The Bass Department
Gear to get that low end growl
The new-found solution for 'the sound in my head' is the Vanderkey Spartan, a boutique, compact class-D amplifier, designed and hand made by Marc Vanderkley. The Spartan follows on from Marc's previous design, the Vanderkley Aurora and still is the go to high performance amplifer for those who are searching for an ultra-clear, direct and highly detailed sound, yet also providing a powerful and warm tone. The Spartan is indeed a thing of beauty - an all black anodised block of aluminium with the trademark scarlet accents, compact but unlike other class D amplifiers, reassuringly weighty at 5 kilos encasing enough power to level a small city.
Under the anodised black case resides a thunderous 1600 watts of power - yes 1600 watts! This unprecidented D-class headroom is more than enough for any situation. A key feature of the Spartan is its ability to feed a 4-Ohm load on each of its brace of outputs. This allows the user to connect a maximum of two 4-Ohm cabs or four 8Ohm cabs to the amplifier. This is one feature that means the Spartan is a very powerful, capable amplifier in an extremely portable package.
The design ethos of this amplifier is clear - Tone, Power and Simplicity.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Marc has delivered on this and there are many that may question why an amplifier in this price bracket is lacking a headphone socket, FX loop, tuner output and so on - but those people are missing the design philosophy and the clear execution of that philosophy.
So having realised this is a tone machine what can you do with it? Well the five band control allows frequency crafting - low (40Hz), low mid (90Hz), mid (600Hz), mid-high (4kHz) and high (11kHz) - all are easily accessed via pleasingly responsive cut and boost tone controls. Above the input jack there is a 3-way toggle switch allowing for 0DB or -12DB (passive/active) inputs and in the centre position a useful mute feature, the only other feature is the Volume control - simplicity is the byword here!
This maybe the first time I have played through an amplifier that doesn't colour the instrument going in - I finally heard the true voices of the guitars and the Spartan truly reflects every detail, of both the instrument and the players style all with seemingly unlimited headroom and dynamics, and maintains these characteristics at any volume an in any circumstance.
Yes, the price is a premium but if you really want to do justice to the individual voice of your instruments and cabs and need the tone, power and flexibility to go anywhere then you have to consider this as an option in any shootout. My only issue is it wasn't available in time for recording our recent Junkyard Sons album - 'August Time '53'.
The Vanderkley Spartan Bass Amplifier is all about Tone, Power and Simplicity, so the choice is simple too!
Review coming soon!
Warwick Double $$
The mainstay of Junkyard Sons low end is Rod and his brace of Warwick Corvette $$.
While the German twins body shape shares the Warwick family look, that's where the similarities end. Two massive MEC humbucking pickups are housed in a beautiful swamp Ash body with accompanying Ovangkol neck and Wenge fretboard. In addition to the massive pickups and beautiful workmanship, this bass also sports it's own universe of tonal controls and variances. Accompanying the volume/mid scoop pot is a 3 band graphic equalizer. The treble knob seems to accentuate mostly the hard, tinny frequencies of the high end. However this is more than compensated for by the subtle genius of the mid control, and the deep roar of the bass control. To add to the sonic flexibility given by the 3 band equalizer, this bass also offers dual coil taps, one for each pickup. These open up a whole other range of sonic possibilities.
The sonic possibilities that this bass bring are varied and completely unique. While other basses have similar double humbucker designs none of them seem to be as thick or as full as this bass. Even playing through a small setup this bass is still incredibly deep and full sounding. The deep rich tones are beautifully complimented by crisp, clear but often harsh, high end. What really puts this bass over the top are the dual coil switches. When they are switched forward (toward the EQ knobs) both pickups are working in series. This produces a very bright thin tone, such as is often found in metal. When they are switched to the rear the humbuckers are split. This gives the effect of having four single coil pickups. This creates an incredibly smooth mellow sound while still marinating the integrity of the high end of the instrument. However you like your tone, vast sonic possibilities are at your disposal from the moment you plug this bass in.
This and all Warwick basses are beautifully made and produced. This bass is no exception to the rule. While the action is set a little bit higher than I like it, which is easily remedied. This especially thanks to the new Just-A-Nut III. This allows you to raise and lower the height of the nut without taking off the strings, and some major repairs. This reissue of the nut actually works! The finish is beautifully applied, and appears to be very solid.
In Nirvana black, with deep Wenge fingerboard this is a dark broody machine comfortable with both heavy rock and gentle blues alike and it's voice can be changed with the flick of a switch - and although there is always a spare you get the feeling you will never need it.
Oh and before you say it, Rod can tell the difference between the two when blindfolded. Doug Chapman and Minesh Solanki certainly were very responsible first owners of these two magnifgicent girls and although they now are occasionally led astray they are going to be mainstays in Rod's hands for a long time to come.
For a few years Rod had a bit of a Gear Aquisition Problem and the eternal excuse of "it will go in the studio one day" meant that he now needs to find a studio the size of Rutland (he has ruled out a studio on the Isle of Wight as impractical for Gumtree purchases!).
So until he can find a Studio with the required space the only place you will see all his gear at once is here!
Barefaced Big Baby 2