What is it?
Whether you play the electric guitar or bass, there is one thing that we don't talk about enough, and that's how learning how to play the instrument, to work the strings so to speak, is only part of the story. In a sense, we have to learn how to play our amplifiers.
Amp choice is critical. Not least because a cheapo instrument can sound more than respectable through a high-quality amplifier, but that each amp has its own response, different dynamics and levels of compression that can work with or against the player. We've all had that experience, plugging into an amp that's been rated highly and it just does not work for you.
The notes poke out. The weaknesses in your playing, even the idiosyncrasies that make you you, suddenly become a problem. This experience can pass over time. Years later we will often return to an adversarial amp and enjoy a far better time with it, our playing style suitably evolved. So with that in mind, we approach the Forté D bass amplifier head.
It is built in the US, built very well as it happens, and offers 800-watt RMS at 2ohms, 700-watt RMS at 4 ohms, 350-watt at RMS at 8. The front panel is arranged not unlike a hi-fi amplifier, with the fascia dominated by a large master volume dial sitting in between knobs for Drive and Gain, and a four-band EQ. There are Bright and Mute switches to the far right of the control panel, and an aux input located above the 1/4" instrument jack.
But the real magic is going on inside the amp. The Forté D is equipped with Bergantino's Parallel Dynamic Circuitry, which applies a sort of compression to your signal that makes for "sweet, note-thickening magic". This, says Bergantino, works in tandem with the BFT (Big Fat Tube) Drive circuit to enhance the Forté D's response, making it dynamic, touch-sensitive, and ultimately more musical. In other words, a more positive playing experience.
That sense of working in concert with the amplifier is when the magic can really happen. Here we plugged in through Bergantino's NXT 1x12 and 2x10 cabinets. These ported cabinets are constructed of lightweight Italian poplar with Baltic birch baffles and are neatly finished in Black Bronco Tolex.
The NXT speaker designs are similar, with neodymium magnet woofers and High Intelligibility Reference Series tweeters.
Performance and verdict
The NXT cabinets are certainly portable. Their handles are well-positioned and they are lighter than they look. That at least takes some of the pain out of loading in and setting up. Such is Jim Bergantino's feel for electrical audio design, finding a tone that works for you is easy as pie.
The Forté D's interface makes sense. Using the same preamp and power amp section as Bergantino's B|Amp (which likewise has the Lee Lee Presgrave-designed Big Fat Tone Drive circuit), there is plenty of tools on-hand to help you sculpt your tone. Those low- and high-mid controls do a lot of heavy lifting and are perfect if you want to add a little muscle in your sound.
Clarity is exceptional. When playing passive P-style bass through the NXT112 with the EQ set flat, every little detail was there, ideal for note-busy basslines where you want that forensic level of performance. A Bright switch is always a welcome sight, too, allowing you to make a very quick adjustment to the tone profile and add some sparkle.
The best thing about the Forté D – and indeed when playing through either of the NXT cabinets – is that it rewards your playing. Beginners might find it a little chastening but for the experienced player, being able to render all the little ghost notes and subtleties even when playing low and warm Jamerson-esque tones is a real gift.
Even if you are suspicious of amplifiers that process your signal on the sly, as the Parallel Dynamic Circuitry does, there are no issues with headroom here. It still feels good and open.
The Forté D's dual Speakon outputs, allow you to hook up multiple cabinets without daisy-chaining. As a rig with the NXT cabs, there is plenty of power and abundance of harmonic detail in the performance.
Things you'll love? Well, that Drive control is exceptional for adding grit and keeping the bottom end solid. It is consistent no matter where you are on the fretboard, too. If you are looking for a pro-quality setup and value an amp that offers a platform for the dynamics in your playing, it's hard to see past this.
MusicRadar verdict: Used in tandem, this is a bass amp and speaker setup that works with your playing, bringing out all the nuances you thought lost in inferior alternatives. It's not cheap, but its response and its tones are truly superlative.
- PRICE: Forté D £999, NXT112 £899, NXT210 £1079
- MADE IN: USA
- POWER: 800W RMS output @ 2ohms, 700W RMS @ 4 ohms, 350W RMS @ 8 ohms
- SPEAKERS: NXT112 12” speaker; NXT210 2 x 10” speakers
- FEATURES: Forté D | Four-band EQ (Bass: +/- 10dB at 65Hz; Lo-Mid: +/- 10dB at 250Hz; Hi-Mid: +/- 10dB at 1kHz; Treble: +/- 10dB at 3.5kHz), Bright switch, Adjustable BFT Drive circuit, on-board Parallel Dynamic Circuit, Aux input and headphone out, effects loop, dual Speakon outputs, studio-quality DI with selectable pre- or post-EQ and line out, tuner out
- NXT210 cab (NXT112 cab): Neodymium magnet woofers, High Intelligibility Reference Series Tweeter, ported, lightweight Italian poplar with Baltic birch baffle, Black Bronco Tolex, 8 ohms, 500W (400W) RMS, phase-coherent crossover with tweeter control, 40hz-12Khz frequency response, sensitivity 98db @ 2.83v / 1-metre
- DIMENSIONS: Forté D 10.5” / 267mm (W) x 8.4” / 213mm (D) x 3.75” / 95mm (H) NXT210 cab 22.75” / 578mm (H) x 18.5” / 470mm (W) x 12.5” / 318mm (D) NXT112 cab | 17.75” / 451mm (H) x 18.5” / 470mm (W) x 14” / 356mm (D)
- WEIGHT: Forté D 6 lbs / 2.7kg, NXT112 29 lbs / 13 kg, NXT210 33 lbs / 15 kg
- CONTACT: Bergantino