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This article was originally published in issue #15
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When it comes to the big brand names in bass there aren't many better known than this one. You've seen Ampeg many times in the hands of the very best in bass guitarists - usually plugged into the company's massive 8x10 sealed 'fridge' cabinets with SVT valve amplifiers atop. They're the dream of many a budding bass player - often regarded as the ultimate Rock rigs. I myself owned an SVT 2 Pro for quite some time - a wonderful sounding amp with lots of volume available. It was a total beast in terms of tone but... sadly, the weight! These things are built for the road and come with near bullet-proof construction and of course a price point that is out of reach of many a weekend warrior and semi-professional alike.
But Ampeg has a wide range of products to suit every pocket, back and volume requirement, all taking a slice of that famous 'Ampeg tone'. So if small and quirky is your bag, then this is going to be a favourite! After the success of Ampeg's Micro VR stack range, based on the original VR heads and cabinets, comes this diminutive rig that takes its tone and stylings from the classic CL range.
Don't get me wrong, this isn't just a toy, the Micro CL 'mini fridge' is very much a working man's rig despite looking like SVT CL's 'Mini-Me' clone, which means dreams of owning a CL stack can be realised even if your living space is a bit of a tight squeeze!
The Micro CL really is cool and includes all the familiar Ampeg looks and front panel lay out. The amplifier head has a solid-state derived 100W output into the 8 Ohm cabinet and features a truly 'plug and play' layout. Simply plug in to one of the inputs; you can select the padded input if your bass (like mine) has a very high output and you need to stop the input from distorting.
Next to the master volume (there is no gain control) there is a simple and musical three band EQ. By 'musical' I mean that the wide frequency range that each control covers means that there are no harsh tone peaks when boosted. Not that much boosting is needed. Even at 12 0'clock on each setting, it sounds full and fat. In the video, for my particularly bright sounding bass (in comparison to that of a passive P for example) I set up a little boost on the treble and a little boost on the bass control. I found that as the cabinet had no tweeter, the top end was naturally softened a little, but the resulting tone was nicely rounded. Once you have your tone dialled in, then it's over to the connections on the right hand side. Usefully, you can use the head on its own without the cabinet connected, as a private practice amplifier. You can plug an MP3 player in to the AUX socket that features its own level control, and monitor both your bass sound and your favourite tracks through headphones.
If you do want to use the ban, however, you'll find it's a vertically aligned (which will please the geeky types) unit having two 10 inch Ampeg speakers. The cabinet is also rated at 100W and has a load of 8 Ohms. The stack includes a 1/4" jack speaker lead - there are no Speakons on this rig. A power lead is also provided in the box to get you up and running quickly. Oh, and there's an effects loop for when you're feeling adventurous.
In use, the Ampeg is a little peach, but don't expect it to contend with its bigger brothers. Yes it will keep up with a conservative drummer and happily do acoustic type gigs with moderate volumes, but if you have a guitarist who cranks even a 50W valve combo amplifier, or a drummer who likes to leather the kit a bit, then this stack will leave you wanting for more booty. That said, the tone is just brilliant! Whilst we were in the studio we plugged a bass distortion pedal in to the Micro CL to see if we could get that famous Ampeg grind - and boy did we! This leads me to believe that you could use this set up to great affect recording a filthy distorted bass track, without the need for a big bass stack. Mix in a little clean DI to the master mix too and I think it'd sound sweet! In the studio we joked that if this head was coupled to a 500W power stage and uprated cones in the cabinet, it'd be a wolf in lambs clothing!
We all liked this rig. I think it's a real eye catcher, not because of flashing lights and crazy design, but just because we're so used to seeing this proportioned rig some three times larger. It makes me smile as does its ease of use. It scores well for being quirky and cute and having great tone but won't win the dB war.