BY ROD TAYLOR
MY FIRST BASS AMP WAS A COMBO, a Peavey TKO 115 to be exact—a name that hinted at what I planned to do to audiences with my newly discovered rock & roll bass chops. For that reason, it was way cool. (It was also loud, which was also cool.) What was not cool was how much it weighed, how much a pain it was to lug around, or how it had to ride shotgun in my two-door Ford Mustang because I couldn’t fit it in the back. (I once lost a windshield when my unbuckled combo slammed into it upon a sudden stop.) Historically, combos have earned a reputation for being bulky and underpowered, and while loud, they’ve tended to distort if you pushed them to their limits. Mine was like that, but I lived with it until I could afford a bigger rig. Twenty years have passed since I bought that first amp, so I was eager to check out a modern-day combo from TC Electronic, a company with a growing reputation for amplifying the lines of such bass giants as Rocco Prestia and Richard Bona.
In many ways, the BG500, which comes in both 1x15 and 2x10 configurations, offers players a straightforward combo that sounds great and provides plenty of power for the money. Five hundred watts pushes your low-end musical offering through a speaker configuration that includes a 15" Eminence driver and a 1" tweeter. The 15 does an excellent job of delivering a beefy bottom, and the tweeter serves well in keeping the top crisp and clear. In testing this particular unit, I utilized 4-, 5-, and 6- string basses, and was pleased in all accounts with the range of sonic quality. The BG500 provided plenty of power for home and local gig use—but you’d better be ready to schlep if you take it on the road, because this bad boy weighs 70 pounds, which felt even heavier because of its bulk. I now have a truck to carry my gear, and in lugging the BG500 to a few local gigs I encountered my first gripe with the BG500’s practicality. On this particular model, the spring-loaded handles made it exceptionally difficult to load on my own. Although it would surely result in a price increase, I would like to see casters or some kind of rolling base for to the unit so I don’t have to drag a furniture dolly around when I take it out and about.
Large combos are largely regarded as straightforward affairs, but the BG500 offers a few features worth mentioning. The most obvious is its ability to store and recall three different EQ presets. It’s something I’ve never really desired in an amp, but that is surely because I never had that option on any I have owned. This feature could certainly come in handy on cover-band gigs that require frequent switching between EQ settings. In addition to its 4-band EQ, the BG500 offers more delicate tweaking via the TUBETONE (an excellent and versatile tube replicator borrowed from the RH 450 head), the TWEETERTONE (located conveniently on the front, rather than the back), and the SPECTRACOMP (which provides multi-band compression). TC Electronic’s website provides the intricate details on how each of these functions; suffice it to say that each proves the company knows what it’s doing when it comes to tone- sculpting features. The onboard tuning is wonderfully convenient, but be aware that it is not chromatic; BEADG is your only tuning option here.
Although I thought the combo sounded great and offered some nice extended features, I was disappointed by certain design aspects. For example, the interface fails to offer more than one input. If you want to plug in anything alongside you, such as your mp3 player, you are out of luck. This omission proves even more frustrating in that the REHEARSE aux input (designed for the explicit purpose of plugging in your mp3 player) only sends its signal to the headphone jack, not to the speaker. As a result, there is no way to play alongside a track for an audience—a practice that is becoming more common these days—or even to yourself if you want to hear it sans headphones (my preference). Given the fact that many combos are bought specifically to serve as practice amps, I would rather see a the AUX input send signal directly to the speaker, which would then be re-routed to a headphone jack if you plug in a pair of headphones.
The BG500 is a great combo, and the superb quality of sound and construction is without question, but I do look forward to some simple but practical improvements in its design.
TC Electronic BG500 115
Pros A beefy, great-sounding combo, especially for the money
Cons Bulky; AUX input automatically mutes speaker
Power output 500 watts
Tone controls BASS: +15dB to –24dB
@ 160Hz; LOW MID: +15dB to –24dB
@ 400Hz; HIGH MID: +15dB to –24dB
@ 800Hz; TREBLE: 0dB to –24dB
@ 1.6kHz, 0dB to +15dB @ 4kHz;
Compression 3-band spectral
User memory 3 memory locations storing all front-panel controls except MUTE and MASTER
Tuner B0 (30.87Hz) to G4 (392.00Hz)
Output Balanced XLR out
Weight 70.5 lbs
Made in Thailand
Warranty Two years