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Review: Mesa Boogie Subway TT-800 Bass Amplifier

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FRONT - Mesa Boogie Subway TT-800 Bass Amplifier

Mesa Boogie Subway TT-800 Bass Amplifier review…

I have had the good fortune to review several of Mesa Boogie’s offerings in recent years, going back to their M6 Carbine head several years ago. More recently, I reviewed the WD-800 head, from the popular Subway series and Subway 2×12 cabinet.   One thing is for sure, Mesa has been at it for a long time, and it shows.  Every time I play one of their heads or cabinets, I think to myself, “yep, this is pretty much just what I hoped it would be.” I guess it’s reasonable to expect such results from a company that’s been at the forefront of the industry for as long as they have. With all of their products, there is just something about the form factor, build quality, and performance that feels like the cumulative outcome of decades of top-notch design and manufacturing.   When I got the opportunity to check out their newest amp and flagship of the Subway Series, the TT-800, needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

The Subway TT-800 is an exciting amalgam of two of Mesa’s most iconic products, both modern-day and that of yesteryear.

It is a two-channel bass amp, and while channel 2’s preamplifier is based on the ever-popular and great sounding Subway D-800 amplifier, channel 1 borrows from the formidable and iconic Bass 400+ of the late ’80s.  Long ago, the tank-like Bass 400+ was the pinnacle of cutting edge electric bass amplification, pairing a high power tube amplifier with sophisticated tone-shaping and EQ.  It was seen on stage with countless bass icons and was lauded by players and techs alike for its killer tone, massive payload, and roadworthy dependability.  When Mesa said they were building a Class D, two-channel amplifier that incorporates some of the design and tonal elements of the Bass 400+, I wondered how they could go wrong. The answer, of course, is that they haven’t—the TT-800 fires on all cylinders, delivering exceptional tone shaping, flexibility, and performance.

I will go over the controls and features of the amp here, but it should be noted that Mesa’s owner’s manual for the TT-800 is full of great information, including background info on the design goals of the amp and some excellent suggestions for best results.   It is also well written and easy to digest, which is not something that you can say for many amplifier product manuals.  The TT-800’s owner’s manual could, and should be the benchmark for bass gear owner manuals. You can find a copy online here.  

On the front panel, from left to right, you’ll find a single ¼” input jack, a Mute switch, a High/Low Gain switch (for tailoring the input level to your desired gain preferences), along with Deep and Bright switches for global tone shaping.  From there, the signal splits into channel 1 and channel 2, which you can select via the small switch on the far right-hand side (or the optional footswitch, which offers a Mute and Channel Select controls). Both channels provide independent Input Gain controls and Mesa’s Variable High Pass Filter (HPF), from their D-800+ head.  The HPF allows you to dial out the deep, subsonic, rumbly lows that can muddy up your stage sound, and make your amp and cab work overtime to produce frequencies that are below the usable range for bass guitar.  In the last ten or so years, bass players seem to have discovered what pro audio and live sound engineers have known for decades: that carving out unusably subsonic low end can drastically help make your bass sound tighter, fuller and punchier, in a mix. It’s great to see this essential tone shaping tool make it onto the front panel of an amplifier! 

FRONT - Mesa Boogie Subway TT-800 Bass Amplifier

From there, the tone controls, while similar, depart from one another. Channel 1 (the 400+ channel) is designed as an “old school” sound, with an all-tube gain stage that feeds a traditional Mesa-style tone stack with Bass and Treble controls, and a Mid-control with “Mid-Shift” voicing knob, allowing for more broad midrange shaping. Channel 2 (The Subway channel) is inspired by the highly popular Subway series of amps (D-800, D-800+, and WD-800) and includes the High Pass Filtering control as well as traditional Bass and Treble and a semi-parametric midrange section that lets you boost/cut a user-selectable midrange frequency, for more precise midrange sculpting.  

Both channels boast independent effects loops that can be used as “power amp inputs,” bypassing the amplifier’s preamps and tone controls for each channel on the TT-800, allowing the amplifier to function as a stripped-down power amp.  Both channels feed the amp’s Master Section, which includes a two-way switch, to toggle between the “Boogie” channel and the “Subway” channel, and Mesa’s brand new Output Overdrive Symmetry control.  This unique and super cool feature allows for fine tailoring of how the amp clips as it reaches the ceiling of its output capacity and is more noticeable at louder volume levels.  Essentially, as you turn the knob clockwise from zero, you are decreasing the symmetry of the output overdrive, making it less tight and clean, with more tube-like reactivity.   The TT-800 also incorporates Mesa’s Power Amp Damping technology that the WD-800 made popular, affecting how the amplifier behaves in its output section, resulting in a perception of “tighter vs. looser” tone.  Amplifiers with higher damping factor are thought to have a more controlled and linear sound, akin to how we tend to think of solid-state amps.  Lower damping factor makes the amplifier feel a little looser with more “bloom” to their sound, kind of how we’re used to thinking about most tube amps.   On the WD-800, users have a 3 position knob to set the damping factor, but on the TT, the damping factor is set automatically by the position of the impedance selector on the back of the amp, which should be set according to the total impedance load (2, 4, or 8 ohms) of the cabs connected to the amplifier. 

