Connect with us

Gear Reviews

Sonic Farm Tantra 2500w Bass Amplifier Review

Published

on

Sonic Farm Tantra 2500w Bass Amplifier Review

Review of the Sonic Farm Tantra 2500w Bass Amplifier

Have you ever wondered what would happen if a highly respected pro audio company designed and built a bass amp from the ground up?  Have I got an answer for you. The Sonic Farm Tantra is the brainchild of pro audio sorcerers and childhood friends Zoran Todorovic and Boris Drazic, who have been designing and building professional audio equipment together for more than 30 years. 

In the engineering and mastering community, Sonic Farm is held in the highest regard for the build quality and incredible fidelity of the equipment they make.  Their award-winning gear can be found in the hands of the finest and most demanding audio engineers on the planet.  

I first learned about Sonic Farm when my friend and bass amplification big kahuna Mike Arnopol (of Michael Arnopol Soundworks) hipped me to their 2Di4 Tube Direct Box, which I reviewed for Bass Musician Mag a handful of years ago, and have been using faithfully and without fail ever since. The 2Di4 is my go-to DI/preamp for stage and studio and it always sounds exceptional, regularly acquiring praise from engineers and FOH soundpersons for its wonderful tone. 

In that review I gushed over the 2Di4, remarking how “without a trace of brashness or harshness, it was effortlessly present, warm and articulate”.   I remember thinking, man if these guys ever design a full-blown amp for bass, its gonna kill. Well folks, here it is.  Designed in conjunction with Mike Arnopol himself,  initially, the Tantra was sold as a preamp, then as an integrated head with a 1000w Pascal Class D amp module.   This newest version includes an option for a 2500w Pascal Module and boy does it deliver the goods.   

Upon first glance, the Tantra is a LOT to take in and is quick to catch people’s eyes with its bright red chassis and cream-colored knobs. 

When asked about it, I like to joke that it was ‘pulled from a space shuttle cockpit’. Its front panel is loaded with more features and controls than most of us are used to seeing in a bass amplifier, and even as someone who thinks of themselves as fairly technologically savvy, I initially found it quite complicated.  The good news is that despite its somewhat overwhelming layout, most of its features and options are defeatable and can be bypassed, making the Tantra a very simple and straightforward bass amp. 

The audio purist in you wants just a Gain control and Master Volume? Done.  Need to add a little compression? You got it.   Maybe a little bass boost? Sure thing. Playing in a funky sounding room that needs some surgical parametric EQ maneuvers?  Say no more.  You can actually make this amp as simple or intricate as you want or need it to be.   

The Tantra includes much of the 2Di4’s feature set up front, with a gain knob, switches for Hi and Lo boost and its wonderfully useful Pentode/Triode tube mode switch. 

The Hi and Lo boost have trim pots on the front panel to control the amount of low or hi boost they provide, and the Tube Mode switch chooses between Triode (less gain and cleaner, more polite sound) and Pentode (more gain and subtle saturation) tube operation from the amps EF-86 preamp tube. I mainly found myself using the more full-throated Pentode mode, however, on my 2Di4 I have found a number of uses for both Pentode and Triode mode, depending on the bass, the rig and the band.  At the top left, you’ll notice the H2 and H4 knobs.  These are the Tantra’s “Harmonic Generators”.

The H2 and H4 controls are particularly unique and interesting, adding in 2nd and 4th harmonics to your sound.  In a nutshell, the H2 knob adds in some subtle low mid growl, and the H4 knob imparts some mid/upper mid push to your sound.  Neither are earth-shatteringly potent, but they do shift the overall voicing of the amp in some very neat ways, and I found myself putting a little of either or both on my sound from time to time to make things cut through or pocket in the right ways. 

The Tantra’s exceptional 1-knob compressor delivers very smooth compression, is great at fattening up your sound, and adding presence while gently reigning in the transient peaks.  I never heard it pumping/breathing and found a great ‘always on’ setting at around 30-40%.  Sonic Farm notes that the compressor has a ‘fixed compression threshold’, so it’s important to drive the input gain to an optimal level in order to get the best results with the compressor.  I agree, as lower input gain settings resulted in a noticeable noise floor increase with the compressor engaged, but with the gain knob set just below where the input was clipping, the comp was dead quiet and functioned beautifully.

The Tantra’s EQ section really shines and deserves an honorable mention.  In addition to Bass and Treble shelving style controls, the Tantra offers a lovely fully parametric 3 band EQ, allowing you to surgically carve up your tone.   I was impressed by how powerful and accurate the parametric EQ was, and that it introduced hardly any noise when boosted.  

One of the Tantra’s more interesting features is its Overdrive circuit. 

