When the topic of feel or playability comes up, it’s probably fair to say that many bassists think in terms of their respective instrument, not their amp.
Players don’t usually emphasize feel or playability as a chief characteristic of a bass amp rig, perhaps because those qualities are harder to quantify in a component that isn’t in direct contact with your hands.
To most players, tone is just what comes out of the cabinet – the sound. But when you have a bass in your hands, you want it to feel good. It’s not fun when you’re fighting for every note: You start thinking too much about playing rather than performing or recording.
The incredibly dynamic Bergantino Audio Systems Forté D bass amp and NXT, or Neo X-Treme Technology, speaker cabinets epitomize what a truly intuitive, playable rig can, and should, feel like. I first heard about Bergantino from John Brown’s Body bassist Dan Africano. He was extolling the virtues of their amps and speaker cabs long before the opportunity to review the Forté D and NXT cabs presented itself.
Having seen him perform several times, most notably at the annual Ithaca Reggae Fest in Ithaca, NY, I always noted that his tone was thick, without being muddy; crisp, while retaining bottom end; and warm, with abundant clarity and articulation – and he’s obviously a great player too, so that mustn’t go unacknowledged.
The man behind these tonal characteristics is Jim Bergantino, a master craftsman in hi-tech electrical engineering and high-end hi-fi. Bergantino also designed custom bass cabinets for other leading brands before deciding to launch his own company in 2001.
This background, combined with the philosophy of being an engineering-driven company, rather than being a sales-driven venture, contributes to Bergantino’s mystique as an audiophile’s nirvana.
Though the Forté D is advertised as an incredibly flexible and lightweight bass amplifier, I was equally surprised at how portable the NXT cabs were, even before getting them out of the shipping cartons. This is a worthy consideration, given the fact that most musicians are likely hauling their own gear these days.
The Forté D uses the same preamp and powerful 800W RMS power amp section employed in Bergantino’s ground-breaking B|Amp; both feature their BFT drive circuit, a component that Product Development Specialist Lee Presgrave was integral in co-developing.
As opposed to the digital aspect of the B|Amp faceplate, the Forté D has a traditional amplifier look, even though the circuitry is digital, for those players who want simple options and controls.
I first connected it to the NXT112 with tweeter cab only, using a passive custom P-Bass. Right out of the gate, without even adjusting any knobs on the four-band EQ, I was impressed with the clarity. Good or bad, I could hear, as if for the first time ever, every bit of articulation in my bass-lines.
If I wanted a little more meat, a simple adjustment of Bass and Lo-Mid added what I was looking for, and was intuitively responsive. Same with the top end: In the interest of exploring the Forté D’s capabilities, I dialled in a bit more Hi-Mid and Treble than I normally use, and again, I was impressed with the amp’s responsiveness.
The Bright switch allowed me to tailor the tone even more, enabling additional presence to my sound.The built-in Bergantino proprietary Parallel Dynamic Circuitry made the dynamic intentions in whatever I was playing more pronounced, so I was able to get after any inconsistency because I was hearing things I hadn’t heard before on any other rig.
I couldn’t help digging into some classic James Jamerson Motown grooves, since the ghost notes that are inherent in those lines seem to come alive with clarity and definition that made the rhythmic elements seem punchier and the melodic elements sound smoother.
I’m usually not a huge fan of built-in dynamic processors, because oftentimes I find that it squashes the headroom of an amp. However, the Parallel Dynamic Circuitry reacted quite differently, allowing my tone to have a depth and breadth I hadn’t experienced with other built-in compressors.
I was fortunate enough to be able to take this rig for a test run on a gig performing two sets of Led Zeppelin covers. Since the Forté D features dual Speakon outputs, allowing you to hook up multiple cabinets without daisy-chaining, I brought the NXT210 with tweeter cab as well.
The cabs are made from Baltic Birch and lightweight plywood, reducing their overall weight while still sounding harmonically rich, especially throughout the midrange of the speaker. I was impressed at how well the cabs cut through the rest of the band, despite contending with two guitars, keyboards, and a 24” bass drum.
The Drive knob on the Forté D provided enough grit to cut through without sacrificing any low end, clarity or definition. It’s also worth noting the rig’s consistency from string to string. The D- and G-strings were as loud as my E- and A-strings, and I was running the Forté D flat. How many times have you had to EQ your bass amp to get the high strings to be as consistent, volume-wise, as the low strings?
Both cabs feature Bergantino’s reference tweeter and constant directivity horn via custom-designed, phase-coherent crossovers. The NXT speakers delivered a full-range, harmonically rich tone, and even enhanced the lows and highs of other amplifiers I demoed with at home.
Whether you’re in the market for a head, or cabs, or both, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better than the Bergantino Forté D and NXT speaker cabs. This is a complete bass system ably designed to meet, and often exceed, all of your sonic needs and expectations.
- PRICE: Forté D £999, NXT112 £899, NXT210 £1079
- MADE IN: USA
- POWER: 800W RMS output @ 2ohms, 700W RMS @ 4 ohms, 350W RMS @ 8 ohms
- SPEAKERS: NXT112 12” speaker; NXT210 2 x 10” speakers
- FEATURES: Forté D | Four-band EQ (Bass: +/- 10dB at 65Hz; Lo-Mid: +/- 10dB at 250Hz; Hi-Mid: +/- 10dB at 1kHz; Treble: +/- 10dB at 3.5kHz), Bright switch, Adjustable BFT Drive circuit, on-board Parallel Dynamic Circuit, Aux input and headphone out, effects loop, dual Speakon outputs, studio-quality DI with selectable pre- or post-EQ and line out, tuner out
- NXT210 cab (NXT112 cab): Neodymium magnet woofers, High Intelligibility Reference Series Tweeter, ported, lightweight Italian poplar with Baltic birch baffle, Black Bronco Tolex, 8 ohms, 500W (400W) RMS, phase-coherent crossover with tweeter control, 40hz-12Khz frequency response, sensitivity 98db @ 2.83v / 1-metre
- DIMENSIONS: Forté D 10.5” / 267mm (W) x 8.4” / 213mm (D) x 3.75” / 95mm (H) NXT210 cab 22.75” / 578mm (H) x 18.5” / 470mm (W) x 12.5” / 318mm (D) NXT112 cab | 17.75” / 451mm (H) x 18.5” / 470mm (W) x 14” / 356mm (D)
- WEIGHT: Forté D 6 lbs / 2.7kg, NXT112 29 lbs / 13 kg, NXT210 33 lbs / 15 kg
- CONTACT: Bergantino