Ampeg PF-500, PF-350, PF-210HE & PF-115HE

EVER SINCE AMPEG INTRODUCED its head-turning Portaflex combo in 1960, bassists have been flipping their lids over the iconic Jess Oliver amp design.
Author:
Publish date:

PF-500 & PF-210HE
EVER SINCE AMPEG INTRODUCED its head-turning Portaflex combo in 1960, bassists have been flipping their lids over the iconic Jess Oliver amp design. But with vintage Ampeg B-15s becoming nigh impossible to nab at reasonable rates, and with the limited-edition Heritage B-15 reissues selling out faster than Gene Simmons at an Adult Entertainment Expo, the affordable, accessible, gig-ready, flip-able rig has become somewhat of a Snuffleupagus—a woolly and warm companion that exists solely in our imagination. Happily, flip-top fans have very real friends in Ampeg’s revamped Portaflex series, which includes the PF-500 and PF-350 heads, and PF-210HE and PF-115HE cabinets. First unveiled at this year’s NAMM Show, the line is now in full production.

Image placeholder title

Although the Portaflex is inextricably linked to the mythical all-tube B-15, Ampeg has in fact been building solid-state flip-tops since 1966, when it released the BT-15. To make the contemporary PF-500 and PF-350 heads lightweight, durable, and affordable, Ampeg has opted for super-efficient Class D power amps and switchmode power supplies.

Both heads and cabinets boast solid construction; the rugged metal chassis of the heads felt roadworthy, and their inners were tidy and securely fastened. The cabinets’ über-cool black-diamond Tolex feels tough enough to survive several dozen load-ins with little more than a few scratch marks. Molded plastic rails line the backs of the cabinets for protection when shoving them into a trunk or trailer, and the cabs’ corners sport additional armor in the form of tough metal caps.

With the PF-500’s onboard compressor, ULTRA LO and ULTRA HI boost/cut buttons, 3-band EQ, 5-way midrange frequency selector, and more, the big brother in the Portaflex line shares a lot in common with the 1,000-watt Ampeg SVT-7PRO, a rig that rolled through the BASS PLAYER Soundroom a few months back. But while the rackmountable SVT-7PRO seems to target players looking to fill the halls of large venues, the compact PF-500 is aimed squarely at the kind of working stiff who’d prefer to roll in and out of more modest gigs with their bass in one hand, their rig in the other.

Inside the PF-210HE and PF-115HE cabinets, conveniently placed hook-and-loop fasteners safely secure cables during transit.As that’s pretty much how I roll, I took a moment to get to know the PF-500 before clipping it to the PF-210HE and heading down to a gig at a local pub. With some of more esoteric pieces of gear I’ve played through over the years, that learning curve can last awhile as I learn what exactly each knob, switch, or button does. Within minutes of playing though the PF-500, I knew it was right in my wheelhouse—set flat with a dash of compression, the rig had the kind of warm, round tone I’ve come to expect from Ampeg, and the clear, uncluttered front panel made it easy to tweak.

Image placeholder title

With the GAIN and VOLUME each turned halfway up, the PF-500 roars something fierce—but pushed anywhere beyond that, it can become a little too much for the Portaflex cabinets to bear. Although on the PF-500 I could easily approach the kind of volume needed for a four-piece rock gig with headroom to spare, both the 2x10 and 1x15 seemed to struggle a bit with all that juice. Stacking the two cabinets and running them in series (bringing the combined impedance down to 4Ω) allowed me to get a much bigger sound without feeling as if I were overburdening either cab. Plus, it made for one righteous-looking rig!

Pairing the PF-350 head with the PF- 115HE cabinet for a number of rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised by the smaller head’s ability to keep up without having to push it too hard, and I had an easy time finding familiar settings on the more barebones 3-band EQ. Although the PF-350 lacks the PF-500’s bells and whistles, I never found myself wanting more tone controls.

Sonically, the new Portaflex heads have much more in common with Ampeg’s venerable Pro series of heads than they do with their B-15 predecessor, and that’s certainly not a bad thing. In terms of power, flexibility, and portability, Ampeg has set for itself a new standard.

