For 60 years, Ampeg has been the last word in bass amplification. With a well-established range catering to beginners all the way up to professionals, they’re more popular than ever.
The history of guitar amplification has been dominated by the battle between the American (Fender) and British (Marshall, VOX) sound. When it comes to bass though, there’s a clear winner that emerged from a New York workshop more than 60 years ago: Ampeg.
Ampeg has dominated the bass amplification industry since exploding onto the scene in with the B-15. After taking over the small clubs and studios, Ampeg invaded stadium rock with its SVT series. Coupled with their 8 x 10-inch ‘fridges’, the SVTs delivered 300-watts of earth-shaking, all-tube power. To this day, their amps can be seen adorning the backlines of just about any festival stage you can imagine.
Nowadays, they’ve applied their unparalleled pedigree to a wide range of models, for novices and pro bassists alike. Join us as we take a tour of their amps, cabinets and pedals.
Born from a desire to boost the volume of his double bass amid the formidable roar of a swing band, Jess Oliver went in search of an amplified peg (or Am-peg) and struck up a rapport with the proprietor of the fledgling company, Everett Hull.
Jess Oliver was eventually hired by Hull and then set about designing the B-15 amplifier and cabinet — with its revolutionary ‘Portaflex’ design. In the decades since, Ampeg has launched bass amps to cover everything from the studio to the big stage; the current lineup of Ampeg amps and pedals pay dutiful homage to the classics.
Starting at the small end of the scale, the BA-108V2 combo delivers 20 watts through an 8-inch driver. And while you won’t be rocking many gigs with an amp of this size, it provides ample options for practise, including an AUX input (in mini-jack and regular jack sizes) for rehearsing with a backing track, as well as a headphone jack for working on your chops in blissful silence.
These features are incrementally expanded upon throughout the BA range, with 40-watt, 75-watt and 150-watt options available. At the top of the range, the BA-115V2 includes the EQ and AUX options of its smaller siblings but adds professional features like Ultra Hi and Ultra Lo EQ shelves, a dedicated effects loop, an XLR line out, plus Ampeg’s patented Bass Scrambler™ distortion circuit, which dishes up bucketloads of attitude.
In the PF series of amp heads and cabinets, Ampeg pays tribute to the Portaflex design that made the brand famous all the way back in the early ’60s. With new lightweight solid-state options — the PF-350 and the PF-500 — you can cop that immortal Motown sound, but with more flexibility. The PF-350 has a streamlined feature set, but with an XLR out, dedicated FX loop and even a limiter, it’s credentials are still professional.
The PF-500 has a few more bells and whistles, with extra EQ capability, more fine control over compression, and the ability to blend FX with the dry signal. Either of these amps can be coupled with a choice of two Portaflex cabinets — a 2 x 10 PF-210 HE — as well as the purist’s choice — the PF-115HE, featuring a single 15-inch cabinet.
Beyond the original Portaflex series, Ampeg garnered even more success with the SVT line of amplifiers. Rock ‘n’ roll was finding a bigger audience, with bigger venues, and the SVT was made to suit this new scale.
This all-tube monster received a fortuitous endorsement from none other than The Rolling Stones. When they arrived in the States on their Gimme Shelter tour, the amps they brought were rendered useless: their British amps weren’t wired for U.S. voltages. Ampeg came to the rescue, offering up an all-SVT backline for Mick Taylor, Bill Wyman and Keith Richards. Just imagine the sound!
The new SVT-3PRO delivers big on professional features — a rackmountable head with a tube preamp and 450-watt solid-state power amp. It has a detailed tone-shaping section including a ten-band graphic EQ, plus a tube gain control for dialling in that signature Ampeg warmth.
Beyond amps, the new range includes a series of stompboxes that are the perfect companion for an alternative rig, or studio setup. Specialising in the subtle and classy tones of the Ampeg family, it comprises of the Classic preamp, Liquifier chorus, Opto-Comp optical compressor, the aforementioned Scrambler overdrive and Scrambler DI.
The amplification of the bass guitar is a niche art, but a necessary one for the progression of the instrument. Ampeg was there in the beginning, playing a significant role in making sure that bass guitars could be heard all over the world. With its new range, this seminal manufacturer has taken all the elements that made it an elite brand and brought it to a wider audience than ever before. This definitely can’t be a bad thing.
For more details on the Ampeg range, visit Yamaha.