Clip 1: Gain 11 o'clock, comp 11 o'clock, bass 12 o'clock, mid 12 o'clock, freq dial at 12 o'clock, treble 12 o'clock, bright: 12 o'clock, volume 9 o'clock.
Clip 2: Character activated, gain 12 o'clock, comp 9 o'clock, bass 2 o'clock, mid 2 o'clock, freq dial 12 o'clock, treble 12 o'clock, bright 9 o'clock, volume 9 o'clock. Clip 3: Gain 2 o'clock, comp 9 o'clock, bass 12 o'clock, mid 3 o'clock, freq dial at 2 o'clock, treble 2 o'clock, bright 12 o'clock, volume 9 o'clock.
For close to three decades, Sweden’s EBS has been designing and developing premium amplification and effects for bassists. The company that started out making their wares by hand in a basement in Stockholm has become a major force, with players from Tal Wilkenfeld to Billy Sheehan employing their gear. EBS amps have become more powerful and more lightweight over the years, and to further their mission of power and portability, EBS has introduced the Magni 500 series of combos—available in either 1x15 or 2x10 speaker configurations. I took a look at the 1x15 and found a solid combo with tremendous attention to detail in its construction—all of which is tailored for the gigging musician.
The 250-watt MA15 features a slew of controls and thoughtful options that provide a variety of tone profiles. For starters, the character-filter button engages a pre-shape filter that operates independently from the other preamp functions. So if you’d like to cut back on the mids a bit and boost your lows and highs prior to really digging in and tweaking, press this button. The comp/limit dial sets the ratio for the onboard low-noise compressor/limiter that helps prevent the amp from distorting when approaching loud volume thresholds.
The filter-active button engages the EQ/filter section directly to its right. The section has the expected bass, middle, and treble dials, but also a rotary dial (freq.) to determine the frequency range of the mids (100 Hz to 6 kHz), and an advanced high-pass filter labeled “bright.”
The rear panel houses just about everything you could ask from a gigging combo, including a balanced output, a ground-lift switch to eliminate pesky hum, a pre/post EQ switch, an effects loop, a 1/4" headphone jack, a Speakon out for running another cab, and an operating voltage selector switch.
The Magni 500 MA15 is also gifted with the soft-clip technology from EBS’s Reidmar 470 head, which allows an amp to maintain the clarity and quality of the low end when cranked to high volumes. And while the soft-clip technology is there to help preserve heavy low-end through the 15" ferrite driver, the Magni 500 MA15 is outfitted with an upper-right-side tweeter to ensure the highs and mids also stand out at any volume. Plus, for optimal bass response, the combo houses ports in the front and back of the enclosure.
To give the MA15 a spin, I pulled out a brand-new Fender Mod Shop Precision and got set up in a somewhat-soundproofed room. With all the controls set at noon, the first thing I noticed was the amount of mid-range punch. The natural sound was impressive and the note clarity was bright and booming up and down the fretboard. When I activated the character filter, it took down the mids. The resulting brightness of tone matched perfectly with the hefty amount of low end that was also added in. This mode was immensely pleasing while playing fingerstyle on the lower register of my P and quite responsive when playing piercing highs up above the 12th fret.
Next, I deactivated the character filter and began exploring the EQ section. With the volume and comp/limit set at 12 o’clock, I set the bass, treble, and bright knobs to 2 o’clock, bumped the middle to 3 o’clock, and moved the frequency dial to 1.5 kHz. The tweeter and 15" driver became the stars of the show and demonstrated that the MA15 can rival larger, non-combo rigs at these levels. I then pushed the volume and comp/limit dials to 3 o’clock and pulled out a pick, which sent the brightness and punch off the charts. The tone was quite the drastic shift from the scooped-out timbre the character switch provided, but further demonstrated that this combo would feel at home in plenty of different scenarios.
I wanted to hear how the Magni would react to the warmer, woodier tone of a hollowbody, so I switched over to a Guild Starfire II. I turned the amp’s volume down to 9 o’clock, engaged the filter-active switch, set the bass and bright dials to 2 o’clock, and the treble and middle (with mid frequency set at 600 Hz) to noon. Employing right-hand palm muting, the Magni MA15 responded beautifully by providing a thumping, controlled tone. When I pushed the volume up to noon and went back to my regular fingerstyle technique, the bass sang and maintained all of its earthy, woody vibe through this smart combo.
The Magni 500 MA15 packs some serious punch for its 45 pounds and showed it can hang with the bigger dogs, including non-combos. It’s easy to transport and the construction looks and feels solid. The control set gives bassists a ton of tonal freedom, but it’s also simple enough to find a sound you like and forget about it. The amp’s clarity and punch stand out, but the Magni 500 MA15’s low end is really a force to be reckoned with. Whether you’re playing country, jazz, rock, or all of the above, the MA15 and its tonal diversity should have you covered.
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