What do you like in small 500w amp heads?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by scottfeldstein, Jul 30, 2021.

  1. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    I'm going to flip my Ampeg PF-500 and get something different. I'm thinking something with similar specs but a little more modern sounding. Maybe a used Hartke LX5500 or Peavey MiniMax would fit the bill. What else should I be looking at?
  2. What are you wanting? Clean? Tired of the Ampeg thing?

    I'm still head over heels with my Aguilar Tone Hammer 500. It just does this dirty vintage funk like no other vlass D amp I've ever played and I absolutely LOVE it. HiFi clean, however, is NOT in the cards with the li'l Aggie. I just recently got a GK Legacy 800 for that and also love it!

    They make a Legacy 500 (kind of a lie, it's rated at 450w but whatever) and it does standard to razor sharp cleans, as well as a really great modern-voiced distortion when you want that. I'm dealing with a noisy mute switch on mine and will probably swap mine out with the fine folks at Sweetwater next week.

    I also love the Mesa Subway stuff, but they're all rated at an honest 800w output, putting them outside your parameters. However, Andy/Agedhorse/the guy who made them, says if you are running an 8 ohm cab, you can put the switch in 2 ohm mode and output will be cut to around 600w and damping will be adjusted to match. Pretty neat trick! The Mesa D800+ is a great price/performance value.

    I also have a TC BQ500 that is my backup/leave at church amp. It's not an honest 500w amp, most say and I agree. Probably a solid 300w. However, it's very cheap and fine enough to make quiet things louder. No real character to be had here and it's definitely NOT an amp with a pleasing overdrive. It's gross when pushed into clipping, really. If you want volume - fine. Character? See the above recommendations!

    Happy amp hunting!

    gscroggin, msb and Ronky like this.
  3. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Great suggestions, thanks! The Mesa and Aguilar stuff is probably out of my price range. I'd like to get something used for $400 or less if I can. But I'll have a look around for them. I haven't looked at that GK, but I definitely will.

    Clean? Sure. Especially when slapping. But if an amp has some usable grit in the gain stage, I'm good with that!
    musicman556 likes this.
  4. Redbrangus

    Redbrangus Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2018
    Under The X In Texas
    In what way did the Ampeg fail to satisfy you?
  5. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Well, I could nitpick it. The five-way selectable mid frequency is nice, but the ultra hi and lo are not something I would ever use. The gain knob can sound pretty good if you turn it far enough to blink the clip light, but some in these forums have warned against running it that way so that's not much use. Then there's the fact that they have a reputation for being unreliable. I have had no problem with mine, but I haven't used it that much. I got it used shortly before the pandemic and I think I may have only used it at gigs once or twice. Otherwise it's been getting light use in my apartment. So what do I know about it's reliability.

    Yes, I could nitpick it. But the truth is I'm just itching to try something new.
    spatters and musicman556 like this.
  6. SJan3


    Dec 8, 2010
    At least you're honest. The Genzler Magellan 350 will likely play just as loud as the
    PF-500. The Magellan sounds great and has a reputation for reliability. Price is $499 NEW. They can be had used for less, if you prefer. Really a wonderful and versatile amp.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
    smogg, MAXSPINRUN, Zoffy and 2 others like this.
  7. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Well, I just made an offer on a Tech21 VT Bass 500. It is ironic, yes. But if I got that I could not only ditch the Ampeg, but probably also my YYZ pedal. We'll see if the seller likes my offer. Otherwise, I got my beady little eye on a Hartke LX5500.

    Update: Offer accepted. I am the proud owner of a Tech 21 VT Bass 500.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  8. 13 hours later and done.
  9. Omega Monkey

    Omega Monkey

    Mar 8, 2015
    Well, if you want to be able to switch between tube and SS pres, a Genz ShuttleMax 6.2 could probably be had for not too far outside your $400 budget (I wasn't a ton above that for my 9.2). The 2 semi-parametric mid bands on each channel offer a lot of flexibility, plus the 3 footswitchable and adjustable shape controls (I forget the specific names, but basically bass boost/extension, mid cut, and treble boost) increase that even more. They're not super high gain even on the tube channel in "high" mode (which is more like an active/passive switch), but they can get somewhat into lower gain SVT territory, AND you can mix the channels while having completely different gain and EQ settings on each.

    For a bit less money, you could get the plain Shuttle which only has 1 channel but does have a tube drive.

    When I got my SM9.2, I was in the process of looking for an inexpensive, portable head (to not carry around any of my 30+ lb old school style SS heads when I didn't want to). I was considering stuff like the Elf, TX600, GK MB500, etc... but I decided to bump the budget once I started looking at the ShuttleMax series. I think I've had it for 3 years or so at this point and it's served me well. I still use the heavier heads as I feel like it, but the SM is kind of the "main" head at this point.
    S-Bigbottom and agedhorse like this.
  10. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Sometimes I get the "you're still posting about this?!" treatment. Other times it seems like I acted too fast. Can't win :)
    S-Bigbottom likes this.
  11. Zoffy


