Pros: This is a nice sounding small bass amp.
FENDER BASSMAN 150 BASS AMPLIFIER
When Fender introduced the Precision Bass back in 1951, it was only natural that there needed to also be an amplifier that was capable of accurately reproducing the sound of this new Bass guitar. And so, in early 1952 Fender introduced the Fender Bassman Amp to bring to life the full rich sound of the Fender Precision Bass. Throughout the years, there have been numerous versions of amps that have shared the name Fender Bassman. Currently, Fender has a whole line of different amps that bear the name of Fender Bassman, and each has different size cabinets, speaker configurations, and wattage output. The amp that I will be discussing today is one of the smallest members of the current Fender Bassman family. As with any small size amp, the consideration to purchase a small amp usually represents a compromise, which may involve cost and/or performance. As with any compromise, there are pros and cons to be considered, good points and bad points, and ultimately it comes down to individual preferences and needs. I shall try in this review to highlight the pros and cons of this amp, so that you can make an informed buying decision, if you should at some point consider a possible purchase of the Fender Bassman 150 Combo Bass Amplifier. The Fender Bassman 150 Combo Bass Amplifier has a list price tag of $749.99, but it can be had from most large national musical instrument chain stores for a discounted price of $499.99. Read on and see if this amplifier sounds like one that you might want to audition the next time you are visiting your local musical instrument store.
A very nice feature of the many products that are manufactured by Fender is that they are designed with the gigging musician in mind, and they are very ergonomic. The Fender Bassman 150 Combo Amp is no exception to the rule. One of the nicest features of the design of the Fender Bassman 150 Combo Bass Amplifier is that the most frequently used controls, are located on the front panel of the amp, and they are simple to understand and readily accessible. As the name would imply, the current incarnation of the Fender Bassman 150 Combo Bass Amplifier dishes out a hefty 150 Watts of RMS power into 4 Ohms, and it has one 12 inch, 4 Ohm, Fender specially designed Eminence speaker (woofer) and one Piezo compression horn driver, with an attenuation switch. This amp is surprisingly compact for an amp that puts out 150 watts of power, and it is 21 inches high, 19.25 inches wide, and 17.25 inches deep. It is also quite light for an amp that puts out 150 watts of power, and weighs in at a mere 39 pounds. This compact design makes it easy to transport the Fender Bassman 150 Amp easily from one place to another, such as back and forth from band rehearsal. Another very nice feature of this amp is that it can be tilted back, which makes it more readily audible to the performer.
For ease of use, simplicity, and reliability, the circuitry of the Fender Bassman 150 is all solid state. The Bassman 150 Combo Amp has only one Channel, and only one Input for your bass. However, adjacent to the one Input is a switch labeled "-6dB," which you guessed it, lowers the sensitivity of the Input by -6dB. This allows for a cleaner response from bass guitars that have active electronics, or from a bass guitar with a higher output level than the average bass guitar. When this switch is in the out position, the Input sensitivity is "normal," and when it is pushed in, the Input sensitivity is reduced by the -6dB just described.
The next control that we come to on the Bassman 150 Combo Amp is the Volume Control, which in conjunction with the Master control, adjusts the overall volume of the amp. Immediately to the right of the Volume dial is a small red LED light, which will engage if you are playing loudly. Occasional flashing of this light is O.K., but if this light remains on, it is an indication that your amp is clipping, and you are apt to be hearing distortion when this occurs. To prevent damage to the speaker, it is of course wise to reduce your volume level should this happen. Just below the Clip LED is an LED that indicates the Pre Amp Signal. If this LED is not engaged, you must either turn up the volume of your bass or the volume of the amp in order for the amp to function properly and optimally read the signal from your bass.
Next in line we come to a knob labeled Compression Ratio. When this dial is turned all the way to the left, there is no compression. Turning it all the way to the right will yield maximum compression. Compression is a nice feature to have on a bass amp, as it evens out the attack of a musician's playing. When the compressor is triggered by a musician's playing, and it is set just right, it functions to even out a person's playing, and can make for a nice full presence. Obviously, an overly compressed bass does not sound very exciting, and the performer's attack becomes masked. Experience and practice will help you to determine just how much compression is suitable for your playing style, the music you are performing, and the venue or room you are performing in.
Next we come to the Contour Control, which as it is turned clockwise, this knob will increase the "scooping" out of the mid-range frequencies, which is a sound that is preferred by players who like to use their thumb to achieve a more modern funky sound when they are playing. The Bassman 150 also has a separate Bass Control, which adjusts the tone of the lower frequencies, and a Treble Control for adjustment of the higher frequency tones. Sandwiched in between the Bass and Treble Controls, the Bassman 150 also has an onboard 2-Band Semi-Parametric EQ set of controls, which permits the player to have greater control over the mid-range frequencies, which is so very important in defining the sound that you are looking to achieve in a performance. The two Frequency Control knobs are labeled Low Mid and High Mid, and they permit the performer to designate the specific frequency you want to adjust, and the two Level Control knobs below the Frequency Control knobs permits the player to boost or cut (by up to + or - 15 dB) the specific frequency designated by the Frequency Control. This is a very useful feature of this amp, and provides the player with a greater degree of tone control than a mere Bass and Treble Control that is found on most amps in this price range. For example, cutting out some of the mid-frequencies makes for an accentuation of both the high and low frequencies, and this is a sound that is great for slap bass sounds.
