Hands-On Review:Ultra good bass sound at amazingly low prices
By Doug Dorham
If you haven't heard yet, listen up. The new Behringer Ultrabass Series amps are setting the bass world on fire. They offer bass players on a budget uncompromised sound quality at prices that simply beat the socks off anything else out there. The series also gives you a choice in sizes and features that cover everything from at-home practice to gigging with the band. If you're just getting started on bass or looking to score your first "real" amp, look at the Ultrabass selections first, because you won't find a better amp at twice the price.
Three easy choices
The Ultrabass Series starts with a little 30-watt practice and studio amp, the BX300. Next comes a 60 watter with serious capabilities and sound quality, the BX600. The star of the series is the BX1200, with 120 watts and a set of features that make it a versatile, fully equipped amp for playing live onstage. Most bass players will find that one of these three will beautifully fulfill their needs, and all are priced so incredibly low that some players will feel they can spring for two of the three models.
This is a practice-size amp with 30 watts, a 10" speaker, a headphone out, and CD RCA inputs for play-along purposes. There are a lot of such amps out there. What sets this one apart from the herd is TONE. Behringer's much-touted Dynamizer pre-amp really shows its stuff here, simply because bass amps this small don't usually have the fullness of tone, or the power and punch the BX300 generates. I was astounded. It's the kind of sound you want for miking in the studio and the kind of sound that jazz players or others who play live at low volumes will love.
And its features go way beyond the usual set for amps with its $80 price tag. It includes a pre-amp output for running to other amps, passive or active inputs, an opto-limiter that lets you get loud without blowing the lid off, an effects loop, and a switchable shape filter that makes EQing practically unnecessary. If you need it, three bands of highly musical EQ are there for tweaking. It's also so affordable that virtually any bass player can easily get one for practice purposes only. Put your gig amp away and save mileage on it - practice for hours on this compact and great-sounding little guy.
I'd call this the ultimate first amp. Middle-of-the-road in size, the BX600 powers a 12" driver with 60W. It's surprisingly loud- plenty enough for jams or smaller gigs, and it gives you all the tone you could ask for. It also extends the features found in the BX300 with a four-band EQ, an unbalanced line out, pre-amp out, and an amp out.
Four-band EQ is an important step up from the 3-band. The 2-bands of mids really give you a lot of flexibility in adjusting your sound. If you want growl, you up 'em both. If you want a scooped mid but with a lot of low end definition, you up the upper and dial back the lower a touch. Whatever sound you want, these four EQ knobs give you all the flexibility you need to dial it in.
The shape switch almost makes the EQs irrelevant. With it on but turned all the way down, you get a trebled-out Rickenbacker kind of sound. Turn it up and the bass rounds out. About halfway up you get a rounded, very tubey tone with just the right amount of gravel in it - the kind of bass tone I'd call the most universally usable. As it goes higher, it doesn't continue to pronounce the bass. It alters it, smooths it out, and adds extra string snap at the tweaky top end. This knob is so useful and I'm so lazy, if I used this amp all the time I'd probably leave the EQs at top center and only use the shape knob with the switch left on.
This is the big boy of the Ultrabass Series, a 120W amp with a 12" aluminum cone speaker. It can really kick some butt. I was doubtful about the 12" speaker at first, because it was the same size as the BX600 with twice the wattage. Hearing, however, was believing. The stiffer aluminum cone and overall speaker design makes this a 12 with a tight sound even at high volumes, perfectly capable of handling gigs with the band.
The BX1200 also features a wedge-shaped, bass reflex cab, which must have something to do with its ability to pump out the sound. It also makes it a better amp for stage use. You rock it back and hear! This is an unsung improvement in bass amp design and one you usually find in amps costing several times as much.
Another step up from the BX600 is two-channel operation with the shape function on channel 2. This gives you more versatility in your settings and lets you switch between two extremely variant sounds quickly. It also adds a balanced DI out, a tuner out, and tape outs. It's a gig rig with all the right stuff, and it still maintains the practice options you want: headphone outs and tape or CD ins.
The Ultrabass Effect
As a final touch, BX1200 also has a switchable and dialable bass boost called the Ultrabass circuit. When you need big bottom instantly, just kick it on and shake the floor. The included footswitch turns the Ultrabass on or off in addition to switching channels.
If I were to choose one of the three amps, I would go for the big one right off. It's such an extremely affordable amp, big enough to handle anything most players will come up against and equipped well-enough to give you plenty of room to grow as a player. But then, if you already have a main amp, the little Ultrabass might be just the amp you need.
Features & Specs:
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