What is it?
If there is one word that gets bass players excited when a new piece of kit is introduced it is "lightweight." Generations of players bear the mental scars of having to lift a refrigerator-sized amplifier up three flights of stairs, only to have to shoulder a 10lb instrument for hours on end.
But technology's capacity to shrink the devices we need on a daily basis has caught up with the bass. Bass amplifiers such as the Trace Elliot Elf have made our lives immeasurably easier. And here, Ashdown offers two highly practical, throw-in-a-bag options for the modern player.
The Ant is a pedalboard amplifier that kicks out 200-watts RMS at 8 Ohms, 140 watts RMS at 4 Ohms, and with its auto-voltage function allowing it to seamlessly operate over 120V or 240V, it is ready for any stage, anywhere. Just stick it down by your feet, mount it on your 'board and you are good to go.
As for the Tone Pocket? Well, look at the pictures below. It is a pocket-sized headphones amp and audio interface that is ideal for practice, but with a three-band EQ and a simple set up of connections, it will similarly come in handy as a recording tool.
Let's look at the Ant first.
The Ant comes in a robust aluminium enclosure with its complement of connections arranged across the top, with four knobs for Output and its three-band EQ on the face of the unit. Besides these dials, you've got buttons for Mute, Shape and Passive/Active.
Connections include a 1/4" instrument input jack, DI out, headphones out, 6.35mm jack/Speakon output and mains supply. All this weighs a shade under a kilo and that's your rig. Not bad.
Weighing just over half a pound, the Tone Pocket is so compact that you wouldn't know it is there. It has a 1/4” mono jack for instruments, and an additional 3.5mm line in to so you can hook up your MP3 player and jam along to your favourite tracks – or that terrible demo your guitar player just sent.
This, after all, is what the Tone Pocket is all about. There is EVEN Bluetooth-equipped Tone Pocket, priced at £169.
Sharing the same EQ as the Ant, there is plenty of tone-shaping power. The USB output allows you to connect it to your DAW.
Performance and verdict
Bassists wedded to their DI boxes would do well to consider the Ant. It offers a little more versatility than your common or garden DI box. The Ant's input has a -10dB front-end pad to house-train basses with super-high outputs.
While the three-band EQ offers a very respectable level of control over your tone, the Shape switch is a very welcome addition, allowing you to alternate between a flat tone profile and one with more slap-friendly scooped mid-tones.
The EQ is on the conventional side, and that's no bad thing. The bass frequency is set at 100hz, midrange is 660hz and treble is 7khz, and you have 15dB of cut or boost either way.
• Trace Elliot Elf
A fine amp and a no-brainer. You could even use it as an emergency backup for your gig bag.
• Vox VGH headphones amp
Featuring closed-air dynamic designs from Audio-Technica, with rotating ear pads for easy storage, the Vox Bass headphones amp has some onboard compression to sweeten the deal.
While the enclosure feels road-worthy, we would be a little wary with the controls over time. It is understandable that Ashdown wants to keep the weight and size down as much as possible, but the addition of a kick-bar might give us a little reassurance. Also, a more prominent switch – a footswitch! – for the mute function would really make a difference.
But these are quibbles. With almost 200-watt of power, DI out and a fit-for-purpose EQ, the Ant does a lot of heavy lifting.
As for the Tone Pocket, there's an impressive amount of tone-shaping. Though, for a headphones amp, we would like to have seen some onboard effects – the wonders of digital processing tech would make this achievable.
The Tone Pocket is easy to charge. Plug it into the mains via the 10V power supply or use USB. For the price, it makes a good practice tool, but an excellent buy all round once you consider its function as an audio interface.
MusicRadar verdict: Two very attractive options for the bassist on the move, Ashdown's Ant is as portable as bass amps come, while the Tone Pocket's double life as an audio interface and headphones amp make it a very attractive practice and recording tool.
Bass the World
- TONE POCKET
- PRICE: £139 / $219 (black) , £149 (white), £169 / (w/Bluetooth)
- MADE IN: China
- OUTPUT: Line Out, Headphone Out, USB and DAW
- FEATURES: Three-band EQ, DAW connection (zero latency, 48K / 44.1KHz sampling rate), Soft Mute function, high-performance 16-bit audio DAC, compatible with multiple platforms, 10v power supply or USB power, five-year warranty
- WEIGHT: 272g / 0.6 lbs
- THE ANT
- PRICE: £299 / $419
- MADE IN: China
- POWER OUTPUT: 4 Ohms: 196 watts RMS / 8 Ohms: 140 watts RMS
- FEATURES: Three-band EQ, Preshape, Mute, headphone out, lightweight Class D power amp, balanced XLR DI, five-year warranty
- WEIGHT: 915g / 2.1 lbs
- CONTACT: Ashdown