Adjacent to the EQ controls is a Pre/Post switch, which allows for the signal that is sent to the Line Out Jack to be either before or after it has been processed by the EQ Controls. In the Out position, the EQ is bypassed, and when this switch is pushed to the In position the EQ is active. The Bassman 150 also has a XLR Line Out Jack conveniently located on the front panel of the amp. This output permits easy connection to either a sound system board or to an outboard recording device. There is also a Line Level knob adjacent to the Line Out Jack, and this allows for control over the level of the signal that is coming out of the Line Out Jack. A Ground Lift switch can also be found next to the Line Out Jack, which when pushed in, will serve to disconnect the ground pin (pin # 1) of the Line Out Jack, which may reduce hum resulting from connections to improperly grounded electrical equipment in some circumstances. Next we come to a switch on the front of the control panel that is labeled Mute, and as the name implies, when this switch is pushed in, all of the Outputs on the amp cease to function, except for the Tuner Out, which is an output that sends your signal to an outboard tuning device, should you choose to use one. There is a convenient LED located next to the Mute switch which flashes when the Mute switch is activated. The last dial on the extreme right of the control panel is labeled Master, and this control adjusts the power amp signal. The Master should be used with the Volume dial described earlier in this review to control the overall volume of the amp. Adjacent to the Master dial is another LED, and this one is labeled as being the Power Amp Clip. Once again, if you see this LED occasionally flashing, it is no big deal, but if it is constantly flashing or remains lit, then the power amp is clipping, and you will be hearing distortion. Besides being annoying to listen to, if there is clipping going on, you must turn down the overall volume of the amp or you will run the risk of damaging the amp and/or speaker. The very last control on the front panel is the On/Off Switch, which is labeled as Power. This switch lights up when the amp is turned on.
And now it is time to turn our attention to the rear of the amp. Turning to the rear of the amp, we also have several useful features. There is a Speaker Output Jack which can be used to connect the onboard 12 inch speaker, but which can also be used to drive an external speaker cabinet with different size speakers, such as one with 10 inch or 15 inch speaker. Remember to use a cabinet that is rated at 4 Ohms, as this will maximize the power output of the Bassman 150 Amp, and also protect the amp or external speaker from damage that could potentially result from mismatching the power handling capacity. I must admit that I was a bit surprised that there was not an option to run both the onboard speaker as well as an external speaker cabinet simultaneously. I think that this was an error on the part of the designers, as who would want to carry around an external speaker cabinet and have an inactive onboard speaker. From a practical standpoint, this just does not make sense to me.
There is also a Headphone Jack for late night practicing, but you must remember to manually disengage the speaker jack for silent playing, and this is a bit annoying to have to do. Once again, I must complain a bit about this feature, as many less expensive amps will have an automatic cut off of the internal speaker when a set of headphones is plugged in. Once again, from a practical standpoint, this just does not make sense to me.
Next in line we come to an Auxiliary In with RCA input connections, which can be used to connect an outboard drum machine or CD player. One must control the volume of any outboard devices that are used, as there is no way to control them from the amp. There is also an Effects Loop set of jacks. The jack labeled Send should be connected to the input of your outboard device, and the output of the outboard device can be connected to the Return Jack on the Bassman 150. Next we come to the Tuner Out Jack, which can be used to connect your bass to an outboard tuner. The Mute switch discussed earlier in this review can be used to disengage the speaker for silent tuning. Finally, we come to the Horn Switch, which controls the volume level of the horn at either High (normal or full horn), Low (-6dB) or Off (no horn at all).
Like I said earlier in this review, the Fender Bassman 150 Amp is one of the smallest bass guitar amps in the Fender Bassman family. Whenever one is considering purchasing an inexpensive, small amp, one must be willing to weigh that there is going to be a compromise between price and the quality of sound. If you are looking for a thundering amp, with concert hall capabilities, I am afraid you will be disappointed, and you will have to look elsewhere. This is step above being a good practice amp and one that is also suited to playing relatively small gigs. As such, it is limited in its sonic capabilities, most specifically due to is limited power.
I tried this amp out using a Fender American Deluxe Precision Bass. It sounded fairly good, but quite honestly I can attribute much of the quality of the sound to the excellent bass that I was trying it out with. The amp sounded fairly full, round, and punchy on settings 3 to 5 on the Volume control. However above this setting, the amp began to clip when I played aggressively and switched from playing with my fingers to using a pick. When the horn was turned to full, the amp was able to handle slap bass sounds fairly well, and it sounded acceptable when using my thumb for this purpose.
From my experience, I would only feel comfortable in recommending this amp to someone who was going to use it for band practice or who was going to bee using it to play small size clubs. If on the other hand one were going to run it through a powerful PA system, then the sky is the limit, but I doubt that most people who will be purchasing this amp are going to be counting on playing in a club that has a great PA system. On the positive side, a selling point for me, is the lightness and compact size of this amp, especially when considering that it puts out 150 Watts RMS. Spending an extra couple of hundred dollars or so, will put you into an amp that can do a lot more, but ultimately you must decide on the extent of your needs, versus the limits of your budget. However, the bottom line for me, is that I believe that this amp represents a good value for the money.
Well thank you for taking the time to read my review. But now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.