This dual-preamp class-D bass beast boasts toughness through its build and finesse with its EQ.
Clip 1: Yamaha BB1600, neck pickup only, fingerstyle.
0:00 - solid-state pre
0:19 - tube pre
0:41 - both signals equal
Clip 2: Sandberg TM5, both pickups engaged, played in passive mode, slap style.
0:00 - solid-state pre
0:18 - tube pre
0:32 - both signals equal
Solid construction, two preamp sections, adjustable DI level.
Master volume is a little sensitive. No carrying bag included.
Ease of Use:
Taurus Amplification founder/designer Adam Kozakiewicz built the first Taurus-branded amps in the late ’70s. Though the Polish musician and entrepreneur detoured his energy towards pro-audio products for a number of years, bass and guitar amplification always remained his primary passion, which sparked the resurrection of the Taurus name in the early aughts. Today, the company continues to design and manufacture their wares in Sopot, Poland, including the new class-D Vandall-500 bass amp. It’s not the first class-D offering from Taurus, but the Vandall-500 is quite a different beast.
The moment I lifted the Vandall-500 out of its shipping container, I thought it might be one of the most solid class-D amps I have ever picked up. The Taurus is light at just a hair over 5 pounds, but not toolight to make it feel less than roadworthy. I felt like I could carry this amp into battle before I even plugged it in, and for those of us who occasionally just throw our class-D amps into gig bags or carry-ons, the importance of this feeling cannot be understated.
Thanks to the metal chassis in black and chrome, the exterior design appears to be influenced by vintage muscle cars or motorcycles. This also provides a feeling of solidity, as do the controls, which aren’t made from plastic or rubber as they are on almost every other amp in its class. It’s clear that corners were not cut in the build-quality department to keep the amp at a certain price point. Another cool aesthetic occurs when the power switch is flipped on: The front logo glows red, as does the 12AX7 tube which is displayed through a small window on the top of the amp.
Best of Both Worlds
The Vandall-500’s front panel is packed with things I’ve always appreciated from several other brands. The ultra-hi and ultra-low switches found on vintage Ampeg SVTs are represented here with boost/cut 3-way switches centered at the right frequencies (10 kHz and 60 Hz, respectively). There is also a character control, which, on many amps, is a one-stop shop for quick EQing by starting flat and scooping the EQ curve as it turns. The character control on the Vandall-500, however, is completely different. The amp features both a solid-state preamp and a tube preamp that can be engaged at the same time, and the character control on the Vandall-500 functions as a blend/mixer between the two.
The amp has a parametric midrange section with a range of 250 Hz to 1.5 kHz, and 12 dB of boost/cut available. Another standout feature of the Vandall-500 is its “MLO” (mid-level optimization) midrange system. According to Taurus, it ensures “the most accurate proportion of medium frequencies in accordance with your manual settings of bass and treble.” The system also ensures that boosting the low end won’t boost the overall volume, which is the case with many other amps.
I like the inclusion and layout of the indicator lights on the far right side of the amp, which display standby/protection, power-amp clipping, and on/mute. Around back on the rear panel, there’s a DI with ground lift, a pre/post line out, and a user-friendly DI level control.
With a Sandberg TM5 in hand, I paired the Vandall-500 with a Mesa Boogie Subway 1x15 cabinet and started out with all the amp’s tone-effecting controls at noon. My first impression was of a clean and warm sound. When I played slightly harder, I could hear the tube compressing ever so slightly and adding more warmth, but my bass still retained definition and punch.
Interestingly, the initial tone with both preamps mixed and the flat EQ projected a character very reminiscent my first pro-level bass amp: a ’94 Eden World Tour 800. A 12AX7 tube doesn’t provide the same sweetness in all amps and pedals, but with the Vandall-500, the tube is shown in its best light by providing very subtle character and equally subtle compression when not driven hard. Using the amp’s 3-way bass switch added just the right amount of sub-lows for pick playing and reggae stylings, without cutting the mids dramatically. Meanwhile, the 3-way treble switch provided modern sheen to the high end without being shrill in any way. Both switches offer excellent options for re-EQing the amp on the fly.
To go after a different kind of tone, I turned the character control all the way to the tube-preamp side and went for tube distortion instead of tube warmth. By setting the gain control to about 3 o’clock and cutting some mids, I was rewarded with a vintage, heavy, and fuzzy tone that still retained the sound of the string. With this much gain, I barely had to breathe on the master volume to get the Vandall-500 to sound muscular, loud, and even throughout the tonal range. That said, the sensitivity level of the volume control might be a littletoo much for some players.
Wanting to hear the solid-state side of the preamp on its own, I set everything back to noon except for the bass control, which I positioned at 1 o’clock. I then hit some hard and clean slapped notes, and felt a very direct and pleasant punch with a littlebit more presence than the tube side. When I added a few hard pops to the mix, I was pleasantly surprised that the 1st string still sounded exceptionally musical and not too bright. The solid-state side on its own is certainly just as usable as the tube side, which essentially makes the Vandall-500 two amps in one package. And to me, that definitely represents value for the money.
The sturdy and attractive exterior of the Vandall-500 is a worthy outfit for the soulful and multi-faceted character that lives inside. A genuine feeling of quality—much like a driving a European luxury car—is present when dialing up and playing through this amp. In the very competitive field of lightweight bass amps, the Vandall-500 separates itself from the pack with a personality all its own. It’s more than apparent that someone who actually plays many gigs was responsible for putting all the right features in this amp. That leaves me, the player on the consumer end, completely satisfied.
Watch the Review Demo: