IN THE BEGINNING, THERE WAS BASS. AND
IT WAS LOUD,
and it was good.
Regardless of our individual beliefs on the Earth’s
creation, we can
agree on a few fundamentals: Bass is a beautiful thing that is meant to be
heard; compact, lightweight, high-powered heads are divine; we have been
blessed with a bounty of such amp options in recent years.
For the last decade, Italy’s Markbass has been a dominant
force in the
world of lightweight amplification. In the June issue, we took a look at
the company’s slick TTE 500, a vintage-inspired hybrid head designed
collaboration with bassist/producer Randy Jackson that utilizes a tubepacked
preamp. [Note: The TTE 500’s power amp is not Class D, as printed
in that review; it is Class A/B.] This month we turn our sights to the Big
Bang, a compact amp that takes the company’s popular
a 4-band EQ, and signature VLE and VPE filters—and adds to it such
as front-panel aux in and headphone jacks. To test the Big Bang, we
paired it with Markbass New York 151 RJ and New York 604 cabinets.
Even if I weren’t familiar with the Big Bang’s
now-discontinued F1 and F500 heads, I’d have an easy
go getting the sounds I want out it. Its front-panel
clip indicator help when setting the proper input gain,
and the four bands of EQ—16db of cut/boost at very
handy frequencies—assist in notching out honking
midrange frequencies and dialing down the bass in
a boomy room. For those unfamiliar with the Markbass
VLE and VPF filters, here it is in a nutshell: The
VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator) simulates the
sound of a vintage rig by attenuating mid and high
frequencies, which are often muted in older speaker
cabinets. The VPE (Variable Pre-shape Filter) dials
down the low mids to get the scooped sound popular
with the slap set. The Big Bang had everything
I’ve come to appreciate about the Markbass sound—
a quick, dynamic response; ample headroom for any
mid-size stage; flexible tone control.
The Big Bang’s front-panel aux in and headphone
jacks are definitely welcome additions. Plugging
a bass, an iPhone, and headphones into the
front panel turns the Big Bang into a mobile practice
pad, allowing you to play along with tracks and
blend the levels of the two inputs. The 1/8” plastic
jacks felt a little on the flimsy side, but held up
Whereas the F1, F500, and Little Mark heads
have a single array of knobs, the controls are stacked
in two rows on the Big Bang. The color-coding of
the controls—yellow for tone, black for volume—
helps differentiate the knobs on the packed front
panel. But I found the Big Bang’s knob placement
to be a bit counterintuitive; with the head sitting
on a small cabinet, I had to reach under the line out knob—a control
need to adjust—
to access the more important gain control. Similarly,
the phones level control impeded access to
the more critical master and high knobs. Still, I’m
sure muscle memory would render this complaint
moot after a few more gigs.
The Big Bang, introduced at this year’s Winter
NAMM Show, is only now on the eve of wide-scale
release, and Markbass has yet to settle on pricing.
With both the TTE 500 and the F500 priced around
$800, it’s safe to guess the Big Bang will come in
around that price point. With its headroom, tone
controls, and extra features, the Big Bang is sure to
make a lot of noise when it hits. If you’re looking
for all that in a lightweight, compact package, the
Big Bang is definitely worth serious thought.
POWER RATING 300 watts @ 8Ω, 500
watts @ 4Ω
CONTROLS GAIN , LOW (±16dB @ 40Hz),
MID LOW (±16dB @ 360Hz), MID HIGH
(±16dB @ 800Hz), HIGH (±16dB @
10kHz), VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker
Emulator, cut @ 250Hz–20kHz), VPE
(Variable Pre-shape Filter, cut @
INPUTS ¼" instrument, r" aux in, ¼"
OUTPUTS Speakon combo jack, ¼"
speaker out, XLR line out, r" phones,
¼" send effect
DIMENSIONS 2.6" x 8.9" x 10"
WEIGHT 4.75 lbs
MADE IN Italy