THE VENERABLE 1X15 COMBO IS LIKE THE HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA of bass amps; getting one is a good indication that you’ve learned the basic art, math, and science of bass playing, and you’re more or less ready for the real world. Fortunately, there are lots of choices for those in the market for a 1x15. Th is month we take a look at two promising candidates, the Acoustic B200 MKII, and the Warwick BC150. Although both combos share similar price tags and power ratings, they differ significantly in terms of tone and features.
The Acoustic B200 MKII’s size, footprint, construction, and durable vinyl covering make it much like many any other 1x15 combos on the market. But Acoustic attempts to break away from the pack by including built-in compression and overdrive circuits and by expanding the EQ control with 6-bands of boost/cut, a notch filter, and a mid-scooping shape control. More on the EQ in a minute. . . .
Recessed, spring-loaded handles on the combo’s sides make the Acoustic easy enough to cart around, but weighing just over 65 pounds, the amp is a little on the chunky side. To keep things from overheating, a cooling fan automatically engages when you turn the amp on. You can feel the air moving through the combo’s top-mounted ventilation grates; I appreciate the confidence it gives me that the rig won’t overheat, but with the constant fan noise and potentially disastrous vent placement (can you say, “Beverage- free zone?”), I wonder if there isn’t a more elegant solution.
“Flat” is a relative term when it comes to amps, but there’s really no such thing with the B200 MKII; setting each of the six frequency-specific EQ knobs at noon is a start, but it all depends on the position of the notch control, which constantly cuts 10dB at frequencies ranging from 50Hz to 1kHz. Sweeping notch to the left cuts low end, while sweeping right attenuates the highs. Meanwhile, the adjacent shape button cuts mid frequencies. With so much (too much?) EQ control, its possible—if not easy or intuitive— to get a range of tones with the Acoustic. At most settings, the Acoustic seems to have an assertive, midrange-rich voice that would sit well in a rock & roll environment.
In addition to the numerous EQ controls, the B200 MKII houses on-board compression and overdrive. The compression circuit, though not exactly as subtle or effective as others I’ve played, at least wasn’t offensive. The overdrive was actually quite cool. Again, I’d generally prefer to plug into any number of stomp boxes for such an effect, but for rehearsals, etc., I found the overdrive to be a worthy addition. Around back, the Acoustic is equipped with a DI, an effects loop, and a footswitch jack for triggering the overdrive.
Th e relative depth of its EQ controls make the Acoustic B200 MKII a potentially challenging rig for a rank beginner to wrangle, but that consequent flexibility makes it a good option for a players seeking to fine-tune their tone. Features like the onboard compression and overdrive, the nifty notch filter, and DI sweeten the pot. Bob Dylan got flack for going electric; if you’re looking for a solid 1x15 combo, you should definitely consider going Acoustic.
The new BC line of Warwick amps designed by tone titan Jonas Hellborg is an attempt to take advantage of developments in modern-day circuitry and manufacturing, with particular attention to the integration of all aspects of design, from cabinetry to components to circuitry.
Acoustic B200 MKII The 55-pound BC150 comes housed in a carpeted cabinet with metal-reinforced corners. The grille and speaker are mounted so they at a slight upward angle; the angle makes the combo easier to carry via it’s top-mounted handle, and it also aids in onstage monitoring. The combo’s power switch and AC cable plug are located on the back panel, which sits at the bottom left corner of the combo. The placement makes accessing the power switch a bit of a chore, but it also gives the combo a cleaner look, and it makes for a tidier cable run from the amp to the power outlet.
The BC150 is among the cleanest sounding combos I’ve played, with little if any added noise when I boosted the mids and highs, and the combo’s fan-free operation meant I could leave the amp on while checking email or taking a phone call without getting annoyed by excess noise. With the 4-band EQ, it was easy to dial in every imaginable tone, from old-school thump to contemporary zing. In addition to two parallel instrument inputs—which can be used simultaneously—the BC150 has a r" aux in jack (for an external mp3 or CD player, drum machine, etc.) and a headphone jack that automatically mutes the speaker and horn when in use. The recessed plastic knobs were easy to access, but I found the placement of the critical volume control— between treble and the less-than-crucial aux volume control—a bit perplexing.
Warwick BC150 The amp kicks out just enough sound for smaller stages, but the BC150 doesn’t have a DI; if you require sound reinforcement, you’ll either need a separate DI or a mic for the speaker. Though it could probably do the trick for some gigs, the BC150’s true element seems to be a practice space, a bedroom, or a lesson studio. The Warwick BC150’s rich tone, sonic versatility, low-noise operation, and (mostly) ergonomic design make it an excellent choice for any beginning player, and features like the dual inputs, aux in, and headphone jack make it a solid option for those looking for a high-quality reference rig for lessons or practice. For its features, its design, and— most importantly—its clean sound, the Warwick BC150 is worthy of a Bass Player Editor's Award.
The Acoustic B200 MKII’s back panelSPECIFICATIONS
ACOUSTIC B200 MKII
Bottom line The Acoustic B200 MKII is a brawler—a powerhouse with built-in overdrive, six bands of EQ, and a midrange punch well suited to throwing down old-school rock & roll jams.
Power rating 200 watts
Speakers 15" custom driver with HF horn
Controls GAIN, COMPRESSOR, OVERDRIVE, OVERDRIVE LEVEL, VOLUME, NOTCH (-10dB, 50Hz to 1kHz), SHAPE (mid cut) LOW, LOW MD, HIGH MID, HIGH
Input One ¼" with -10dB pad switch and clip indicator light
Output XLR with level control, pre/post switch, and ground lift
Other Effects loop, footswitch (optional)
Dimensions 20" x 15.2" x 25"
Weight 65.5 lbs
Made in China
Bottom line The BC150’s luscious low-end clarity, ergonomic design, near-noiseless fan-free operation, and straight-up controls make it a great choice for bedrooms, practice pads, and even low-volume gigs.
Power rating 150 watts
Speakers 15" custom driver with HF horn
Controls BASS, LOW MID, HIGH MID, TREBLE, VOLUME, AUX VOLUME
Input ¼" ACTIVE, ¼" PASSIVE, r" AUX IN
Output ¼" LINE OUT
Other Effects loop
Dimensions 21" x 23" x 15"
Weight 55 lbs
Made in China