Check out the digital editions of Bass Guitar and Bass Player magazines' new Mark King issue, and you'll find a fantastic eight-page bonus advertorial devoted to the worlds of Yamaha, Ampeg and Line 6.
Yamaha's reputation for consistent quality, from the most affordable ranges through to their custom-produced signature models, is inarguably impressive. With their recent acquisition of legendary amplification giant, Ampeg, and 2017's coming together with modelling pioneers, Line 6, exciting times lie ahead for Yamaha and their associated brands.
We recently spoke to the guys in the hot-seats charged with creating the music-making opportunities for all three brands going forward, along with notable artists across all three brands as to what drives their musical requirements and why their affiliations to each brand are important to them. And while we were at it, we cast an eager eye over the latest product offerings from all three.
Talking to the directors and department heads, what came across very quickly was the respect and mutual interest in the qualities, innovation and overall quality that each brand brings to the table. Yamaha's exemplary craftsmanship is matched by Ampeg's rich and illustrious heritage and Line 6's pioneering expertise in the world of digital modelling – combine all three and the resulting company can address the requirements of bassists, whether that be through the finest instruments, amplification on the biggest stages globally or digital reproduction with the smallest equipment footprint possible.
Combining three classic and iconic brands provides a whole host of opportunities looking forward and as technology continues to develop at such a rapid rate, this combination are finely poised to provide the diverse musical solutions as player requirements change and develop. For example, as a working bassist, you may require a multi-cabinet Ampeg SVT stack for an open-air gig one day and then replicate a similar tone using a Line 6 Helix Stomp and an Ampeg-based profile the next in a rehearsal room or recording studio.
All three companies now share an enviable artist roster, covering the full gamut of musical styles and genres. On the one hand, you have artists such as Nathan East, who celebrates his 40th anniversary using Yamaha basses this year, and Billy Sheehan (who isn't far behind in the anniversary stakes!) and on the other, bass illuminati such as Stanley Clarke and Tony Levin whose use of Ampeg amplification goes back decades and has somewhat defined their instantly recognisable bass-tones.
Throw in the likes of Bowie and Kravitz low-end anchor Gail Ann Dorsey, Sterephonics bass-man Richard Jones, YouTube sensation Miki Santamaria and the ever-genial Peter Hook and there is much to be learnt from the pearls of wisdom they offer up.
What is notable is that all of those interviewed share a love of the gear they use, whether they started out using the equipment and have never found anything better or whether they discovered their instruments and amplification of choice on a long musical journey. Backup, support and knowing their requirements are fulfilled no matter where they may be performing or recording around the world is an important aspect and it is credit to Yamaha, Ampeg and Line 6 that all the artists conveyed their sincerest thanks to each company for the help they receive.
So what of the gear? Well, with a shop's worth of basses, amplification and a Helix Stomp to cover, there was plenty of fun to be had! Yamaha's consistent eye on quality meant that all four basses played very well straight out of their respective boxes. Across the whole price spectrum, the BB models exhibited high build quality and a characteristic tone; as we progressed across the range, noticeable improvements became obvious as the price increased but generally, each bass was impressive with respect to its price-point.
Using the basses in tandem with the Ampeg amps and cabs was an enlightening experience and with three amps (PF-500 / PF-50T / SVT-VR) and two cabinets (PF-210HE / SVT-610HLF) to mix and match, the differences between each unit were very noticeable but the legendary Ampeg tube-tone is intrinsically stamped into each amp, with the cabinets delivering a rich punch.
Getting to grips with the HX Stomp pedal was a pleasure and with so many options at your fingertips, you might think it would be easy to become bogged down in menus and options but Line 6 have created a user-friendly unit that offers the player a highly-usable and flexible playing experience. The possibilities are truly impressive!
These are exciting times for all three companies but the real beneficiaries of this coming together are us, the musicians. What is very clear is that this is an opportunity to create something very special in music and was encapsulated by Dave Miner, Product Manager at Yamaha Guitar Group, Inc.
“The trend towards increased connectivity suggests some interesting possibilities for what information can be sent into and out of any piece of equipment. We could see new virtual amp or effect designs, that have never existed physically, become as iconic and essential as a classic tube amp or boutique stomp.” Watch this space!