Moving on to the rear of the Subway TT-800, one is impressed by the sheer connectivity and signal routing flexibility.

Back - Mesa Boogie Subway TT-800 Bass Amplifier

Not one but two tube-driven XLR DI outputs are present, one that taps the signal after the bright and deep switches and the tube-driven gain stage, but before channel EQ.  The other DI uses the finished signal with all of the bells and whistles, including the FX loops.  The amp automatically switches the DI feed from Boogie to Subway, depending on which channel is in use.  Both DI outputs feature switches for ground lift and mic/line level.  Each channel has its own discrete ¼” effects loop, and the TT has ¼” jacks for headphone output, footswitch (optional), Aux-in, and Tuner output.  Topping off the broad feature set is a super handy USB output for powering a device, which is handy if your tablet or phone is as old and always on its last couple percent as mine seem to be.    The aforementioned 3-way impedance selector allows you to run the amp optimally at 2, 4, or 8 ohms. 

All in all, the TT-800 is a LOT of amp in a small, well-designed package. 

Not only is the build quality exemplary, with very high-end fit and finish, but it seems that Mesa was able to pack a ton of features and flexibility into the TT without it feeling cramped or claustrophobic.  The two channels offer a lot of value; it’s kind of like having two amps in one.   For someone like me, who more often than not brings more than 1 bass to the gig, I could see using the two channels to dial in two different basses.  Then between songs, you grab the other bass, flip the channel switch (or stomp on the footswitch), and you’re good to go.  I would be delighted to run my P bass through the warm, tubey Boogie channel, and running my 70’s Jazz through the Subway channel’s more direct and articulate voicing.    For others, having the ability to switch on the fly between a clean channel and a dirty channel with great EQ may be highly enticing.    

Overall I was more than impressed with the sound and performance of the TT-800.  The amp’s voicings on either channel with everything set at noon is excellent, with a warm, articulate punch that sounded stellar, even at high volume. Once you start fiddling with the EQ, it opens up a world of versatility, and it’s hard to imagine someone not being able to find a sound they love from this amp.   The Subway TT-800 comes with a fitted Mesa padded amp bag and retails for $1,099.00

Mesa Boogie Subway Ultra-Lite 2×15 Vertical Bass Cabinet

Mesa was kind enough to send their big dog, the Subway Ultra-Lite 2×15 Vertical Bass Cabinet, along with the TT-800 for review.  

As always, I’m a big fan of Mesa’s fit and finish.  Their gear exudes a high-quality feel and has a roadworthiness that a lot of other equipment doesn’t quite inspire.   What really blew me away about the 2×15 Vertical was how light it is. I mean, I know “Ultra-Lite” is in the name, but remarkably, this is a 2×15 cab that I can lift with one hand.   It does come with tilt-back casters for easy transport, but boy does it feel like a godsend when you’re hoisting it into the back of your SUV after a 4-hour gig.   Sound-wise, the 2×15 sounds big, bold, and full, but not flabby or floppy whatsoever, as some 15″ loaded cabs can tend to sound.  It stays firm and controlled even at high volume, and the tweeter offers plenty of snap and high end for when needed.  On the back, dual combo jacks (Speakon that also accept ¼”) are a welcome sight, and an attenuator allows you to dial in or out the amount of tweeter in your sound. There’s not much to criticize about this cabinet; it’s lightweight and easy maneuverability make it a strong contender.  I thought the 2×15 paired beautifully with the TT-800 and made for one impressive, versatile, and killer sounding rig.  The Ultra-Lite 2×15 Vertical comes with a fitted slipcover and retails for $1,599.00.  

For more information on the Subway TT-800 and Subway Ultra-Lite Bass Cab, visit online at mesaboogie.com

Mesa/Boogie Subway WD-800 Head and Subway 2X12 Vertical Cabinet Review

David C Gross has been the bassist for a lot of folks. He has written 14 bass books and 3 instructional videos, hosts “The Notes From An Artist Radio Show” on www.cygnusradio.com Monday nights 8 PM EDT, and the “Notes From An Artist” podcast available on iTunes, Spotify and all podcast platforms.

NFAA brings you behind the scenes with individuals who forged a timeless musical canon – spanning rock, jazz, funk, blues, folk, country, and permutations thereof. Listen to stories and anecdotes hitherto untold and relive more than a few chronicles that have become lore with a fresh vision. It’s the soundtrack of our lives. Celebrate the past, live in the present, and anticipate the future – take Notes From An Artist

You can contact David @ www.thebassguitarchannel.com/contact for more information regarding his online lessons and world-renown correspondence course.

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

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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

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Gear Reviews

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

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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/

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Gear Reviews

Review: Italia Leather Straps

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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

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Bass Videos

Review: The Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps

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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

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Bass Videos

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

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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

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