Xotic''s import J-bass clone packs additional features and tons of quality

Download Example 1
Active - Bridge
Download Example 2
Passive - Neck
Download Example 3
Active - Both
Download Example 4
Active - Humbucking
Since starting out in 1996, instrument manufacturer Xotic has earned a reputation for high quality among discerning professionals. Touring pros like Keith Horne, Ric Fierabracci, Michael Rhodes and even bassist/actor Malcolm Jamal-Warner have relied on Xotic basses to cover their gigs. In 1999, Xotic branched into the world of effects and ended up sharing the love with a number of professional guitar players like Scott Henderson and Andy Timmons. Seemingly more focused on their pedal line over the past few years due to its popularity, Xotic recently returned to the bass world with a bang when they offered their XJ-1T 5-string bass. Reacting to the massive response that model received, Xotic released its cousin, the XJ-1T 4-string, at the 2010 NAMM show. The XJ-1T embodies what Xotic refers to as an “uncompromising harmony of tradition and advancement,” and the new 4-string demonstrates their commitment with conviction.

Flair for the Xotic
The XJ-1T is more than just a classic Jazz-style bass. Even though the body is inspired by a timeless classic, the bass is pure Xotic. There are some traditional features that players would expect, like a bolt-on 22-fret neck, offset body and all the appearance of a high-end J-bass clone. Features that distinguish the XJ-1T from other offerings on the market are the eye-catching Lindy Fralin pickups, Hipshot UltraLight tuners and bridge, a custom-shaped pickguard and the secret weapon of any Xotic: the electronics. Xotic has always been known for their pedals and preamps, and bassists can revel in the fact that their popular 3-band preamp is onboard the XJ-1T. The system runs at 18 volts for extended headroom and is a tone tweaker’s delight. The chrome knobs are the same as a traditional J-bass: an individual volume control for each pickup and a master tone. The mini-knobs are for the active preamp and control bass, mid and treble.

This is not all that dwells deep within the XJ-1T. Both of the volume knobs on the bass are push/pull. The first allows the bass to go into passive mode for going completely classic J sonically. The second is a unique humbucking mode that combines both pickups as one big pickup. In this mode, your front volume control now becomes a master volume for some serious thunder. For the tweaking obsessed, we’re still not over with the Xotic. Accessible through the back panel are additional mid-frequency switches and even an output gain control. You can literally spend hours dialing in the bass to whatever you fancy. Granted, the stock settings are top notch, but this is a super-cool option nonetheless.

Feature-wise, the bass is very similar to the 2009 Xotic XJ-1T 5-String—the most obvious difference being the fact that it’s got one less string. But due to its wood combination, the XJ-1T 4-String has the heart of a ‘70s J-bass. It sports an oil-finished maple neck with a maple fretboard, unlike its 5-string cousin. Both basses do use 6150 Jescar nickel-silver frets. The other difference is the ash body on the XJ-1T. The instrument just has the feel of a ‘70s gem… without the disco music and large collars.

Just taking it out of the case, I was seriously impressed with the overall craftsmanship, and after hours of inspection I was honestly quite surprised not to find any real flaws. The stock setup was nice and even, but due to my lighter playing style, I dropped the action. Luckily, the bass didn’t need any other tweaks and it was set up like an absolute dream. The oil-finished neck has a wonderful worn-in feel. Most surprising was how resonant the bass was even unplugged. Sustain and articulation was off the charts, and there was just the right amount of midrange bark, which was surprising since maple and ash combinations have the potential to be overly bright sounding. To test the bass, I used it on a number of live dates as well as master and demo sessions. In every aspect the bass delivered completely. You can really tell that Xotic has done some serious homework on this bass, and I’d venture to guess they’ve been asking players for their needs as well. Every tone setting proved to be useful for a number of needs. Slap players can get a very Marcus Miller-like tone from the active electronics, and the Fralins are seriously clean and easy to record. What I particularly dug was the fact that I could also dial in a good Jacoesque tone out of the soloed bridge pickup. J-basses can usually cover one or the other well, but not both.

The Final Mojo

Is it worth the funds for this bass in comparison to other, US-built J clones? Absolutely. It sounds as good, if not better than, any other contender out there. Even more important is that it’s more flexible than most. This bass is a Swiss Army knife and could be considered a main axe regardless of what genre you’re in. I myself am already enjoying being able to leave a number of other basses in my studio and just taking the XJ-1T to sessions. If you’re a lover of high-end J-basses, this may very well be your axe. 
Buy if...
you’re into great-sounding, high-end J-basses.
Skip if...
you’re not ready to drop more than $2K on an import.

MSRP $2700 - Xotic - xotic.us

Electro-Harmonix''s Enigma: Q-Balls combines the Q-Tron and Bass Balls for unprecedented levels of funk

Download Example 1
Hi Pass mode with the Start Stop set to play the entire wave
Download Example 2
Band Pass mode with the Start Stop set to play the entire wave
Download Example 3
Lo Pass mode and Distortion engaged with the Start Stop set to play entire wave
Download Example 4
Band Pass mode with all controls wide open
Download Example 5
Band Pass mode with all controls wide open
Download Example 6
Band Pass mode and Distortion engaged with the Start Stop set to play entire wave
Sounds clips were recorded using the Enigma Q Balls and a Kramer Disciple bass with EMG pickups. This was plugged into a SWR Marcus Miller Signature Preamp into a Presonus Firepod and  tracked within Nuendo.
For some years now the entity that is Electro-Harmonix has been wowing us with a variety of toys that are less than conventional by some standards. If it gurgles, wahs, burps, fuzzes, or generally creates something funky, EH has a knack for creating it and making it musical. One of their fortes in the industry has always been their vast array of envelope filters, including the legendary Q-Tron. Guitar and bass players alike have relied on the Q-Tron when it is time to bring da’funk since its inception. Going even deeper into all things stanky is the equally ominous Bass Balls pedal. With its cool filtering effect coupled with a switchable distortion, the Bass Balls has been known for taking the groove even further. Bass players in particular have been known to utilize both of these pedals in their setups, and now EH has combined the two into the uber-cool Enigma: Q-Balls.

As part of EH’s latest line of bass dedicated effects, the Enigma: Q-Balls may indeed be one of the Holy Grails of funkdom. The Enigma is housed in a sturdy diecast enclosure and offers a barrage of tweakability that knob-turners will adore. There are dedicated knobs for controlling Attack, Q frequency, Sensitivity, Decay, and even a blend control for maximizing the tone between direct signal and wet. There is a three-step Mode selector knob for choosing between Low Pass, Band Pass, and Hi Pass filters as well. This alone would be great, but just like a good infomercial, “wait, there’s more.”

The final two knobs are two of the secret weapons of the Enigma. With the Start and Stop knobs you can focus the starting and ending points of the Q filter sweep. You can set them both “wide” to get the effect of the entire sweep or set them “closer” in to get a more focused effect. This works particularly well for fast, dance-type bass lines, giving the illusion of an old analog synth bass. For further tweaking euphoria you can even add an expression pedal to the mix to control the Q frequency. How cool is that, kiddies?

Rounding out this fully-analog beast is the addition of separate Dry and Effect outputs and its other weapon of mass destruction: the footswitchable, bone-crushing analog distortion. With all of this firepower, bassists can now make their presence known, and the fact that the Enigma has a frequency range of 40 Hz to 3 kHz makes it even sweeter since extended range basses like five and six strings should have little worry of crapping out the Enigma’s signal with unwanted clipping.

Firing it Up
For testing purposes, the Enigma: Q -Balls was used both live and in the studio to truly test its capabilities. In both arenas the Enigma delivered from the get-go. The first thing that impressed me was the fact that, unlike some vintage envelope filters, the Enigma didn’t add any unwanted noise when engaged. This is something that players have learned to live with for the sake of tone, but the fact that the Enigma stayed quiet is obviously a priceless commodity especially when tracking parts. Thank you EH for making this improvement over the decades. Many a mixing engineer will love you and you don’t even know it.

So in trying to describe the tones and textures it is hard to focus on a single word. Obviously, “funky” could indeed encompass the joy that is the Enigma. Truthfully, it is quite more complex due to the countless hours of tweaking and sounds you can achieve from a relatively simple pedal. Greasy, furry, stanky, juicy, smooth, gritty, dirty, rambunctious, brutal, and even smelly are all represented in this somewhat unassuming pedal. In more layman’s terms you can dial up everything from Bootsy-style funk sounds to cool ‘80s-esque synth-like sounds without taking up a ton of pedalboard real estate.

The one thing as in all envelope filters that is something to be aware of is watching your gain on your gear with certain settings. Knowing that you are manipulating frequencies, it is real easy to blow speakers or fry tweeters. When going for either super Hi Pass settings or massive Lo Pass settings you should be aware that there is an eminent danger factor. The Enigma can rattle speakers at high volumes for sure, especially in Lo Pass mode. If you are really cranking, make sure you are using a rig that can handle it and you will have a much better day than if you blow your rig going off on a groove tangent.

The Final Mojo
All in all there is truly nothing to gripe about with the Enigma: Q-Balls. Yet again, Electro Harmonix has delivered an “out-of-box” experience that is truly cool. If you have an excuse to put one of these in your rig and be able to utilize it you ought to check it out. The groove will be thick and you will be one with da’funk.
Buy if...
you want to dominate the masses with supreme funkiness
Skip if...
you tend to run away from da’funk like a frightened school girl.

