Markbass F1
Markbass products can be spotted right away with their black and yellow color scheme, and even though the F1 amp is less than two inches in height, those colors make this micro stand out. With that slight of a dimension, the front panel looks like a solid row of knobs which encompass the same EQ system found on the other Markbass heads—four bands of EQ along with VLE, VPF, Gain, and Master controls.

VLE stands for Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator, a knob that cuts high end to create a bass tone headed toward the good old days, when a 2x15 cab—sans tweeter—was likely to be found on many bandstands. VPF, in contrast, stands for Variable Pre-shape Filter and is used to dial in a scooped sound that’s better fit to rockers and slappers.

On the back, you’ll find a pair of combo output jacks that take either 1/4" or speakON speaker cables. With all that Markbass was able to fit on the front and back panels, it seems that they ran out of space to squeeze in a Mute switch and DI level control. Not to worry if those features are a must for you—their F500 amp includes them as well as two bands of semi-parametric mids. And it has a profile that still fits the size and weight parameters of this roundup.

Giving this head some playing time, I quickly recognized the big, punchy, low-end voice that is characteristic of their popular Little Mark series, but with a little more presence. With no EQ dialed in, the F1 brings out a warm tone. Utilizing the 4-band EQ and the VLE or VPF controls, it’s easy to dial in a wide-ranging tonal palette. The Markbass F1 will set you back a bit more cash ($650) than some other amps on the market, but in return, you’ll get a big sound and a lot of versatility in a durable and easily to haul package.

Street $650