When I was offered the chance to test drive a couple of cool new products from Spector Bass Guitars and Markbass, I grabbed it with both hands, of course.
Spector’s recent NS Pulse I Series is a couple of steps up from the company’s Legend and Performer ranges. It combines South Korean craftsmanship with a few upmarket features with a couple of very tasty and tactile sandblasted body finishes.
Italy’s Markbass is a bass amp maker known for its lightweight and compact amp heads and speaker cabinets. Markbass’ brand-new MB58R Series (the ”R” stands for ”Revolution”) is centred around a whole range of different speaker cabinets. These cabinets are built in a very unique way, which further helps cut down their weight, and also makes them almost fully recyclable.
Additionally Markbass has introduced a matching new version of their Little Mark amp head, called the Little Mark 58R. The Little Mark 58R sports an eco-friendly composite housing and a new control layout, making the amp even lighter in weight and easier to use.
The Spector NS Pulse I 4 (current price in Finland: 1,149 €) uses Ned Steinberger’s (yes, he of headless bass fame) original, highly ergonomic curved body design. In the Pulse I Series’ case the body is made of highly figured ash.
The bolt-on neck – using six separate screws and washers – is a three-strip heat-treated maple affair. The Macassar ebony fretboard is home to 24 medium-sized frets.
The Pulse I Series comes in two sandblasted ash finishes:
Our review sample comes in a finish called charcoal grey, which combines a grey body with black wood grain. The second finish is called cinder red, and it sports a black body with red grain.
The headstock sports a matching ash veneer, the famous Stuart Spector Design inlay, and four modern black machine heads.
Spector’s chunky bridge is known as a sustain monster.
The Spector NS Pulse I 4 comes with an active PJ-set from EMG Pickups.
Spector’s Tone Pump Jr. preamp features two individual volume controls – one for each pickup – as well as boost-only controls for bass and treble EQ.
The NS Pulse I 4 is a lightweight bass that fits your body like the proverbial glove, thanks to its gentle body curvature and the additional ribcage chamfer.
The neck feels very slender and fast. The relatively thin, rounded neck profile, combined with the review sample’s excellent set-up, makes for an effortless playing feel. This is definitely a bass guitar that does not stand in your way.
The Spector’s acoustic tone is very woody with a nice bit of top-end sheen. The EMG pickups and Spector’s Tone Pump Jr. preamp offer an excellent range of bass sounds, covering the whole range of musical genres you’d normally play on an electric bass.
The brand-new Markbass Little Mark 58R (current price in Finland: 612 €) is an eco-friendly, super-lightweight (only 2 kg) 500/300 watts amp head, made especially to complement the company’s MB58R range of speaker cabinets.
Although the Little Mark 58R retains all of the brilliant features of the regular Little Mark – like the four-band EQ with additional, footswitchable ”Mid-Scoop” feature and the ”Old School” control – the layout of the front and back panels has been changed for the 58R model.
All controls and in- and outputs – save for the speaker connectors – have been placed on the front panel for quick and easy access. This makes the front panel more ”busy”, but doesn’t make it feel crammed. Everything is easily accessible and logically placed.
The Little Mark 58R’s fan is more than quiet enough for serious studio use.
The Markbass MB58 102P (top; 612 €) and MB58 102Pure (bottom; 716 €) share the same revolutionary cabinet construction, but differ in the detailed speaker specifications.
Markbass uses a recyclable and eco-friendly type of polystyrene as the basic material for all its MB58R cabinets.
Make no mistake, this isn’t your bog standard and easy-to-dent styrofoam, but rather something very sturdy, not unlike what the car industry uses to fill front and back bumpers.
The MB58R 102P is the most affordable 2 x 10″ cabinet, sporting a pair of ceramic magnet-driven speakers and a piezo tweeter. It weighs in at just a tad over 12 kilogrammes.
The MB58R 102Pure sports neodymium-powered speakers and a Hi-Fi tweeter. This cabinet weighs only 9.8 kilogrammes.
On both cabinets the middle part of all four sides features a black carpet material. There are large side handles sunk into the cabinets, and both cabinets sport two sets of rubber feet – one set for vertical, and one for horizontal placement.
Both MB58R cabinets tested are rear-ported designs. The back panel comes with a pair of Speakon connectors, and three switches for tweeter attenuation.
In terms of their sound, both the 102P and 102Pure offer that famous Markbass punch, with only small details dividing them. The Markbass MB58R 102P is the slightly more aggressive cabinet of the pair, displaying a relatively neutral sound (in the best possible sense). The MB58R 102Pure retains all of the punch, but adds a more silky top end and more warmth in the low-mids.
To paraphrase Carlos Santana, the hallmark of high-quality musical equipment is that it doesn’t give you any excuses. If your playing and/or your sound isn’t up to snuff, it isn’t down to your instrument or amp.
In this respect the Spector NS Pulse I 4, the Markbass Little Mark 58R, and the MB58R 102P and 102Pure cabinets pass this review with flying colours.
The Spector NS Pulse plays like a dream and offers a plethora of useable sounds. Paired with any of the two cabinets the Markbass Little Mark 58R offers a fantastic full-range bass sound with all EQ-settings (and the Old School control) in neutral. This means you can use the EQ to fine-tune your sound and/or to deal with problematic frequencies in a venue, and not for masking any possible inherent problems with your rig.
I had so much fun playing the Spector NS Pulse I 4 through the new Markbass rig, that I can only recommend you do the same.