Recorded with bass amp into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using GarageBand.
Clip 1 - Sandberg California II TM5 5-string: No EQ, pickups balanced then soloed bridge pickup after pause.
Clip 2 - Sandberg California II TM5 5-string: Bridge pickup soloed with drive set to 75 percent and voice at 25 percent. Slight boost to bass, low mid, and mid. Slight treble cut.
Apart from having one of the cooler names in the music-gear biz (Go ahead … say it a few times.), Glockenklang has long held a reputation for building some pretty stellar bass gear. Professionals and audiophiles alike have relied on the German company to amplify their instruments with accuracy and articulation. As did many amp companies, Glockenklang entered the world of class-D technology a few years ago, intent on packing their sonic reputation into a portable package. The latest lightweight in their lineup is called the Steamhammer: a 7 1/2-pound, 700-watt powerhouse that’s packed with flexible features.
Hammering Out the Details
The Steamhammer contains characteristics of some of the amp maker’s past offerings combined with a few new surprises. To the right of the gain control lies the Steamhammer’s drive section. What makes Glock’s overdrive design stand out is its voice control (active only when the drive section is engaged), which cuts the low and high ends and adds midrange. Next door to the drive section is the Steamhammer’s 4-band EQ panel, which is designed for easy, precise adjustments and enhanced flexibility. Midrange frequency centers can be adjusted via the two switches located below the EQ dials.
Effects or an MP3 player can be blended in via the effect dial that resides between the EQ section and the master volume control. While it’s a standard feature on many Glock amps, it’s one that offers up a simple way to achieve an optimum balance of bass and peripheral sounds.
All of these options may likely appeal to a spectrum of users, but the magic of the Steamhammer really lies within the ability to individually engage or disengage the various sections of the amp. This provides a very straightforward processing path by eschewing the drive, EQ, and effects sections at will.
Around back, Glockenklang thoughtfully added an impedance switch, which provides the means to operate at 2.7 or 4 ohms. Other features include an effects loop, tuner out, and a DI output with conventional manipulation switches. All of the Steamhammer’s features are impressively organized on the amp’s portable steel and aluminum chassis.
Resplendent and Rugged
My initial introduction to the Steamhammer took place at home, where I paired it with a Bergantino HD112 cab. Both a Sandberg California II TM5 (with a fresh set of nickel roundwounds) and a Nash P-style 4-string (with 4-year-old Thomastik flats) were used to assess the sonic versatility of the amp.
With all sections disengaged, the notes processed through the Steamhammer contained slightly compressed lows, balanced mids, and a touch of sparkle in the upper frequencies. In my experience with Glockenklang amps, I’ve appreciated how they tend to stay out of the way of an instrument’s inherent characteristics, and the Steamhammer proved to be no different. The unique timbres of both basses were clearly defined, from the dull thumping of the Nash to the bright articulations of the Sandberg.
Any needed tonal enhancements were satisfied well by the Steamhammer’s EQ. While most bass EQs utilize a boost and cut at a fixed frequency center, the Steamhammer’s bass dial boosts at 60 Hz and cuts at 20 Hz. This dual-frequency feature allows for thicker foundations or clarity that “de-muds” the tone. A little boost gave the Sandberg’s 5th string added heft, while a slight cut tamed the Nash’s huge lows. Even with extensive manipulation of the midrange controls, the amp provided focused enhancements with very little coloration. If presence or the means to mellow out the tone is desired, Glockenklang loaded the treble knob with loads of boost and cut capabilities.
It’s almost standard fare these days for amp builders to add saturation circuits to their class-D designs to satisfy the tube community and players who prefer aggressive timbres. While I’ve yet to be wildly impressed with this feature on a number of other bass amps, I have to say that Glockenklang delivers with the Steamhammer’s drive section, and I think bassists who regularly rely on distortion will be pleasantly surprised with the amp’s saturation spectrum. The amp’s EQ effectively helped me dial out some of the digital artifacts of the drive. And the right mix of voice and drive created distorted bass tones ranging from sharp and snarling to dark and dirty to warm and brooding. Mellower applications of the drive offered a little harmonic hair to the Nash that hinted at vintage-inspired bass timbres.
The Steamhammer was also put through its paces on the road. After the Steamhammer survived an initial 8-hour trip in the back of a small trailer, I used it for a series of shows with a country/rock band where I paired the amp with two Bergantino HD112s and the Sandberg TM5. After some tweaking of the EQ to suit the first room, my favorite setting ended being, well, no EQ at all. All I had to do was set the gain and turn the master volume to an audible level. My rig was impressively responsive and delivered notes with immediacy and articulation. The 5th string sounded monstrous, yet still conveyed half-step movements with striking definition.
When playing more aggressive tunes, they were served well by engaging the drive section, which again proved to be both a fun and practical feature. Though a few adjustments had to be made from the home settings—such as boosting the drive and mid EQs—the resulting sounds were snarling and present. Bass lines for songs like “You Shook Me All Night Long” and “Paradise City” were given the proper amount of extra attitude they needed. Overall, the Steamhammer was unflappable over the stint of shows and served me with plenty of power and tonal options on tap.
Although the Steamhammer may not produce the feel and sonic detail of Glockenklang’s flagship Bass Art Classic, it contends with some of the best in modern bass amplification. The amp presents the characteristics of an instrument with little coloration and is packed with enough tone shaping to go from R&B to Rammstein. Its sticker price is sure to scare budget-minded bassists, but the Steamhammer is priced quite similarly to other reference-level amplifiers. If you’re ready to pull the trigger on a professional-grade amplifier that elicits confidence on and off the stage, it’s worth your while to check out the Glockenklang Steamhammer.
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