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.
LOW AND BEHOLD
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.
I LOVE THE PLAYERS AND YOU LOVE THE GAME
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.