Renowned bassist (is ‘Jazz God’ too strong a term?) Jeff Berlin has long been a fan of Markbass products. Bass players around the world already use his signature Jeff Berlin CMD 151 combo on gigs every night. Now there’s a new option for students looking for a reliable combo, again at an affordable price and with the stamp of approval of Mr. Berlin himself. This model – again part of the Markbass Black Line – is made up of the exact same circuitry as the Little Mark 250 Black Line head with the addition of a single 200 watt 15” speaker. Berlin and Markbass designed the amp to meet the needs of Berlin’s students at his Players School of Music in Florida, as evidenced by the nice big badge on the speaker grille.
So what can you expect from either of this low-cost, high- powered beasties? The heart of the system is a 250-watt analogue power amp and a solid-state preamp. There are two inputs – a balanced XLR input (great for acoustic instruments and signals processed via effects rigs) with an 100Kohm impedance and a regular 1/4” jack input with an impedance of 500Kohm. The controls are gain (from -80dB to +23dB range), a full suite of tone controls with up to 16dB of boost or cut at carefully selected frequencies (low – 40Hz, low mid – 360Hz, high mid – 800Hz, high – 10kHz) and two additional tone controls, which add an even greater level of flexibility. The VPF (Variable Pre-shape Filter) sits at 380Hz, and the VLE (Vintage Loudspeaker Emulator), which lives in the 250Hz-20Hz range; the VLE has the ability to remove ‘modern’ sounding frequencies that may be perfect for some styles but not for others, leaving behind a deliciously vintage patina.
Of course there’s a master volume control as well, and since this is a solid-state design it doesn’t particularly affect the overall tone of the amp; it just lets you tame the volume. There’s a dedicated line out knob on the front of the amp (often you might expect this feature hidden on the back), and around the back you’ll find the line out XLR jack, effect loop send (pre-EQ) and return, and the 1/4” Speakon speaker out. This bad boy cranks out 150 watts RMS at 8 ohm or 250 watts RMS at 4 ohm.
SWEET AND LOWDOWN
Without any additional compressors, limiters or tubes, the Players School Combo is very much a ‘what you see is what you get’ amp. It strikes the perfect balance between transparency and character. When I plugged in my Fernandes Jazz Bass copy – a bass with a lot of personality – the amp emphasised that bass’s smooth attack, rich midrange and subdued treble. When I hit it with my Ibanez 5-string, the thunderous low-end, scooped mids and clear highs were powerfully abundant. And yet the VPF is great for fine-tuning the midrange character of the instrument, making my Fernandes sound more slap-friendly and my Ibanez more warm. A delight to play.
For more details on the range of Markbass products, head to cmcmusic.com.au.
Hits and Misses
Doesn’t skip a beat
Jeff Berlin’s tick of approval