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What’s it like in your factory?
De Virgiliis: The air that our company breathes is made up of teamwork, enthusiasm, and passion. All of our products are born into a very happy home! Over the years this has always been one of our greatest advantages. Every single technician who plays a role in assembly, testing, and packaging is trained to be an expert at what he does, and is treated with full respect for his human and employee rights. At the end of the work day, they share their free time together—playing and joking around—but still find themselves talking about amplifiers!
Your website shows several heads in the Markbass line, including the Little Mark. How have you settled on these models? How do the F Series amps compare to the Little Mark gear?
De Virgiliis: Without a doubt, the Little Mark series is our most popular line, although the whole line of heads has sold well for us. The Little Mark II's legacy was largely secured by the amp's compact size, lightweight, and warm, natural sound. These characteristics have been preserved in the whole family of Little Mark heads, along with the addition of some frequently requested features.
F Series amps are also popular—smaller in size and ultra-lightweight making them ready to go anywhere—but still having the big tone of the Little Mark.
Murray: In addition to being half the size of the Little Mark, the F Series possesses digital power amps that provide a very clear, crisp sound, and a fast response. The 500-watt Little Mark, in contrast, has an analog power amp.
This F1 is part of Markbass' F Series, which features ultra-compact enclosures and digital power amps.
How did you come up with the VPF (Variable Pre-shape Filter) and VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator) controls?
De Virgiliis: The VPF and VLE filters are very useful—let me say “magic”—they’re a quick way of setting the tone, from vintage to modern hi-fi sound without adjusting the EQ section. For many Markbass amp users, the VLE and VPF filters are the only knobs they turn.
Markbass also offers three heads that depart from the Little Mark design. Most recently, the TTE 500 (with a tube preamp), but also the ultra-high wattage SD1200, and the all-tube Classic 300. What led to them?
De Virgiliis: I have always collaborated closely with top Markbass endorsers and listened carefully to their precious suggestions. Randy Jackson’s collaboration was invaluable for the TTE 500 we introduced at Musikmesse 2011. The TTE 500 stands out from the rest of the Markbass amp lineup with a very cool “modern vintage” design. Contemporary technology is brought together with classic tone concepts in a head that looks and sounds vintage.
Randy Jackson signature TTE 500 head
The TTE 500 also features some special adaptations of the Markbass innovations that put the brand on the map. The sound comes into this beauty through an old style tube preamp and then fed through a tube compressor. From there it goes into a simple 3-band passive EQ section, a “Colour” filter (a tube adaptation of the famous Markbass VLE), and then finally gets amplified by an innovative Tube Technology Emulator power amp.
Murray: The Tube Technology Emulator power amp is an analog design that sounds more like a tube power amp—very unique!
How did Markbass develop the modular MoMark head that lets users customize their amp controls? Any new modules in the works?
De Virgiliis: Throughout history, many of our Italian forefathers gave free play to their creativity, unconstrained by existing standards and conventions. More importantly, they were driven to think in a lateral way. They were fearless—daring to look beyond the common way of doing things—and more interested in pushing the limits of their ingenuity. We applied this kind of lateral thinking to the MoMark project in a free, positive, and creative way. This is the cornerstone of our philosophy in work and life. And it’s from this approach, this attitude, this philosophy, and this spirit that MoMark was born.
Murray: Many bass players are excited that the MoMark allows them to create the amp they want, using the components, features, and power they choose. The MoMark gives bass players the option to change those choices at any time without buying a whole new amp.
De Virgiliis: As far as new modules, we just introduced the MVVL-HE high-end master module and we are working on new modules following all the feedback and suggestions from MoMark users.