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Posts Tagged ‘reason bambino’

I’ve been extolling the virtues of the Reason Amps Bambino for several months, and how great it sounds. Among the things that I’ve mentioned is that for a little amp, it has a BIG sound. That was a design objective with Obeid Kahn, Reason’s amp designer, when he was designing the amp. He didn’t want to just build yet another affordable, low-powered amp. He wanted to build a great amp. Period.

Despite the sound though, what has really turned me on about this amp is its versatility. For instance, last Friday I did my regular, weekly solo gig at a local restaurant. I haven’t been very happy about my Stratacoustic’s tone into my DigiTech Vocalist Live box, so I decided to bring the Bambino to provide some pre-amplification and use its balanced line out to go directly into the restaurant’s board. What I was greeted with was simply put, a spectacular sound, and this from a line out directly from the amp! I’ve mentioned using this in the past, but this time, I had no speaker. I went direct into the board, and the only monitoring I had was from the PA. A couple of days later, I used it for my weekly church gig, with my 1 X 12 speaker cab, and also using the line out to plug into my church’s board.

For a church gig, minimal stage volume is important because voices are reinforced through the house audio, not from the band area. So to have this kind of amp where all I have to get is my stage volume, then use the house to get my sound out, it’s simply a boon.

The only other amps I’ve ever used that have this kind of versatility are acoustic amps. I realize that there are probably other tube amps that may have this capability, but getting all the great sound and versatility AND boutique quality in a $699 package is just unheard of! If you’re looking for a great amp that’ll work in variety of places, look no further!

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bambinoSome amps were just meant to be used with a certain kind of guitar. The Reason Bambino is one such amp. Mind you, it sounds great with any guitar, and I play it with a wide variety of guitars. But considering the amp designer, Obeid Kahn, and his love of vintage Strats, it’s no small wonder that the Bambino sound absolutely gorgeous with a Strat.

When I play a Strat, I like to play mostly clean with just a little bit of grit, and the Bambino does this oh-so-well! Here’s a clip of a song I’m working on that demonstrates the Bambino’s gorgeous voice with my MIM Strat with ’57 Tex Mex re-issue pups:

You may have already heard a version of this clip when I demonstrated the KASHA Overdrive pedal, but I thought I’d try the lead plugged straight into the Bambino, and adding just a bit of reverb during production. At least for my Strat in the Bambino, pedals? We don’t need no stinkin’ pedals!

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Reason Amps BambinoCruising the forums this morning, I came upon a statistic that just blew me away; probably more so because I completely missed it when it first came out. But better late than never… Anyway, the guys at Creation Audio Labs did a loudness comparison of various amplifiers in different wattage ranges at the recent Nashville Amps Show. For the 1 – 20 Watt category, the Reason Bambino had a loudness of 120.2 dB through a Greenback!

That’s moving some serious air for an 8 Watt amp, and just goes to show you that’s it’s not necessarily wattage that determines how loud something is. Power handling is the key, and Obeid Kahn of Reason Amps is wizard with power handling.

I’ve been extolling the Bambino not only for it’s great tone, but also for how loud it can go. Friends have said an amp this small will never move enough air to gig with; I’ve proven them wrong time and again, but mostly through verbal argument. But now, with a number to back up the argument, I can confidently say that this amp can do it! I regularly use it for gigging with my 1 X 12 cabinet, and have absolutely no problem hearing myself over the drums. But let’s be clear: I’m not using the amp to project my sound out to the audience. I’m using it more as a direct stage monitor, of which it is PERFECTLY suited. I get my sound out to the audience by plugging directly into the PA board from the balanced line out, or miking my cabinet.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again. Going lower wattage with your amp(s) is really a change in performance setup philosophy. Those who’ve embraced this understand that you really only need stage volume nowadays with the much better PA system technology that’s out there. Even moderately sized PA’s work better than stuff twenty to thirty years ago. The important thing to them is to be able to get their cranked up tones without peeling the skin off their faces and turning their eardrums into a liquid mess. Take for instance Matthew Followill of the Kings of Leon, a band that is really gaining popularity and starting to play a lot of arenas. I was amazed to read in an interview that he plays through a 50 Watt Ampeg Reverb Rocket. As he said in his interview, “I’m a big fan of smaller amps turned all the way up, instead of big amps turned up halfway…”

Circling back to the Bambino, it is a great, versatile amp that is really starting to turn heads; not just from its tone, but how well it can project its voice!

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I was perusing The Gear Page this morning, and saw one of Anthony’s postings of the colors the Bambino comes in. CHECK IT OUT!!!

bambino_colors

I have the blue tolex model shown at the bottom right. It is SO cool looking.

BTW, if you missed the sound clips, here they are again:

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:

This little amp has created quite a buzz on the forums, and at $699, it’s a deal. It has been so popular, that they haven’t been able to keep up with the demand, and that’s a good thing! To place an order or to get some information, contact the guys directly at info@reasonamps.com.

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bambinoDid my weekly church gig this evening and took the Reason Bambino along. Didn’t bring a pedalboard; just a 1 X 12 cabinet and a couple of cables. I wanted to test out the amp in its pristine state, with no added accoutrements. I also wanted to test the balanced line out to see how it worked with the building’s PA.

