Review: Markbass CMD 102P Bass Combo

markbass_cmd102p_1While searching for a versatile, gig worthy bass combo I happened upon a store that carried an array of options from Markbass.  There is a lot of hype in the bass world about Markbass amps so I was eager to give them a try.  Playing a Standard   P Bass, I tried out the Alain Caron 1×12 Combo, the Jeff Berlin 1×15 Combo and the CMD 102P 2×10 Combo.  Originally I had my sights set on the Jeff Berlin model, but after putting all three combos through their paces I ended up liking the CMD 102P 2×10 the best.  All three are great sounding amps, in fact the Jeff Berlin & 102P have he same head, but there was just something about the 2×10 that spoke to me.

The extremely versatile CMD 102P combo seems to have all of the features I am looking for in a bass combo.  Featuring 2 x 10″ speakers, plus a piezo tweeter, this combo pushes 300 watts (500 watts with an 8 Ohm extension cab) of clean, articulate power.  The built in VLE and VLF filters provide a wide range of tones in conjunction with 4 bands of EQ, Gain and Master Volume.  It’s front-ported cabinet design is angled, allowing it to be used either as a floor monitor or in standard vertical position.  Additional features include a Line Out with a Pre/Post EQ switch and Ground Lift, an FX Loop and a Tuner Out.  And all this in a compact package that only weighs 44lbs.

I am happy to announce that my combo search has ended.  I was so enamored with this little combo that I just had to take it home with me.  I’ve owned 2×10’s in the past, including an SWR Redhead combo, but was never truly satisfied with the lows they produced, which is why I had initially been more interested in the 1×15 combo.  Well I don’t know how Markbass did it but the CMD 102P 2×10 combo has unbelievable, crisp, clean lows.  Even at high volumes, there is little to no breakup in tone.  For the most part 300 watts will be all I’ll ever need, but it is nice to have to option to add an external cabinet for increased power if the need should ever arise.

Markbass-CMD-102-P-LM3_2

I have read that Markbass amps are somewhat transparent, and find that each of my basses sound distinctly different through it, so I would guess that is what they mean.  To be honest once I got it home and played around with it a bit, I just couldn’t seem to dial in a tone I liked.  Not to be deterred I decided to take it to band practice and set the EQ flat with both filters turned off as I figured this would be my starting point.  Well low and behold, as soon as we started playing I was once again smitten.  My tone sat perfectly in the mix, letting my notes punch through clearly and articulately.  The only control I touched again was the Volume, as I was way too loud.  This little guy cranks! It seems when it comes to the VLE and VLF filters, less is more.

The cost of the Markbass CMD 102P Combo was a bit more than I had wanted to spend, but the quality and reputation seem to be there.  When I took into account that this is going to be my main gigging amp, as well as the fact that it is basically replacing a Half Stack I felt that the cost was justified.  We bass players are lucky these days as we have many options to choose from, I would of liked to try one of the new Carvin or Genz Benz combos, but I just didn’t have a chance to try them out in person.  I’ve been using the Markbass at band practice for the past few weeks now and couldn’t be happier with my decision.  It is a very powerful, compact, lightweight combo that should cover me in any situation for the foreseeable future. 

http://www.markbass.it/product-detail/cmd-102p/

 

 

 

Review: Fender Rumble 350 2×10 Bass Combo

Next up in my search for the ultimate bass combo was the Fender Rumble 350. In truth the Rumble 350 was not an amp I had really considered, but the salesman at my local GC was pushing it pretty hard, so I figured I might as well give it a whirl.

The Fender Rumble 350 is a 350 Watt bass combo with 2X10″ Fender® Special Design Speakers. Controls include Volume, Overdrive Gain, Overdrive On/Off, Overdrive Blend,    Punch EQ Preset, Scoop EQ Preset, Bass, Semi-Parametric Mid with Level & Frequency controls, and Treble. Also included is a Horn On/Off Switch, XLR Line Out with Ground LIft, Aux in, Headphone Jack, Effects Loop, plus Fender’s Delta Comp Adaptive Compression Circuitry. All of this is housed in a Heavy Duty Ported Cabinet with Black Vinyl Covering, a Rugged Black Metal Grill, Springloaded Side Handles and Removable Casters to aid in portability.

As I say, the salesman was eager to show me this amp, telling me I wouldn’t believe how loud it could get.  I plugged in a Standard P Bass and fiddled with the amp a bit before he cranked it up so I could hear it at full volume. Well, it does indeed get loud. Unfortunately that does not mean that it sounds good. Personally I thought it sounded horrible at high volumes. There was a lot of distortion going on, even without the built in Overdrive engaged. I couldn’t tweak on the controls much while at the high volume as I was literally rattling everything in the store, but I doubt that I could of dialed in a usable tone at that volume. Once turned down to a more respectable level I tried various tone settings but just could not really come up with anything I liked. This amp has a lot going on with it’s Semi-Parametric EQ, Tone Presets, as well as Overdrive and Compression Circuits. I’m more of a less is better kind of guy, especially when it comes to built in effects. While having on-board effects might be convenient to some, I don’t like the idea, and feel that it’s just one more path your signal has to travel through before getting to the speaker, even if you don’t use them.

