It’s always a treat to be sent a new Ashdown bass amp, and this particular one comes with high expectations. The EVO name has been used on Ashdown’s amps right from the early days, and the RM-800-EVO ll has a pedigree that stretches back decades, so this little amp has a lot to live up to.
Happily, there’s one area in which the RM-800-EVO ll differs completely from its ancestors – and that’s obvious when you lift it from the box.
Even by modern class-D standards, for an amp of this power it’s remarkably light at just 5.5 pounds (2.5 kilos). The smart silver-grey anodized alloy case wraps around the chassis with slotted cut-outs on the right hand side for cooling, and the Rootmaster logo is laser-etched on top. First impressions are of a well-built, compact and good-looking amp.
The front panel is logically laid out, with well-spaced controls and clear, white graphics which show up well against the new matt black finish. Previous amps had a polished stainless front panel and although they looked great, they were very reflective, which made the controls and printing difficult to see under bright stage lights.
There are separate active and passive inputs, next to which is the VU meter – it is an Ashdown amp, after all – which allows you to visually set your input level using the input control. Next to this are three buttons for EQ in/out, ‘shape’ – which fast-tracks you to that classic Ashdown ABM amp sound – and a mute button, which also changes the light behind the VU meter to blue so you can instantly see when you’re muted: a really neat idea.
The EQ consists of three main controls: Bass, Middle and Treble. However, there are two further controls set at 240Hz and 1.6kHz. These carefully chosen frequencies sit between those of the main controls and allow for fine-tuning your EQ. It’s an elegant and simple way of turning the basic three-band EQ into something really versatile, while being simple to understand and operate.
Talking of which, there’s also a one-knob compressor and a Sub control, which adds frequencies an octave below those of the notes you’re playing – a great addition to your sound. The Drive control is an impressive and authentic-sounding tube overdrive/distortion. It’s a really usable, valuable addition to the amp. Both this and the Sub can be switched in or out via a FS/2 footswitch.
A quick look at the back panel confirms that all the routing options and connectivity needed are present. As well as two Speakon combi jacks, there’s an effects loop and an XLR DI output. A real bonus with this amp is the built-in headphone preamp and Line In, with its own separate level on the front panel, making the RM 800 a perfect silent practice tool as well as a great gigging amp.
Plug in, and the huge headroom of the RM 800 is immediately obvious. Even with the front-end gain cranked up and the EQ a little bass-heavy, it’s hard to bully the preamp into clipping or distortion. With everything set flat, the clear and neutral sound means that your bass’s individual voice shines through. That may or may not be a good thing!
The new Spector bass I plugged in sounded bright and full, the amp accurately reproducing every nuance of the exotic timbres and powerfully active EQ on this high-end bass. Even my old Precision sounded awesome, although the 60-year-old pickup and antique flatwounds meant the poor thing needed a bit of a leg-up in the tone department.
Still, the added versatility of the two extra EQ controls made it easy to fine-tune the tone and boost those frequencies under-represented in the wheezy old pickup, and I was quickly able to dial in a familiar, contemporary and aggressive Precision sound. Adding a touch of overdrive, a hint of compression and a little of the sub effect further enhanced the tone, and in no time I was working with a perfect bass sound, no matter what genre of music I was playing.
We’ve come to expect great bass gear from Ashdown, and the RM-800 EVO ll amp continues this tradition of affordable, pro-quality amplification from this family-run business. The addition of the headphone preamp and adjustable line in give it a bit of a competitive edge when compared to many other bass amps in this class, and allied to the renowned reliability, light weight and comprehensive features, they make this quite a bargain. This amp is certainly worth checking out.
- PRICE: $1,079 / £599
- MADE IN: China
- POWER: 800W @ 4 ohms
- FEATURES: VU meter, Active/Passive Inputs, EQ in/out, Shape, Mute, Compressor, Drive (with in/out buttons) Sub filter, EQ: Low, mid and Treble, plus two further tone controls at 240Hz and 1.5kHz, Headphone input with on/off, Line in with mix control, Send/Return, XLR DI Output, 2 x Speakon, two-year warranty
- DIMENSIONS: 12” x 9” x 3.5”
- WEIGHT: 5.5 lbs
- CONTACT: Ashdown Engineering