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Kustom Amplification KXB500 Bass Amp and DE115NEO Bass Cab Review

Kustom Amplification KXB500 Bass Amp and DE115NEO Bass Cab Review

This bass rig contributes big power in a lightweight form.

It’s called Occam’s razor—the simplest

solution to a problem tends to be the best.

It’s a good route for choosing a bass rig, too.

Add too many features and you have a better

chance of doing damage to your tone. In fact,

the longer I’ve played bass, the less I twiddle

with an amp’s knobs. When I do decide to

twiddle something, I’ll do it in moderation.

The rig reviewed here does a good job of

following the Occam’s razor principle. You

might remember the Kustom bass amps,

ubiquitous in the ’60s and ’70s with their

legendary tuck ’n’ roll auto upholstery, that

were offered in an array of sparkly colors

and decked out with chrome ports and a

cool script-like name badge. The appointments

may have been fancy looking, but

Kustom bass amps were downright humble

when it came to knobs. This new Kustom

bass rig retains that simplicity while knocking

down the weight considerably—thanks

to the use of some newer technologies.

The KXB500:

A Tidy, Basic Package

The first key technology contributing to

big power in a lightweight form is the use

of a class D power amp. The KXB500 uses

a Bang & Olufsen ICEpower module that

puts out 500 watts RMS at 4 Ω —all in

a package measuring a mere 12" wide, 8"

deep, and 2.5" high.

Despite its diminutive stature, the

KXB500 has all the features the average

bassist needs—Occam’s razor in action.

On the front panel sits one Input jack, one

input Gain control, a 3-band EQ, and a

Master volume. Kustom includes a push-pull

switch on the Midrange knob that toggles

its center frequencies between 500 Hz

and 700 Hz, both useful for bass, though

a little close together. The front panel also

includes a handy Mute switch (with a red

light that flashes when engaged), a 1/8"

Aux In jack (for practicing along with your

iPod), and a similarly-sized Headphone jack.

The Bass control offers +/-20 dB at 40

Hz, right at the bottom of the E string’s

range. On the high end, the Treble control

has the same amount of control at 20 kHz,

adding snap to your slap. In between, the

Midrange knob allows up to +/-12 dB of

scoop or presence.

On the back of the KXB500, there’s a socket

for a removable power cord, a pair of output

jacks (speakON and 1/4"), and an XLR DI

out that’s switchable pre/post with ground lift

and level controls. There is also a Tuner Out

jack, effects loop Send/Receive jacks, and a

Footswitch jack for both the mute and effects

loops. Everything a bassist needs is there.

Plugging in, I found it a simple task to

get a good basic sound by centering the easy-viewing

EQ knobs, turning the input Gain

up to around noon, and adjusting the Master

to taste. I found that the EQ knobs had plenty

of sound-shaping ability, with tonal centers

at musically pleasant frequencies. It would

have been nice, though, to have center detents

on the three tone controls. The input impedance,

at 690k Ω, is a little low for acoustic

piezo-based pickups, but should be fine for

magnetic pickups on electric basses.

Though the Master control seemed to

get loud a little quicker than I’d prefer,

Kustom states they used an input stage that

could accommodate a very wide range of

input signals, allowing for clean tones and

still having enough gain to overdrive the

system. All said, it was still easy to adjust to

my desired level, and I found the KXB500

to have a neutral voice—one that would

be useful for a lot of musical situations.

Kustom does include rack ears if you’re so

inclined, but keep in mind that a rack case

would likely weigh more than the amp itself.

Deep End DE115NEO Cab: Yet

Another Tidy, Basic Package

This Kustom Deep End Neo cab is both

lightweight and compact, thanks in part to the

Eminence neodymium magnet speaker that

weighs far less than a conventional ceramic

magnet design. The use of plywood over particleboard

also keeps the weight in check, especially

by going with rear ports that eliminate

about 6" or so of height necessary for front

shelf porting. This cab ends up a little smaller

than many others with a 15" speaker, measuring

24" high, 20" wide and 16" deep.

The DE115NEO uses an 8 Ω speaker,

which allows the amp to put out 300

watts RMS. A second Deep End 115 Neo

would be needed to reach the amp’s full

power. The jack plate’s connections had a

somewhat unusual configuration, though,

with two 1/4" jacks and one speakON jack.

Compared to a 1/4" jack, speakONs offer a

much more secure and reliable connection,

which is especially good for high-power

bass amps like the KXB500. Because the

head and cab each have only one speakON

jack, it’s not possible to hook up a second

cab with speakON cables for both.

The cabinet’s sound was round and full,

with a focused bottom and clean attack, yet

not edgy. The piezo horn has a simple on/

off switch. If you want a little string noise

and bite in your sound, turn on the horn. If

you’re more of an old-school player, turn off

the horn for a rounder and well-defined tone.

If there was one thing I would change about

this cab, it would be raising the side handles a

touch higher—I kept reaching for a handle that

wasn’t there, and when I did find the handle,

the balance was not ideal. I should add that the

handles are plenty sturdy. They have metal grip

bars attached to the cab, with machine screws

and T-nuts for extra dependability. I also would

have liked the cab to have sockets or interlocking

corners on top for stacking a second cab.

I first tried this rig with my trusty P

bass, outfitted with a Duncan Quarter

Pound pickup. With the tone knobs set

flat, the sound was clear, punchy, and

round, and I didn’t sense any boominess.

It pushed out plenty of volume and

should be fine for moderate-level gigs. I

then tried a G&L 5-string. Once again,

the rig provided a sound that instilled

confidence, handling the low B string well

at moderate volume—I didn’t try to push

the rig to the point of distortion, but

again, it put out a lot of volume.

The Verdict

In all, this affordable rig is nothing fancy in

terms of features, but it gets the job done

and does it well. The build seemed sturdy

and should stand up to regular gigging with

a reasonable amount of care. If you poke

around the web, you’ll be hard-pressed to

find many other amps with this power level

priced under $400. Likewise, few bass cabs

under 40 pounds with an Eminence neodymium

speaker check in at $300, making

this rig a good value all the way around.

Buy if...
you want a big sound from a simple, sturdy package that’s easy to lug around.
Skip if...
you like a bass rig with heft and lots of bells and whistles.

Street $399.99 (KXB500); $299.99 (DE115NEO) - Kustom Amplification -