Review: Epifani Piccolo 600 Head

May 27, 2014
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New York City amp designer Nick Epifani began working on his first digital bass amp as far back as 1999. It wasn’t until 2004, however—10 years after he opened for business—that Epifani debuted his first heads, the 600-watt UL502 and 1,800-watt UL902. These days, in addition to his celebrated UL-series cabs and aluminum-housed AL112 and EpiFunky 150 combos, Epifani offers the 400-watt Performance PS-400, the 850-watt UL501, and the 1,000-watt Performance PS-1000 heads.

 

The Piccolo 600, which puts out 385 watts at 8Ω (600 watts at 4Ω), hit the streets in 2009 and was refined in 2011. Engineered by Epifani and Franco Savio and designed by bassist/interior designer Romano Ferretti, the Piccolo boasts an upscale mix of warmth and stylish class. At 4.5 pounds, it’s light enough to carry with a pinkie hooked through the handle, and the front panel is as user-friendly as can be, with gain, mid cut, bass, mid, and treble knobs, the conspicuous but unlabeled master volume knob, and buttons for active/passive selection, mid cut activation, mute, and vintage circuit engagement. The front panel’s simplicity is no accident: Epifani says he was inspired to offer the Piccolo after noticing that most players bypassed the parametric EQ channel and went straight for the gain/3-band EQ/mid-cut channel of his original UL amps. Around back are a bevy of useful connections, including a voltage selector, a combo Speakon/q" jack, a tuner out, a q" out for a mid-cut and mute footswitch, an effects send/return with a mix control, a ground lift, and a balanced XLR direct out with pre- and post-EQ options and level control.

I appreciated the amp being in mute mode every time I powered up, and I dug the cool blue of the illuminated “600,” but once I plugged in, I couldn’t help wishing the buttons felt more rugged; I found myself re-pressing the active/passive and vintage buttons to make sure I’d engaged them, and I often accidently hit the active/passive button squeezed between the input jack and the gain knob. There was also an audible click when depressing the mid cut button while the unit was on.

The Piccolo 600’s control knobs are sleek and intuitive; having a big master volume control makes it easy to reach over, turn up, and enjoy the amp’s warm, defined tone. Pairing the Piccolo with my 4Ω Euphonic Audio VL-108 1x8 cab was the perfect choice for a drummer-less piano trio rehearsal; even at low volume, the amp filled the room with bass that was warm, but never boomy. Next, I connected the Piccolo to an 8Ω Bergantino HT112ER 1x12, which showcased the head’s ability to pump out sparkly highs without getting too hissy, and tight lows that can keep up with a kick drum.

It was a 4Ω Aguilar GS410 4x10, however, that brought out the Piccolo’s best side, highlighting great active tone from Ibanez ATK805 and F Bass BN5 5-strings and bringing to life a somewhat anemic Ibanez Soundgear SR506 6-string. The ATK’s thunderous slap tone was a perfect showcase for the Piccolo’s mid cut circuit, which tamed unwanted frequencies in an impressively musical manner. It was great to be able to specify the mids I wanted out—from -8dB @ 800Hz counterclockwise to “all mids in” when the knob is fully clockwise—and the green LED near gain helpfully turned red to warn me I was about to clip. Getting focused tone from a stock ’61 P-Bass with flatwounds was as easy as backing off the bass and inching up the mids, but I didn’t have to go vintage to sound old school. The Piccolo’s tasty vintage circuit, inspired by the ’59 Fender Bassman, added subtle low-mid roundness, not flabby tube emulation, to whichever bass I plugged in.

It’s easy to see why this Brooklyn-built head would be popular among New Yorkers: it’s light, loud, and versatile, and it sounds good right out of the box. If you’re looking for big, clear tone from an amp light enough to carry with one finger, check out the Piccolo 600. It could be just what the soundperson—and the chiropractor—ordered.

SPECIFICATIONS

EPIFANI

Piccolo 600
Street $1,000
Pros Direct, robust tone that’s easy to sculpt
Cons Buttons feel dainty

Contact epifani.com

SPECS

Power rating 385 watts @ 8Ω, 600 watts @ 4Ω
Power amp Class D
Controls gain, mid cut (–8dB @ 800Hz), bass (+22dB @ 40Hz, shelving), mid (+17dB @ 550Hz, shelving), treble (+22dB @ 3kHz, shelving)
Switches active/passive, mid cut, mute, vintage
Dimensions 3" x 11.25" x 10"
Weight 4.5 lbs

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