Recorded direct into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using Logic.
Clip 1 - Fender Elite PJ, flat EQ, no enhancement.
Clip 2 - Fender American Standard Jazz, VRC at noon, slap riff.
0:00 - no EQ
0:10 - punch engaged
0:19 - punch and bright at 2 kHz
0:28 - punch and bright at 7 kHz
Clip 3 - Fender Elite PJ
0:00 - no EQ
0:09 - drive engaged at 9 o’clock
0:20 - drive dimed
RatingsBergantino Forté HP Pros:
Powerful and accurate reproduction of your instrument. Excellent tone-shaping features.
Larger than most class-D amps.
Bergantino Forté HP
Ease of Use:
Detailed and responsive, with wide tonal projection. Superior portability.
When amp guru Jim Bergantino was diagnosed with cancer, he sought solace and inspiration at the workbench, where he created the Forté HP, which combines some of the popular features of his previous amps with a robust power section. For our review, Bergantino also provided an HG410, a unique take on the classic 4x10 speaker configuration.
Drive, He Said
While the Forté HP sports all of the features of the Forté (aux in, a variable ratio compressor, 4-band EQ, and a bright switch), it includes practical options from the flagship B|Amp as well as a few additional goodies. Variable high-pass and low-pass filters provide precise tonal tailoring, whether for taming the lows in a boomy room or mellowing out the transients for a warmer vibe. Vintage tone lovers will appreciate the drive section, as it delivers harmonic enhancement in lower settings and heavy grind when cranked.
To the right of the front panel, a trio of buttons offer on-the-fly EQ bumps and other operational functions. Tapping the punch button delivers a 4.5 dB boost at 100 Hz. Holding down the aforementioned button for three seconds toggles the DI pre/post setting. Bergantino expanded the functionality of the bright switch on the HP.
While it was fixed on the Forté at 6.5 kHz, the new amp offers a choice of +6 dB at 2 kHz or +8 dB at 7 kHz. These settings can be particularly handy for finger presence and pronounced string-popping. The third button is more than a mute function. Depressing this control changes the operational impedance from 4/8 ohms to 2 ohms. This feature expands the possibilities of speaker connection, maximizing the massive 1,200-watt class-D power amp.
Another cool feature is the front-panel USB port. This is used to connect a wireless Bluetooth footswitch or install firmware updates. It also comes in handy when you need to charge your phone. Rear panel highlights include a headphone out, tuner out, effects loop, and direct out. The components are housed in a stout aluminum chassis. Large rubber feet prevent the amp from unwanted vibrations, and the HP may also be rack mounted. (Ears sold separately.)
Bergantino’s new speaker cabinet, the HG410, adjusts the arrangement of its neodymium drivers to project in a wider sound field. While three of the speakers are forward-facing, the fourth driver is a rear-firing woofer. The punchy sealed cabinet is constructed of Italian poplar with birch baffles, and tips the scales at 47 pounds.
I’ve relied on the Bergantino B|Amp and two HD112s as my rig of choice, so I was enthused to delve into the HP/HG combo. I played a Fender Elite PJ through the rig to assess its sonic possibilities. I also used the B|Amp, HD cabs, and various backline with Bergantino’s latest creations to listen for consistencies and differences. The first thing I noticed about the Forté HP was the way it presented every note with accuracy and authority—the result of an abundant, unflappable power amp. Never did the HP feel or sound like it was being overworked.
Shaping the sound of my instrument was simple, thanks to the intuitive layout. Once the gain stage and master volume were set, I could dial in the VRC compressor for a little extra tightness and punch, as well as dirty things up a bit with the drive control. Bergantino’s EQ section provided plenty of cut and boost, but it’s voiced to not significantly alter the character of the instrument. I enjoyed experimenting with the punch and bright buttons, enhancing the J pickup on the Fender Elite with extra burp and presence. I required very little from the EQ, since I used it as a subtle problem-solving tool for various live rooms.
My favorite features—essentially for fitting in the mix—were the high-pass and low-pass filters. Whether it was a boomy honky-tonk in Nashville or a 2,000-seat theater on a cruise ship, these filters kept my tone focused and present onstage. Initially I was a bit skeptical about the footswitch. I felt it wasn’t a necessity and rarely use it with my B|Amp. That said, I found the redesigned footswitch for the HP a major improvement and a useful tool in live performances. For example, I was playing an R&B medley that contained Motown bass lines and Sly and the Family Stone slap passages. With a few quick stomps of the drive, punch, and bright buttons, I could quickly transform the PJ from Jamerson mode to funk machine.
Although I was pleased how well the Forté HP performed with other speaker cabinets, it shone when combined with the HG410. The pairing was super-clean, responsive, and handled a lot of power. The narrow, rectangular design was ergonomically fantastic, as I could lift and transport the cabinet easier thanany 4x10 I have ever used. What sealed the deal for me on the HP/HG duo happened during a blues jam in a medium-sized club—an extremely loud room where the musicians prefer to crank up the volume and bash out blues/rock tunes. The rig was placed in between a Fender Super Reverb and the drum set. I never ran a line to the house PA. After dialing in the Bergantino rig for the room, I stood back to listen to how the HP/HG fit within the ridiculously loud jammers. To my surprise, the sound was thick and present, revealing the tonal tendencies of all the jamming bassists. In fact, many musicians in the audience thought they were hearing the bass through the house system. I’ve never had a lightweight rig perform so well at high volumes, and the Bergantino Forté HP/HG410 did it effortlessly.
As I was wrapping up this review, I got some good news. Jim Bergantino announced he was cancer-free. The Forté HP is his passion project as well as a monster amp, with easy-to-use features and stout tone. Discerning bassists who expect maximum performance will appreciate its thoughtful design and seemingly unlimited headroom that delivers each note accurately. Pairing it with the HG410 makes a vicious combination, rewarding users with excellent tone-shaping features and a strong footprint within any ensemble. I can say with confidence the Forté HP is one of the best amps of the year, and the HG410 is one of the best 4x10s ever designed.