Plugging into a full bass rig at home can severely damage your loved ones will to live. Gareth Morgan looks at a cheeky little alternative that doesnt cost the earth.
In contrast to the heavy Hartke artillery of last month, we’re taking a look at an all-important piece of home-use gear that often gets neglected: the practice combo. This one comes from those lovely Aria people and is the most powerful in a range of five units.
The Chinese-made AB-50 is a pretty cool-looking combo with a retro TV-shaped cloth grille and a mottled vinyl skin. Underneath it’s likely to be plywood or MDF of the fairly standard 18mm thickness. Weighing in at 19kg/42lbs and standing 565mm high, 475mm wide and 250mm deep, the AB-50 is just as easily transportable via its top-mounted plastic handle as you’d hope, and extra protection is afforded by eight plastic corners with rubber feet cushioning the load. Besides two cylindrical porting slots the AB-50 carries a 12" speaker of unknown origin, and just above this section you can see the chrome control panel with a neat and tidy line of seven knurled controls.
As well as Gain and Volume knobs, there’s a five-band EQ which suggests there might be some decent sonic options on offer but, again, we can’t tell you exactly how much cut or boost is available in dB. What we can say is that the EQ includes – in a reversal of the usual set-in-stone control order – Presence, Treble, Hi Mid, Low Mid and Bass.
Aside from the Input jack socket, which comes in tandem with a Hi/Low switch for active/passive basses, there’s a Line Out jack socket on the back for connection to your home recording set-up. There’s also that all-important Headphone Out socket for neigbour friendly silent rehearsal – vital for a home-use combo.
The 50W peak power rating means you’re not going to get massive volume – it’s more about decent sound quality, and the AB certainly scores on that. The basic sound is clean and well-focused, even on a low B string, with adequate depth from the fairly bright 12" speaker. Engaging the EQ is a positive experience: adding Bass gives clean extra width, upping Low Mid to around 10 increases punchiness, and boosting both together creates a seriously weighty sound. If you’re after a honky finger-funk sound, half-boosting Hi Mid gets you there; much more, and you’ll sound like soggy cardboard. Turning up the high-end EQ’s, Treble and Presence, gives slicing but natural-sounding highs, and the lack of horn ensures this doesn’t come with a ton of fret noise.
The AB-50 only has a 30W RMS rating, but when the EQ is this good on an amp of this size, the lack of oomph is secondary - you won't use it for Wembley Arena. The tasks that this amp is designed for are all covered effortlessly and to a high level of quality. It's well worth a look.