With the trend being smaller, compact units over the last few years there have still been some makers pumping out big valve heads that are meant to really make things move. Ashdown have been one of the serious players from the UK with their gear getting a work out by the likes of Nate Mendel, Geezer Butler and Adam Clayton. Pumping out a lot of watts with true valve power, the BTA 400 packs a punch.
400watts, two, four or eight ohm outs, six KT88 output tubes and housed in a headshell approximately 60x30x40 cms, the BTA 400 is a serious amp. Control-wise you get the standard input, output levels, three-band bass, middle, treble EQ (with additional sliders to tweak your settings further) alongside an in-built valve drive, compressor and sub-harmonic generator. In terms of connectivity there’s also sub output, DI output, tuner out and an effects loop. Plenty to keep you on top of studio, practice and live situations.
So the BTA 400 is a tough unit, the kind that needs an extra hand to hoist on top of your 8x10 fridge but can take a huge smashing and come out unscathed. Big round rock tones, sharper driven punk, dirty overdriven metal or experimental sounds and clean compressed smoothness – they’re all onboard and deliver with a big wallop of oomph. It won’t be your small, low wattage, practise amp and it’s not intended to be. Big valve heads like this are meant to be used when you can really open them up and get some air moving. Great with quad boxes and 8x10s, this isn’t always going to be possible for every player so it’s good to see the range of ohm outputs meaning you could run it with just about anything.
Ashdown have made a name for heavy duty gear and they’ve stuck to their slightly retro stylings (big knobs, sliders, VU meter) meaning they’re a highly recognisable brand. Running a BTA400 at your gig will also get you noticed thanks to its beefy looks and tones. KT88s are often used in high end hi-fi gear and music equipment thanks to their extended response, and with six of them under the hood the BTA400 delivers real valve tone.
The only slight downside is the portability of the BTA400. It’s no bigger than some of the competing brands big valve rigs though, and probably more a reaction to the seemingly tiny micro heads we’ve seen lately. People have been lugging bigger amps for years and to really experience the valve vibe that’s what you do. It’s a big rig with lots of tone.
Hits and Misses
Valve power and tones
Heavy and big, not super portable