Spector’s NS Pulse I 4 and Markbass’ brand-new MB58R Series make for a quality pairing

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Fingerstyle Demo

Here’s a short demo of the fingerstyle bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral. The Old School feature was turned to 11 o’clock.
The demo is based on the ABBA classic ”Dancing Queen”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Plectrum Demo

Here’s a short demo of the plectrum bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral. The Old School feature was turned to 11 o’clock.
The demo is based on the Wings classic ”Silly Love Songs”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Spector NS Pulse 4 & Markbass MB58R Series – Slap Demo

Here’s a short demo of the slap bass sound of a Spector NS Pulse 4 played through a Markbass Little Mark 58R into either a Markbass 58R 102 P cabinet or a Markbass 58R 102 Pure cabinet.
All EQ controls on the Little Mark head were set to neutral and the Old School feature was off.
The demo is based on the Level 42 classic ”Running in the Family”.

Spector NS Pulse 4 Charcoal Grey
• Made in South Korea
• Swamp ash body
• Three-stripe roasted maple neck, bolt on
• Macassar ebony fretboard
• Active EMG PJ set
• Spector Tone Pump Jr preamp

Markbass Little Mark 58R
• Ultralight (2.2 kg) 500 W bass amplifier

Markbass 58R 102 P
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x ceramic speakers plus piezo tweeter

Markbass 58R 102 Pure
• Ultralight bass cabinet
• 2 x neodymium speakers plus Hi-Fi tweeter

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• Microphone used: Shure SM7B (mid-boost on)
• Preamp used: Cranborne Audio Camden EC2
• Audio interface used: Universal Audio Volt 2

Testipenkissä: Bluetone Bass 200

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Suomalainen putkivahvistinvalmistaja Bluetone on hiljattain lisännyt uuden bassokombon valikoimaansa. Uutukaisen nimi on Bluetone Bass 200 (1.450 €).

Bass 200 on nykyaikainen hybridikone, joka yhdistää putkikytkennällä toteutetun etuvahvistimen pienikokoiseen ja kevyeen, mutta silti tehokkaaseen D-luokan päätevahvistimeen. Etuvahvistin pyörii neljän putken voimalla (2 x ECC82/12AU7, 1 x ECC83/12AX7 & 1 x EF86), kun taas D-luokan päätevahvistin ja kombon kevyt kotelo poppelivanerista pitävät kokonaisuuden painon hyvin maltillisena (vain 12 kg).

Viimeinen painoa vähentävä seikka on Bluetonen kaiutinvalinta, joka osui neodyymimagneettilla toimivaan Eminence Kappalite 3012HO -kaiuttimeen, joka tarjoaa 400 watin tehonkestoa (impedanssi: 8 ohmia).

Bluetone Bass 200:n kotelossa on kaksi bassoporttia takaseinässä. Kombon päällystemateriaali on kuvioitua vinyyliä.

Matalan painonsa ansiosta kombon päällä oleva kahva riittää mainiosti vahvistimen kantamiseen, ja Bass 200:n kompakti ulkomuoto (l = 42,5 cm, k = 52,5 cm, s = 29,5 cm) tekee Bluetonen sijoittamisesta auton takakonttiin helppoa.

Tykkään Bluetonen asiallisesta linjasta etu- ja takapaneeleissa, jolla varmistetaan, että Bass 200:n kaikki toiminnot on helppoa löytää.

Bluetonen Bass 200 tarjoaa erilliset säätimet sekä etuvahvistimen gainelle (Volume) että päätevahvistimen lähtötasolle (Master). Kolmikaistaisessa EQ-osastossa löytyy keskialueelle kolmiasentoinen taajuusvalitsin (300 ja 500 Hz, sekä 1 kHz), sekä lisäksi erillinen Bright-kytkin. Bluetonen kätevä mykistyskytkin olisi sellainen ominaisuus, jonka näkisin kernaasti myös muiden valmistajien bassovahvistimissa.

