sensitivity question will be interesting. A low sensitivity like 0, +4, or +10 will negate the use of a true DI. And wiring an unbal source to an XLR can have its own problems. If you think this is over-rated then look at the morass of posts regarding driving a QSC with a DI like the SansAmp, etc...
     
  14. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Hah! I was waiting for someone to mention this! I don't know the technical details of this amp, but I do know that in this package it sounds better to my ears than other switching power supply amps have. Sure, there are gain matching issues, and a whole host of other related issues when making such comparisons (and to be honest, there was no way for me to try this front end with another power amp, so I could not do a direct comparison), and it may be the sum of the parts, but at any rate, the end result that I am hearing does not have some of the "negative characteristics" that I have (rightfully or wrongfully, depending whom you ask) personally associated with switching power supply based amps.

    As for Class AD, again, I am no expert, but my understanding is that it is a digital amp section that peforms like Class A (where only one "side" of the amp is forming the waveform, or something like that). Truly, this is not my bailiwick, so don't shoot me if I am horribly wrong, here!

    Tom.
     
  15. jacove

    jacove

    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    WOOW, this sounds very interesting....would love to hear how these IP series cabs compare to other berg cabs...I do like the NV series a lot, so I'm wondering if these cabs will get too clear for my taste, but this is really an interesting design...:bassist:
     
  16. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    DSP stands for Digital Signal Processor. Basically a digitally programmable EQ in this case to "flatten" the sound (or, could also be used to do cab modeling as well to mimic other cab vendors' stuff).
     
  17. MacGroove

    MacGroove Brother of the Groove with a 'Pocket Full of Funk'

    Oct 5, 2005
    Calif.
    Tom, would you say it to be simular to the Meyer Sound self powered cabs bassists have been using? I've always liked the idea of the self powered cab, but the cost of Meyer cabs and the weight kept me away from them?
    Which of your pre-amps did you like the best in the live setting?
     
  18. 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 have not had the pleasure to try any of the Meyer powered cabs. By all accounts, they should be very impressive. I have also been intrigued by the powered cab option, and in truth, I was a bit surprised that the powered Wizzy from EA didn't become a bigger hit (and yes, I still love my Wizzy's! :D).

    So far, I've been really digging the Bergantino line driver, but the IP322 seems like a great match for the True Voice. I gigged with this setup last Saturday, and man, did it sound nice! Good midrange focus and punch, with articulate, warm tone. One of the more fun preamps to try with the IP322 has been the Ashdown RPM-1. When you kick in the subharmonics, the low end is just amazing!

    Actually, I look forward to doing a more comprehensive preamp shootout using the IP322. It really lets you hear what the related gear is contributing (all of my basses sound very unique through this rig).

    Tom.
     
  19. Vic

    Vic There's more music in the nuance than the notes. Gold Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Central Illinois
    Staff, Bass Gear Magazine
    Cool info I just got...

    I realize Tom already mentioned the power numbers, but I asked because I didn't know if it was the same amp for all three cabs, and apparently it is.

    For me, it'll be all about the IP112... actually maybe a pair... at which point, I'm pretty sure my Aggies will be replaced if these sound as good as I think they do.
     
  20. jacove

    jacove

    Apr 12, 2003
    Aalborg, Denmark
    Tom, I was just wondering you say that these new cabs are voiced very flat, has it opened your ears to how the regular series bergantino are voiced and for example cabs like accugroove which are characterised as flat?...