The beautiful beach town of Pescara, located minutes from Markbass HQ
Located two hours from Rome in the beautiful coastal town of San Giovanni Teatino, with the ocean at the east and winter ski mountains to the west, lies the headquarters for Markbass. The state-of-the-art facilities spare no expense on technology, tools, design, and comfort for its factory employees, which is all part of the family-first mentality of owner and Markbass creator Marco De Virgiliis. An innovator on many fronts, De Virgiliis began his career studying electronic engineering, which led to him creating bass amp designs on the side while working in telecommunications. After launching his first short-lived company, Parsek, he was brought on to build amps for Ernie Ball Music Man for a brief stint in the ’90s. He soon decided he wanted to do things his way and see his own vision take form. In 2001, nearly broke, De Virgiliis—a life-long horn player who dabbles on bass—was forced to sell his beloved saxophone in order to gain funding to create his own amp company, Markbass.
The man behind Markbass, CEO and owner Marco De Virgiliis
Early on, De Virgiliis relied on his breakthrough use of neodymium speakers and shrinking the size and weight of heads with Class-D amps, which led to a rapid expansion and the need to move to the company’s current, larger factory space. Before he knew it, De Virgiliis had a loyal following of Markbass users, which is still growing. As of today, accomplished players are flocking to get his amps and join his roster, which includes greats such as Marcus Miller, Stu Hamm, Richard Bona, Michael Manring, Hadrien Feraud, Michael League, Jeff Berlin, Mark Egan, Randy Jackson, Alain Caron, and Robbie Shakespeare.
Currently, Markbass produces and ships out over 4,000 amps per month, in all sizes and configurations. While some hardware parts are constructed and shipped back from Indonesia, the Markbass team assembles each amp’s circuitry by hand. Every unit goes through rigorous mechanical and performance testing before being approved to ship. Priding their product on using only the best and most durable materials, Markbass employs only two repair engineers to work on defective or broken amps. While the company offers extensive warranties and remarkable customer service, the two employees typically don’t have much work on their hands. “We don’t have many amps come back for repairs,” explains De Virgiliis. “But when we do, we try to fix and return them within 24 hours. We don’t like to keep our players waiting.”
The factory itself sprawls through an abundance of large rooms and warehouses that include a beautiful music venue with a bar and café, where De Virgiliis’ office is located. Lining the walls are basses from a huge array of builders. The production floor is kept immaculately clean, and the workstations are spacious and comfortably equipped. The main warehouse boasts the largest space in the factory, as every boxed order rests there before being shipped. Just off the shipping quarters is the marketing department, where an in-house crew photographs and video-demos amps, and puts together ads for everything on Markbass’ growing list of products.
At any given time, De Virgiliis has dozens of new innovations up his sleeve that he and his ten R&D engineers are fine-tuning before his yearly unveilings at Winter NAMM. On this visit alone, we previewed about ten items (sorry, we can’t reveal them). Furthering music technology, pushing the science of amplification, and keeping his work family happy is everything to De Virgiliis—and seeing his operation firsthand, it’s evident that his success goes far beyond sales numbers.