Live performance environments continue to evolve, and with them, so have the tools that working bassists require. Ashdown Engineering has stepped up to confront our changing circumstances with the introduction of two lightweight innovations, the Ant and Tone Pocket.
The Ant essentially replaces the position of a DI box in your signal chain, but offers more versatility than a rudimentary 600-ohm balanced DI output. Its robust aluminum housing is elegant in design, prioritizing durability, and the controls appear simple, unassuming, and straightforward to interpret.
Input is through a standard 6.35mm mono jack, which feeds a -10dB front-end pad to help tame high-output basses. From here on, the user interface comprises two dipswitches and four rotary controls.
The first dipswitch alternates between flat and pre-shaped EQs, allowing immediate access to Ashdown’s scooped tonality. The second dipswitch is a mute, which works in conjunction with the unit’s LED indicator. The three-band EQ is utilitarian but practical: Bass frequencies are set at 100hz, midrange is 660hz, and treble is 7khz, all with a +/- 15dB capability.
Although fairly standard, these controls are articulate and dynamic, especially when used in conjunction with the pre-shape dipswitch.
The final control knob is responsible for the output signal, which is where the Ant reveals its true prowess. On the side of the unit is the aforementioned DI output and also, curiously, a combination 6.35mm jack/Speakon connection.
Why? Well, beneath the unassuming aluminum skin of the Ant is housed a 4 ohm, 200 watt Class D power amp – all at a weight of a mere 915g, or just over two pounds. As the mains power connection is auto-voltage, it automatically runs on either 120 or 240 volts: Place this unit at the end of your pedalboard and you’re pretty much set to perform on any stage, worldwide.
One downside is that the controls appear a little vulnerable for a floor unit that’s supposedly built to last, and could perhaps benefit from some sort of protection bar. The mute switch could also be more accessible for foot use, but otherwise, the concept and design is excellent.
Ashdown Tone Pocket
Ashdown has also sent us its new headphone amp, the Tone Pocket. This handy little unit is intended to enhance home practice scenarios, but as with the Ant, the innovation extends further than that.
It weighs only 272g, or just over half a pound, and connection to the device is supplied via a 6.35mm mono jack for instruments, and an additional 3.5mm line in to accommodate MP3 players. The frequencies of the three-band EQ mirror those found on the Ant.
The versatility of the Tone Pocket becomes evident when you flip the unit around and consult the rear panel. I was pleased to see not only a balanced line out, but also a USB/DAW output, meaning that this headphone amp can be used as an independent preamp or digital interface, which can be integrated with recording software. A Bluetooth-equipped version was also recently announced.
You can charge the device via a mains socket, or simply plug it into the car socket en route to your next show or rehearsal. As a backstage headphone amp, a digital interface for recording, or as an independent multi-purpose preamp, this is a very well-designed product.
Ashdown Tone Pocket
- PRICE: £139 / $219 (black) , £149 (white), £169 / (w/Bluetooth)
- MADE IN: China
- OUTPUT: Line Out, Headphone Out, USB and DAW
- FEATURES: Three-band EQ, DAW connection (zero latency, 48K / 44.1KHz sampling rate), Soft Mute function, high-performance 16-bit audio DAC, compatible with multiple platforms, 10v power supply or USB power, five-year warranty
- WEIGHT: 272g / 0.6 lbs
Ashdown The Ant
- PRICE: £299 / $419
- MADE IN: China
- POWER OUTPUT: 4 Ohms: 196 watts RMS / 8 Ohms: 140 watts RMS
- FEATURES: Three-band EQ, Preshape, Mute, headphone out, lightweight Class D power amp, balanced XLR DI, five-year warranty
- WEIGHT: 915g / 2.1 lbs
- CONTACT: Ashdown (opens in new tab)