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This article was originally published in issue #27
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Mark amps hit the music scene in a big way a few years back with their introduction of lightweight yet powerful Markbass amps. I remember the first time I saw one. The bassist on the gig I was on walked through the door with his bass on his back, a Markbass amp head in one hand and more impressively a cabinet in the other, without even breaking a sweat. I was intrigued and so questioned the bassist about these black and yellow bits of kit, and had to pick one up myself. I was absolutely amazed at the weight of his set-up, and being a valve amp devotee, also very jealous. I naively thought to myself, “OK, its light but bet it sounds rubbish”. Within the first two bars of the first song, I was most definitely proved wrong there! Since then pretty much all the bass players I know have at least tried Markbass amps and the majority have loved them. I have always thought from that day, wouldn’t it be great if they did a range for guitar amps. Thankfully DV Mark came along stating, “All-tube heads have always been heavy, and guitarists expect their gear to weigh a lot. But now the time has come for guitarists to enjoy lighter gear, like their bass players do. All the tone you want, without the heavy hassle” Music to my ears! DV Mark offers a wide range of amps from heads and cabs through to combos. In this review we are looking at the DV Little Jazz combo.
The DV Little Jazz is a 45 Watt solid state combo with onboard reverb. It's perfectly clear from the name the market that this amp is aimed at. But what makes it a “Jazz” amp more so than just a normal amp with a good clean tone? It’s true to say that for playing “authentic” Jazz you need a great clean sound, that's tight, with plenty of bottom end and great dynamic response. It must also be powerful enough to cut above the mix of other instruments. Whilst having plenty of bottom it's important that things don’t get muddy and start disappearing in the mix. There is also a fine line with being too clean. When thinking about great Jazz amps that have been used in the past, they have normally been valve amps pushed so they just start to break up ever so slightly, therefore they are never truly clean. In fact if you compare this ideal tone to a 100% clean tone, you will notice that the pure clean sounds very thin and weak - people often make the mistake of trying to be too clean, when trying to achieve a good clean tone, if that makes any sense...
Dynamic range is very important too, as it's one of the biggest things a good Jazz player will use changing from comping and soloing, so the amp must be very responsive to this. This amp uses a 1x8” DV Mark Custom Speaker and has an output for an external cabinet with a minimum load of 8 Ohms. There are Master Volume, Bass, Middle, Treble controls, plus as mentioned before built in reverb, with its own control. Other features include an Aux in, Headphone out, XLR Line Out, and a speaker On/Off switch.
This little amp looks fantastic, feels solid and well made, plus as you would expect, it's incredibly light. Things only get better when you plug in. The little box packs a mighty punch! In fact when I first played it I assumed we had set it running through the PA too, as it was such a full big sound, until one of the camera guys informed me that it wasn’t going through the PA. I have 40 Watt tube amps that I think this would rival in terms of volume and power, impressive for a small solid state amplifier!
EQ controls worked as you would expect, with slightly different variants as it's aimed at the Jazz market. The Bass EQ even on zero never really got rid of the bottom end, and the treble control on 10 would never take your head off! The mid control was quite effective, but rolling it of also had an effect on the overall volume. The speaker was tight and responsive, and the amp felt very dynamic, warm, full and never muddy or shrill. Reverb is about the only effect used by traditional hardcore Jazzers, and the onboard verb was very pleasing to the ears, offering a wide variety of saturated options.
Despite being marketed as a Jazz amp, this could be used as a great compact combo amp for many situations, I don’t know how it would handle pedals in front of it, but I'm sure it would do just fine.
I love this little amp. As a Jazz player myself I can see this doing fine on most of my standard type Jazz gigs. Purely as a Jazz amp it delivers everything you could possibly want, my only thought would be that people may be put off by the name. It's a great, no frills combo amp. Where the manufacturer has gone for great tone and playability, over a multitude of mediocre effects, and I could see it being used quite happily in a Soul or Funk band setting too. As a purpose built Jazz amp it delivers big time, with big sounds and deep clear tones, fantastic!