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At the heart of the sys­tem is a 250 watt ana­log 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 a 100 kohm 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), which sits at 380Hz, and the VLE (Vin­tage Loud­speaker Emu­la­tor), which lives in the 250Hz-20Hz range: it 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.


With­out any addi­tional com­pres­sors, lim­iters or tubes, the CMD JB 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 — both amps 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 warmer. You can play up these dif­fer­ences by exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent speaker cab­i­nets: the 15″ speaker of the combo is great for pow­er­ful, all-encompassing tone but if you want lots of detail — say, for solo work or less low-end-domineering styles, it sounds great through a 4×10” array with a tweeter.


This is a very flex­i­ble amp, as you’d expect from some­thing designed to thrive in a music edu­ca­tion envi­ron­ment with such a highly-regarded fig­ure­head as Jeff Berlin. But of course the word ‘school’ doesn’t mean this thing can’t rock in a bed­room, garage or club. It puts out what­ever you put in, and yet it has enough tone-shaping power to add some extra magic to your bass as well.