V-Amp Bass 100
Reviewing V-Amp's VA 60 lead combo in issue 3, IT's review team concluded that it was 'Great value for money and a particularly welcome newcomer.' Since then we haven't seen anything to make us change our minds - certainly not on a cost/performance basis, so this month we thought we'd take a look at their 100 watt bass combo, the VA 100 Bass, to see if manufacturers Deanvard could manage the same sort of value for bassists.
V-Amp have chosen the only reputable way of cost-cutting with their VA-100 bass. It's simplicity personified, comprising a substantially made enclosure, corner protected, having a single (top mounted) carrying strap and a fine, roadie's boot proof plasticised metal grille covering the on-board 15" metal domed speaker which comes (we believe) from those rising stars of the speaker world, McKenzie.
Despite its no-nonsense looks, we admired the V-100 Bass simply because Deanvard have so obviously spent their money where it counts - providing a usefully sturdy grille, a large-ish (sealed) enclosure and a good speaker, rather than lots of flashing lights and unnecessary gimmicks. Given our feelings that the amp was well made, it was even more reassuring to see that makers Deanvard are continuing their laudable 2 year guarantee policy - after all, they'd be mad to do this unless they were sure that they make their products well.
The VA-100's controls are situated on the red on black front panel and, again, they're pretty spartan. You have two inputs (high and low), a single Volume control, Treble, Parametric mid-frequency gain, Para frequency select and Bass pots, all sensibly large and easy to both see and get your fingers round on poorly lit stages. External connection facilities cost money to provide, so Deanvard have only provided two, a pair of jack sockets - one for Line Out at -10dBm (suitable for connection to D.I. into tape recorders and other D.I. purposes) and a socket for headphones. Having read this far, you might well be feeling that the V-Amp isn't exactly overburdened with features and we couldn't deny that. On the other hand, plug your bass in and you'll see why we feel that it's a very sensible set of compromises to have reached.
As Isaac Newton discovered when he copped a Cox's orange pippin on the bonce, there's no avoiding the laws of physics. Never mind how clever an amp maker may be (and all things being equal), a bigger speaker in a large, well-designed box will always sound better than a smaller one in a tiny, poorly designed enclosure. You can hear the truth in this immediately you plug into the V-Amp. Strike a low note and let it ring - pull an octave string so that they sound together. The result from a bad speaker and cab will be a clashing mess of straining speaker sounds; exactly what you don't get with this combo. The speaker is obviously a good one but the substantial internal volume of the cabinet gives the cone the room it needs to move and that makes for a sound which is both rich and clean, even when you're playing at high-ish levels with low frequencies.
The V-Amp's tone facilities are equally impressive. The bass control brings out a fine depth and clarity that we didn't expect from such a relatively low priced amp, and the Treble (no doubt working with the HF advantages of the metal domed 15" speaker) gives a hard edge which, even though you can get it to rasp if you want, never grates or sounds uncomfortably raw.
As you'd expect the Para-Low/Mid endows this amp with extra tonal versatility. As with all such devices you must take time when you first try this amp to understand how it works, but having mastered this two-stage section, it then becomes possible to virtually dial-in a massive variety of sounds, either by cutting or boosting the required frequency range. Our testers managed to extract a huge spread of tones using this feature in conjunction with the Treble and Bass controls, running right across the board from the sort of warmth and depth which you could happily use on a cabaret gig through a true reggae 'boom/thump' to a really great Entwistle-like growling gritty hardness with exceptional 'spread' from the top to the bottom of the bass's range.
Versatility and tonal fidelity seem to be the V-Amp's strongest suit, especially so since it will deliver its sounds without stepping over the border into harshness, flatulent inability to handle low bass sounds or 'clattering' high top - even when near its maximum output. What's more, the amp never sounds cold or 'dead'. Because the enclosure has been properly designed and made and the amp sensibly designed, you always get the fidelity - almost a 3D image - of sound which is so often missing from lower priced bass combos.
What impressed us most (leaving aside its wide tonal versatility) was how this amp stayed clean, warm, always tight and well controlled.
The VA-100 seems, to us, like another tremendously honest product from a maker for whom we have developed considerable respect. Instead of making their products look flashy by festooning them with gimmicks, Deanvard take the virtuous route of putting their money where your sound is. With bass guitar amplification this means being able to reproduce the awkward frequencies of the instrument accurately and without distortion.
The more gullible player might be tempted to overlook the VA-100 Bass due to its apparent lack of frills and fancies. Such extras as bi-amp outputs, compressors channel switches on-board effects and so on are fine if you can afford them - but your sound must come first and with this excellent bass combo it certainly does!
At the RRP (£257.34 Inc VAT) we feel that the V-AMP VA-100 Bass combo offers a very impressive standard of sound for your money and we'd recommend it very highly, especially for the bargain hunters among you.
More info from Deanvard Ltd, (Contact Details).
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