ALTHOUGH THEY'RE FAIRLY RARE, powered cabinets open up myriad new signal-chain options, particularly the possibility of using a “channel-strip” studio preamp for flexibility or a fave DI for unadorned, nearly straight-wire tone. Illinois-based Bag End has long made well-regarded high-end cabinets and drivers in nearly every audio category. Its designs always show a thoughtful attention to engineering and significant innovation. Its new PD10BX-D cabinet pairs its stalwart 2x10+coaxial tweeter D10BX with a modular Class D/SMPS amplifier, the Minima One. The same amped-up treatment is available with the other configurations in Bag End’s bass cab line.
The PD10BX-D was exceptionally well constructed. Its void-free Baltic birch cabinetry was well braced, with one large cross member extending from the front to rear baffle. The red carpet is not only a distinguishing feature, but also a particularly hardy example. The grille was solidly attached and rattle free. Two well-placed spring-loaded handles allow fairly comfortable lifting, although the cab is well into the heavy side of the 2x10 spectrum, here compounded by the Minima One’s additional 5.5 pounds.
To accommodate the amp, a rectangular square is cut out of the Bag End’s rear baffle. The connectivity is minimal, with a female XLR jack handling input and a male XLR functioning as a THRU jack for parallel output. A 3-position switch controls a low-frequency roll off at 8, 50, or 95Hz. AC input is via Speakon, not the vastly more common IEC standard. No doubt Speakon is a more robust connection, but the world has yet to get with the program. Thus, my biggest gripe with the Minima One: Should you misplace or forget your power cord, you’re pretty much done for. (Bag End responds: “Good point! We're going to look into including two power cables.”)
The Minima One needs to see a linelevel input at the +4dB standard to do its thing and get loud. It’ll work with a bass plugged-in directly (courtesy a q" to XLR adapter), but it will only be loud enough for private practice. What this means, essentially, is that you can’t plug a DI directly into the Minima One, unless it’s active and offers a ton gain (a DI’s output is the low “mic level” standard). Even active basses, despite their onboard preamp, don’t offer a good signal level for direct interfacing with the PD10BX-D. You can, however, use any of the bajillion preamps that output a balanced line-level signal. This includes stand-alone bass preamps, although you’ll want to use the main output (often a q" jack) rather than the DI output.
I tried the PD10BX-D with a number of cool preamps, including the Millennia Media Origin and TD-1, a Kern IP-777, and even the unusually high-gain output of a Gallien-Krueger 1001RBII’s DI. The cabinet sounded incredible: Fast, natural, thick, and supportive, with creamy smoothness in the midrange, a natural and bouncy plushness in the lows, and a beautiful textured uppermidrange/ treble voice. The Bag End managed to simultaneously be sizzly and slap-able without any edgy brittleness. In short, it sounded superb. It was capable of stage-sufficient volumes, particularly with preamps that were well gain-matched with the input.
The PD10BX-D was seriously killer. It’s a bit expensive, and I wish the amp offered more bass-friendly features, but nevertheless, the resulting tone is well worth exploring. It was a blast being able to pull my nice preamps out of their long-held spots in my home-studio rack and take them out for a night on the town.
BAG END PD10BX-D
Pros Delicious tone; ability to use high-end studio-grade preamps.
Cons Speakon power cable is inconvenient; heavy.
Speakers 2x10" Bag End drivers with coaxial AX-HI titanium compression tweeter
Power handling 400 watts continuous, 1,600 watts peak
Weight 75 lbs
Minima One amplifier
Power rating 1,000 watts @ 4Ω
DI output XLR THRU jack
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
Made in U.S.A.
Warranty Electronics, 2 years; cabinet, 6 years