From the outset, Trace Elliot’s Elf range was not designed to recreate the leviathan bass tones that we all remember from the ’80s and ’90s – that would be impossible.
What the range does offer are lightweight solutions to bassists of all levels, with bass amp heads, lightweight cabinets, and now two combos, one of which we have here. The 1x10 Elf may look diminutive – but looks can be deceiving. So how does it perform?
The unit itself is suitably well-dimensioned and lightweight, with the amp housed towards the rear of the combo so that the controls are well out of the way, creating a very tidy package.
It comes with a durable dust cover, is ruggedly constructed, and sports a heavy-duty leather handle on the top and a metal grille on the front of the unit.
Strangely, there are no corner protectors, although the unit appears capable of handling scuffs and knocks without affecting its appearance too much.
The amp section is simple to operate and clearly laid out, with controls for Gain, a three-band EQ and volume: simplicity is truly the name of the game here. The amp is fitted with a level indicator that indicates compression when it flashes red; on this note, the compressor monitors changes made to the EQ, so take this into account when pushing the EQ controls to their limits. Turning the Gain control to full brings an overdrive/distortion circuit into play, for some colorful, gritty tones.
A quick glance at the rear of the combo shows fan venting, a speaker/headphone selector switch, an additional jack speaker output and a balanced XLR DI output with an earth lift switch.
Its only downside as a home practice unit is the lack of an auxiliary input connection in the form of a 3.5mm audio socket or a USB connection, enabling the player to attach an external music source. An additional tweeter might also have improved things for bassists of the tapping persuasion, although that would have pushed the price up.
You may be looking at the power ratings and thinking ‘How can I use this on a gig? It won’t be loud enough.’ Allow me to assure you that, having tested the amp with a selection of different basses, it’s no shrinking violet in any sense.
The combo packs a solid punch, and is capable of projecting solid bottom-end, midrange character and biting clarity in the upper frequencies. I accept that it lacks the tonal control we all associate with Trace gear of the past, but then again, bass players’ needs have changed over the years.
Testing a couple of five-string basses showed a strong fundamental tone delivery and, although the 10” speaker can only project so much, I found that the tones didn’t suffer in a home practice or rehearsal environment.
The EQ frequencies have been sensibly selected and will address the needs of bassists who need a strong, robust bass tone that can be adjusted as required in a wide variety of performance settings.
In a live setting, the combo stood up well to a certain point – but inevitably there came a point where the physical limitations of the unit were holding it back. At this point, you should consider an extra cabinet to spread the overall load.
I’ve heard many of the ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ when it comes to the Elf range – but I think this unit is a fine solution to the perennial requirement of a great-sounding, portable combo that delivers without costing a fortune, or needing two people to carry it.
Thankfully, technology has come a long way since the ’80s and, although the Trace company as we once knew it is no more, the brand lives on.
- PRICE: $599 / £509 street
- MADE IN: China
- POWER: 130 watts @ 8 ohms, 200 watts @4 ohms (with an additional 8 ohm cabinet)
- FEATURES: Gain, level indicator, bass (center @ 80Hz), middle (center @ 400Hz), treble (center @ 4.2kHz), power indicator, volume, speaker/headphone selector switch, ground lift switch)
- SPEAKERS: 1x10” Neo 8-ohm driver
- DIMENSIONS: 324mm (H) x 305mm (W) x 355mm (D)
- CONNECTIONS: Input, headphone/line out, speaker output, balanced DI XLR (direct out)
- WEIGHT: 18.5 lbs
- CONTACT: Trace Elliot