It’s truly amazing how small and powerful
the latest micro amps for bassists have
become. To have an amp that literally fits
in your backpack but can still completely
fill a room with sound is simply incredible.
Coming off the award-winning design of
their Featherweight bass amp, Chicago’s
Overtōn has now rolled out its line of
Flyweight micro amps, including both a
200-watt version and the more serious
500-watt offering. While Overtōn hasn’t
been on the scene that long, it has a crack
staff with years of combined experience,
and they appear to be working overtime
to build innovative amps and cabinets at
extremely reasonable prices.
And in this Corner …
Weighing about as much as a U.S. history
textbook, the cigar-box-sized Flyweight
500 just looks like it’s ready for action.
The red metal housing is both sturdy and
eye-catching in comparison to a lot of bass
amps with subtler aesthetics, but the real
knockouts (please pardon all boxing puns)
are the combination punches of power, size,
and usable features—all of which make the
Flyweight 500 an interesting entry in the
ever-expanding world of shrinking micros.
After easily lifting the amp from the
box with one hand, I was immediately
impressed with a feature set that appeared
to offer a surprising amount of tone control
and control options. The clean, stylish,
instinctive layout was easy to navigate
at first look, and the knurled knobs felt
smooth and solid. The only niggle that
came to mind at that point was that, since
the Flyweight 500 is a half-rack unit, it
would be nice if it came with mounting
ears for those who might want to transport
it in a protective rack case.
Closer inspection revealed that the front
panel serves up a gain control that you can
push to engage a mute function, a sculpt
knob (bypassable with a simple push), four
independent bands of active EQ, and a
footswitchable dual-master volume control.
The double volume’s concentric pot allows
you to set two volume settings, so make
sure you have those bass solos ready!
Rounding out the front-panel features is a
preset compressor that’s also bypassable by
pushing the bass knob.
Flipping the amp over to check out the
back panel, I was again presented with a
clean layout. The aft section includes an
aux in, effects send and return jacks, a tuner
input, headphones output, and not one, but
two jacks for optional footswitch controls.
The pair allows the aforementioned boost
or cut to be initiated via footswitch, as well
as compressor bypass, sculpt bypass, and
mute. The two speaker outs—rated for 500
watts at 4 Ω—accommodate both Speakon
and 1/4" cables, while the DI boasts a level
control and a handy ground lift for those
pesky coffee shops with old wiring.
Learning to Fly
For this review, I used a Fender Jazz ’75 reissue
and plugged the Flyweight 500 into an Eden
115XLT cabinet. I fired up the amp, disengaged
sculpt, and set the EQ knobs at noon.
I quickly found that straight up is not where
you want to start with this amp’s EQ, but that
was soon remedied by a little pinch here and
there that gave me a nice, accurate representation
of the bass. Having the four options for
EQ (five if you count the sculpt feature) goes a
long way with the Flyweight. While it doesn’t
really have a distinct voice of its own, it faithfully
reproduced my bass tone and gave me
some decent coloring options when needed.
When I activated the sculpt feature, the
Flyweight took on a better life. Acting as sort
of an aural enhancer, the sculpt knob added
some low mids and sweetened the overall
bass tone. And while having it engaged could
work for an entire gig, I like the fact that it’s
switchable. Because the amp’s voicing can go
from subtle warmth to downright squashed
when cranked, I found I needed just a bit
of sugar to make the medicine go down.
For me, setting it right around 9 o’clock
breathed the right amount of life into the
amp while smoothing out the tone.
I also put the Flyweight through its
paces at a local gig with my Tele-style
“Frankenbass” and the house’s Ampeg
6x10 cab. It was a relatively loud rock gig
in a good-sized room, with two electric
guitars, an acoustic guitar, keys, and drums.
I didn’t have a monitor that evening, so I
had to rely on my test rig to carry the load.
I’m happy to report that the Flyweight
performed beautifully—it had plenty of
gas for the trip. It sounded great in the
real-world environment of a club, allowing
me to push it when needed but retaining
the same tonal character it had when I was
playing softer in the down sections.
Having the onboard compressor helped
in the live situation, as well. Even though I
preferred leaving it on, the footswitchable
option may be useful to those with different
rigs. Speaking with the seasoned (i.e., generally
crusty) FOH engineer afterward, he told
me the DI on the amp sounded great, didn’t
drop out or have any level fluctuations, and
wasn’t noisy at all. All this from a little amp
that easily slid back into my duffel bag and
was cool to the touch right after the show.
Even better, the Flyweight 500 performed as
well in the studio as it did onstage.
Overtōn has taken a step in the right
direction by packing the Flyweight 500
with so many well-thought-out features
and offering it up in a very budget-friendly
package. How budget friendly? Try ridiculously
inexpensive. Even disregarding the
price, the 500’s features will prompt many
players to take a serious look. Even if
you don’t choose it as a main amp, it’s an
incredibly good option for a backup.
That said, there are drawbacks when
scaling down. The trouble with some micro
amps is a lack of warmth, and in that regard
the Flyweight 500 probably won’t appeal to
any players whose tonal ideal usually involves
glowing tubes. What this amp can give you
is peace of mind that you will have solid
tone from a unit that you can actually carry
with two fingers. The Flyweight has come in
as—yes, I’ll say it—a contender.