Even though small sized quality bass amplification has been around for some time now, there's still always an element of wonder when you try something new that is this compact, yet still manages to deliver a truly great sound.
Although we only really hear the lower end, the bass guitar actually produces sounds across a whole range of frequencies and the ease with which distortion tends to creep in is nothing short of alarming. However, in the hands of AER (Audio Electric Research), these problems are kept in managed proportion. The company has long championed compact amplification and the Bass Amp One promises yet another step forward.
Design and features
Sharp in looks and extremely compact in size, this certainly is one of the neatest packages of bass amplification currently available, but rest assured it comes bearing a host of features more commonly associated with much larger combos. It also features all the linking possibilities you could possibly need. In fact, the back panel is awash with a host of sockets including headphones, effects loop, tuner and an adjustable DI. The whole amp section is loaded from the back, neatly presenting the controls to the top of the unit and effectively sealing the whole thing, except for the small slit port at the lower rear.
Anything that is this portable needs robust construction in order to handle the expected constant use and transportation. To this end the Amp One is constructed of 12mm birch plywood and covered with serviceable water-based acrylic with a black spatter finish. The front grille is expanded metal, there's a substantial strap handle on top and even the feet are big and solid. And as if all that wasn't enough, it comes with a tough, all-enclosing padded cover that sensibly has a pocket provided that's ideal for leads and strings
With just the one input socket AER has provided a high/low switch to accommodate both active and passive basses, along with a gain control and a clip indicator so you can set your instrument for optimum performance, or indeed add a little distortion to the front end should you wish. There’s also a mute switch provided, ideal for silent plugging and unplugging.
Of course any bass combo is primarily concerned with just how big the bottom end of the spectrum sounds, and with something so small you naturally expect a degree of compromise – but you won't find it here. Being equipped with a low distortion limiter and subsonic filter assists in giving the Amp One low frequencies to spare with a warm basis of control, plus the ability to boost the bass still further. And if this still isn't enough the rear panel provides linkage to an external active sub woofer if you prefer your bass truly trouser flapping.
There are three main EQ controls covering the usual bass, middle and treble, but there are also two rotary controls provided for the mid-range that allow you to choose the frequency to adjust and the corresponding gain. The mid-range is such a critical area of tonal shaping as it's where you can give true personality to your sound, so having this finer degree of control is a huge asset. The treble is less dynamic as it concentrates more on note definition rather than piling on unwanted top end that only serves to thin out the overall sound: which makes a lot of sense
With colour, bass boost and bandwidth switches also included as part of the tonal package, the spectrum is widened to satisfy even the most demanding of situations, or indeed players. The bandwidth switch accentuates the attack so if note definition is important to you, you'll like this a lot.
The tone balance section (where the intensity and notched balance controls are housed), offers still further enhancement but, like the treble control, the effect of these is relatively subtle. Essentially it offers a pre-shape option that can either favour the bottom or top end or allow for scooped middle, but as it’s fully adjustable you can explore all the variations along the way. It’s great to have, but considering the effectiveness of the tonal section already this could be seen as a degree of overkill for such a small amp.
However, having a compressor included is always welcome, and here it’s particularly good as it comes with both threshold and ratio controls. This means it can be as gentle or as brutal on your sound as you desire, and with the associated active LED you can see when it's kicking in. With the ability to aid in sound projection as well as providing a degree of protection to the speaker, this is a very effective addition.
A huge part of any bass amplification is the physical force with which the sound is projected, and naturally the smaller the unit the less pressure is felt on the player or audience. However, being loaded with this Neodym magnet 10-inch speaker (ideally suited for small bass reflex enclosures), the efficiency of operation ensures that this does indeed give a healthy kick to the delivery and it’s particularly noticeable when activating the bass boost switch. This physicality is as delightful as it is surprising and certainly helps to make the whole playing experience more dynamic and satisfying.
AER bass amps often come with a high price tag, so fact that the Amp One bass combo comes in at less that £1000 is an unexpected surprise. It will still represent a significant outlay to many players, but what you're paying for is the sheer quality of sound, build and that portability.
With so much linking ability provided, the Amp One is destined to become one of the most versatile bass combos on the market. It's ideal for small gigs, rehearsals and personal practice and for the studio.