Hands-On Review:Ampeg Micro-VR/SVT210-AV Mini Bass Stack


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Bold, powerful Ampeg tone made portable

By Ara Ajizian
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

As both players and fans, we're all familiar with pieces of gear that are nothing short of iconic—the Marshall stack, the Les Paul, the Fender Precision Bass. When it comes to bass rigs, the gold standard is an Ampeg SVT head and 8x10" stack, known for decades for its towering stature onstage and impeccable, thundering tone. To be honest though, as awesome as that rig is, it's not practical for every situation the average musician comes across. Sometimes we have to—gasp!—play quietly, whether it's for an intimate gig, laying down tracks in a studio, or just practicing. That's what led the minds at Ampeg to develop the Micro-VR head and SVT-210AV cabinet mini stack. Now, Ampeg tone can follow you everywhere.

Sharp-dressed stack

Normally I don't spend too much time focusing on aesthetics or size, unless either or both are part of what makes a product stand out. With the Micro-VR mini stack, both are definite selling points, especially its size, which was the first thing I noticed. My boss recently told us to avoid using "lightweight" when describing certain products, as the word has negative connotations in some cases. Well, guess what, boss? The Micro-VR head and SVT-210AV cabinet are . . . wait for it . . . lightweight! I know he won't edit that out because in this case it's not negative—making a highly portable rig is exactly what Ampeg wanted to do. Let's face it, as epic as an 8x10" cabinet sounds, anyone who's moved one knows it has wheels for a good reason— it weighs 140 pounds. In fact, I think an Ampeg 8x10 cab was the reason the first roadie was hired!

 

With a handling weight of just 26 lb. and measuring a little over 2' tall, the SVT-210AV is a cinch to move around. It's got a convenient carrying handle on top, as does the 10 lb. Micro-VR head. I had no problem holding one in each hand when transporting the rig. With its appearance as a shrunken-down, '70s-era SVT stack, I was dying to hear what it was sonically capable of as soon as I had it set up.

Mini monster

The first task I put the Micro-VR mini stack to was playing with my experimental stoner-rock band, The Meh Project. I really wanted to see if it could hang volume-wise with the rest of the group, as well as how it worked with my fuzz tone—a very important part of my sound. On the volume front, I was impressed right away. The head's 200 watts drove the two 10" Eminence speakers perfectly, creating plenty of volume without distorting. The tone itself was punchy and bright, but with a surprising amount of low-end rumble. Shaping is easy and effective with the three-band EQ and there's an onboard limiter that keeps the signal clean even at high volumes.

 

The Micro-VR mini stack gave my fuzz tone a nice shot in the arm too, namely in the midrange. Normally I play through a 1x15" combo, and the fuzz tone tends to be a bit muddy. Not so with the Micro-VR stack. Its full-range reproduction continued with the fuzz engaged, and with a small tweak to the EQ I had a gritty crunch with a nice bit of warm roundness in the bottom end. It actually made me realize that I wasn't doing my tone any favors by confining myself to a single 15" speaker! The Micro-VR head also has an effects loop, which I thought was a nice bonus on a small, affordable amp that sounded this good. I ran my delay and chorus pedals through it and was pleased with the results.

On the other side

Having proven itself in a loud band environment, I wanted to hear what the Micro-VR mini stack could do at lower volumes too. I play guitar in a weekend-warrior-type band, so I asked our bassist if he'd play through the Micro-VR, mostly to hear how it sounded in a band situation at lower volumes. It soon became apparent that it's not an amp that needs to be cranked in order to sound good. When the volume was lower, all it took was a little tweaking of the EQ and all the great tone and presence it had at higher volumes was there.

 

We record our practices, so I used the convenient XLR direct out to connect it to the mixer. The sound through it was well-balanced and noise-free, and it allowed our bassist to play at a lower volume, avoiding too much bleed into the drum mics. Like a lot of bands, we're on a budget so our recording setup is far from ideal, but we make do with what we have. Our recordings are mainly to help us write our parts outside of practice, and in this case the Micro-VR fit the bill perfectly and we were able to improve the sound of our practice recordings. I could see the Micro-VR as a fantastic studio amp too, given its great sound at any volume and the ability to run direct.

The little engine that could

I found the Micro-VR mini stack to be a formidable amp in a number of situations, from quiet practice with headphones to laying down tracks and full-band jams. Its compact, lightweight design makes it a convenient, easy-to-transport solution for bassists on the go who need a rig for smaller gigs or studio work, plus it has the power and versatility to add an extension cab if necessary. Is it an SVT head and an 8x10" cabinet? Of course not. But it certainly fits the bill wherever Ampeg tone is needed in smaller doses.

Features & Specs

 

Micro-VR Head:

  • 200W @ 4 ohms, 150W @ 8 ohms

  • 3-band EQ

  • Balanced XLR line out

  • Ultracompact design

  • Selectable 15dB input pad

  • Built-in limiter

  • Aux input

  • Headphone out

  • Effects loop

  • Fan cooled

  • 12"W x 5-1/2"H x 10"D

  • 10 lb.

SVT-210AV Cabinet:

  • 2 - 10" Eminence speakers

  • Birch plywood construction

  • 2 - 1/4" parallel inputs

  • 200W RMS @ 8 ohms power handling

  • Ultracompact design

  • 13"W x 24"H x 11"D

  • 26 lb.