|Reason Amps “Bambino”
Summary: Don’t let its diminutive size fool you. This 14lb amp packs tone for days! Capable of sweet cleans to massive overdrive, the Bambino is sure to keep you rockin’!
Pros: Even at 8 Watts, this amp will give you stage volume for small venue gigs. 2 Watt mode gives you the same tone as the 8 Watts, but will keep your family and neighbors happy.
Tone Bone Score: 5.0. The Reason guys did it again! This amp simply rocks the house! Yeah, I know, I’ve only had the amp for a day, but I’ve been playing with it since this morning, and I just had to write about it! It’s spectacular!
Having the gift of gab is not a very good thing when you want to talk about something and can’t. I mentioned in previous posts that I knew about this amp when it was in the planning stages months ago, but Anthony Bonadio asked me not to mention it until it was ready. So imagine wanting to blab about this new amp, and not being able to! Oh well… At least I know I can keep a secret! :)
A little history…
When I first talked to Anthony about the amp (it didn’t even have a name yet), he mentioned that it was going to be a 1-Watt bedroom/practice amp for under $700. But Obeid Kahn (Reason’s genius amp designer) being who he is, thought the better of it and decided to create a voltage-switchable amp that could be used in and out of the bedroom. I’m glad he decided to go that route, because even with my very short experience with the Bambino, it has versatility written all over it. Don’t let the 8 Watts fool you at all. 8 Watts is plenty for stage volume in small venues and churches. Keep in mind 1 Watt at 3 meters through a 1 X 12 is as loud as a jackhammer!
When Anthony mentioned they were ready to launch the Bambino, I got real excited, and was even more excited to be able to get a test unit to evaluate. As I mentioned in my previous post about the Bambino, I just got it yesterday, but haven’t been able to keep myself from playing it today. I’ve probably logged about 8 hours on the amp between late last night and today.
Fit and Finish
What can I say? Reason Amps are freakin’ gorgeous. There are no voids in the tolex and the cabinet is quite sturdy. The control panel is easy to manipulate and very easy to figure out. Hell! There are only seven knobs! The test unit I got sported navy blue levant tolex, just like my Aracom amps! Lined up together, it looked like a color-coordinated set! HA! The beige front panel really creates a nice contrast to the blue tolex. The Bambino just looks great. But, of course, it’s following the pedigree of its bigger siblings.
How It Sounds
As I mentioned in my first impressions article, tonally, the Bambino, with its 6AQ5 power tubes, sits right between the EL-84 and the 6V6. Its cleans aren’t as glassy as the EL-84, and not as fat as 6V6. It truly does reside in the middle. Overdrive is more like a 6V6, with an open and airy quality that retains note clarity, even at high-gain settings. I’ve heard mention that the Bambino sounds like a couple of different amps, but from my perspective, the 6AQ5 has a voice all its own.
The Normal channel is the clean channel, and it’s actually tough to get breakup on this channel until you get the volume past 2pm. I love playing a Strat through this channel. You get that classic Strat tone, but expressed completely differently by virtue of the power tubes.
The Bright channel is actually not that much brighter than the Normal channel, though it does have that treble booster to get more top-end sparkle, and instead of a single tone knob, you have treble and bass knobs, so you can tweak the voicing a bit more. In this respect, the Bambino’s channels are set up very similarly to Reason’s SM40, where the two channels are fairly similar in tone.
StackMode, which combines the two channels in series and adds an extra gain stage is just simply to die for! The StackMode volume acts as PPIMV, so you can absolutely crank the first two channels and not blow out your ears. But when you have the ability to really open up the amp in StackMode, very very cool things happen with respect to overtones and high-order harmonics. The amp really comes alive when you’re running a lot of juice through the tubes!
Here are some clips I recorded of the Bambino (all were recorded in 8-Watt mode):
Clean fingerstyle in neck position of my Strat:
Clean, blues progression, with Strat in neck/middle position with just a minute amount of breakup:
All out, wide open with channels 1 and 2 dimed and StackMode volume at 3pm. I’m playing my Prestige Heritage Elite with ‘buckers in the bridge position:
OMFG! I love that last clip. The harmonics are incredible, and as you can tell from the clip, even though the overdrive is absolutely snarling and the gain is way over-the-top, the clarity of the notes is just amazing! Obeid had mentioned that good things start to happen when I could play the amp all out, and based upon my experience, he was right on the money. This amp just sings when you can let it breathe!
Sorry, I don’t have anything in between clean and in your face overdrive – I’ll record some more later.
I also tested the balanced line out with the Bambino, running it into my Aracom VRX18, then into a 1 X 12 cabinet. Talk about a great, bright tone. The VRX18 “inherited” the grind from the Bambino, then added its own voice! The result was incredible. In fact the VRX18 helped to smooth out the highs from the Bambino. I’ll see if I can record some clips with that. But in any case, it really demonstrated the possibilities of how you can use this amp!
The Tone Bone score of 5 says it all. This is a great amp, period, and I will soon be adding it to my growing collection of low-power amps. Yeah, it’s a low-power amp that may not work for medium to large venues, but for small venues and for recording, this amp is spectacular. And at a street price of $699, it’s definitely a great value proposition to boot!
Okay, I want one… How do I get a Bambino? It’s not even listed on their site yet!
Contact the guys directly either through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. They also hang out at the Gear Page (http://www.thegearpage.net/board). Search for “bambino” or find the users “Reason” or “OKahn” and send a private message. There will probably be a bit of a wait time to get the amp as it has create quite a buzz and they’re already getting orders. The amp is just out of prototype and review for goodness’ sake! It’s amazing!