What is it?
Anyone who is anyone has played through a Hartke at some stage. Such is their quality, the bass amplifier brand has been pressed into service by the likes of Billy Sheehan David Ellefson Jr, Frank Bello, Victor Wooton, and, well, the list is long and distinguished.
But maybe what we expect from a Hartke is changing. Sure, we still expect pro-quality tone and a great build, but the company's adventures in the lightweight amp market are definitely worth keeping an eye out for, and amps such as the LX8500, an 800-watt Class D amplifier (at 4 ohms) with a Class A valve preamp weighing in at 3.85kg/8.5lbs are a very attractive option for gigging musician.
The compact aluminium chassis has a large recess with a handle – a little like a briefcase – and is built like a tank. There are controls for master volume, drive, compression, gain, bass, shape, frequency, and treble, with a Brite switch that activates a high-frequency boost before the signal hits the amp's EQ section.
On the front panel, you'll find a headphones output and an auxiliary input, making the LX8500 a housetrained option for late-night practice. On the rear, there is an effects loop, pre and post-DI, and a pair of footswitch inputs that can be assigned to control drive, effects loop, and frequency and the Brite switch. And there is a tuner output, DI with pre/post switch, ground/lift and one Speakon plus output.
Performance and verdict
• Trace Elliot Elf
If you are going down the portable route and don't need the Hartke's power, this 200-watts-in-yer-pocket bass head offers excellent tones for the money.
• EBS Reidmar
Another lightweight doozy, the Reidmar is a ridiculously good option and sounds excellent at low volumes too.
• Orange Terror Bass amp
A lunchbox full of great tones, but especially if you're playing rock.
With the EQ set flat, the LX8500 plays the percentages with a pre-set EQ curve that presents a nice and wide bass tone with a solid floor. Dial-in a little of the drive and you can find run the spectrum from soft-clipped breakup to a more ursine growl that will work well in some rowdier rock contexts.
As you might expect from a preamp driven by a 12AX7 dual triode, the LX8500 is naturally warm. That tick tone has a pleasingly musical quality to it, an organic, tactile and harmonically rich quality.
The Brite switch is an excellent quick fix, a tone sweetener for those whose pickups might be a little dark and when you need a little more definition. But when you approach the LX8500's Tone Stack EQ you can really take charge of your tone. There is a fair degree of interaction between controls, with the frequency and shape controls allowing you to really sculpt where you want those mids to sit.
The one-knob compressor is another onboard tone sweetener and is excellent for tightening up your tone with a little more presence and attack. Between the judicious mids control, the Brite switch, and the simple but effective compressor, you could write a whole chapter dedicated to the LX8500's services to slap players' tone.
But then the LX8500 is what you make of it. You can impress any kind of style on it and there will be a tone you can work with. While it might take a little time to get used to that Hartke Tone Stack EQ, that's time well spent. The LX Series also includes the 500-watt LX5500 if you don't need so much power.
Ultimately, what you've got for 600 bucks or so is a very giggable and versatile bass head with a fundamental tone that is warm and musical, all in a compact and portable package.
MusicRadar verdict: Hartke has come up with one seriously versatile amp here, that's sure to find an audience with the gigging pro and serious amateur alike.
The Web Says
"Getting deeper into the amp’s features, I was able to dial up everything from modern fuzz to compressed funk in just a few short minutes. The drive control is a wonderful compliment to the LX8500, and the 12AX7 really gives the amp life... Simple, powerful, and packed with usable features, the LX8500 is a budget-friendly bass head with plenty of juice, and adds a nice-sounding drive function and easy-to-use compressor (One knob!) to boot."
- Made In: China
- Power: 800 watts @ 4 ohms, 525 watts @ 8 ohms
- Preamp Tube: 12AX7WA, Class A, Low Noise High-Mu Twin Triode
- Features: Drive, Compressor, Brite, Tone Stack EQ, 4 x footswitchable functions
- Dimensions: 14”/35.5cm (L) x 12”/30cm (W) x 3”/7.3cm (H)
- Connections: 1/4” input jack, Aux In, headphone Output, Tuner Out, FX Loop Send and Return, pre and post DI, 2 x footswitch jacks, 1x Speakon plus 1/4” (6.35mm) jack, DI with pre/post switch, Ground/Lift switch
- Weight: 3.85kg (8.5lb)
- Contact: Hartke