Shunning the Markbass bumblebee livery for moody black, Markacoustic amps can handle basses, guitars, mandolins, banjos and lots more. Review by Gareth Morgan
Marco De Virgiliis’ Markacoustic combos are designed for acoustic basses and a range of other acoustic instruments. The latest addition to the three-unit range, the swanky AC121, is a plain resin-coated cube standing 440mm high, 380mm wide and 345mm deep and weighing just 12.4kg/27lbs. There are no corner protectors, just four rubber feet and a single handle; the 12" B&C Neodymium driver is protected behind a steel grille with a grey foam overcoat.
The power section is basically from the AH250 head, giving 150W of digital power. Channel 1 has a combination XLR/Jack input; both Ch1 and Ch2 have Gain controls (you can pull out Ch2′s Gain to access phantom power for mics) and Low and High EQ (+/-16dB at 40Hz and 6kHz).
An Effects dial offers four reverbs and two choruses, and each channel has an Effect Mix control. Ch1 has a 600Hz Mid control, but Ch2 has a VPF (Variable Pass Filter) to give scooped mids. There are also Line Out Level and Master Volume dials, plus an Antifeedback control and a phase reverse switch. Around the back there’s an XLR DI out with ground lift switch plus an insert point jack socket and a hybrid jack/Speakon extension speaker socket.
With an acoustic bass the AC121 works really well, reproducing the instrument’s sound faithfully. With a little tweaking, the Antifeedback does its job… but don’t take liberties, as it isn’t a universal panacea. Whichever channel you use, there’s bags of thud available and plenty of snappy, natural-sounding highs – and the lack of a horn is definitely a big plus here.
Channel 1′s Mid control is all about the darker low-middle range, but the darkness eventually gets squashed into a satisfying, punchy assault when you approach full boost. In contrast, the VPF option on Channel 2 offers sharper note focus on lower levels but eventually makes the overall sound a little too glassy and synthetic.
So, plenty of variations here, and these can be further enhanced by a little decent-quality reverb or chorus from the Effects dial. The Mix control allows you to soak your tone in echo or shimmer (although to be honest there’s nothing radical about any of the maximum levels) or add just an atmospheric hint. Don’t forget, you can run an extension cab for more level – and the AC sounds great with five-string solidbody basses, too.
Although a touch expensive, the AC121 is a lightweight, portable, highly versatile amp with a good selection of high-quality, easy-to-find sounds. The lack of ability to switch between channels is not the point; tandem is the name of the game. Each channel offers sensible tonal variations and the FX and Antifeedback features work really well.