Long before he was shouting “You’re going to Hollywood!” to would-be pop stars on American Idol, Randy Jackson was busy building a bass resume longer than an Idol audition line. Though his gigs and sessions have slowed since his days with Journey, Aretha, Springsteen, Mariah Carey, and Stryper (yes, that Stryper), you can bet this dawg still takes tone seriously. A few years back, Randy paired up with Dean Markley to design a signature Alchemy string, which we praised for their pliability and mellow tone [Soundroom, September 2007]. Jackson’s latest partnership is with Markbass, who recently released the TTE 500 Randy Jackson signature head. The TTE (“Tube Technology Emulator”) 500 aims to capture a vintage look and sound using modern technology, and is designed for optimal use with Markbass’s New York 151 RJ cabinet.
The Italian-made TTE/151 rig cuts a striking silhouette; the cabinet’s gold piping and the head’s chic script are all class, and the rhino-reminiscent vinyl covering lends the rig a certain brawniness. Aside from the tweeter’s prominent placement (which I find a bit too bold), I dig most things about the cabinet, from its top-mounted handle to its side-mounted tweeter attenuator. This is the kind of rig that’s easily carried with a piece in each hand and a gig bag on your back, which wins major style points in my book. Both the head and the cab feel solidly built.
Markbass has attracted quite a cadre of artists and amateur endorsers with its ability to blend power, tonal flexibility, and portability. All three of these hallmarks are present in the TTE 500. Rated at 500 watts through 4Ω, the TTE 500 pumps a beefy 300 watts through the 8Ω New York 151 cab. Though I wouldn’t mind adding an extension cabinet for larger rooms, the 1x15 cab kicked out more than ample air for any club/theater gig I might play, and kept up at high volumes without getting flatulent. The subtle, musical compressor and 3-band passive tone stack give the TTE a classic vibe, and the colour control (those familiar with the Markbass Little Mark might recognize this as the VLE filter) does a praiseworthy job of nicking the dark, guttural grunt of some prized old bass cabs.
Around back, the Markbass has the essential fixings you’d need on a gig: a balanced XLR out, two Speakon combo jacks, and a GROUND/LIFT switch. (Note: If the lack of an effects loop or a TUNER out is a dealbreaker, you might want to check out the also-new Markbass Big Bang.)
The Randy Jackson rig, along with a big batch of other new gear from Markbass, signals that 2012 is a big year for the company. Those looking to find the future of tone might check out their other offerings. Those who feel that the best tone is oldschool should think long and hard about the TTE 500. Already sold on its charms and ready to lay down some lira? Now that’s amore.
Pros Meaty passive preamp with tube compression
NEW YORK 151 RJ
Pros Compact, ergonomic design
Cons Unusual tweeter placement
Tube complement 3 x ECC83, 1 x ECC81 (for compressor)
Power amp Class AB
Power rating 300 watts @ 8Ω
Controls active/passive switch (-10dB), gain, compressor level, low, mid, high, colour (filter, 500Hz–20kHz range at max), master
Rear panel 2 x Speakon combo jacks, XLR line out, ground/lift switch
Dimensions 17.7" x 6.7" x 9.65"
Weight 13.2 lbs
Made in Italy
NEW YORK 151 RJ
Cabinet type 1 x 15 plus compression driver horn
Cabinet construction Rear ported
Power handling 400 watts
Dimensions 17.7" x 23.25" x 17.8"
Weight 37.7 lbs
Made in Italy