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SurfGuitar101 Forums » Gear »

Permalink Just scored a Fender Bassman 500 for guitar use - first impressions

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An ex-demo model was available at £300 off so I made a high value impulse buy at GB£599. This is a "bass amp" with tube preamps (including an overdrive channel) and a tranny power circuit in Blackface cosmetics. Looks nice and doesn't weigh much, so I thought I'd give it a punt. It's working out quite well so far. I've often found that bass amps are much more full featured than guitar amps, with FX loops, direct outs and parametric EQs as standard, meaning you can shape the tone to something you like. What they don't usually have is tube preamps or onboard distortion.

Based on an afternoon's use, my impressions are:

In terms of break up, the overdrive channel sounds better than the horribly dark Super Sonic and the much vaunted Rivera-era Concert and Twin Reverb II, both of which I've had. Effects loop is a must for me as I run my guitar through a mixer, and this has one.

The clean channel, labelled "vintage", I'm not keen on - the EQ profile is somehow wrong, perhaps because it's built as a bass amp, and it's not as bright as the overdrive channel, even with treble on 10 and pull bright engaged. With the mid on 0 it's usable if a bit puny, but falter in comparison to the overdrive channel. I'm not sure if any valve is in use on this channel. The whole amp only has two 12AX7 valves, so I don't know where they're assigned - I guess I should read the manual!

The overdrive channel has the best clean on this amp; it's got that Fender top end, lots of glistening highs. Moreover, like a lot of bass amps, the mid EQ is parametric, so you cut and boost and tune it to the frequency you like. I ended up with a very nice edge surf sound.

I think there's two preamp circuits in this channel. There's an overdrive and a clean and you can blend them in the one channel. The overdrive loses a bit of top end, but the clean has top end to spare, especially with the pull bright. I got a very nice sound with the overdrive set on 4 and the blend set on 5 so there's just a bit of hair in the sound, very much like a clean vintage Fender being pushed a tiny bit. I did some A/B comparisons with my all valve Burman Pro 2000 and the Bassman wasn't lacking and had a bit of extra brightness if needed. I like brightness and it can be got rid of but not easily added, so that's a plus for me.

Based on 2.5 hours today I feel like it's a one channel amp for me but I was able to get a good full range sound with bite and bass. There's a lot of potential with the EQ circuit (such as pull deep controls on the bass pot) that I've yet to fully explore. I ran it through an open back 2x12 with JBL E120s and a Vector 110 powered sub, and I also tried it through a straight E130.

I'm considering a few amp options at the moment so not sure if I'll park yet.

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Last edited: Feb 19, 2021 14:18:50

Based on a solid weekend's use, I'm sending this back, only because it doesn't do enough different from my existing amp.

However, as a surfy guitar amp I can definitely recommend it. I did get a decent sound out of Channel 1 in the end, which is turns out is a passive tone stack and all tube.

It's nice and lightweight, with a good tube front end, traditional Fender tone stack if you want it or more flexible active tonestack on the gain channel, plus it looks right.

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