Hands-On Review:TC Electronic TC Bass Stack
Bass Gear magazine’s pick for Most Outstanding Design
By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer
The TC Bass Stack from TC Electronic is a fantastic pro level backline rig. It is impressive in so many ways, and all the more so because it is the first-ever bass amp from TC Electronic. They obviously put serious brain power into developing it. Every detail reflects careful consideration and the total package is a triumph of smart design.
The RH450 Head
There are many things players will find to like about the RH450 head. It has 450 watts, weighs only 9 pounds, and has a built-in handle for even greater portability. It travels light so you can plug in headphones and an iPod and practice anytime, anywhere. On the gig, it is very player-friendly. The controls are simple to use and certain in their effects. It gives you the tools you really need and leaves off the non-essentials.
The RH450’s most eye-catching feature is its light rings. These consist of 25 small LEDs that circle each knob or control (except the Master). They look cool but are no gimmick. As you turn a knob, the LEDs light up to give you visual confirmation of your adjustment. As a result, your settings are visible from a distance, even in the dark. Each LED corresponds to a knob detent and the combination of lights and detents makes very precise adjustments possible.
Another strong feature on the RH450 is its EQ section. The four active bands seem perfectly voiced—at least for my four-string—but the frequency centers are also adjustable and can be tweaked for a five-string or detuned bass, or for a tonal preference. You use the tone knobs in shift mode to make these adjustments and you hear the changes as you make them in real time. The EQ’s rotary knobs are exceptionally precise and effective at cutting or boosting frequencies. Even when you turn a knob just one click, you can hear the sound change.
Other tone tools
Added to the simple Gain, 4-band EQ, and Master format are a tube amp emulation circuit, a compressor, storage for three user-created presets, and a tuner function. All are exceptional. The Tube Tone circuit goes from a hint of tube warmth to full-on distortion, but it’s a distortion that stays smooth and musical. It is usable throughout its range, never over the top.
The compressor is especially sweet. It is highly adjustable via the Gain knob in shift mode, and when operating, the knob’s light ring functions as a level meter, letting you see the degree to which the compressor is being activated.
The best thing about the compressor is how it affects all strings evenly. It doesn’t allow the greater dynamics of the low string to dominate the amount of compression affecting the high string, so there’s none of the usual low string/high string balancing act. It also automatically compensates if the compressor reduces volume too much.
Normally I wouldn’t bother to mention a tuner but this is such a good one. It has two modes. The first has a display using two arrows and a center to indicate pitch along with the note. It is always active and responds quickly enough to be used as you play. A Mute mode adds a second display. One of the tone knob light rings becomes a pitch meter that permits more precise tuning by letting you see how much you are off pitch.
The RH450 has three memory slots where you can save your most-used settings. You simply dial in the tone, compression, and tube emulation that create the tone you want, then just hold the preset button of your choice for a few seconds, like on your car stereo, and it’s stored. Three presets should be sufficient for most players. If you use more tones than this, the RH450 makes dialing them in easy. The optional RC4 four-button footswitch accesses your presets and tuner/mute, and has its own tuner display so you can tune onstage without turning your back to the audience.
With its 450 watts, the RH450 can run any four-ten box, of course, but TC’s RS Series Speakers, available in 2x10 and 2x12 configurations, are an integral part of this setup. They sound fantastic and have special features that enhance performance. The cabs are well-built as you would expect. The speakers themselves are custom designed by Eminence specifically for these cabs. The tweeter is mounted coaxially in one of the drivers, reducing the cab size. An attenuation knob on the back lets you adjust the tweeter level. Speakon as well as 1/4" jacks are provided. The speakers also have recessed metal handles.
The most unusual cab feature is a simple one—they are intended to be stacked on end with one driver above the other and the tweeter on top. Having the bottom speaker on the floor, especially the RS212, gives you more low end. And with the tweeter of the upper cab at ear level, you hear pitch better. With a standard 4x10 you often get one or the other.
The cabs are narrow and deep, so a vertical stack is quite tall with a narrow footprint—a good thing on crowded stages. In a sea of 4x10 setups, it’s a different look. The RS212 is deeper than the RS210 but the same width so the two stack well. With the RS212 below and an RS210 on top, they make a great mixed stack.
The sound is what really matters and the TC Bass Stack delivers great sound: clean, clear, with plenty of tight punch and almost no noise. It gives you tube character or a smooth grind when desired, or a thick, dense, compressed sound. It also gives you simple operation, portability, effective controls, great features, and pro appointments. It will be fun to watch the bass world discover what a great bass rig this is.
Features & Specs
- Adjustable spectral compressor with metering
- 4 active EQ bands with adjustable center frequencies
- Tube emulation circuit
- 3 preset storage locations
- Onboard 2-mode tuner
- LED light rings indicate knob status
- Gain and Master controls
- Speakon and 1/4" output jacks
- Built-in balanced DI
- Headphone output
- Digital output for recording
- iPod input
- 9 lb. and 11-1/4"W x 2-3/5"H x 10-4/5"D
RS Speaker Cabs:
- 10" (RS210) and 12" (RS212) Eminence drivers
- 2 LF drivers
- Coaxially mounted tweeter
- HF attenuation knob