MSRP $189 - Electro-Harmonix - ehx.com

Reviewed: MarkBass Pre S1M, Pre T1M, EQ42S, EQ7G and MVVL modules

In their relatively short life as a manufacturer, the Italian bass amp manufacturer Markbass has come on the scene like gang busters. Founded in 2001 by Marco De Virgiliis, Markbass has been building quality yet inexpensive products from their factory in San Giovanni Teatino, Italy. From the beginning, Markbass became a new leader in the bass amp realm by offering lightweight yet powerful amps that actually sounded good. Quickly Markbass amps were showing up all over the country on various stages. Now the company is taking it up another notch with their MoMark modular bass system.

Download Example 1
S1M & EQ42 Modules
Download Example 2
S1M & EQ7 Modules
Download Example 3
T1M & EQ42S Modules
Download Example 4
T1M & EQ7G Modules
Clips recorded with a Steinberger XQ25 into the Markbass direct into a Presonus FireStudio, recorded and edited in Nuendo.
The MoMark is a customizable modular bass amp that allows the player to use a variety of different preamps, EQs, or master controls to dial in just the right sound for their particular needs. The MoMark system starts with an amp frame that you plug the various modules into for your liking. Markbass offers a variety of different frames varying from a general purpose 250-watt unit to a mighty 800-watt beast. The 250 and 500W amp frames are Class A/B and the 600 and 800W frames are Class D and are generally setup to run cabinets optimally at 4 ohms. These features can all be found on other top bass amps and show that Markbass designs their gear with the modern player in mind.

Perhaps the coolest part of the MoMark system is the ability to mix and match the various modules. You can go from the tube driven T1M preamp through the EQ42S parametric equalizer to get a classic rock grind and then switch it up to the solid state S1M pre with the EQ7G graphic EQ for another to get that crystal clean British pop sound. Even cooler is that you can mix and match as you see fit for a tonal fiesta of experimentation. Cap it all off with Markbass’s very thoughtfully designed MVVL master module and you have yourself a hoss of an amp with lots of possibilities.

Pre S1M

Pre T1M


For testing purposes, Markbass sent both 500 and 600 watt amp frames along with T1M, S1M, EQ42S, EQ7G, and MVVL modules. They also sent the tiny yet monstrous-sounding New York 604 bass cabinet for a total Markbass sonic solution. By the way, the New York 604 is 600 watts with four 6” speakers and a tweeter. When you first see this tiny cab you think there is no way it can thump. It is surprisingly boomy and incredibly articulate for a box that weighs hardly anything. Thank you Marco. To put the MoMark system through its paces I planned to use it both live and on a number of recording sessions. After breaking everything out of the box and getting my bearings on the MoMark, I was ecstatic to realize that putting in modules and switching them out is a breeze. It is a simple plug-and-play system which made this bottom ender rather happy. Everything snapped easily in place and then the biggest challenge was figuring out where to start.

Being primarily a fan of tube preamps I started with the T1M preamp and EQ42S EQ module. For testing purposes I also primarily used the 600 watt frame and the MVVL master volume control throughout. With controls basically set flat I was off and running with an active five string. Right off the bat I was pleased at the warmth from the tube preamp. There was just the right hint of growl and roundness that one would expect and the parametric EQ responded nicely. Subtle tweaks were noticeable and present, which is commonly not the case with EQs on inexpensive amps. In live applications the MoMark was able to cop everything from a balls-out rock tone to a soul groover’s delight.

Changing over to the “solid state rig” composed of the S1M and EQ7G yielded just as favorable results. The sound was reminiscent of that classic ‘80s clean tone that works great for everything from modern rock and country to funk. Slappers in particular will enjoy the articulation and super clean top end of the EQ7G equalizer. In a word, the EQ7G “spanked.” FYI: If you want a hint of extra growl and attitude, use the T1M tube preamp in front of the EQ7G equalizer and turn it up. It leads way to a mountain of bassdom that rarely scaled.

All in all, there is very little to complain about with the MoMark bass amp system. Markbass’ commitment to quality runs rampant throughout without overly coloring your bass’ natural sound. No matter what combination of modules you use, you can easily find a bass tone that is useable and—more importantly—musical. This system surprisingly sounds like it should be much more expensive which these days is a major plus. If you’ve longed for a customizable bass amp rig but didn’t have the money to buy a barrage of individual components, you may want to take a look at the MoMark. It might just save your back and your wallet while delivering some thunderous tone.
Buy if...
you want a versatile, power-packed bass rig at a reasonable price
Skip if...
you need a super high-end boutique rig.

