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This article was originally published in issue #24
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The USA's Euphonic Audio has been at the digital micro amp game longer than most and is certainly a name that is highly regarded among discerning players, so the chance to look at the latest head and cab package from the company wasn't to be missed!
Today's iAmp Micro is a 550 Watt RMS head, which houses a D-Class power amplifier and weighs no more than a 2lb bag of sugar. It's insanely light and crammed with useful features for the gigging bassist. Underneath sits the EA NL210 III cabinet, loaded with two proprietary EA Kevlar Neodymium woofers, capable of handling that full 500 W RMS in beautifully clean and pristine studio-like audio. We'll come back to the cabinet later in the review, but let's move back to this pocket sized powerhouse for now.
It's a two channel amplifier with a clever sensing auto-configuring signal path that makes this amplifier dead easy to use and as useful as possible. If you plug in to Channel A alone, you can use the front panel button or a foot switch to change between feeding your bass signal in to channel A or B. This would be useful if you wanted to set up different sounds, for example, a solo sound or for slap style over finger style. That's not all though! If you plug an instrument in to channel A and another in channel B, then you have the option of switching between them (toggled) or having both on at the same time! This could be very useful for duets, or for basses you have that require different settings.
Indeed, EA goes one step further. Channel A has a mid-range centre frequency of 500Hz that EA has tweaked for electric bass and channel B has a slightly higher centre frequency of 800Hz that is said to be favourable for acoustic or upright bass players. I like this option a lot - if used for just one bass it, gives you a secondary voicing option.
The head's front panel also features gain controls for each channel to set your input level, as well as status LEDs for signal level notification. Also on the front panel are a master volume control, foot switch socket, DI Output jack socket (not an XLR) and a parallel effects loops with a wet/dry mix control. That's a lot on a front panel, but it doesn't look crowded. It doesn't look like EA has shoved as much on as possible, but has been thoughtful about a bass player's needs without sacrificing usability by 'going small'.
The EA doesn't just stop being clever there, either. Across the top of the amplifier are a set of trimpots that you can adjust with a screwdriver. The first two allow you to further boost or cut the input level - ideal for ultra high or low output pickups. The next control along is a high-pass filter. Very helpful for filtering out troublesome sub-bass frequencies that can cause boomy bass in some rooms - or in some cases over excursion of the speaker cone when too much bass boost is being used. This sub-cut is as I understand it, only available on channel two. Finally the last trim pot is to set the DI output level.
Round the back, it's sparse and, well, why not? A single Speakon connector, IEC power socket and power switch along with the rear fan vent are all that is needed here.
I really enjoyed this amp. The size of it is just incredible and sounds superb paired with the EA cabinet. I'd have loved to have taken this one out for some more gigs, because it sounds pristine - like playing through a set of studio monitors, in fact. There's a lot of volume for the size of the rig too and it could cover small club gigs, jazz gigs and rehearsals for Pop bands - though I'd suggest that this isn't a rig capable of going up against your favourite valve amped guitarist who likes a bit of 'shred'!
Moving on to the NL 210 III cabinet and once again, it's smiles all round. I used this amplifier and cabinet pair to review most of the equipment in my last visit to The Bassment and have to say, I wish I had something like this for every visit. It really does translate the sound of what is being sent into it beautifully. That's got to be a great thing for those using pickups in their acoustic basses or those looking for the purest reproduction of their instrument signal. Yes, I think this rig is suitable for a wide range of instruments, not just bass guitar.
The cabinet, at first with the EQ flat, gave us a reserved tone that I felt wasn't as rich as other rigs I'd plugged in to but it soon became apparent that this cabinet is a blank canvass on to which you apply your tone. Liken it to a studio monitor and you understand where I'm coming from. As I wound the tone controls up on the test basses and tweaked the iAmp EQ, I have to say that the cabinet started to come alive - not unlike producing a band mix on studio monitors.
We pushed the rig gently and what was surprising is that all the way up the volume control we had no sign of distortion or unnecessary 'farting out' from the cabinet at all. Pure and clean!
To my ears, I think this combination has been the purest sounding system we have had in yet. I'd not expect it to win any loudness wars or take on a mighty valve beast designed to crush drummers, but what it does do is reproduce bass tones purely. No fatiguing tweeter resonance, no muddy bass end and no cabinet rattles.
All of this in an easy to carry set up - frankly, it's superb!