JHS Bass Box
New from distributors JHS is a bass version of their best-selling Rock Box — the Bass Box. IT's testers put it through our 'Trial By Torture'!
At last! While our guitar playing relatives have been busily enjoying their Rock Boxes, we poor neglected bassists have been relegated to plugging headphones into our bass amps — and usually blowing them up in the process! Now, at last JHS have developed a bass version of their renowned Rock Box. Time for us to get our eager hands on one for a trial!
One of the nicest things about the original JHS Rock Box was the high quality of its manufacture, and this has been carried over to their new bass headphone amp, the Bass Box. Toughly fabricated from sheet steel, the JHS looks bomb-proof; a major advance over plastic headphone practice amps and likely to ensure a long life for this handy device.
The unit's power comes from a total of eight AA size batteries, which we reckon could cost you at least £3.20 a set if you bought Mallories! Given that devices like these eat batteries faster than the IT Cat devours Kitty-Krunch, you'd be well advised to buy JHS's optional mains transformer, an investment which would pay for itself in weeks, we reckon.
In terms of what it offers and what it can do, the bass Box is a very complete bass practice amp indeed. It comes complete with its own lightweight headphones, which plug into a 3.5mm mini-jack socket on the front panel, where you'll also encounter nearly all this unit's wide range of facilities. Having plugged in your ear'ole mashers, your bass follows next via a 1/4" jack socket. This action turns the Bass Box on, whereupon a flashing red LED lights, showing that everything is functioning properly. In addition to this jack input, incidentally, you also have another labelled 'power', which can be used for a separate mono input. Overall, the Bass Box's facilities are highly impressive. A slider governs output level, after which comes a push-button that lets you select on or off for the on-board compressor. Although this effect isn't infinitely variable, you do have a 3-way control which sets the sustain times to short, medium or long thus offering you some control over its effect range. There's also a recessed screw, by the way, and by turning this you can adjust the 'threshold' (hence the attack) of this effect.
Aside of the Compressor, the other effects provided include a Clipper circuit (activated by a push-button) and a Chorus. A further two recessed screws allow you to fine-tune both the Chorus depth and high frequency Eq sounds — so, as you can see, it really is well endowed in these respects. The major controls, meantime, allow you to adjust your sounds to quite a major extent. Turning the main click-stopped pot, for example, gives you a tuning tone (A-440Hz), Direct (ie your bass's sound with no colouration added), Bright, Mid, Fat and Distortion options. All these sounds are very accurate descriptions of the tone settings provided.
But the JHS unit still has one other trick up its sleeve, because the side of the box allows you to route outboard effects units via send and return sockets — comprehensive, isn't it?
With its Chorus, Clipper, FX send/return, versatile tone settings, tunable Compression, variable attack threshold and so on, this really does look like a valuable package for the bass player who needs quiet practice. So how does it all come across?
The limitation with all of the headphone practice amps we've tried has always lain with the headphones provided; and, regrettably, those supplied with this unit really weren't up to the job of handling bass frequencies very well. We soon swapped them for a set of AKG headphones, in fact, finding these much more capable of doing the Bass Box's remarkably good sounds far more justice. Tested through these better cans, it soon became apparent just how good the JHS unit is. The tone settings do exactly what they say, enabling even a basic bass (we tried our sample with a very much 'bog standard' Tokai Jazz) to produce a lot of very convincing yet varied tones. Likewise the JHS's Chorus effect which is really excellent — good and swirly, and the perfect complement to a professional bass sound. By any standards this was a very good Chorus unit, we felt. The Clipper we weren't, perhaps, so sure about. It's supposed to 'tweak' the highs when you're slapping but we felt that, while the unit's slap sound was good, the Clipper didn't really add all that much that we could detect.
The Compressor, however, like the Chorus, really did deliver! A bit of alteration to the threshold setting was called for on our sample (easily done via the recessed screw) and, once 'twiddled', this effect was both very marked and very exciting working to both smooth out one's style and limit overload-inducing peaks equally well.
Exceptionally well made and with all the effects that a modern bassist is likely to want, this new headphone amp is a very good piece of tackle indeed. For the player who wants to be able to practise silently but still achieve a professional sound it's excellent — but it has more roles to play than just that, as we discovered while trying it out. One potential use that came to mind was as a DI box with effects, making the Bass Box very suitable indeed for use as a pre-amp/driver of a stage power amp and bin system. Equally, you could use it for direct taping during recording sessions, in which case a lot of small studios and home recordists could benefit from owning one. In this role, while the inherent noise levels aren't perfect, they are pretty good.
Unfortunately, while all these facilities and potential uses make the Bass Box a very desirable proposition, an RRP of £189 seems a bit pricey. After all, not too much more could buy you a stage amp, with which you could use headphones when you needed silent practice. Of course you wouldn't get the portability, masses of useful connection possibilities, built-in effects and so on, but this price level does suggest that the Bass Box will appeal most to those bass players who already have a good stage amp, and desperately need a headphone amp for recording and practice. If that sounds like you, then make a point of investigating this great device. For the bassist who needs it and who can justify the price, it's got to be a great buy!
RRP £189 inc. VAT
More info from JHS Ltd., (Contact Details).
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