Trickfish Bullhead Mini 500 review…
When the folks at Trickfish announced the Bullhead Mini 500, the newest addition to the Bullhead amplifier family, I knew it would not be just another run-of-the-mill amplifier. Trickfish has a knack for finding and filling niches in the bass amp market with products that are remarkably insightful, well designed, beautifully constructed, and impeccable sounding. Given the brainpower behind the brand, this really shouldn’t be shocking. Trickfish was founded in 2014 by industry icon Richard Ruse (of SWR, JBL and KRK pedigree), who teamed up with Mike Pope (onboard preamp designer for Fodera Guitars, creator of the Flexcore preamps and ‘bass gear Hall of Fame’ gear Michael Pope MPP-1/MPP-2 preamps) and David Yates to design and build the Flexcore brand and product line. Soon after, Ryan Owens joined the team as part-owner, bringing with him a wealth of player knowledge and business acumen. Richard sadly passed away in 2017 but his legacy lives on through the fantastic and innovative work Trickfish continues to do.
The Bullhead Mini 500 rounds out the Bullhead amp family, following the success of their flagship 1000w Bullhead 1K and 700w Bullhead .5K amps. While the 1K and .5K are certainly siblings, their respective preamp voicings vary a little, and the Mini borrows more directly from the 1K. As Owens puts it: The “1K is clear, quick and detailed while the .5K has a more mid-forward punch that can warm up when pushed.” The Bullhead Mini utilizes a high-end Pascal power module to deliver 500w at 4 ohms and incorporates the preamplifier and 4 band EQ many will recognize from the larger Bullheads, derived from Mike Pope’s legendary outboard rack preamps of yesteryear. Whereas the larger Bullheads have switches which let players choose between two frequency points per band, the Mini 500 has fixed EQ points, based on their “favorite go-to settings” simplifying the EQ schema and giving a bit more of a plug-and-play vibe. The EQ points are Bass 80Hz, Low Mid 333Hz, High Mid 1.8kHz, and Treble 8kHz.
And plug-and-play it is. The Bullhead Mini 500 sounds fantastic right out of the box with no EQ. With the Gain knob set just below where the red clip indicator lights up and the volume set moderately, the amp sounds full, warm, and clean, but not sterile. Trickfish always seems to thread that needle beautifully where other amplifiers can sound a bit clinical or dry in their pursuit for clean and clear bass tone. Like the other Bullhead amps, the Mini sounds smooth, present, and above all, musical. The 500w Pascal module is surprisingly robust and puts out a stout volume level for an amp with the word “Mini” in its name.
Like all things Trickfish, the design, aesthetic, build and component quality just feel top-notch. Great knob feel, super dialed aesthetic and flawless performance are right on cue. I struggled to get a bad sound out of it, and paired with their TF112 cab, the tone was immediately balanced and punchy, while still natural and open. The Mini’s small footprint and clean layout makes it a natural choice for low to medium volume players, and, as Owens says “Because of the heat sink on the [power module] and the aluminum chassis, we are able to keep the inside cooler for longer and we do not generally experience the fan engaging under normal situations. In more extreme environments the fan circuit is there to kick and keep the module cooled. This is great for in-home practicing where you don’t have to hear the fan after a few minutes of playing.”
Like the larger Bullheads, the Mini 500 has a selectable input pad, output mute switch, 1/8” line in and headphone jacks, and full-featured 600 Ohm Balanced XLR DI output with pre/post selection and ground lift. A parallel FX loop rounds out the gig-ready feature set.
I am really impressed with the Mini 500. It manages to pack all the pro features necessary to be a gig-worthy amp, utilizes top-shelf componentry to get the job done, and somehow manages to come in at a remarkably competitive price point. At $799, it’s not exactly cheap, but comes in at a substantially lower cost than some similarly rated amps from competing companies. Bonus points: the optional Trickfish Amp Bag is killer, with great padding and more than enough space for cables and other doodads.
For more info, check out the Bullhead Mini online at Trickfish’s website.