Having played with the likes of Frank Gambale, Mike Stern and Billy Cobham, Alain Caron is a highly respected player in the music community. Likewise, Markbass is one of the most well-known bass amp manufacturers on the planet. It’s then understandable why the two parties would collaborate on the Combo 121 Lite. Continuing with their portable and lightweight amps that push some serious volume, Markbass seems to be onto another winner.
Somewhat similar in stature to the popular CMD 121H and CMD 151P, the new 121 Lite is taller and skinnier with some added cabinet depth, and measures approximately 38.5 x 46 x 49cm making it still pretty small. Great for fitting into small stages or carrying around town, the 121 Lite can sit right on the back seat of your car and the combo weighs in at just over 16kgs. Markbass have followed suit to the rest of their line and have gone with the spongey carpeted type cab covering and solid plastic corners, which seem to offer good protection and durability and can be wiped or vacuumed clean if needed.
Some standard Markbass controls are present on the front with gain, low, midlow, midhigh, high, VPF, VLE and master volume. I should mention the inclusion of a mute switch, which is really handy for changing instruments mid-gig. The front panel also has in/outs for aux in and headphone out. Flick to the back of the combo and you’ll find a line out, effect send and return, tuner out, preamp out, speaker out and ground lift and pre/post EQ switches. In terms of power, the 121 Lite runs 500 watts through the 12” woofer and 300 watts into the 1.25” tweeter, allowing for some serious dynamics and volume.
Starting with the amp set flat and the VPF and VLE off, I managed a tight, fat tone that had some great punch in the mids when digging in, and plenty of volume on tap when you start balancing the gain and master volume controls. Dialling in some of the variable pre shape filter and vintage loudspeaker emulator to taste, you can then add some body and edge if needed. The combination of the 12” and 1.25” driver also gives you a wide EQ spectrum to handle plenty of players and styles of music. Great for a range of basses and tones, the 121 Lite definitely has that Markbass vibe and offers so much as it’s portable and efficient, yet can handle anything from small quiet rehearsals to big gigs.
Hits and Misses
Plenty of volume, headroom and tone
Portable, light, smallish