Hands-On Review:Crate BT-100 Bass Combo
Crate BT-100 Bass Combo
Reliable bass muscle with potent features
By Boyan Scolnick
Crate's BT-100 is a bodybuilder of a bass amp. Before you turn it on, it's physique is modest enough. But when you flex its muscle, it becomes HUGE! 100 super-hot watts crankin' through a gutsy 15" speaker are enhanced by dual-channel operation with footswitch and a floor-rumbling sub-octave effect. A chromatic tuner is visible on top of the cab, and the BT-100 sports four-band EQ plus CD and headphone inputs. With its diminutive price tag, it gets my vote for the coolest inexpensive bass amp around.
Weighing in at a manageable (though hardly anorexic) 69 pounds, the BT-100 is only 26-1/2" high and 21-1/2" wide. For a full-featured stage rig with a honkin' 15-incher, it's a breeze to cart around, especially since it rolls easily on the included casters. Even if you're only hauling it to band practice twice a week, that's a big advantage.
And you don't have to treat the BT-100 with kid gloves. A rugged carpeted cover with reinforced corners, rubber-coated strap handle, and tough grille are great armor against the many indignities all bass amps eventually suffer.
Channel Your Energy
Most bass amps give you only one channel to work with and focus only on clean tones. Since a bass has so much more natural sustain than a guitar, that's generally fine. But if you haven't already, you really should check out a dual-channel system like the BT-100. A distorted sound is much wider and fuller, perfect for settings like power trios where you have to hold down the song while the guitarist takes a solo. Also, a razor's edge of biting distortion can really make your solos stand out or make a heavy song way heavier.
The BT-100 sports a distortion channel with gain control to determine the amount of hair you want on your sound. A shape control lets you roll between biting trebly tones for fancy fretwork and rounder sounds for laying down a solid groove. A level knob lets you balance the distortion channel against the clean channel. A button with an LED lets you select between the channels. There's also a footswitch included for channel switching and to activate the octave function.
The clean channel features a level control for balancing against the distortion channel plus a four-band EQ that gives you iron command over your tone. Unlike some amps that basically offer you a choice between trebly and not trebly, the BT-100 gives you very audible tonal subtleties to work with. The robust, well-defined clean tones and the power of this EQ are definitely what I like best about this amp.
The previously mentioned features alone would be enough to make the BT-100 a hot little amp. But Crate has gone a lot further to make it a very hot little amp. The master section features master volume control that lets you adjust the volume of both channels together with one knob. And right next to that is the BT-100's secret weapon--the octave level control. This little knob lets you dial in the precise amount of tooth-rattling sub-octave grumble needed to stupefy your audience.
If you've never used a sub-octave effect, you're in for a treat. It adds miles of depth and power to every bass line. The BT-100's huge Crate custom frame 15", 3-1/2 lb. magnet speaker reproduces that ultra-dense low end with amazingly well-defined punch. The combined effect of the sub and natural note played simultaneously is a powerfully rich bottom end that lays down a bedrock foundation for your band.
In addition to all these tonal options, the BT-100 provides a bevy of handy functions for everyday use. Topping the list is the chromatic tuner built into the top of the cab. It's running all the time telling you just exactly how far out of tune you are, even when you're playing. Not that I would ever stoop to such a thing, but one less ethical than myself could use it as a cheater's way of knowing what note he's playing at any given time. If the guitar player insists you're playing a C#, you can just point to your tuner as evidence and say, "No, genius, I'm playing a C. You're playing a B!"
Another cool feature is the stereo phono jacks on the front panel right next to the 1/4" headphone jack. These let you plug in your favorite tunes and play along either through the speaker or through the headphones if you don't want to get the neighbors in a snit.
An input pad makes the BT-100 ready for passive and active basses while the mute button lets you tune in silence. Around back there's an XLR balanced line out with level control and ground lift switch. There's also a pre- and post-EQ selector so you can send the signal out dry or sculpted. You can use this jack to run into the PA board for those large-hall gigs where you need a little more volume. It would also come in handy in the recording studio.
I've always believed in Crate's stuff; their reputation for high value is well-deserved. Even so I'm really surprised by the BT-100. It's got it where it counts and adds a lot of thoughtful features real bass players will use every day. For the price, it's an amazingly heavy hitter.
- Crate custom-frame 15" speaker with 56-oz. magnet
- 100W RMS operation at 2% THD, 4 ohms, 120 VAC
- Chromatic tuner
- Input pad and tuner mute
- Distortion channel with gain, shape, and level
- Clean channel with level, 4-band EQ, and octave switch with level
- RCA CD input
- Headphone jack
- XLR balanced line out with level, ground lift, and pre/post EQ select
- Rugged Ozite covering
- Reinforced corners
- Rubber-coated strap handle
- Heavy-gauge grille
- CFS2 footswitch included
- 21-1/2"W x 26-1/2"H x 16-1/2"D
- 69 lbs