The front panel features some of the most easy to use and intuitively designed controls I’ve ever dialed. An input, before a simple gain, treble and bass control. Driving the gain provides a dirtier tone, but can’t be pushed into full distortion or fuzz territory. Even at gainer settings, the tone becomes more full and colourful without obvious clipping or distorting. At 500 watts, the amp is loud and ready to take on anything you need it for. In being an amp designed for a bass player whose tone and role changes song-to-song, Michael League requires an amp that can be quickly and easily set, relied on, and forgotten about until the next song. Snarky Puppy’s bass lines push and pull the songs, and League’s playing slips in and out of focus while endlessly keeping the band anchored.
The footswitchable EQ settings can be toggled between the full, 5-band EQ or a more simple treble and bass control designed to be more plug-n-play. The five-band EQ provides bass, middle and treble, but also an ultra-low and hi-mid control that are targeted directly at commonly used frequencies of the bass guitar. The Ultra Low dial is set for +/- 16dB of gain at 67 Hz, and the Hi Mid at 1400 Hz. The Hi Mid targets string attack that is clear and defined, without any unpleasant honk that is common with mids on a bass guitar. The Ultra Low, on the other hand, pushes sub frequencies from the amp that remain controlled, no matter how much gain you give it. For rock, funk and even metal, sub frequencies can help glue a mix together and find the bass’s place in the mix, especially when blended with the direct sound from the back of the amp.
The rear panel of the Markbass CASA features a handy direct out for live applications or recording. The EQ section can then be switched pre or post direct out, which is incredibly handy for capturing a super clean signal and re-amping or blending into a dirtier tone. The direct out is admittedly a little clinical to be used as your total tone, but you’d prefer a more clinical DI than a dirty and coloured one. The direct out also features a ground lift so it can kept clean on any power you might run into.
Overall, the Markbass CASA, developed in line with Michael League’s specs, is a great amp. It’s clean, solid, and offers a bunch of routing and tonal options, while still keeping everything simple. You can add colour when and where you want, but can do so knowing that your foundation is great. Getting the sound right at the source literally rings true through the CASA and it’s matching 410 cabinet. Pedals and extra colour are great but without a great amp to expand on, they’re nothing. The EQ on the CASA is simple, straight forward and easy to dial, it’s arguably impossible to dial a bad tone.