As our corner of the gear market becomes increasingly saturated with a wonderful variety of lightweight rig options, it becomes more apparent every day that it’s a darn good time to be a bassist. Not so long ago, in order to achieve glorious room-filling tone, you would need a big vehicle, a back brace, and a roadie/guitar player (which are, lets face it, interchangeable). These days, we’re blessed with a cornucopia of high quality, tone-ful, relatively feather weight gear. Tecamp from Germany is no stranger to this concept, offering 5 different lightweight micro heads, and 11 of their 18 cabinets weigh in under 50 pounds.
Upon first glance at the Tecamp gear, its pretty clear that the fit, finish, and build quality are second to none. A perfect harmony of aesthetics, functionality, and component quality, the result is clean, intentional, and free of anything superfluous. Although this micro amps front panel is compact (1 rack unit high, and 8 inches wide), the layout is sparse and stylish. A gain knob, master volume, and simple 4 band EQ, along with their amazingly effective global EQ “taste” control adorn the front panel controls. Additionally, the Puma sports a handy mute button, and balanced XLR DI out, with a pre/post EQ switch for additional DI versatility. The back panel has dual function speaker outputs that accommodate both speakon and ¼” speaker cables. There is also a serial effects loop and tuner output, 1/8” headphone out, aux input, plus a handy 115/230 voltage switch for international use.
The newly revised Puma 900 head incorporates an ultra efficient class D power section and is able to pump 900 watts at 4 ohms from a 3.3 pound enclosure roughly the size of a textbook (only lighter). Tecamp’s Thomas Eich explains that the strength of their micro heads lies in their preamp, which is specifically designed to maximize the tone and performance of the class D power modules. The 4 band EQ functions a little differently than what most of us have come to expect from an amps EQ. The bass control is centered quite low at around 30hz with a steep slope, essentially allowing sub bass to be filtered out without losing fullness and perceived low end. I found it especially helpful in those boomy rooms where low end seems to come from nowhere and go everywhere. Similarly, the treble knob, centered at 8 kHz acts an ultra high frequency shelf. A slight cut allows you to keep articulation and presence while reducing the extra crispy sparkle from the far upper reaches of your sound. One might think this would leave a lot of ground to cover for 2 knobs labeled “lo-mid” and “hi-mid” (centered at 250hz and 800h, respectively) but actually I was able to accomplish all of my various and specific EQ needs with no challenge thanks to the well thought out and incredibly accurate and musical EQ section.
I brought the Puma 900 out to a handful of gig settings, and was very pleased with its performance in a variety of settings. I was very impressed with its effortlessly quick note delivery, musical dynamics, and its buttery smooth and massive low end. With the EQ and taste filter set flat, the Puma900 sounded articulate and crisp, yet warm and fat, somewhat reminiscent of a hi-fi tube amp. I was struck by how this amp sounded full and meaty, but in no way bloated or congested. A little goes a long way with the Puma’s EQ controls, offering everything from precise and surgical EQ adjustments with a tiny nudge, to huge tonal shifts with more liberal usage. Exploring the “Taste” control was another satisfying experience; turn counterclockwise, and the tone becomes brighter, with less low end; Perfect for muddy sounding basses, or boomy rooms. Turn clockwise, and the fullness of the low mids come forward, with the top end tastefully attenuated (a handy tool for modern, dry/sterile sounding basses). Many amps have an “all in one” tone control knob, and the Puma’s seems to work so gracefully, retaining the overall vibe and color while shifting the tonal balance effectively. Also, this amp is loud. Gobs of muscular articulation and a massive low-end payload seemed effortless for the 900, and looking at the tiny elegant box while it roared, I couldn’t help but smile.
Along with the Puma 900, Tecamp sent the newly updated version of their S212, and I was lucky enough to put it through the paces at a few gigs. At 41 pounds, with its slim footprint and smartly located side handles, the S212 is an easily manageable schlep. Like all 18 of their cabs, the S212 is available in 4 or 8 ohms. Located inside the comfortable and well positioned right side handle (which is “grab-able” from every possible direction) is Tecamp’s slick 6 position tweeter control, providing 6 different distinct and useful settings for dialing in just the right amount of tweeter action (4 in the “soft attack” grouping, and 2 in “hard attack”). I found the rear ported S212 to be very direct and present sounding, warm and clean but not sterile. The S212 could be as suitable for a Motown gig as it could on a rock or funk gig. And the output… I must say, for a lightweight, relatively small enclosure, this thing kicks out some major volume. A local rocker bassist brought it to a band rehearsal and remarked about how much roar the cab had in a rock setting, especially with his Ampeg SVT CL head (which, he stated, rarely plays well with “boutique” cabs). Tecamp actually offers 3 (yes, 3) different 212 cabs, this one being the most compact, hence the “S” (for small) moniker.
I loved being able to roll into my club date carrying my gig bag on my back with a puma 900 tucked into the front pocket, an S212 in one hand, and my double latte (or was it a macchiato?) in the other. Not only that, but the tone and volume capability exceeded my expectations. Amidst the throngs of lightweight amps and cabs, the Tecamp gear stands out for its thoughtful and intuitive design, sharp looks, and its utterly bodacious tone. It ain’t exactly cheap in the US, but for those of us for whom the right gear is worth the expense, auditioning a Tecamp is a must.
For more info, contact Austin Bass Traders’ Glenn Kawamoto ([email protected])