This one gets a little complicated with its numerous controls, however, the OD Gain and Blend controls allow you to blend in a variable amount of overdrive with your clean signal.  A 3 position OD high pass filter switch delivers 3 distinctly different overdrive profiles with different amounts of high and low-frequency content, allowing you to further tailor the grit to your liking. 

One feature that’s not new to pro audio gear, but is relatively new to bass amps is the Tantra’s Variable High Pass Filter (HPF). 

It has 3 fixed frequency points, beneath which it sharply attenuates signal, cutting subsonic boom and helping to curb speaker excursion.  Users can choose between 28, 40 and 60 Hz via the 3-way switch, or defeat the HPF altogether.  I have found that an HPF is a crucial ingredient in solid, fat bass tone, and the Tantra’s works great. I mostly set it at 28 Hz, but occasionally used the higher settings in boomier environments and it helped tighten up the low end and reduce the rumbly thunder that can sometimes occur in those rooms.

The rear panel of the Tantra is pretty feature-rich as well, with separate power switches for the amps preamp and power amp section, dual Speakon connectors, a ¼” effect loop, XLR power amp input jack, and dual XLR outputs for DI out (mic level, transformer balanced), and line out (line level), as well as a dedicated tuner output and a footswitch jack (1/4”) for toggling the amps overdrive circuit.

I had a real blast testing this amp, and can say with conviction that every feature and option on the Tantra is very well thought out, supremely executed and musical in nature. 

With its studio-quality tube preamp/DI, exceptional EQ section, onboard compression, variable overdrive, harmonic generators and (prepare for understatement) massively powerful 2500w Class D amplifier module, the Tantra is a bass amp for those who demand precisely zero compromises.

Now that I’ve said that, I will say that this amp may not be for everyone. 

Between the price point, its massive power payload, and the complexity of its layout, this is a lot more amp than a lot of players need or want.  But for many of us, it checks a lot of necessary boxes.  For example, I have a compressor, parametric EQ and overdrive on my pedalboard, and the Tantra has all 3 features built-in, and then some.   The coolest thing to me is that none of these features is an afterthought or add on.  Everything is designed and implemented with the highest degree of audio fidelity and design integrity in mind.   There is something really rewarding about that, and it makes the Tantra feel like the wonderfully illegitimate lovechild of a boutique pro audio channel strip and a really ballsy bass amp.   

My only gripes with the amp have to do with layout and usability.  

Granted, I am mildly colorblind, but the thin red lines that connect each parametric EQ band to its corresponding gain, freq control and Q knobs didn’t jump out at me when making adjustments.  I found the layout and labeling confusing, but I submit that if each control was labeled fully and accurately, it would be a lot of wording to take in. Similarly, the knob layout is a function of the amps incredible amount of componentry elegantly squeezed into its chassis.  Ultimately, this is an amp that a user has to spend some time getting to know and becoming familiar with. The good news is that said user will be rewarded handily for their time and energy with one of the most flexible and great sounding amps on the planet.   I played several gigs with the Tantra, and features and options notwithstanding, it just performed beautifully, with tons of clarity, warmth, articulation and depth. 

The 1000w Tantra sells for roughly $2,250 USD, and the 2500w version clocks in around $2390 USD.   Check out Sonic Farms website to learn more! 

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Published

on

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass Review…

Throughout the evolution of music, bass players have sought tools to sculpt and enhance their sonic landscapes, and one indispensable ally in this pursuit has been compression. Origin Effects, a name synonymous with premium audio craftsmanship, introduces the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, a pedal that pays homage to the legacy of compression and brings forth a new chapter in bass sonic mastery.

As we delve into the world of the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, we’ll explore how Origin Effects seamlessly weaves together the heritage of compression and contemporary bass demands, promising a pedal that not only honors the past but propels your bass playing into the future. Join us on this sonic expedition as we dissect the nuances of the Cali76 Compact and uncover the secrets it holds for bass players seeking the perfect blend of vintage warmth and modern versatility.

For Starters, the Cali76 is a studio-grade FET compressor pedal, based on the classic Urei 1176, but with some features optimized for bass guitar. For those of you who are not familiar with it, a FET (Field Effect Transistor) compressor is essentially a solid-state tube compressor emulation that allows for fast and precise control over the attack and the release parameters; allows for extreme compression ratios; and finally adds the typical 1176 color and character to the sound.

Together with the common controls we see in most compressor pedals – Ratio, Attack/Release, input (just like the original 1176, the threshold in this pedal is fixed), and output (makeup gain). The Cali76 offers two more controls dedicated to us bass players.

A Dry control – This allows us to mix in our dry, uncompressed signal to the pedal output. This is great for when we want to add back some of our playing dynamics to the compressed sound or for when you want some volume back in situations where the compression starts taking away the volume.

