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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.

Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

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Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.

Specs:

Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.

Controls:

At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.

Performance:

True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.

Pros:

The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.

Cons:

While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at Amazon.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

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Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

Joyo Scylla Compressor: When Quality meets Budget-Friendly

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the diverse landscape of effects pedals for bass guitar, finding a compressor that strikes the balance between performance, versatility, and affordability can often feel like a daunting task. 

However, amidst the sea of options, one pedal stood out as a true diamond in the rough – the Joyo Scylla compressor. Despite its wallet-friendly price tag, the Scylla boasts a great array of features and controls typically reserved for pedals with much higher costs. Let’s take a closer look at why the Joyo Scylla is turning heads and earning praise among bassists on a budget.

Specs: The Joyo Scylla compressor measures in at 109 * 72 * 48 mm and weighs a mere 234g, making it both compact and lightweight – perfect for gigs or studio sessions where space is at a premium. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Scylla is efficient and versatile, compatible with a wide range of pedalboard setups.

Controls: What sets the Scylla apart from its direct competitors is its comprehensive control set, offering bassists a good amount of flexibility in shaping their sound. With six knobs, the Scylla allows for a very precise adjustment of key parameters:

  • Input Gain: Adjusts the amount of signal being fed into the compressor.
  • Output Volume: Controls the makeup gain after compression, ensuring consistent output levels.
  • Compression Ratio: Unlike traditional compressor pedals with preset ratio options, the Scylla features a continuous knob, allowing for seamless adjustment from subtle compression to limiter-like effects.
  • Attack and Release: Determine how quickly the compression engages and releases, offering a range of tonal possibilities from punchy and aggressive to smooth and subtle.
  • Output Tone Control: A unique feature not commonly found in compressor pedals, the tone knob adjusts the coloration of the compressed signal, adding warmth or brightness to your bass tone.
  • LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal, adding a touch of visual flair to their setup.
  • Performance: In practice, the Joyo Scylla delivers where it matters most – in sound quality and performance. Whether you’re aiming for a tight, punchy bass sound or smooth, sustained notes, the Scylla excels in providing transparent compression that enhances your playing without sacrificing dynamics. The granular control offered by its knobs allows for precise tailoring of compression settings to suit a wide range of playing styles and musical genres.
  • Pros: The Scylla’s strengths lie in its granular control, versatility, and compact design. Its sturdy build quality and diminutive size make it a welcome addition to any pedalboard, occupying minimal real estate without compromising on functionality. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Scylla is its price point. Despite offering professional-grade features, the Scylla remains accessible to bassists of all budgets.
  • Cons: While the Joyo Scylla excels in many areas, it’s not without its drawbacks. One notable omission is the lack of metering, which may pose a challenge for users seeking visual feedback on compression levels. Additionally, the plastic knobs, while functional, may feel somewhat less premium compared to other pedals. 
  • Conclusion: In conclusion, the Joyo Scylla compressor emerges as a great option in the world of budget-friendly effects pedals for bass guitar. Its comprehensive control set, transparent compression, and compact design make it a compelling choice for bassists seeking professional-grade performance without breaking the bank. From its intuitive interface to its thoughtful touches like the tone knob and customizable LED lighting, the Scylla delivers a level of versatility and functionality that belies its modest price tag. For bassists looking to elevate their tone without compromising on quality or affordability, the Joyo Scylla compressor is a clear standout.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/265.html

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Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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