May 29, 2014
Bass amp builders have labored for years to replicate the sound and feel of old SVTs and Hiwatts in more cost-effective, portable packages. A recent example is the 500-watt Classic 500 head from Sweden’s EBS.
The Classic 500 updates the earlier Classic 450 model in a smaller enclosure, though the design still allows plenty of space for heat dissipation. Removing the back plate reveals cleanly soldered circuitry and a stout toroidal transformer. In an era obsessed with class-D amplification, seeing the ol’ donut made me smile. The head weighs in at a manageable 31 pounds and has both a top handle and sturdy metal side handles for easy transportation.
The front panel is simple yet flexible. There’s a pre-EQ character switch—the pre-shaping filter found on many other EBS amps. Engaging the switch slightly scoops the tone, providing airier highs and a low-end bump. The sound-sculpting options may not be as extensive as EBS’s Fafner model, but the Classic 500 offers greater midrange flexibility. In addition to bass and treble shelving controls, there are dual semi-parametric midrange controls that let you punch, pop, and cut through a mix, or mellow out harsh frequencies.
The drive control puts the “classic” in the Classic 500. It’s a class-A tube emulator that provides up to 30 dB of extra gain for a touch of tonal warmth—or seriously hairy bass sounds.
The rear panel includes two 4 Ω speaker outputs with Speakon jacks, wired in parallel. In other words, you can combine multiple cabinets, so long as they don’t go below a total resistance of 2 Ω. There is no effect loop.
We evaluated the Classic 500 with EBS’s new ClassicLine 210, an 8 Ω rear-ported cab that can be positioned horizontally or vertically and stacked with other cabs in EBS’s ClassicLine series. Weighing in at 36.5 pounds, the cab houses two 10" speakers and a 2" tweeter. Its rugged, multi-laminated plywood frame sports vinyl covering and a retro-looking grille.
Electric Bass Sweetnin’
With its EQ flat, the Classic 500 transmitted the sound of a 1964 Fender Jazz bass with immediacy and a balanced timbre that veered toward the highs. This tone sounded great on a horn-band gig, giving my fingerstyle bass lines a punchy foundation and a slight edge to cut through the mix. The character switch provides plenty of pop and booty. And when it came time to jam out on Sly and the Family Stone’s “Dance to the Music,” I cranked the drive to cop Larry Graham’s overdriven bass break. It would have been nice to have a footswitch to engage the drive, but it was easy enough to dial up with my right hand while hammering-on with my left.
Later, while playing a Nash P-style, I marveled at how that the amp’s midrange section seemed to transform my bass into Barry White. A low-mid boost and a slight upper-mid cut provided an articulate warmth and throaty growl reminiscent of the velvety crooner. This tone excelled in soft ballads and R&B classics.
Admittedly, I have yet to encounter any emulator that totally nails the sound and feel of playing with tubes. That said, the Classic 500 gets pretty darn close. By tweaking the drive and EQ, I found a tone similar to a ’70s B-15, with just a little bit of breakup. The notes may not blossom exactly as they do on a tube amp, but EBS’s emulator outshines many in its class.
To hear the Classic 500 with bigger cabs, I went for the gonzo, classic-rock setup and connected it to a pair of 4 Ω SVT 8x10s. I turned the master volume to 3 o’clock and pulled the 5th string of a Ritter R8 Singlecut. The sensation can only be compared to Michael J. Fox getting blown away by the giant speaker in Back to the Future. After an hour of noodling, jamming, and pissing off everyone around me, I can confidently report that the Classic 500 won’t leave you hungry for power.
The Classic 500 earns its name with classic style and classic tone. Pair it with the great-sounding ClassicLine 210 for a powerful rig that can handle almost any gig. It may not satisfy the pickiest of tube fanatics, but the amp’s versatile tones suit many styles. If you’ve been contemplating an EBS rig, this duo is a killer starting point.
CLASSIC 500 HEAD
A simple, versatile amp with good faux-tube tone.
No effect loop. A tad pricey.
Ease of Use:
Cool looks. Clean tone. Great design.
You may want to buy two.