Uusi Bluetone Bass 200 on kompakti kombo, mutta silti avokätisesti varusteltu:

Takapaneelista löytyy kytkettävä efektilenkki omalla volume-säätimellä, säädettävä ja balansoitu DI-lähtö (XLR), sekä kaksi kaiutinlähtöä (Speakon ja jakki). Joissakin bassokomboissa on kaiuttimeen kiinni juotettu johto, mikä voi koitua ongelmaksi, jos johto tai plugi menevät esimerkiksi kuljetuksen aikana rikki. Bluetonen Bass 200:ssa asia on ratkaistu soittajien ja bänditeknikkojen iloksi oikein, erillisellä kaiutinjohdolla (takapaneelin ja takaseinän välillä), joka on tarvittaessa helposti korjattavissa tai vaihdettavissa.

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Puhtaasta headroomista ei Bluetone Bass 200 -kombossa ole pulaa, mutta jos halutaan lisätä soundiin aitoa putkisäröä, erilliset Volume- ja Master-säätimet antavat siihen täydet mahdollisuudet. Särön luonne on Bass 200:ssa enemmän ”old school” -tyylisesti kermainen ja keskialuevoittoinen, niin kuin 1960- ja 60-lukujen Ampegeissa. Jos haetaan nykyaikaista Metal-säröä, kannattaisi mielestäni laittaa sopiva pedaali vahvistimen eteen.

Minun mielestäni bassovahvistimen EQ-osaston tarkoitus pitäisi olla soundin hiominen omaan musiikkityyliin – tai keikkatilanteeseen – sopivaksi, eikä vahvistimen omien soundillisien puutteiden korjaamiseen, niin kuin joissakin halpakomboissa tehdään. Täydet pisteet Bluetonelle, sillä Bass 200:n lähtösoundi – kaikilla EQ-säätimillä kello 12 -asennossa – on todella laadukas ja luonnollinen. Tämä kombo pitää myös jokaisen sähköbassomallin oman luonteen ehjänä, minkä ansiosta taajuuskorjaimet jäävät vapaaksi hoitamaan soundin lopullista hienosäätämistä.

Nimestään huolimatta Bluetone Bass 200 -kombosta lähtee todellisuudessa omalla Eminence-kaiuttimella jopa 250 wattia. Tällä teholla saa helposti hoidettua ison osan nykyisistä keikkapaikoista ja tilaisuuksista käyttämällä komboa sellaisenaan. Ja jos joskus tarvitaan vielä enemmän ääntä, on takapaneelin DI-lähtö valmis lähettämään vahvistimen laadukasta signaalia PA:n miksauspöytään.

Ensimmäisessä klipissä soi sormilla soitettu Jazz-basso:

Tässä esimerkissä soitan Rickenbacker 4003 -bassoani plektralla:

Ja lopuksi vielä esimerkki Bass 200:n särösoundista, soitettuna lyhytskaalaisella Squier Vista Musicmaster -bassolla:

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Uusi Bluetone Bass 200 on loistava valinta, jos etsit kevyttä ja kompaktia ammattitasoista bassokomboa. Tässä on kyse Suomessa käsintehdystä kombosta, ja siihen nähden pidän Bass 200:n hintaa varsin maltillisena.

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Bluetone Bass 200

1.450 €

Valmistaja: Bluetone Amplifiers

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Plussat:

+ suomalaista käsityötä

+ kompakti koko

+ kevyt

+ ominaisuudet

+ soundiSave

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Review: Bluetone Bass 200

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Finnish boutique amplifier makers Bluetone have recently introduced a compact bass combo – the Bluetone Bass 200 (1,450 €).

The Bass 200 is a modern hybrid bass amplifier that combines an all-valve preamp section with a compact and efficient Class-D power amp. The preamp’s architecture is based on four tubes (2 x ECC82/12AU7, 1 x ECC83/12AX7 & 1 x EF86), while the modern power amp section and the combo’s light poplar plywood cabinet result in a low weight of only 12 kilograms.