A High Pass Filter control – Low frequencies on a bass guitar signal normally overwhelm compressors. This high pass filter allows the compressor to only react to higher frequencies, which helps preserve the natural dynamics of our playing while keeping the low end intact.

Metering on this pedal can be a bit hard to get used to at first. There’s a single LED light on the pedal, that not only serves as an On/Off light, but it’s also our meter. It glows red when no compression is applied and orange for active compression. The brighter the light, the greater the amount of gain reduction. Yellow signifies that the gain reduction reached 27dB and maximum reduction occurs around 38 dB.

In practical terms, it’s all about working with the input and the LED to find the sweet spot (turn the input to zero, start playing and slowly increase the input level until you start seeing the LED glowing orange, which means there’s reduction going on).

With 6 highly interactive knob controls, this pedal implies some degree of compressor knowledge and also some amount of tweaking and experimentation to find the perfect settings. The good news is that it is very hard to make this pedal sound bad…

It can go from very subtle compression settings to very extreme, and it can do everything in between. Also, the team at Origin has been kind enough to add a couple of sample settings in the manual to get players started and to help us understand better how the pedal works.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Dynamic Control is a setting that provides natural compression, balancing dynamics between various playing techniques. It is a subtle compression that will work almost out of the box almost all the time. Having a medium setting for the High Pass Filter ensures an honest translation of the lower string dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Parallel compression is a popular studio technique, where both compressed and natural signals are blended. We get the sound and feel of hard compression while retaining the natural playing dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Percussive, lively & Fat is a setting that uses a slower attack time to accentuate the start of any note. Then using a fast release allows the compressor to recover between notes so that the phrases sound more percussive. Ideal for slapping and other percussive techniques.

Finally, I would like to mention the classic 1176 tonal coloration. It’s not a secret that engineers all around would sometimes use the 1176 compressor, without applying any compression, just to get the tonal coloration into the instrument sound.

And the Cali76 compressor is no different, it has such a rich, warm, and full coloration that’s super pleasing to the ear and makes you want to have it ON all the time. So be aware, that if you want a transparent compressor, this pedal is not for you!

All in all, it is easy to understand why this pedal became a favorite of so many bass players around the world. The Cali76 Compact stands as a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful engineering that Origin Effects is renowned for. It seamlessly navigates through the rich history of compression, offering bass players a gateway to the soulful resonance of the past while empowering them to sculpt a contemporary sonic future.

Whether you’re a seasoned bass maestro or a budding virtuoso, the Cali76 Compact invites you to embark on a sonic journey where every note is held in a delicate balance between tradition and innovation. As we bid farewell to our exploration, we do so with the realization that the Cali76 Compact is more than just a pedal; it’s a sonic companion that elevates the artistry of bass playing

For more information, visit online at origineffects.com

Continue Reading

Gear Reviews

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

Published

on

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review…

Not long ago, I did a review of the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass and I have just been given the honor and privilege of reviewing the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass. I have to say, another great bass from Spector that is hard to put down! While there are some similarities between both basses, there are also some noticeable differences which is why I believe having both is essential to any bass arsenal.

Spector, widely used by many rock and metal bassists like Ian Hill, Alex Webster, Colin Edwin, Doug Wimbish, and many more, just to name a few, has a long-standing in these genres. Well, that’s about to change! The bass I used for the review, didn’t see any of those genres, matter of fact, I used it on a few classic country gigs and at church too! However, when at home in the studio, I let the funk out. The NS Ethos HP 4 Bass is an all-around great bass for any genre and will not disappoint.

Let’s get into the specs about the bass, and here we will find the differences between the HP 5 Bass and the HP 4.

Forget that one is a 5 string, while the other is a 4, while that is a difference, that’s not one that I feel needs to be noted as both models are available as 4 and 5 strings. The Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass has a 34” scale, 24 fret, 3 piece maple neck through construction with solid alder wings, ebony fingerboard along with centered and side dots and the 12th fret Spector logo inlay with a brass nut.

While the pickups are different as the NS Dimension HP 5 Bass uses the EMG 45DC and the NS Ethos HP 4 Bass sports the EMG 35DC pickups, they are the same pickup configurations, the difference being, one for 4 string, the other for 5 string. The electronics are the same, consisting of a Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp which consists of +-12dB @70Hz for Bass, +-12dB @500Hz for Mids, and +-12dB @2.8kHz for Hi Mids. Controls for Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass consist of Master Volume, Blend, Bass, Mid, and Hi Mid controls. The electronics are powered by a 9-volt battery.

The bridge is a Hi-Mass locking bridge with intonation screws and the tuners are sealed die-cast. All hardware is black. Same as the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass, the HP 4 Bass is available in 4 different finishes, White Sparkle Gloss, Gunmetal Gloss, Plum Crazy Gloss & Black Gloss. The bass also comes with a very nice and well-padded gig bag.

