This 7-pound amp rewards bassists with an easy-to-carry design, a tube preamp, and a very nice price.
Clip 2 - ’77 Music Man StingRay: Compressor 11 o’clock, gain 11 o’clock, bass 11 o’clock, shape 10 o’clock, frequency 1 o’clock, treble 11 o’clock.
When Hartke introduced their aluminum-coned speaker in the 1980s, purists in the bass community uttered words such as “fad” and “gimmick.” That was, of course, until the almighty Jaco pushed bass into another chapter by championing an 8x10 loaded with Larry Hartke’s speakers. Thirty-plus years later—with many “gimmick” companies having come and gone—Hartke continues to manufacture forward-thinking gear for forward-thinking players with last names like Wooten, Sheehan, Hamm, and Ellefson.
With the company’s new TX600 bass amp, Hartke once again pushes innovation forward by bringing technology and tone together in a way that’s practical for everyone. How? It’s a bargain-priced amplifier with class-D power, 12AX7 tube-preamp circuitry, and simple, no-frills features.
Floats Like a Butterfly
There is a resounding theme of portability with the TX600. It’s a sleek, 7-pound head with a quite-prominent handle incorporated into the entire right side of the chassis. The amp’s footprint isn’t the smallest class-D offering I’ve seen, but the TX600’s DNA will certainly make for a more pleasant load-in when the elevator is out at your third-story gig.
On the front end of the TX600 is Hartke’s 12AX7 tube-preamp circuitry. While class-D amps are very efficient (the “D” doesn’t mean digital), they can lack in tonal quality if not helped in some way. By bringing tube-preamp circuitry into the mix, the help for additional warmth and growl is there.
When powered up, the controls on the TX600 illuminate in a warm orange for easy fixes on dark stages. The control layout itself is pretty straightforward and makes it simple for the most novice players to dial in their pleasure. The amp has both active and passive inputs, as well as a mute switch just off the input section. (I would have liked a footswitch option for the mute, but we can’t have it all!) There is a compressor dial followed by the gain to its right, and then the tone-stack EQ section. The brite switch boosts the top end, while the bass and treble controls bookend the mid controls that consist of a shape dial to set the depth of the mids and a frequency dial to set the center frequency from 200 Hz to 800 Hz. An oversized master control, a 1/8" auxiliary input, and a 1/8" headphone jack round out the front panel. The back panel is as no-frills as they come. It houses a preamp out, a power-amp in, a direct pre-EQ XLR out, and 1/4" and Speakon connectors. There is also a fan to keep the power-amp circuit and power supply cool, although I found it to be a touchnoisy when it kicked in.
That Sweet Warm Glow
After plugging the TX600 into an Eden 410XLT, I was able to dial in some pretty nice tones rather quickly with an active 1977 Music Man StingRay. EQ for bass is such a subjective discussion, but since the TX600 is a fairly dynamic unit, it was easy to tailor to my taste.
To start, I dialed in a fair amount of compression by setting it at 2 o’clock, and went for the classic mid scoop by setting the bass control at 2 o’clock, the shape dialed down to nil, the frequency at 5 o’clock, and the treble at 11 o’clock. The mid scoop played well with the Music Man by giving me a wonderfully squashed slap tone with articulation and clarity. And when I engaged the brite switch, I was provided just enough additional high-end sparkle on top.
I wanted to open up the amp a little, so I pulled the compression back to about 10 o’clock. When I added some mids by setting the shape at 3 o’clock and frequency at 11 o’clock, and pulled back the bass to 9 o’clock and eased the treble to noon, I was greeted with a piano-like bell tone with shimmer and shine.
Next, I switched over to a ’68 Fender P with a custom Seymour Duncan single-coil and strung with flats. The compressor tightened things up the way I wanted by setting it at 11 o’clock. I also moved the bass to 10 o’clock, kept the shape at 3 o’clock and frequency at 11 o’clock (which added a great low-mid boost), and the treble a little higher at 3 o’clock. The upper register shined with this setting, and the tone retained all the vintage mojo of my P with no coloration. I had the brite switch engaged in this setting as well, and while I do like its functionality for extra top-end, it did add a bit of noise to the single-coil.
The best feature on the amp might be the compressor. It’s very easy and straightforward, and good for anybody unschooled in the ways of a compressor/limiter. You’ve heard it before, but most of us just don’t realize how much we need some leveling, and Hartke nailed it by including this simple, effective element.
The TX600 brings outstanding portability and affordability together into a 600-watt amp. I can’t necessarily say that the TX600 has its own voice, but that can be a very good thing if you want to get a good representation of your bass. If you are trying to emulate another amp or have a specific tone in mind, just make sure you give the TX600 a good run-through in person. Though I would have liked a footswitch control option for the mute (and maybe also for the brite switch), I found the 12AX7 tube-preamp circuit, tone-stack EQ, and compression section to be thoughtful touches—all of which will appeal to bassists looking for an inexpensive, all-in-one solution for headphone practice, rehearsals, and the stage.
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