Markbass is an Italian company best known for its lightweight bass amps and speaker cabs, all with distinctive yellow accents. Its founder, Marco De Virgiliis, surprisingly identifies musically as a sax player, though he does enjoy dabbling in occasional electric bass work. Early on, De Virgiliis studied electronic engineering and worked in the telecommunications field while developing his bass amplification designs. During a fateful jam session with friends many years ago, a bassist was impressed by the sound of an amp De Virgiliis had built, and asked him if he could buy it. Then another friend asked for one, and another and another. The roots of Markbass were planted, though not yet by that name.
In the early ’90s, De Virgiliis launched a brand called Parsek. After refining designs for several years, he then entered into a partnership with Ernie Ball and created a 500-watt amp head along with 210 and 212, cabs under the name Audiophile. The amps were well received by the bass playing community, but the brand was short-lived and Ernie Ball sold off the remaining amps at bargain-basement prices. It was also during this period that De Virgiliis pioneered the use of neodymium speakers for bass enclosures, through a partnership with Italy’s B&C Speakers. Neodymium magnet speakers—now part of almost every manufacturer’s product line—dropped the weight of bass speakers radically. Though they initially had a few bugs to work out, neo cabs are now widely accepted, and bassists’ backs are certainly appreciative.
After a couple more years of R&D, De Virgiliis launched Markbass in 2001. Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Markbass brand is best known for its Little Mark series of amps, anchored by the 6.39 pound, 500-watt (at 4 Ω) Little Mark III. But Markbass offers a variety of other bass amps and cabs, and recently, the company introduced a line of effects pedals and a series of guitar amps and cabs.
Peter Murray, who handles international promotion, marketing, and artist relations for Markbass, is an active professional bassist working in Toronto, Canada. He became the first Canadian Markbass endorser in 2003, and soon noticed the company needed some help from a native English speaker for its North American marketing efforts. Murray initially offered to help out on a short-term basis, but after meeting Marco and the Markbass team at the 2005 NAMM show, he began working with the company in a more formal role.
Premier Guitar caught up with Marco and Peter after a whirlwind season of tradeshows, including the recent Musikmesse 2011 in Germany.
Can you describe Markbass in three words?
De Virgiliis: Tone, reliability, lightweight.
Most bass amps have a signature sound. How would you describe the sound of Markbass gear?
De Virgiliis: Markbass products are known for their clarity and loyalty to the source sound—reproducing the natural sound of your instrument. That said, they never sound sterile. People often use words like warm, punchy, clear, honest, accurate, and aggressive. They also say Markbass amps allow them to sound like themselves.
Markbass’ black and yellow color scheme really stands out. What led to that color choice?
De Virgiliis: Bassists have been stuck with black, silver, and grey for their equipment. I chose a color that could give bassists more visibility on stage, and they appreciated that immediately. Yellow has been one of my preferred colors and it’s now a distinctive part of the brand. Of course, the color is not the main mission of Markbass, which is designing and manufacturing top quality products at a competitive and honest price.