Hands-On Review:Ashdown ABM EVO II 500/410T Bass Rig


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A Backline Masterpiece With Tone To Die For!

By Jimmy Willingham

 

A Backline Masterpiece With Tone To Die For!

When Musician’s Friend asked if I would like to do a hands-on review of an Ashdown bass rig, I eagerly jumped on the offer. I had never played through an Ashdown, but whenever I’ve heard a player using one the sound was fantastic. It always seemed to be a really good player, a bass god who would make any amp sound great. What I wanted to know was how I, a mere mortal of a bassist, would sound through Ashdown gear. Now I was going to find out.

 

When the gear arrived I got even more pumped. I was looking at a high-end tour-class rig. The amp was a 575W head, the ABM EVO II 500. The cab was the matching 410T, loaded with four 10" drivers and a horn. The rig promised impressive performance.

 

Classy, no act

 

The cab has a first-quality look: high-grade covering, white piping around the grille, a big Ashdown badge on the front, and very cool recessed side handles framed by ovals of polished chrome that serve as anchor plates. It’s big, heavy, and built for big bass sound.

 

The head has characteristic Ashdown styling—understated and traditional with a big dose of retro in the form of a large, lighted VU meter. I don’t know if any amp but an Ashdown ever had a VU meter, but it is nifty and easy to read. The amp design could be called retro/modern because it combines modern and traditional elements, and improves upon the best time-tested technologies. Respect for bass amp tradition is also reflected in the simplicity of the EVO II control panel. Most high-end modern amps are loaded with controls, new ones you have to figure out. The EVO II has only seven knobs in a standard analog-style layout. No mystery. Everything is so obvious you don’t need the manual to get going.

 

A few things aren’t so traditional but still are self-explanatory. The 3-band EQ has two sliders on either side of the mid knob, and there are buttons to switch everything that has to do with tone in/out—even the EQ section. There are several modern features I’ll discuss at length below, but even with these the controls are analog-style and understandable.

 

The sound sez it all

 

I fired it up and didn’t have to play long to see what makes Ashdown so highly regarded. This was unquestionably the best-sounding rig I had ever played. Incredible lows, crystalline highs, and presence throughout the spectrum. It’s hard to put into words, but unmistakable when you hear it.

 

When I began testing out the various controls, I was even more impressed by the sheer range of sounds the amp can produce, and how easy it makes dialing in the precise sound you’re after. It can play deep and fat, solid and punchy, thick or glassy. It has a tight, clean mid-range that you can sharpen to slice through gangs of guitars gone power mad. You can EQ precisely by first setting the three bands and then tweaking with the sliders. A shape switch gives you a brighter version of your primary setting instantly.

 

This rig can get incredibly loud and handle it with ease. I almost brought down my house and never got the VU meter needle anywhere near the red. The combination of huge watts and four 10s gives it amazing low-end clarity and fast response. When you want it to be punchy, the EVO II and 410T can put ’em flat on their backs. Whatever you do with the strings is tonally and dynamically expressed.

 

Dub subs & true tube tone

 

If there is one thing that puts the EVO II over the top it’s the subharmonic processor. It creates an octave below the played tone and a knob lets you dial in the amount of the sub tone you want. Set too high it can overwhelm the real sound, but the lower settings work miracles. A little thickens up your overall sound. Turned up more it gives you a deep, powerful sound laden with sub-harmonics—a building-shaking sound worthy of Burning Spear. And the 4x10 box handles it beautifully. Unlike other sub-octave devices I’ve encountered, Ashdown’s subharmonic processor tracks exceedingly well regardless of how fast you play. No slop, just accurate, focused bass tone.

 

Another feature is the tube preamp circuit. It is incorporated into a solid state preamp, switchable on/off, and has a Valve Drive knob that lets you blend it into the overall sound in varying degrees. A little sweetens the sound, more gets a bluesy-drive, yet more and it starts to growl. With the input level set high, the tube circuit will deliver all-out drive. This tone circuit gives you real tube sound and response rather than just emulation. It gives you the choice of solid state or real tube tone, or blends of the two, and one-knob control makes it simple to use.

 

The total package

 

This is a rig for the serious bassist who needs power, versatility, and premium tone. The Ashdown ABM EVO II head and 410T cabinet deliver all three, plus connectivity, ease of operation, quality construction, and high-end hardware—everything the professional bassist needs to play in the big time. The only way I can see to improve upon it would be to add another 410T.

 

Features & Specs:

 

ABM EVO II 500:

  • 575W RMS
  • 7-band EQ
  • Switchable active/passive input
  • Tube/solid state preamp stages
  • Subharmonic generator adds low-end reinforcement
  • Front-mounted direct output with pre- and post-EQ switching
  • FX loop
  • Tuner output
  • Line in
  • VU meter
  • 21"W x 8"H x 12-3/4"D
  • 31 lbs.

ABM 410T Cabinet:

  • 600W continuous, 900W program power handling
  • 4 - 10" BlueLine speakers
  • High-frequency tweeter
  • High-grade birch plywood construction
  • Buffalo leather cloth covering
  • Chromed metal corners
  • Metal handles
  • 24"W x 26"H x 16-1/2"D
  • 79 lbs.