The CTM range is inspired by classic tube heads with a 30 watt EL84 power section, ECC83 and ECC82 preamp tubes, and high and low inputs for use with passive and active basses. (The line used to be called the Little Bastard in honour of James Dean’s Porsche, but Ashdown kept running into uncool folks who weren’t into the name).
The control layout seems pretty simple—bass, middle, treble and master, plus Ashdown’s super-cool-if-not-downright-iconic VU output meter—but look closer and you’ll see there’s more going on, with switches for mid shift, bass shift and bright for further tone-shaping, plus a mute switch for when you need to shut the hell up for some reason. There’s also an effects send and return on the control face rather than around the back, and a balanced DI for studio recording or larger gigs. The matching cabinet is also handmade in the UK from the finest Birch Ply, and it has a custom Blue Line driver, bass frequency port and Speakon/jack connectors. It has protective metal corners, high-quality recessed steel side handles and a black cloth grille—and of course that sexy tweed.
The real genius of the CTM circuit is that it’s not a radically complicated design. The controls will change your sound enough to emphasise certain frequencies or rein back others, but it’s not one of those amps that can send you off the road and into a ditch the second you twist a knob by a quarter-turn. The bass shift switch adds more fullness to the low end, but it’s more felt than heard. The mid shift gives you more poke and grunt in this crucial frequency range, but it’s more of a low-mid growl rather than an upper-mid honk, and the treble shift adds more air and detail to the top end, but not to a shrill extent.
Of course, being a valve amp you’re going to get lots of great overtones as you turn it up. It’s a very loud amp though, so be prepared to rattle some teeth. There are other Ashdown amps like the CTM-15 with a similar circuit that add a gain control if you really want to get some growl going at lower levels.
This isn’t a subtle amp, especially once you get it to stage volume. And although it’s a limited collector piece, it’s made to be played. It seems it’s happiest with passive basses, where the frequencies really seem to punch and whomp, so it’s great for punk, rock, blues, vintage Sabbath—tones where you really need a full low end and a bit of harmonic girth rather than hi-fi snap, crackle and pop.