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Location: Fremont, Ohio, United States

I am an attorney by day, but that's really just my "backup gig" in case this whole "musician thing" doesn't work out. ;^) I was been blessed with the opportunity to write freelance reviews for Guitar World's Bass Guitar Magazine, and I contributed regularly from the Spring of 2006 up until Bass Guitar Magazine's demise. This was, in itself, a dream come true, and an opportunity for which I am truly grateful. But this was a stepping stone to bigger and better things, and I am now the Editor-in-Chief of Bass Gear Magazine (www.bassgearmag.com). Our first issue came out in August of 2008, and we are now the leading bass review magazine, worldwide. Of course, on the topic of my true blessings, I have a wife and two kids, all of whom I greatly adore, so my time for music/bass/songwriting/performing, and yes, even the occasional practicing, is not infinite. Nevertheless, I really enjoy my time spent playing bass, writing and recording songs, and just getting to "play" with all that great gear! This blog is a result of these external interests...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Walkabout, Thunderfunk, iAMP 800, Walter Woods Ultra

Following a discussion of the Mesa Boogie Walkabout versus the Thunderfunk TFB-420, I decided to set up a little "test" using the heads that I had on hand. In general, my intial thoughts were that the Walkabout does get really loud for its 300w, but as for clean volume, the Thunderfunk definitely bests it. Still, with some cabs, the Walkabout can seem just about as loud, but if the cab is prone to break up at all, or if it is already a bit warmish in the lows, I think that the Thunderfunk does a better job driving it at volume. But the difference is mostly at the limits. In a scenario where you wouldn't be cranking the Thunderfunk, the Walkabout should also be providing satisfactory output. Conversely, if you find yourself in a situation where the Thunderfunk would be pushing its useable limits, you are probably beyond the limits of the Walkabout.

But, to the task at hand, I did manage to get my Walkabout back in my basement music room, along with a couple of other nice little heads. Here's a shot of the competition that I had on hand:

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We have the Thunderfunk holding up my iAMP 800, Walkabout, and the Walter Woods Ultra sitting on top. Despite the optical illusion, the Crest CA9 is actually sitting on the two VL-210's behind the Bergies (which I used for this comparison). You can also see my rack rig sitting on top of two NL-210's, which I had been comparing to the VL-210's (as reported in another thread).

I used the Bergies for this comparison, partly because another TBer had asked me about the Thunderfunk and Walkabout powering an HT112/EX112, and partly because my Whappo, Jr. and Tri 210L are currently blocked in by a number of other cabs (and some larger Christmas gifts in hiding). These comments, then, are not as directly applicable as I would like, However, I hope to drag out the Tri 210L and repeat the comparison. But, for those interested in how these four did with the Bergies, read on...

The Thunderfunk is very clean with the Bergs, and has slightly pronounced lower mids, and a fairly open, tight sound. Lows are well controlled, even on the Low B, but the lows are not quite as full as they are with the other heads. I was not able to push any of the heads to the point of volume breakup, as the ceiling tiles in my room would start shaking like crazy before any of the amps would break up, but the Thunderfunk certainly seemed like it was producing volume with relative ease. Tonally, it's a pretty good match for the Bergs, and probably an even better match for the Accugroove cabs.

The Walkabout had a very different tone from the Thunderfunk. The highs were not as extended, but the lows were more full and thick. The midrange was also quite present, but decidedley warmer and smoother. At its loudest point, I don't think that I would have had a lot more room to go before it started to breakup, but the tone was holding together reasonably well. The exception would be that the low B started to loose tightness at moderately loud settings. BTW, I did not do any EQ-ing, and did not try to dial out some lows to help avoid this, though I probably could have. All in all, at least with the Bergs, the Thunderfunk would be my preference.

Moving on to the iAMP 800, the EA head made the strange impression of not really making much of an impression. Let me try to explain. It just didn't seem to accentuate any part of the tone more or less than the remainder. At first, it seems kind of dull, to be honest. But then you realize that it's really a fairly impressive feat, though perhaps less exciting than some of the others. The iAMP 800 had lots of headroom, and kept everything nice and tight, even with a low B thumping away pretty hard. I had noticed before that the iAMP sounded good with the Bergies, and I still feel that it does, although again, it is not as initially "exciting" tonally as the Thunderfunk. I will add that I have used the iAMP 800 many times with my Accugroove cabs, and it sounds incredible - especially when driving both as 4 ohm cabs for a 2 ohm total load.

