Ampeg BA600-210 Combo
Originally published in Guitar World, December 2009
The Ampeg BA600-210 has lots of oomph for an amp in its size and weight class.
From the time that it was founded in 1949, Ampeg has been all about amplifying the bass, making it louder without creating distortion. The company’s first bass amp, the Super 800, boasted a single 12-inch speaker driven by a mere 18 watts, but throughout the Fifties Ampeg developed a line of more powerful amps that upped the wattage while adding greater control features.
The company that gave us the B-15 Portaflex and the mighty SVT has a new trick up its sleeve: the mating of vintage aesthetics and tone with ultra-modern technology. The BA600-210 is a high-powered bass combo that combines a tube preamp and digital technology, creating a lightweight rig with a split personality.
At the heart of the BA600 is a Class D power amp and switch-mode power supply, which pushes the power rating to 600 watts at four ohms. The combo has two channels, Vintage and Modern. The Vintage channel uses 12AU7A and 12AX7A preamp tubes to feed what Ampeg calls the B-15 Tone Stack—bass and treble controls that deliver +/-12dB at 40Hz and 4kHz, respectively. The solid-state Modern channel has three bands of EQ: +/- 18dB at 40Hz, 100Hz and 10kHz. The Modern channel also features the familiar Ultra Hi (+9dB @ 8kHz) and Ultra Lo (+9dB @ 100Hz) switches for extended frequency boost. Other controls include top-panel channelselect buttons and a mute switch (both available on the optional footswitch), an adjustable threshold optical compressor and a master control. The BA600 has two inputs, one set at 0dB for passive instruments, the other with a -12dB pad for high-output and active basses.
Around back, the BA600 has all the modern conveniences you would expect: XLR balanced (with ground lift) and 1/4-inch TRS unbalanced line outputs with level control and pre or post EQ/compressor/preamp/effectloop switches. An effect loop, a tuner output jack and an L-Pad control for the tweeter complete the package.
The cabinet is made from 14-ply Baltic birch plywood and has dual rear ports, a design that allows you to control low-end response by changing the distance from the back wall. The 600-watt combo is available in 2x10 or 1x15 configurations. The use of neodymium speaker magnets helps keep the weight down, though at 53 pounds, the BA600-210 isn’t light, and you’ll be glad that removable casters are included. The relatively short, wide cabinet makes using the top handle a little awkward for long hauls, but two spring-loaded recessed handles are mounted on the sides to make toting the combo easier.
THE BA600 IS CAPABLE of volume levels suited to medium-sized venues, but tapping one of the lineout jacks into the house P.A. certainly extends its range. It throws a decent amount of sound for a relatively small box, but let’s face it, it has its limits. It won’t cut metal gigs or compete with 100-watt Marshall stacks. It also has no external speaker jack, though you probably wouldn’t want or need the additional coverage in the venues to which the amp is suited.
The Vintage channel has a big, full, tube-y sound, but resemblance to the legendary B-15 is slim at best. It’s slightly hotter than the Modern channel, so some adjustment is required to maintain consistent volume when switching. The Modern channel benefits from the addition of a midrange control, which allows for more flexible tone shaping, and the higher frequency center of the treble control makes the channel better suited for slap and other aggressive playing styles. The Ultra Hi and Lo switches are useful boosts, and it would have been nice if the optional footswitch gave access to them.
The optical compressor works well and can be dialed in for subtle limiting or total squash, though more extreme settings will naturally produce a decrease in output. The speakers handle all that power up to a point—the BA600 gets big and loud but don’t think about cranking it to 10. I experienced issues with extraneous vibration on the test unit The power amp housing is a large metal box that is mounted on the cabinet, and several low notes created an annoying sympathetic rattling. Tightening up the screws proved to be no help.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Ampeg BA600-210 has lots of oomph for an amp in its size and weight class. The tone is less characteristic of the classic Ampeg vibe than some of the company’s other offerings, which may be a selling point for those seeking a more neutral sound.
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