Tech 21’s new VT Bass 1000 head incorporates
the same amp-modeling ideals
of its groundbreaking SansAmp direct boxes
of yore, but it goes a step further than past
company offerings: It focuses solely on reproducing
the brawn and characterful sounds of
Ampeg’s storied line of all-tube bass amps,
including the mighty SVT.
Tech 21 VT Bass 1000
Luscious cleans and extremely powerful and saturated overdrive. Roadworthy build. Gets you well within the SVT ballpark—and then some—sans weight and tube issues.
Somewhat pricey. Heavy overdrive can yield strident treble.
Playability/Ease of Use:
Tech 21 B410-VT
Powerful, punchy, and loud. Very well built.
Grille cloth doesn’t offer much protection against rogue sharp objects.
Playability/Ease of Use:
The VT pumps out 1,000 class D watts at 4 Ω
(2,000 watts peak) or 600 watts at 8 Ω (1,200
watts peak), and yet its rugged, 12-pound chassis
is considerably easier to move than the notoriously
heavy and bulky originals. It has two
identical channels, each with its own 3-band,
+/- 12 dB active EQ, as well as character, level,
and drive controls. The VT also features a 10
dB gain-boost switch, and the included footswitch
enables muting, and either selecting
between or combining channels.
Tech 21’s new head also has their famous
SansAmp DI circuitry—the long-time
friend to many a gigging and recording
bassist. The rear panel also features a direct
in (for bypassing the preamp in favor of an
external rig), a serial effects loop, a tuner
out, and a pair of Speakon outputs.
We tested the VT Bass 1000 through an
8 Ω, rear-vented Tech 21 B410-VT 4x10 cab
with a 500-watt power-handling capacity.
When I plugged in my Fender P bass and
set the VT Bass 1000’s EQ flat, the first
channel delivered lusciously thick cleans
with warm lows. Its springy response to
flatpicking was very tube-like, as was its
tendency to accentuate midrange and low
end under heavy attack. Fingerpicking pulled the highs back and slowed the attack
somewhat, but most noticeable was how
the low end relaxed and bloomed in a way
that was perfect for jazz and R&B. The
B410-VT cab delivered the tone evenly at
all volumes and served up fat lows.
The VT Bass’s wide-ranging character
knobs enable you to completely change
each channel’s voicing. Turning up the drive
control and setting character in its lower or
mid regions yielded a smooth, overdriven
purr, and harder picking brought out snarl
and grit. The treble was stronger and cut
more with higher gain, so I found myself
turning down the treble with heavier drive
settings. However, I had to really lay into
the strings to unleash grinding distortion—even with the drive and character maxed.
Designed to sweep through several
decades’ worth of Ampeg flavors, the character
knobs are immensely powerful tools
for shaping the response and texture of each channel, with even tiny adjustments yielding
At 9 o’clock, character yields the deep
lows and articulate mids and highs of an early-’70s SVT. Dialing it higher smoothed out
and warmed up the midrange while filling
out the lows. Around 3 o’clock—and with a
hefty drive setting—character gave the amp
a decidedly tough voice perfect for erecting a
dirty wall of thunder.
Some of the VT Bass 1000’s best tones
are made possible by how brilliantly its drive
and master controls interact. When I set
channel one’s volume at a club-friendly 3
o’clock and drive at 9 o’clock, the tone tightened
up with crisper highs and taut lows.
Conversely, pushing drive higher and lowering
the level yielded warmer, spongier tones.
The interplay between the two controls is
eerily similar to how actual tube amps react.
The VT Bass 1000 and B410-VT combination
makes for a pretty incredible bass
rig that gets very, very close to the sound
and feel of a classic Ampeg SVT. Tech 21
has done an excellent job of designing a
preamp that reacts to playing dynamics like
an all-tube amp. With copious amounts of
headroom, the VT can cover an impressive
variety of jazz, blues, rock, and metal
tones. All this power and versatility makes
the VT Bass 1000 a real winner for players
who want the aggression and depth of an
actual SVT, but don’t want to deal with
the weight, bulk, and unavoidable tube-maintenance
issues. Factor in its powerful
overdrive tones—which can occasionally
get a little unruly on the treble side—and
you’ve got an amp that’s ready to take on
just about anything.