Another factor in keeping the combo’s weight player-friendly is Bluetone’s choice of speaker – a neodymium-powered Eminence Kappalite 3012HO, with a power handling of 400 W and an impedance of eight ohms.

The combo’s cabinet features two ports in the back, and it comes covered in black textured vinyl.

Thanks to its low weight the amp’s top handle is all you need to move the combo around, and its compact size (W= 42.5 cm, H= 52.5 cm, D= 29.5 cm) means it will fit in a car’s boot easily.

I very much like the business-like look of the Bass 200’s control panel, which means it’s very easy to find you way around the amp’s features.

The Bluetone Bass 200 offers separate knobs for preamp gain (Volume) and power amp output (Master). The active three-band EQ (plus Bright-switch) offers three-way selectable mid-band rotary switch, with centre frequencies of 300 Hz, 500 Hz and 1 kHz. The Mute-switch is a handy addition, which should be made a regular feature on any bass amplifier.

The Bluetone Bass 200 may be compact, but it is still fully spec’ed:

Around the back we find a switchable effects loop with its corresponding level control, an adjustable balanced, line level DI output (XLR), and Speakon and phone jack speaker outputs. Many bass combos have the speaker cable soldered to the internal speaker, which can be a real pain if the cable gets damaged. Bluetone’s Bass 200 goes the professional route, using a short high-quality speaker cable, which connects the back panel’s output to a sturdy phone jack on the combo’s back wall.

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The Bluetone Bass 200 offers plenty of clean headroom, but should you desire a little overdrive or some genuine valve distortion the combination of the Volume and Master controls will happily oblige. In terms of the drive character the Bass 200 is clearly more of an ”old school” amp, dishing out plenty of Ampeg-style tube goodness. For modern metal tones I’d probably suggest you use an appropriate distortion pedal.

In my mind a bass amp’s EQ-section should be a tool to fine-tune the amp’s tone to your personal taste and/or the room and playing situation you’re faced with, and not, as in some lesser amps, to make up for the amplifier’s tonal deficiencies. Bluetone’s Bass 200 scores full marks in this respect – even with the three-band EQ’s controls set to 12 o’clock the bass sound is great and well-balanced. This combo keeps the different tonal characters of different bass models intact, freeing up the EQ-section for additional tweaking.

Despite its name, the Bluetone Bass 200 actually delivers 250 watts of output power connected to the combo’s own Eminence speaker. This is more than enough power to use the combo ”as is” for most of the smaller and medium-sized venues most working bassist play in these days. And if you need to be louder, the excellent DI output will send the combo’s signal to a PA system.

The first clip features a Jazz Bass played fingerstyle:

I used a plectrum to play my Rickenbacker 4003:

And here’s an example of the Bass 200’s distorted sound, played with a short scale Squier Vista Musicmaster Bass:

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The Bluetone Bass 200 is a great choice if you want a compact and lightweight professional bass combo. No, this isn’t a cheap mass-produced bass combo from China, but I feel that for a handcrafted Finnish amplifier the price tag is really rather moderate.

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Bluetone Bass 200

1,450 €

Contact: Bluetone Amplifiers

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Pros:

+ handcrafted in Finland

+ size

+ weight

+ features

+ soundSave

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Now on Soundcloud: Bluetone Bass 200

Here are two demo clips of the Bluetone Bass 200 hybrid combo (valve preamp & Class D power amp).

• Jazz Bass (fingerstyle) – Based on the song ”Did I Hear You Say You Love Me” by Stevie Wonder

• Rickenbacker (plectrum) – Based on the song ”Silly Love Songs” by Paul McCartney & Wings

Amp recorded combining the built-in DI Output with the signal coming off a Shure SM57.

Contact: Bluetone Amps

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