Combos for home and studio use have seen some refinements in recent times, just as gig amplification has done. As dimensions and weights have decreased, the demands of the home player have grown – tone, features, and flexibility are all paramount considerations.
This affordable Ampeg is the second version of their popular BA-108 combo: At this price, can it transcend the limits of its dimensions?
Fitted with a custom Ampeg-designed eight- inch speaker, this combo is covered in a rugged double-thickness Tolex covering with impact-resistant metal corners, and a mesh-style speaker grille.
Rubber feet have been fitted to two sides of the unit; one side for standard positioning and the other to allow the combo to be tilted like a monitor. A handle sits on top of the combo, which makes carrying it very easy indeed. The front control panel is simple to navigate, offering everything the home player could need – aside from a built-in tuner, perhaps.
Both active and passive basses are accommodated, with a -15dB pad switch, followed by a single Volume control, a three-band EQ, an Aux-In pot to control the volume mix of an external sound source, 3.5mm and 1/4-inch jack inputs, and finally a 3.5mm headphones out. Simple but neat.
Small it may be, but the BA-108 is a powerful beast, and its EQ permits considerable tonal variation. With the EQ set flat at the center point, the delivery is strong and clear, but with no obvious bias. Thankfully, the bottom-end is rounded and smooth, the midrange avoids grit, and the treble response is clear without any indication that boosting it will simply result in unwanted clank.
A pair of passive basses with split and single-coil pickups sound just as they should with the EQ flat. Warming the signal up with the Bass control results in more power, as you might expect – but as this combo has an eight-inch speaker, the low end isn’t exactly booming.
Place the combo in the corner of a room, or against a wall if you want to increase that effect. The Mid and Treble controls give both basses an expected dose of extra presence and projection, with the overall delivery remaining focused and tight. The EQ is geared towards the familiar Ampeg thud, so high-definition glassiness when slapping will almost certainly elude you.
Switch to an active instrument, and the pad selector effectively tames the input signal, which is a relief. Again, with a cabinet and speaker of these dimensions, keeping a tight grasp on the input is necessary if you want to look after your speaker.
As for the tones, it quickly becomes apparent that the combo’s EQ requires a little less tweaking than with a passive bass: The combo basically reinforces what is already being sent to it by the instrument. Full low-end EQ on both the bass and the combo will be overkill, as this amp hasn’t been designed with live performance in mind, although it would certainly perform well in an acoustic-style band.
Slappers and pick players may find they want some extra clarity, and boosting the treble EQ will offer the extra bite they require. Again, there are obvious limitations in the high and low frequencies due to the physical nature of the unit.
Having said that, some of the slap tones are ideal, and pushing the combo hard doesn’t degrade the signal too much. If you want gritty, slightly distorted tones, you can find them by pushing the volume, but use the EQ in moderation so the speaker doesn’t leave the combo’s housing.
Considering its pricetag and dimensions, this is an impressive home-use combo. Expect too much of it live, and you’ll obviously push it beyond its intended parameters. Used correctly, though, I can’t see many players being disappointed with it, and with plenty of warmth and clarity on offer, it does exactly what it needs to do.
- PRICE: $99 / £112
- MADE IN: China
- POWER: 20 watts @ 4 ohms
- FEATURES: -15dB pad switch, volume, bass, middle, treble, Aux level
- SPEAKERS: 1 x 8” Ampeg Custom8 speaker
- DIMENSIONS: 427mm (H) x 381mm (W) x 305mm (D) / 16.8” (H) x 15.0” (W) x 12.0” (D)
- CONNECTIONS: 1/4” jack input, 3.5mm auxiliary input, 1/4” jack auxiliary input, 3.5mm headphone out
- WEIGHT: 10.7 kg / 23.5 lbs
- CONTACT: Ampeg