One of the most common questions we get is how amp X, Y and Z compare in terms of tone? And ‘tone’ is such an objective phenomenon so it often comes down to taste anyway. Therefore, we decided to create a ‘controlled’ shootout between as many bass amps as possible for your comparison cravings.
So, how do you keep a bass amp comparing test ‘controlled’? Maybe not entirely possible, but we did try our best to give each amp the same test conditions. The first step was to record 4 different bass lines in a DAW, using 4 different playing styles: Fingerstyle, Muted, Picking and Slapping.
The bass in use is a US Fender Jazz with both pickups at full volume and with the Tone Control knob disengaged (no passive treble roll-off), and then each bass line was played back through the amps 5 times at 5 different settings.
Finally, the sound examples are exported as 24-bit WAV files.
The 5 Settings
In order to make it as fair as possible, these are the guidelines for each of the 5 settings (applies to all 4 bass lines, so in total there are 20 sound examples of each amp):
- Neutral: All tone controls dead flat. No other tools engaged (tube simulation, drive, comp, etc.)
- Scoop 1: Slight scoop (+10% Bass and Treble (1 o’clock). Mids remain neutral.)
- Scoop 2: Significant scoop (+50% Bass and Treble (3 o’clock). Mids remain neutral.)
- Mid 1: Slight mid bump (+10% Mid(s) (1 o’clock). Bass and Treble remain neutral.)*
- Mid 2: Significant mid bump (+40% Mid(s) (2-3 o’clock). Bass and Treble remain neutral.)*
* Please note that in the case where there is a semi-parametric option on the mid band(s), the target frequency is set to default. Further, in case of both a High-mid and Low-mid band these are adjusted together on the Mid 1 and Mid 2 examples.
These particular settings were chosen, as they would be typical for what you’d do when dialing in your tone. Either scoop the mids a bit or bump them slightly. The ‘significant’ settings are actually pretty extreme, as you’d probably rarely dial any tone knobs above (or near) 3 o’clock, but it helps giving you an idea of the range of the tone controls on each amp.
And yes, we are aware that there is only boosting involved, but – at least in theory – cutting the lows and highs would emphasize the mids in much the same way as if you boost the mids on a given amp. Of course, the overall output will be increased when you boost and decreased when you cut. Speaking of which, all sound examples are ‘normalized’ to approx. -6 dB in order to remain comparable. This is not a fool-proof approach as there is such a thing as perceived loudness, but it should make it more aligned than just having random volume levels across the test.
Due to the design of the shootout, it is perfectly possible to expand continuously. And we certainly plan to do so! But for now, here are the amps that take part in the ‘grand opening’:
- Eich T-1000
- Trickfish Bullhead 1K (default EQ)*
- Trickfish Bullhead 1K (alternative EQ)*
- Aguilar Tonhammer 500 / ToneHammer 350
- Eich T-900 / T-500 / T-300
- TC Electronic RH750
Since only the preamp sections are engaged, several amps may be covered in one example (e.g. Eich T-300, T-500 and T-900 that share the exact same preamp section). The power amp sections are not at test here, but the sound of the DI Outputs obviously also affect the overall tone in this type of test.
* The Trickfish Bullhead 1K has a preamp section with two sets of target frequencies (engaged/disengaged by push buttons for each band). While you can switch each band independently, we decided to just do two sets of examples – one with the default setting (all blue lights on) and another with the alternative setting.
The Fine Print
Please remember to use headphones or real speakers when listening to the examples. There is no chance it really makes sense to assess the individual amp tones on laptop or phone speakers. And even then, please do take the shootout with a healthy grain of salt, as the methodic approach may suit some amps better than others.
Some of the amps may have a boost/cut range of +/- 15 or 18 dB, where others may have 12 dB. So if you go to 3 o’clock on the former, obviously the tone will become much more extreme than on the latter. Similarly, each amp has a unique set of target frequencies on the preamp section, and let’s not forget about the ‘Q’ factor that may not even be specified.
Many of the amp may well be able to mimmic one another, but we hope that this shootout will at least be able to give you an initial idea of how each of them sound and behave at various specific settings.
Slight Mid Bump