About a year ago, fellow writer and all-around tech guru Jonathan Herrera put the feature-laden Bergantino B|AMP amp to the test, noting the benefits of its assortment of digital effects, tone options, and various cabinet profiles—all adjustable via a large LCD screen. The B|AMP earned a BP Editor’s Award, a testiment to its high quality and flexibility. At the end of his review, Jonathan noted, “Whether or not you make use of the B|AMP’s innovative features, the head’s versatility and superb tone make it one of the best amps on the market.” As the newest member of the Bergantino lineup, the Forté provides an amp for those players who fall into the “not” category of that “whether or not” equation.
I like my gear simple. Give me a bass with as few knobs as possible, and I’m good. In fact, I hardly ever touch the tone knobs on my basses, easily falling into the “set it and let it” category of players. I feel the same way about my amps: I prefer a few tone controls that require little or no adjustment between my basses, and if I can get by without thinking about anything but gain adjustments, I’m thrilled. And, I talk to a lot of players who feel the same way, especially here in Nashville. “Keep it simple, stupid” goes a long way when you play behind multiple artists, as many players here do. I tell my students that on a gig, they need to quickly dial in their amps and then focus on the tunes they’re playing. Tweak less, play more. That’s easier to do when you have high-quality, easy-to-adjust gear, like the Forté.
The Forté is a more basic version of the previously reviewed B|AMP, at least in terms of features. In terms of power and tone, it’s identical—good news, because it’s far more affordable (about $300 less). Since Jonathan did such a thorough job in his review explaining the features, I won’t rehash most of that information here; rather, I’ll point to a few of the amp’s other attributes that set it apart in terms of practical use, including a few that might at first go unnoticed.
The first thing I noticed when pulling the amp out of the box was its feet. Yup, feet. I’m referring to the often-anemic, cheap rubber pieces the size of a dime that outfit the bottom of our amps. Not the Forté: Its feet are NBA-shoe-endorsement worthy. Feet matter, especially for lightweight micro amps; ask players who have watched their amp slide around (or off) the top of their cabinet during a gig when just slightly pushed or pulled. I’ve seen this happen even by using a heavy power cable. The Forté’s large, heavy-duty (and proprietary) feet make that a non-issue. I toted the amp around with me to various gigs over the past month, and it never moved an inch—even when I tilted the cabinet back a few times. The heavier steel casing (vs. aluminum) aides in adding some heft to the amp, but at six pounds, the Forté is still plenty light enough to throw in your gig bag.
The amp arrived with a Bergantino HDN410 cabinet, and having that on hand proved useful for comparing how well the amp paired with non-Bergantino cabinets. The HDN410 costs $1,600—a big chunk of change, especially compared to the Forté’s price, and I wanted to know if the head delivered as well with cabinets that a player might already have on hand. It does, thanks to the carefully crafted generic profile programmed into the DSP. I ran the amp through Aguilar, Ampeg, and Epifani cabinets, and it performed well with each.
Tonewise, the amp kills. In fact, as I was writing this review, I realized I had not once touched the tone knobs—the default profile is that good. When I took the setup to a theater gig where it was back-lined for three different bassists, I noticed that none of us tweaked the amp’s tone. Everyone left it flat. Additionally, since the profile comes after the DI output, it doesn’t jack with the FOH mix, which may have contributed to the sound engineer coming up to me after soundcheck that same night and saying, “What kind of amp is that? It sounds awesome!”
Such thoughtfulness of design doesn’t stop with the chassis, DSP tone, and outputs, though. From the dynamic response of the VRC (variable rate compressor), to the size of the MASTER control knob (which can’t be confused with any others), to the way the OL indicator LED allows proper adjustment between the INPUT GAIN and DSP section of the amp, designer and engineer Jim Bergantino demonstrates a thoughtfulness and design philosophy that explains his company’s success—something that became clear in a long phone chat I had with him about the amp.
There’s nothing simple about how the Forté was designed and built. Like its predecessor, every aspect reflects purposefulness and careful attention to what works well on the stage for us bass players—and that’s what each of us wants from our amp companies, right? At $900, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better buy for this level of quality, power, and tone.
Pros Amazing tone profile, simple interface, pairs well with any cabinet
Bottom Line A well-priced, pro-level micro amp, with tons of power and thoughtful design features.
Power rating 800 watts @ 2Ω; 700 watts @ 4Ω
Preamp Solid-state DSP-based
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switchmode
Input impedance 1MΩ
Outputs Two parallel Speakon jacks, ¼" effects send and return, XLR balanced line out, ¼" headphone
Inputs ¼" instrument, ⅛" aux
Tone controls BASS: ±10dB @ 63Hz; LO-MID: ±10dB @ 250Hz; HI-MID: ±10dB @ 1kHz; TREBLE: ±10dB @ 3.5kHz; BRIGHT switch: +6dB @ 6.5kHz
Effects Adjustable VRC (variable-ratio compressor)
Weight 6 lbs
Made in USA