Review: Markbass CMB 121 Black Line

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Review: Markbass CMB 121 Black Line

Markbass CMB 121 Black Line
Words by Jamie Colic

Markbass CMB 121 Black Line | CMC Music | RRP $1095

Hailing from Italy, Markbass was founded by Marco De Virgiliis in 2001 after previous attempts at collaborations with other bass companies had fallen through. 

Markbass CMB 121 Black Line review

Despite these initial setbacks, it didn’t take long for Marco to get Markbass established and the company sent shockwaves through the industry via their development and implementation of Neodymium magnets in bass speaker designs. 

Read more gear reviews here.

These advancements in speaker technology greatly decreased the weight of bass combo amplifiers and speaker cabinets without compromising the tonal characteristics that bassists desired. Solving a lot of problems associated with more traditional bass cabinet designs, this advancement simultaneously caused roadies to rejoice and chiropractors to lose a lot of money. 

In actuality, in subsequent years these designs have become industry standard amongst bass amp manufacturers worldwide. Ensuring that Marco and Markbass have left their mark on the annals of music history forever.

If providing tones for bass titans like Stu Hamm, Randy Jackson and Bob Daisely wasn’t enough you will be thrilled to note that Markbass even take a no-holds-barred approach to providing for the student and entry-level bassist. 

For the first time in the company’s 23 year history Markbass has decided to infiltrate the entry-level market with the CMB 121 Black Line combo amplifier. Acknowledging how important it is for beginners to have both phenomenal tones and a rugged build quality, the CMB 121 seeks to set a new standard when it comes to entry-level bass combos. 

Bass amplifier

With its warm yellow badge, black grille and sturdy cab, the CMB 121 Black Line adheres to an aesthetic template that anyone who knows Markbass will be familiar with. Bold but not obnoxious, the CMB 121 Black Line exudes an air of quality and leaves a notable impression even before plugging in. 

The control layout of the amplifier is situated on the cabinet’s top panel, making each control both accessible and easy to read. A four-band EQ is dictated via low, mid-low, mid-high and high controls. Markbass has also opted to include a master volume, gain control and mid-scoop and boost switches in this layout. 

In addition to the aforementioned controls, you will also find the CMB 121’s instrument input on the top panel of the amplifier as well as handy 3.5mm Aux and headphone outputs. The latter two of which have been included to aid the practice of students and beginners alike. 

Upon analysing the design of the unit’s top control panel, it is fair to assume that Markbass have set out to provide the essential features that a student would require on the journey from home practice, to lessons and even their first working gigs. Upon first glance, it is safe to say that the same approach has been utilised in the design of the CMB 121 Black Line’s rear panel.

It is here that you will find the power switch required to turn the amplifier on and off as well as the power port for the required IEC cable. The rear panel is then rounded out by the inclusion of effects loop send and return jacks, and an XLR direct out with a ground lift switch. 

Markbass CMB 121 Black Line 2

Despite being somewhat minimal I feel that Markbass have done a fantastic job when it comes to loading this package with everything that the target demographic will require during their first five or so years with the instrument, as well as being a handy bedroom-volume amp to have around for professional musos! Anything more at this point would run the risk of making the experience convoluted and over-complicated at the user end, and everything included is of adequate quality, sure to stand the test of time. 

But how does this all stack up in real-life playing situations? Be it solo practice, band rehearsal or perhaps even small gigs. Well, I’m pleased to say that the Markbass CMB 121 Black Line satisfies on all fronts. 

Sure, at 150 watts it’s not the most powerful bass combo on the market but it is plenty loud to be heard over a hard-hitting rock drummer without splitting signal to the PA via DI. The 12” speaker packs quite a punch in combination with the front bass port and the responsive four-band equaliser enables access to a range of bass tones.

Actually, versatility is a strong point of the CMB 121 Black Line. I feel that this amp leaves the perfect canvas for the user to dial in any manner of contemporary style bass tones from Rock to Electric Jazz all without breaking a sweat.

The boost and mid-boost switches further accentuate this amp’s versatility providing quick and useable ways to alter the CMB 121’s tone stack for some variety or to give a dB boost to the amplifier’s output stage. 

While on the topic of sound, it is also worth mentioning that the sound quality of the amps built in DI is more than adequate, void of any sonic artefacts that can sometimes tarnish less expensive units. The FX loop is also decent, not introducing any sort of “tone suck” when engaged and in use.

Lastly, coming in at a mere 16kg the CMB 121 isn’t going to break your back as you load into your next lesson or club gig. This is a most welcome change when compared to the weight of competitor’s amplifiers, something we have come to expect from Markbass at this point.

All in all, it is fantastic to see Markbass contributing a quality product for this player demographic where options can unfortunately be somewhat lacklustre. Not only is the Markbass CMB 121 Black Line an invaluable tool for the student bassist, it may even find a spot in the heart of the professional who is looking for an affordable practice amp with high-dollar sound.

For local enquiries, visit CMC Music.