Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fender Super Bassman Pro Bass Amplifier Head Review

Howdy!

I have recently been enjoying the thump of all-tube bass amplifiers, and fortunately had the opportunity to try out a new product from Fender, the 300-watt Super Bassman Pro head. I have seen these on stage with some of Fender’s endorsing artists, and they were finally introduced at the 2012 Winter NAMM show.

The Super Bassman Pro fills a void in the Fender line-up that matches up with the Ampeg SVT Classic, another all-tube 300-watt powerhouse. Its plywood cabinet is roughly the same size, too, measuring 24.5“ wide by 10“ tall by 13.5“ deep, and coming in at 65 pounds, which is about 15 pounds lighter than an SVT. It is certainly a looker, with classic Fender blackface panel styling and a couple of spring-loaded handles on the sides.

This Fender amp is loaded up with plenty of tubes including two 12AX7 pre-amp tubes, and one 12AX7, one 12AT7 and six 6550 power tubes. It also uses a solid-state rectifier, if that matters to you.

Looking at the front of the amp my first impression was that this thing is really a knob farm, but it needs 12 knobs to control the two channels: one for vintage tone and one for overdrive tone. There is a master volume control, which is a push/pull pot that mutes the amplifier when it is pulled out. The vintage channel has: volume, bass (pull for deep effect), mid, and treble (pull for bright effect). The overdrive channel has: gain, blend (with clean signal), volume, bass (pull for deep effect), mid frequency, mid level and treble (pull for bright).

The vintage and overdrive channels are footswitchable, and a footswitch is included. You will also find a pair of inputs on the front and a classic red jewel light. No ON/OFF switch, though – maybe they ran out of room.

On the back is the ON/OFF and Standby switches, as well as two switchable (2-4-8 ohm) ¼ inch speaker outputs (no Speakon here). A mute switch is provided fro the speaker outs to record silently while using the pre-amp. There is also an effect loop (pre-amp out / power amp in), a foot switch jack, a tuner out and a level-controllable XLR output with a ground lift. Whew.

But that is not all. Fender has provided an automatic bias system that constantly monitors and re-biases tubes, and alerts the user when service is required. It does not control the bias of individual tubes, but rather in averages for the 3 tube groups, so you are not going to get away from tube matching with the Super Bassman Pro. I have no idea how well this system works, as these amplifiers are so new, so I guess only time will tell.

The amplifier that I tried was paired up with one of Fender’s new Bassman pro series cabinets, a 6x10 unit. There are also 4x10 and 8x10 cabinets available, and they are all ported with NEO drivers. Like the heads, these cabinets are assembled in Mexico (Ampeg doesn’t make their stuff in the US any more either).

I used a borrowed Fender Marcus Miller Jazz Bass for my tryout of the Super Bassman Pro, and the amp turned out to be a thunderous powerhouse with more volume than would be needed for most any gig. The warm vintage channel sounds beautiful, and the amp itself was dead quiet with no added noise. The overdrive channel dialed in a ton of grunge, and the push/pull tone pots were actually quite usable and added a lot of character to the tone.

But these are things I would expect from any tube amp of this caliber and Mesa and Ampeg have been ruling this market for year. The most unique thing about the amplifier is the Fender logo on the front, so they will surely capture the diehard Fender fans, and there are probably plenty of them that have been waiting for a more robust all-tube bass amp. But I am not in that group, as I am happy with what I have (for now).

The list price of the Fender Super Bassman Pro 300-watt bass amplifier head is a staggering $2399, with a street price of $1799. This is a lot of bread and makes it a bit pricier than the Ampeg SVT Classic. If you don’t need this much power (and weight), Fender makes a 100-watt version of this amplifier, the Bassman Pro 100T, which comes in around $350 cheaper.

But, all in all it would take a lot of convincing and a lot lower price for me to choose one of these over my Ampeg.

Mahalo!

2 comments:

  1. Hi Rex,

    I was curious about your review of the new Fender Superbassman. I noticed that you currently have an Ampeg tube amp. Have you compared it to the classic, or VR? Seems like you felt the fender would only be a step sideways, as they are both great at what they do?

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  2. Hi there. I still think the Ampeg (CL in my case) is the better value. I think the Fenders have about the same tone, and will not hold their value as well as an American-Made SVT. They are both good amps, and it really comes down to what you have to pay to get one, and what it will be worth in the long run. I hope this helps...Rex

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