Digital amp modeling sure has come a long way since the turn of the century. It seems only yesterday that Line 6’s black, kidney-shaped Bass POD changed the game, making it easy to dial up the sonic flavor of 16 heads and 16 cabinets, add EQ, and save up to 36 presets, all in a package small enough to fit in a shoulder bag. In the decade-and-a-half since, several manufacturers have jumped into the modeling arena, and as technology has improved, so has modeling’s quality. Unfortunately, precious few amp modelers are made specifically for bass, which makes Markbass’s 500-watt, 105-preset Bass Multiamp all the more intriguing.
The two-rackspace, under-ten-pound Multiamp—the mono brother of the company’s stereo Bass Multiamp S—comes loaded with options. Besides its models of Markbass’s own TTE, Little Mark 3, and Big Bang heads, the Multiamp invokes the ghosts of old-school legends (’59 Fender Bassman, Ampeg B-15 and SVT), lesser-known giants (Sunn, Marshall, Orange), and late-20th century faves (Trace Elliot, Gallien-Krueger, and SWR). The cabinet emulations (only available if you aren’t using a physical cabinet) include 4x8, 1x12, 1x15, 2x15, 2x12, 4x10, 6x10, and 8x10 options, and the effects are comprehensive: overdrive, chorus, phase, reverb, delay, noise reduction, octaver, synth, envelope filter, and EQ. Each preset is an eight-slot template ready for you to use as is or customize, and if you stumble upon gold, you can save it to an SD card and call it up at will.
The Multiamp’s front panel is perhaps indicative of its priorities. Look to the spacious, illuminated left panel for the controls you’ll need most on a gig: the input for your bass, a pad button for appropriate gain-staging with active and passive instruments, a 5-band EQ, a master volume, and the MUTE/TUNER button. On the right is the business card-size screen, and squeezed on the other side, near the power switch, is the panel that gets you to the presets and the SD card slot. Around back are ¼" and Speakon connectors, two balanced xlr direct outs, two unbalanced ¼" outs, MIDI in/out for remote control from a footswitch, effects send and return, a USB port for firmware updates, and a whisper-quiet fan that’s always on.
Though we couldn’t discern an order to the Multiamp’s long list of presets, we did notice “FL@” settings—templates with only a head and cab—at least once every ten or so presets. We started by plugging in a stock ’61 Fender Jazz with D’Addario roundwounds and choosing the first preset, “BB-FL@.” With a Pacific Woodworks 1x15 or a Bergantino HT-112ER 1x12, the Multiamp was big and ballsy, and even without compression, the Multiamp shied away from hi-fi complexity or “warm” muddiness in favor of practical, compressed-sounding muscle. Sparkly harmonics and chords on a ’72 Jazz Bass with a set of EMG J’s died quickly, followed by very subtle digital artifacts, but single notes were defined and undeniable.
Scrolling through options could be frustrating: We couldn’t engage MUTE unless we left the list and committed to a preset. The flexibility and selection were impressive, however, and each amp model, regardless of whether it lived up to its namesake, inspired new ideas and fresh approaches.
In rehearsals with an Elrick Gold-series 6 with Ken Smith Compressor strings, the Multiamp and an Ampeg 410HLF 4x10 immediately earned attention for burliness, even at low volumes. On a dimly lit stage, the bright blue panel and red LEDs around the EQ knobs were quite welcome. At soundcheck, the opening band’s bassist borrowed the rig, hastily chose a preset, and easily sculpted it to his liking with the 5-band EQ. Armed with a bark that might have caused ear fatigue when soloed at high volumes, the Multiamp made sure that neither his passive ’70s Fender Precision with roundwounds nor the Elrick were ever buried by bad acoustics, clueless sound techs, or dangerously loud guitarists.
If you’re looking for a detailed, hi-fi rig that illuminates the subtler aspects of your solo tone and advanced techniques, other amps are probably already on your radar. But when it’s time for a portable, powerful bass amp that’s packed with an array of flexible tone templates, there’s really nothing else like the Markbass Bass Multiamp.
Pros Inspiring, instantly usable presets; lightweight
Cons Can’t engage mute while scrolling presets
Bottom Line A boatload of flexible tone packages in a portable, well-designed head.
Power 500 watts @ 4Ω, 300 watts @ 8Ω
Power amp topology Class D
Power supply Switch-mode
Input 1 mono ¼" jack
Outputs Two unbalanced mono ¼" jacks (left/mono, right), two male XLR (left/mono, right), one Speakon, headphones
Channels Solid state, tube, and vintage
Controls GAIN, PHONES LEVEL, MASTER
EQ controls LOW, MID-LOW, MID-HIGH, HIGH
MIDI In, thru
Dimensions 2 rack units high; 12.75" deep
Weight 9.5 lbs
Made in Italy