MSRPs Amp Frame 600 $649.99, New York 604 Cab $699.99, Modules: T1M $99.99, S1M $69.99, EQ7 $89.99, EQ42S $89.99, MVVL $89.99
Markbass - momark.it

SWR''s Spellbinder Blue condenses great bass tone into a combo.. finally!

Let’s face it. The industry as a whole has been under the impression that if you want a big bass sound you have to have a big bass amp. Walls of 10” and 15” doom have been a common site at many shows for decades now. While these great stacks of sonic thunder have make us rock like nothing has rocked before, they are not needed for every gig. So what do you do to still keep that large sound in a small combo? This has been the challenge for most bass amp manufacturers over the years.

Sadly a number of great bass amp manufacturers are not known for making great combo amps. For some reason the ability to get all the boom of the big rigs into a small package has escaped some builders. Granted, the legendary Ampeg B-15 “fliptop” may be an exception but it was still not designed to cover all musical situations. In 1987, though, Steve W. Rabe introduced an amp that would revolutionize the bass world with its good amount of power and full range sound. The amp was the Redhead and it set the mood for a great line of combo amps to come. This tradition is continued with the SWR Spellbinder Blue.

The Spellbinder Blue is a compact yet huge sounding amp co-designed by luthier Tom Lieber and legendary bassist Stanley Clarke. The Spellbinder Blue is designed for studio use as well as small and medium size venues. The Spellbinder Blue is ran by a 160 Watt Class D power amplifier at 4 Ohms. It features a tube preamp utilizing a single 12AX7 with 3-band active EQ. The front panel also has a Neutrik combo input jack, a -10dB input pad switch, Aural Enhancer, EQ in/out switch, Effects Blend, Effects Bypass Switch, Compression, Master Volume, Gain, and Mute switch. The rear panel features a Speakon Speaker Connector, Internal Speaker On/Off Switch, Effects Loop Send and Return, Headphone Out Jack, Tuner Out Jack, Balanced Outputs, Line Out Pad, XLR Ground Lift switch, and a Line/Direct Switch. Finally all of this pushes sound through a single 10” SWR-Designed Eminence Neodymium Driver and a Customer Eminence Supertweeter.

When I first saw the Spellbinder Blue I was quite apprehensive of its capabilities. Being quite familiar with SWR amps from years of using them I was very familiar with how the amp should sound. After plugging in an active 18 volt 5-String I was ecstatic to hear that the apprehension was now over. The SWR had a robust low end with both pickups wide open. Boosting the 5 string’s bass control to the max showed that the Spellbinder Blue handles quite well for a small combo amp. Dialing in the Treble and Aural Enhancer controls on the front panel yielded a glass-like top end that is a slapper’s delight. What was most impressive was the amount of articulation that this small amp delivered. It was hard to believe that this much sound was coming out of an amp that housed a single 10” speaker and a tweeter.

Switching to a hollow body bass with flat wounds proved that the Spellbinder Blue was capable of having multiple personalities. Subtle changes in the Mid control resulted in a full, warm bass tone that every classic bassist would love. Even with the flat wounds the articulation of the single 10” speaker made every note prominent and well defined. This same response to the hollow body would work great for upright players. Players like myself that double will love the fact that this amp sounds great both on upright and standard electric basses. This would be a direct result of SWR paying attention to Clarke’s requirements as a player.due to his notoriety as a virtuoso upright player as well as electric bassist.

Possibly the most surprising aspect of the Spellbinder Blue is how well it can fill a small to medium venue. Take my word that this is a LOUD 160 watts. Even at pushed volumes the sound is articulate and full. At a recent trade show, the tester Spellbinder Blue was even put next to John Paul Jones’ acoustic rig. Even though it wouldn’t carry a coliseum the Spellbinder Blue hung in quite well at standard playing volumes next to the historic rig. Working bassists will love the fact that they will not need to tote the big rig to every show.

Working bassists are sure to love the SWR Spellbinder Blue. The user friendly features coupled with extreme portability is sure to entice players of all styles. Studio musicians and jazz players especially will love how easy it is to dial up a big sound in a small package. It may not eliminate the need of the earlier mentioned bass wall of thunder but for bassists who do not need that much sonic domination then the Spellbinder Blue is well worth a look. There is nothing cooler than throwing a rig in the front seat of your car or back seat of a NY Taxi and still have the peace of mind that you will have your sound intact. Great things can come in small packages.
Buy if...
you need a great sounding bass combo.
Skip if...
you need tons of volume... otherwise, buy it.
5.0Premier Gear Award

MSRP $1449.99 MAP $999.99 - SWR Amplification - swrsound.com