Check out the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass at a Spector Music Retailer today near you or visit online at spectorbass.com/product/ns-ethos-hp-4/

Continue Reading

Gear Reviews

Review: Italia Leather Straps

Published

on

Review: Italia Leather Straps

Italia Leather Straps…

Whenever I get a new bass, I like to get a new strap to christen it and I also like to find one that is “color coordinated” to my new instrument. I recently had a 6-string fretless bass created by a local luthier named Frank Brocklehurst, which started my search for a new strap.

There are a few points that I always look for when searching for a new strap. 

1-Comfort 
2-Width
3-Great color
4-Price

My most recent quest put me in touch with “Italia Leather Straps.” Italia has been in business in California for about 20 years and has been selling factory direct for the past 18 years.

When you order your strap it begins its “made to order” build process and after shipping more than 50,000 straps they certainly have it well in hand!

To answer my 4 questions regarding comfort, Italia uses some of the most comfortable and luxurious leather in a wide variety of colors. I was able to match almost perfectly the color of my bass and the color of the leather.

You can order it in either a 2.5” or 4” width as well as a standard and long model for tall players. I prefer the 4” for all of my basses. 

I received my strap and I must tell you, the leather was soft, supple, and truly comfortable when I attached it to my bass.

I must commend Italia Leather Straps for their attention to detail and beautiful selection of leather. I would say that when you go looking for a new strap, these guys should be on your shortlist.

Call or visit Italia Leather Straps online:
831-324-4277
www.italiastraps.com

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Review: The Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps

Published

on

Review: The Fuchs FBT-300 and FBT-700 Bass Amps

Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps…

Much like our original ODS amps were initially inspired by the legendary Dumble amps, the new Fuchs FBS-1 bass amps have found their inspiration from the iconic Walter Woods © bass amps, but with Andy’s own enhancements.

Andy tapped his years of experience as a working musician, as well as servicing and tweaking guitar and bass amps for many famous clients as diverse as Carlos Santana through jammers like Jimmy Herring, including jazz legends like Dave Stryker for over 40 years as inspiration for our new bass amps. Fuchs’ 20-year list of reviews and endorsers is truly impressive to say the least.

Not unlike the iconic Walter Woods © amps the FBS-300 and FBS-700 amps are designed for maximum power at minimal size and weight. For years, the rare and coveted Woods amps have built a following amongst industry professionals. They were literally the first switch mode class-D style lightweight bass amps ever. Due to Walter being reclusive and now retired, these amps found their way to Andy’s shop to be repaired. While servicing them Andy was able to reverse engineer the preamp and power supply. Mated to a modern lightweight ICE power digital power module we have produced an amp that Woods owners agree, is equal (if not better) than their predecessors.

The FBS-1 bass amps (and our FBT tube bass amps) share identical panels and chassis and are available in 300 and 700-watt models, they feature a solid-state preamp inspired by the infamous Walter Woods © amps, but with improvements like a steep-slope subsonic filter and a DI output using high-speed audiophile op amps and a regulated power supply. The DI output is electrically balanced pre/post switch, ground lift, DI Phase, and a global mute switch.

Small and light, (downright diminutive) at less than 5-lbs and 12 x 3 x 9, they are loud and clean. Want some dirt? Raise the input gain and lower the master volume. Want total clean, lower the input gain and raise the master. They are super easy to operate, and the FBS-1  amps will easily fit in a gig bag, run ice-cold, and feature a well-thought-out, simple configuration for the working musician. A Fuchs gig bag designed for all models is coming soon.

These amps feature an input gain control allowing both passive and active bass use, Baxandall (shelving eq) high and low controls, a parametric rotary midrange control with level and frequency control and an output master volume. With the midrange pot in the ‘0’ position the circuit is flat. In this mode the bass and treble pots emulate the classic Woods and B-15 style amps we know and love. Use the mid circuit for boost and cut of up to 20 db at a fully adjustable frequency.

All models use the industry-standard Ice power modules, which are known for their rock-solid reliability and excellent cool-running, audio performance. These amps feature a buffered patch loop between the preamp and power amp. All amps offer worldwide automatic line voltage selection. Wherever you are, they automatically set their own line voltage. All amps are CE and RoHs compliant.

FBT-300 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis. FBT-700 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis.

FBT-300: 300W at 1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 260W at 0.1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 380W at 10% THD+N, 4Ohm • 450W at 1% THD+N, 2.7Ohm (Approximately ½ half this value at 8-ohms).

For more information, visit online at fuchsaudiotechnology.com

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

Published

on

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

A video review of the Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB-115 Cab from the new Venture Series.

For more on the Venture series, visit online at ampeg.com

Continue Reading

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Facebook

Trending