    Jun 7, 2020
    Sacramento CA
    This. I have a Magellan 350 and it is loud, well-made, and versatile. Can't go wrong with this one!:thumbsup:
    S-Bigbottom, SJan3 and agedhorse like this.
  12. bassfran

    bassfran Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2012
    Endorsing artist: Lakland basses
    I, too, was looking hard at the Tech 21 VT head when I stumbled across a good price on a mint Kustom KXB 500 in the classifieds. Dead simple tone stack and pretty good feature set for the scratch. Then the shutdown hit. All geared up with nowhere to play.
    wave rider likes this.
  13. Rip Van Dan

    Rip Van Dan DNA Endorsing Artist Supporting Member

    Feb 2, 2009
    Duvall, WA
    Hi Scott,
    I have an Eden TN-226 (225-watts rms) which is the little brother to the Eden TN-501. The TN-501 is a 500-watt amp and if I had it to do over again, I would have passed on the TN226 (bought it used) and gone for the 501. The 500-watts is just a LOT more versatile. I really like the sound from these Eden Terra Nova amps because they can produce the same sound as my big Eden amp, my WT500/800, albeit with 500 instead of 800 watts.

    Was a bit worried how good it would sound because it is a Class D amp that is all solid state and has no tube in the preamp, which is what my WT amp uses for its warmth. First night I played it I ran it flat with a little boost (about 1 'clock or so) in the low-mids at 250Hz (I use a passive Jazz bass) and bingo, there was the sound I got from my Big Eden amp but at only about 5-lbs of weight instead of the 36-lbs of my big amp in its rack. It gets that warmth from a Golden Ear chip (#THAT 4301 if I recall correctly) that among other things does some very nice tube emulation.

    EQ is Bass, low-mid and high-mid semi parametric controls, and treble control. It's perhaps not quite as versatile as my big Eden amp because it only has two semi-parametric controls instead of the three in my WT500/800. But that's not a problem because I run the treble flat and the treble EQ on this amp takes care of cuts/boosts on everything above 2KHz. It also has a bass shelving EQ that controls everything from 30Hz on down. The first semi-parametric goes from 30Hz up to 300Hz and the second one goes from 200Hz up to 2KHz. So lots of sound shaping there, but there's more...

    In addition to that you have the Eden "Enhance" control that boosts bass and treble and scoops out the low-mids. That sounds good for personal practice but if you get it up above about 10 o'clock or so playing in a group, you will dial yourself right out of the mix . A nice thing it has that my big amp doesn't is a Bass Boost button. That allows you to boost the bass without scooping the mids and boosting the treble. To top it all off, it also has an excellent auto-compressor, far better than the one in my big amp.

    Using my TN226 one night at a small venue, our 5-pc group got too loud and I had to turn my amp up a bit to compensate. Next thing I know, I see my power clipping light blinking at me. Once in a while is no big deal but if it blinks very much, it will go into protect mode and turn everything off. I dropped the bass EQ - still flashing. I raised the gain and dropped the master and that stopped it but then I was too low in the mix.

    Since the auto-compressor on my big Eden amp is pretty harsh - IMO good for slap and that's it - I was hesitant to engage the auto compressor on this. Last ditch effort, I turned it on and turned my master back up. Viola'!! It worked great! It compressed the peaks so I wasn't clipping the power and unlike my big amp, I couldn't hear it as it engaged and released. I still had gobs of attack and dynamics with smooth sound throughout and I was one happy camper. So I found out the hard way that the auto-compressor works really well and sounds good while doing it.

    Street price seems to be $649 although I have seen it below that. Gear4Music.com in the UK has it for less than $400 but last I checked it was out of stock. If you go there be sure to change the British Flag to the US one to see prices in US$. Since they recently bought Eden they usually have both the US version and the UK version in stock. If they run out of the US 110v version and only have the 220v version, a little box comes up to tell you you'll have to use a converter with it for use with 110v. If you buy it from the UK version of the site, it will automatically send you the 220v version, so be careful about that.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  14. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Wow, that does look cool. Never seen one before. I know what you mean about the shutdown. One of the first things that really hurt was the fact that my April gig got canceled. It was a special one, too. First, we were to play a set at the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Then later on in the evening we were playing in a newly remodeled 1929 theater...a theater that is in my hometown and literally two doors down from my apartment. it's a spectacular venue and it was brand new! We would be among the first to play it and even cooler, I would know dozens of people in the audience. It would have been a triumph. Had it been booked 3 weeks earlier it would have happened. Have a flip through the photos here.
    rodl2005 and bassfran like this.
  15. mcrawfordmusic


    Dec 11, 2010
    Congrats on the new amp. I’ve never played one but they look like they would rock!
  16. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Yeah, thanks. I think I'm going to love it. The only question will be what if anything do I do with my YYZ. Will I still want it? How will I use it if I'm already getting tube ampy in the amp itself? We will find out in a few days.
  17. mcrawfordmusic


    Dec 11, 2010
    Always good to have options, but if the amp does everything you need there’s no point holding on to the pedal as a paper weight.
  18. scottfeldstein

    scottfeldstein Roots and fifths and a little extra.

    Jun 20, 2011
    West Bend, Wisconsin
    Sure. But maybe I can use it as a step-up overdrive effect when I want it. Which is what my Aftershock was doing...so who knows.
    mcrawfordmusic likes this.