But, once I plug the Walter Woods into the Bergies, it is really no contest. This is the head for these cabs. Highs are airy and open. Mids are sweet, clear, present, and very refined. Lows are full and thick, and plenty tight. With other cabs, I have noticed that the WWU is not as tight in the low end as my iAMP 800, but with these Bergies, it shows no such deficiency. Volume is noticeably easier to come by with the WWU's 1,200 watts, and I have every reason to believe that if allowed to push each head to its volume limits, the Wally Ultra would be the champ. In every regard, with the Bergies at least, the Walter Woods is my strong favorite. I have not used the WWU with the Accugroove cabs recently, though I do recall that when I powered my Whappo, Jr. with both the WWU and the iAMP 800, I had a slight preference for the iAMP.

Shortly after this test, I was also able to run all of these heads through some Accugroove cabs. To my surprise, the results were notably different from my tests with the Bergantino's. Here is what I heard:

The iAMP 800 with the Tri 210L had very thick, full tone, and gobs of low end (the most of the group). However, as I have found in the past, I found that the iAMP with Accugroove cabs leaves me wanted a bit more high end (which is easy enough to add). Since the wife and kids were out of the house, I did get to crank the volume up quite a bit, and the iAMP pushes the Tri 210L (set to 4 ohm) quite well, again with lots of low end, even right up to "full volume" - or as close to it as I dared to go. I am not a slapper, but I do hit the strings pretty hard (fingerstyle). When I would hit them quite hard, the iAMP gave a nice snappy, quick articulate hit, and after a bit more experimentation, I decided that the iAMP would be the clear choice if I were a slapper. Nice, fast transients that don't get harsh at all.

With the Thunderfunk, you get a lot more high end (the most of the group), but the lows were not as full or as loud as with the other amps (particularly the EA). Again, if you want more low end, EQ is there for you, and the Thunderfunk has plenty of tone shaping options. Overall loudness seemed to be on par with the EA, but the difference in thick low end was even more apparent at volume. Still, the Thunderfunk drove the Tri 210L quite well, and as I am sure many of you know, Accugroove cabs have tons of low end and fat, full tone, so the net effect is pretty well balanced.

The Walter Woods sounded fantastic, as expected. It was also the loudest of the group. The low end was very close to as full as with the EA, though perhaps not as tight - though this was not as noticeable as with some other cabs I have tried. In general, everything sounded great with the WWU. The high end was not as pronounced as with the Thunderfunk, but it wasn't far behind, had that air of refinement that Walter's amps always give. The mids were beautiful, and in general I was quite reminded of the sound of the WWU through the Bergies. When I cranked up the volume, the Walter Woods was again the loudest, but still did not have the amount of low end that the iAMP put out.

The Walkabout was the real surprise of the group and my overall favorite with the Tri 210L. This blew my mind! I had not expected it to be in the top three, and here it ends up at the top of the heap! The tone was closest to the Walter Woods, but with more of a midrange presence, and somewhat warmer. Lows were the best that I have heard out of the Walkabout. Very full, very musical, and without any of the "mushiness" that I have heard with other cabs. The Tri 210L deserves a lot of the credit, here, but regardless, it was a very good pairing. And get this, the volume seemed to be at least as loud as the Thunderfunk and iAMP 800! Something about the Tri 210L seemed to let the Walkbout really sing at volume, and at the point where I have heard it sound like it is breaking up with other cabs, I could crank it up even more and still get great tone and good dynamics. Highs were very good, too. I just couldn't believe how nice this sounded.

Any of these heads would be very good with Accugroove cabs - which again says a lot for Mark's cabs!

Well, I hope this helps, Tom.

5 Comments:

Blogger mike dimin said...

Tom,

What you are finding with the iAMP is not a review of the head, but actually the review of eache cab.

The transparent nature of the iamp provides an accurate idea of what the cabinet actually sounds like

11:42 AM  
Blogger Tom Bowlus said...

Excellent point, Mike!

4:05 PM  
Blogger George G. said...

Hi Tom,
In your comments you said that the WW Ultra relly went well with Berg's was probably the best match. How would you compare that match driving your Epi T110 & T112 combination with WW Ultra.

10:14 PM  
Blogger George G. said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:15 PM  
Blogger Tom Bowlus said...

The WWU does sound fantastic with Epifani cabs. In fact, the extra midrange "lushness" really makes two T-112's sound great as well.

Tom.

12:25 AM  

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