Hands-On Review:Yorkville BassMaster XM200- A low price to pay for exceptional sound
By Benjamin Hawkins
When Musician's Friend asked me to write a Hands-on Review of the new Yorkville BassMaster amps, I accepted the assignment without any preconceptions or prejudices. I simply knew nothing about them. This in itself was odd, me being the amp junkie that I am.
I did know that Yorkville wasn't a newcomer, and I remembered a Traynor 400W BassMaster of some years back that was well-regarded as one of the powerhouses of its day though I never personally played through one. Asking about the Bassmaster connection, I learned that Traynor and Yorkville are linked and that these days the Traynor name goes on guitar amps and the Yorkville name goes on the bass amps.
I also learned that they are the next thing to American-made-made in Yorkville, Ontario, just over the border in the land of the maple leaf. Even the cabs are made in Canada of the high-grade plywood they have so much of there.
Basically I was approaching this one cold. With an empty but open mind. The Yorkville BassMaster was going to have to show me, but its very affordable price lowered both my expectations and the performance bar somewhat. It only had to be so good to be well worth its price.
So I met theface-to-face and gave it both the home test and the gig test. What I found surprised me. Not only did this amp perform well in the affordable-amp bracket, it actually knocked my socks off, proving to be one of the nicest amps I'd ever gigged with. Great sounding and totally easy to use.
It took me awhile to really appreciate it. First of all, it doesn't have fancy cosmetics. It's good looking, but not jazzed up excessively. It has one handle, a utilitarian black surface, a heavy grille, and corner protectors. Just a basic no-frills cab slightly larger and a little deeper than many with a single 15. Its most distinctive feature is a curved front, and peeking in through the grille, it looked like the speaker-mounting surface behind it is slightly curved on each side in the opposite way.
I set up in my living room for an initial tryout. I found the controls straightfoward and that it had all the important connections. Four active EQ knobs, a volume knob, a scoop knob, a limiter on/off button, a mute button, and a button for switching between DI or line output from a balanced XLR out. In addition to the balanced XLR out, it has active and passive inputs, an effects loop, an unbalanced headphone/line out, a tuner out, and a 4-ohm extension speaker out on the back. Again, it has everything you need for most gigs or recording sessions.
It was easy to dial-up the various tones I use on the gig: a round full bass for reggae, a solid balanced clean tone that works for ska and soca or New Orleans-style rhythm and blues numbers, and a tweaky top-end with rolled-back-mids for funk grooves. I got them all easily using the four EQ knobs. You can also center the EQs and only adjust the scoop knob to get quite a range of tones.
In my living room, I couldn't dial it up much without shaking the place apart, but theseemed fully gig-capable. The next night would be the test.
We played outdoors with about 50 yards of lawn in front of us and a hundred plus audience. EQing would be no problem, but would thehave enough power and sound good at higher volume? While our band is not overly loud, I've had my share of amps break up when pushed outdoors.
I set the volume at a level that seemed right and with just the right amount of head room for dynamics. Still the knob was only about a third of the way up. Next, I decided as a starting point to set all the EQs straight up, used just the scoop knob to adjust for tone, and left the limiter off.
When the music began, as it turned out, I only touched the amp one more time to nudge the volume up a little. After that, I just forgot about it. The sound was clean, big on the bass and with just the right amount of top-end. The sound was balanced enough to work for every style we played with only slight adjustments on my bass. I didn't have to think about the amp the rest of the evening. I just enjoyed playing and the sound and response I was getting.
Maybe it was just a magic night but I credit the BassMaster. Once my fingers warmed up I played as well as I ever do, perhaps even a little better. The BassMaster's 200 watts were more than sufficient. Like I said, I left a lot of room to spare on the volume knob, but even when playing aggressively on the low end, the tone stayed clean, full, and round without a hint of distortion or breakup.
The 15" speaker delivers full bass sound, and the added HF horn puts on that top edge you need for sharp attack and the tweaky slaps. The horn and woofer seemed to stay in balance whatever I did.
By the time the gig was over I was thoroughly impressed by theand giving thoughts to making this my regular amp. Yorkville also makes the , a 2 x 10 version of this same amp. If you want a tighter, punchier sound with very compact lows, this is the one to choose. For me, the single 15" worked best, though a 2 x 10 extension cab to use on those special occasions would be nice.
With its set of simple but effective controls, all the right connections, its sturdy build, ample power, and great sound, this is an amp that most pro players will find fully up to snuff. The fact that you can get one without breaking the bank makes it all the sweeter.