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Markbass has already released several exciting compact bass amplifiers. Their latest, the Bass Multiamp, borrows technology from the small Italian company’s guitar Multiamp. It’s a rack-ready head that combines a feature-laden modeling preamp with a lean, mean 500-watt power section. Markbass offers the amp in both stereo and mono versions. We took the mono model for a ride.
The Right Stuff The Bass Multiamp is jam-packed with modeled amps, effects, and cabinets, ranging from classics to esoteric pieces. There are 12 amplifier models, each controlled by front-panel gain, low, mid low, mid high, high, and master volume dials. The list includes emulated versions of the company’s own Little Mark III and Big Bang, plus classics from Fender, Sunn, Marshall, Ampeg, and others.
The 15 customizable effects include choruses, flangers, delays, phasers, reverbs, synths, filters, and octavers—all the basics, plus everything the adventurous bassist needs to concoct truly otherworldly sounds. There’s also a choice of eight vintage and modern cabinet simulations for use when plugging directly into a PA or mixing board. The physical characteristics of the modeled cabinets can be altered, down to their resonant peaks and cutoff frequencies. (You can disable cabinet modeling when playing through a physical cabinet.) There’s also a front-panel 1/8" headphone jack for silent practicing.
The back panel features 1/4" and Neutrik 4-ohm speaker jacks, balanced XLR direct outs with padding, unbalanced 1/4" outs, MIDI jacks for connecting a foot controller (the only way, alas, to change patches remotely), a serial/parallel effect loop, and a USB port for updating the firmware.
Easier Than It Looks The plethora of knobs and jacks might suggest a steep learning curve, but dialing up a tone is actually quite simple. The LED screen displays eight slots, each of which can hold a single effect, amplifier, or cabinet model. Simply choose the desired slot, then press the solid-state, tube, or vintage button to select your amp model. To place effects in front of the amp, use the third slot for the amp model and assign the first two slots to effects chosen from a pop-up list.
Most effects come with many editable parameters. And if you have an external effect you can’t live without, just use a send/return patch in tandem with the amp’s effect loop to insert it at any point in the signal chain. You can save your edits to internal memory or an optional SD card.
I auditioned the Bass Multiamp with a Fender Jazz and an Ampeg SVT Classic 8x10 cabinet. I loaded the first four slots with a compressor, chorus, phaser, and a Markbass Big Bang amplifier model, bypassing the effects initially to hear the amp tone on its own.
The Big Bang model’s sound and feel are spot-on, down to the thick rubbery lows and boisterous midrange. As I made EQ adjustments on the fly, the emulation responded without latency or high-end digital harshness. The four tube-amp models are even more impressive in their dynamics and low-end depth, and each emulation captures the tonal characteristics of its real-life counterpart. For example, the Blue ’70 model (based on the mighty “Blue Line” Ampeg SVT of the early ’70s) delivers the raw, raucous punch and all-encompassing low-end warmth that made the originals so coveted. The TTE 500 Randy Jackson signature model emulation provides highly sensitive midrange that relaxes with a lighter fingerstyle touch.
The EQ and volume settings reset themselves each time you switch amp models, sometimes resulting in sudden volume jumps if the previous amp’s volume had been set relatively low. (This wouldn’t have been much of a concern if the Bass Multiamp wasn’t so powerful. It might be rated at 500 watts—as are many solid-state bass heads—but it feels more powerful.)
Editing effects is a breeze. Each effect offers common parameters, such as wet/dry mix for the chorus and threshold/release for the compressor. And in some cases, Markbass goes beyond the expected, such as letting you set chorus intensity independently for the high and low registers.
The time-based effects have a cleanliness and crispness easily on par with high-end studio plug-ins, and the synth patches track single notes and chords remarkably well. But while the two overdrive patches deliver excellent clarity and body all over the fretboard, their high-mids required a bit of tweaking to dial out some of the “honk.”
Markbass is serious about developing all-in-one stage/studio solutions for bassists. The Bass Multiamp’s asking price might be a bit much for some, but you get an awful lot for your money. The range and character of amp tones is excellent. Coupled with such fantastic effects, cabinet emulations, and ease of use, the versatile Bass Multiamp is downright impressive.