AMPEG PF-500
Street $400
Pros Powerful feature set in a portable package, great value
Cons None

AMPEG PF-350
Street $300
Pros Loud and flexible enough for most mid-size gigs
Cons None

AMPEG PF-210HE
Street $400
Pros Supremely stylish; stout and assertive character
Cons Could sound overburdened at high volumes

AMPEG PF-115HE
Street $400
Pros Well-rounded tone with luscious fundamental
Cons Could sound overburdened at high volumes

TECH SPECS

PF-500

Power output 300 watts @ 8Ω; 500 watts @ 4Ω
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
Controls -15dB PAD; MUTE; COMPRESSION, 1:1–10:1; GAIN; ULTRA HI, +9dB @ 8kHz; ULTRA LO, +2dB @ 40Hz, –10dB @ 500Hz; BASS, ±12dB @ 40Hz; MIDRANGE, +10/–20dB @ 220Hz, 450Hz, 800Hz, 1.6kHz, or 3kHz; TREBLE, +15/–20dB @ 4kHz; FX MIX; VOLUME; GROUND LIFT switch; line/mic level DI switch; POST-EQ/PRE-EQ DI switch
Jacks q” INPUT, r” AUDIO IN, r” PHONES, q” SPEAKER OUTPUT, Speakon SPEAKER OUTPUT, XLR LINE OUT, q” TUNER OUT, q” PRE AMP OUT, q” PWR AMP IN, q” footswitch, q” FX LOOP SEND, q” FX LOOP RETURN
Dimensions 3.1” x 14” x 10.8”
Weight 11 lbs

PF-350

Power output 250 watts @ 8Ω; 350 watts @ 4Ω
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
Controls -15dB PAD; GAIN; BASS, +14/– 12dB @ 40Hz; MIDRANGE, +5/–13dB @ 500Hz; TREBLE, +19/–25dB @ 8kHz; VOLUME; LIMITER
Jacks q” INPUT, r” AUDIO IN, r” PHONES, two q” SPEAKER OUTPUTS, XLR LINE OUT, q” FX LOOP SEND, q” FX LOOP RETURN
Dimensions 2.7” x 10.8” x 10.7”
Weight 7.8 lbs

Image placeholder title


From front to back, the PF-500 (above) is a full-featured machine. The more spartan PF-350 (below) has ample power, flexibility, and connectivity for most mid-size gigs.PF-210HE

Image placeholder title

Speakers 2x10” Eminence plus high frequency horn
Impedance
Power rating 450 watts RMS

Cabinet Poplar plywood Controls 3-position horn attenuator (off, –6dB, 0dB)
Jacks Two q”
Casters Included
Dimensions 23” x 21” x 14.3”
Weight 47.6 lbs

Image placeholder title

PF-115HE

Speakers 1x15” Eminence plus high frequency horn
Impedance
Power rating 450 watts RMS
Cabinet Poplar plywood
Controls 3-position horn attenuator (off, –6dB, 0dB)
Jacks Two q”
Casters Included
Dimensions 23” x 21” x 14.3”
Weight 44.8 lbs

Made in China
Warranty Electronics, two years; speakers, two years
Contact ampeg.com

Related

Image placeholder title

Soundroom: Eden WTX-500

THE LIGHTWEIGHT REVOLUTION that’s changed the face of bass amplification in the past decade is a bit of a mixed blessing; there used to be just a few players in the game, there are now enough options to make your head spin.

Image placeholder title

Ampeg Infuses Portaflex Line with New All-Tube Heads

Two portable new all-tube heads and new 1x12 cabinet join the lineupWOODINVILLE, WA, USA – September 17, 2015... Ampeg today introduces two new compact all-tube heads and a new cabinet to its top-selling Portaflex Series. Along with the new PF-112HLF cabinet, Ampeg’s new all-tube PF-20T and PF-50T heads deliver authentic Ampeg tone in compact, affordable designs perfect for small to medium-sized shows, rehearsal spaces and studios.