While the Fender Rumble 350 seems to have a lot going for it, I just didn’t care for the tone. I love Fender Basses and have played through a few Fender Bass Amps over the years, but have yet to find a Fender amp that has the tone I am looking for. At 350 watts the Rumble certainly has a lot power, yet interestingly enough it does not have an output for an additional speaker cabinet. Moreover, at almost 70 pounds, this thing is a beast! Sure is comes with removable casters but those don’t help you lift the thing up when putting it in the back of your car. For these reasons I decided the Rumble wasn’t for me, guess I’ll have to keep looking.

http://www.fender.com/series/rumble/rumble-350-350-watt-bass-combo-2×10-speakers-and-horn-120v/

Review: TC Electronic BG250 1×15 Bass Combo

In my search for the perfect gig worthy bass combo one of the amps that I really wanted to try was TC Electronic’s new BG250 1×15 combo. Fortunately my local Guitar Center had one in stock so I sat down and gave it go.

As the name implies, the BG250 pushes 250 watts into a single 15″ Custom TC speaker and TC Tweeter. It features a built in tuner, a “TubeDrive” tube emulation knob, plus TC Electronic’s famous “TonePrint®” technology, which essentially lets you pick and change one specific, on-board effect. Additional features include bass contoured tone controls, a mute button, an axillary input for connecting your ipod, a headphone jack, and a balance output for sending your signal to a PA. An optional footswitch is available which allows you to control the TubeDrive, “TonePrint®”, and tuner.

For testing purposes I grabbed a Mexican P-Bass as I’ve been mostly playing my P-Deluxe lately. I figure if the amp sounds good with a standard P-Bass it will sound even better with my P-Deluxe. The first thing that struck me about the BG250 was how crisp and clear the tone was. Even when I cranked it up, the tone was still clear with little to no distortion. To me the amp seemed capable of dialing in a good array of sounds with it’s 3-band bass contoured EQ. I played around with the “TubeDrive” knob a bit, but am not sure if I really liked it, I can see where it might be useful to some players, but it didn’t do much for me. The “TonePrint®” feature, which comes pre-loaded with TC’s Chorus/Vibrato effect, was actually kind of cool. I was able to quickly dial in a nice Jaco-esque tone, and know I would enjoy playing around with the different effects that you can load into this thing. All in all I have to say that the BG250 is not a bad little combo.

As I said, I’d really been wanting to try one of these babies out so when I saw one I jumped on it. At 250 watts it gets pretty loud and I think it would work out fine for jamming at home and even band practice, but worry that it wouldn’t be enough in a live situation. If it had an external speaker out and little more wattage I think I would of been sold, especially at it’s price point. That fact that it weighs only 35lbs doesn’t hurt either. Ultimately I decided that this wasn’t the amp for me. I guess for now, my quest continues.


http://www.tcelectronic.com/bg250.asp

 

My Search for a Gig Worthy Bass Combo

As I’ve gotten older I have come to realize that I no longer have a need for a large bass rig.  For years I’ve relied on my trusted Ampeg SVT-410 HLF cab paired with an Ashdown EVO II 500 head.  While I love the tone I get from this setup, the size, volume and weight have become more and more of a downside for me.  In fact I haven’t used this setup in a band situation for quite some time.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and sell off this rig, instead finding a lightweight, gig worthy combo that will better suit my needs.  At this point I would prefer a combo over a head/cab setup for ease of transport and setup.  I’m kind of at a less is more point in my life.  Downsizing will make things easier.  I do have a few requirements, however; I want something that I can use for band band practice in a small space, yet something loud enough to be used at small to medium sized gigs.  It should be light, high powered and have an external speaker option in case I ever need more.  Of course tone is of the utmost importance, but at the same time I don’t want to break the bank buying this thing.  Lastly I don’t want to buy it online.  I need to be able play through the actual amp I settle on, putting it through it’s paces and listening to it’s tone.  It’s not like I am gigging regularly right now, but when I do I want to be prepared. 

I am currently using a GK MB200 head with 1×15 MBE Cab at band practice and am fairly happy with this setup.  It is light and expandable, but only 200 watts.  While this is enough for band practice, I fear that it may not cut it in a live situation.  As such I hope to check out the GK MB210, assuming I can find one locally.  This is of course the key, I know I will be somewhat limited on my options by what is available locally, but am fairly confident that I will find enough options to get a good feel for what is out there.  If not, I guess I’ll just continue my search until I find what I am looking for.

I can honestly say that this is not a decision I have taken lightly.  In fact I talked about this very same scenario two years ago in my post The Downsize Dilemma.  The thing is, since I wrote that post two years ago, I have not used my full rig once.  This is why I feel that the time is right.  In fact I have already sold off my full rig.  So at this point I’m pretty much committed.  I’m either going to stick with my MB200/115 setup or get a new combo, either way my days of stadium worthy rigs are over.  As always, I’ll keep you posted on my journey.