I have to tell you, Obeid Kahn being a noted Strat guy, even though the Bambino sounds killer with a guitar with ‘buckers, this amp seems to just love a Strat. It really makes it come alive. Whether I played fingerstyle or funky, the Bambino really made my Strat sing. Well… nothing helps to inspire me to play better than great tone. Like I mentioned in my review, the tone of the 6AQ5 sits right between an EL-84 and a 6V6, and that tone seemed to bring out the best of my Strat. The cleans were classic Strat, and the drive, oh yeah, the overdrive was open and bright, and just floated in the air. I may have been in worship, but I was also in tone heaven!!!

As for the balanced line out, oh man! The tone coming through my church’s PA was great! We have a pretty nice PA system, and the tone, whether clean or dirty, didn’t sound any different than what was coming through my cab. That was a concern for me because I’ve played through amps with line outs that just didn’t sound like the amp. The Bambino’s line out is very transparent, and that’s especially important with this amp because it’ll give you plenty of volume to monitor your tone on stage, but the line out going into your PA will ensure that it’ll get out faithfully to the audience. Make no mistake. This amp may only have 8 Watts, but it has plenty of volume to be used as a stage amp. I suppose it’s another way to approach performance. Especially in a church setting where lower stage volume is critical, having the ability to keep your stage volume down but knowing that it’ll get out to your audience is just so awesome. The Bambino rocks in this department!

***Quick Update*** I just spoke with Anthony this morning and he nor Obeid didn’t anticipate the DI to be plugged directly into a PA, so he was pleasantly surprised to hear my application of it. Note that I went direct out and into my cab at the same time! This amp has versatility written all over it!

And if ever the 8 watts isn’t enough, the Bambino can be used as a reference amp to define your tone, and with the line out, you can re-amp into another amp or a power amp to boost your output power. I’ve tried this, and it works great. I can’t wait until I get to try this at a real gig!

So what’s the verdict? The Bambino rocks – plain and simple.

To get a Bambino…

I don’t think Anthony and Obeid anticipated the popularity of the Bambino, and the positive response has been enormous. If you’re interested in getting this $699 tone monster, contact the guys directly either through e-mail at info@reasonamps.com. 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!

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5 Tone Bones - Gear has stellar performance, value, and quality. This is definitely top of the class, best of breed, and it's a no-brainer to add this to your gear lineup!
Reason Amps Bambino
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.

Cons: None.

Features:

  • Preamp Tubes: Three 12AX7’s
  • Power Tubes : Two 6AQ5’s in a push-pull configuration.
  • Output Power: 8 Watts, switchable to 2 Watts
  • Channels: Normal (Push-pull Fat Boost), Bright (Push-pull Treble Boost), StackModeTM
  • Built-in Speaker Load Box Simulated Line Output with Level Control
  • Separate Headphone Output

Price: $699.99

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.

Re-amp Anyone?

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!

Overall Impressions

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 info@reasonamps.com. 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!

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Reason Amps BambinoWhat three word phrase begins with an “O” and ends with an exclamation mark (!)? You guessed it, OH MY GOD! That was my reaction when I first turned on the Reason Bambino I got for review today. For the unfamiliar, the Bambino is Reason’s brand-new entry into the sub-10 Watt amp market, and if this little monster doesn’t make a big splash, I’ll be very disappointed!

I won’t go in-depth into the features since I covered those in my recent pre-release announcement, but the Bambino is simply a miniaturized version of the Reason family of amps, sporting three modes: Normal, Bright, and Stack. Stack Mode ROCKS folks, as it runs the Normal and Bright channels in series, adds an extra gain stage, while retaining full EQ control over the individual channels. Can you say, “High Gain?” 🙂 The volume knob on Channel 1 is a push-pull fat booster, while the volume knob on Channel 2 is a treble booster to add top-end sparkle. And of course, the Bambino is powered by two 6AQ5 power tubes. But enough of the features…

I opened up the shipping box and pulled out the amp to find a Navy Blue Levant tolex-covered amp. I just smiled as that is the exact color of my Aracom Amps! Talk about matching a set (though I don’t get to keep this eval model)! I’ve been so excited to get this amp as I’ve known about it for months, and couldn’t say a word about it. So despite the fact that I just finished a 4-hour solo gig tonight, how could I not open it up and try it out!

So I checked the tubes to see if they got unseated during shipping (they were fine), hooked it up, plugged in my Strat, and being that it was 10:30pm, switched the amp to 1 Watt mode (it’s switchable between 7 Watts and 1 Watt). I put the amp in Stack Mode, cranked the two channel volumes, turned the amp on, and got the Stack Mode volume to a reasonable level; that is, loud enough to move a bit of air but soft enough so as not to wake the neighbors (my studio is in my garage).

I struck an A chord on the fifth fret, and almost jumped out of my shoes! I could not believe what I was hearing! As expected, like all Reason amps, the Bambino is brightly voiced. But the 6AQ5 has a sound all its own. The overdrive tone is sizzling, with a nice, open character, incredible touch-sensitivity and dynamics, but it’s amazingly smooth at the same time. I liken that type of overdrive to the way 6V6’s break up, but the Bambino with its 6AQ5’s has a tone that is wholly unique! I LOVE IT!!! I did a few legato runs, and tested out the sustain and feedback. All I can say is that I was totally blown away! And I got this tone running the amp at bedroom levels in ONE FREAKIN’ WATT MODE!!!

Now, before you go thinking that 1 Watt doesn’t seem like a lot. In amp vernacular, it’s not much at all. But from an audio perspective, a 1 Watt amp running through a 1 X 12 speaker is as loud as a jack-hammer! That’s where the Stack Mode Volume comes into play as it is a PPIMV (Post Phase Inverter Master Volume), which effectively controls the amount of signal going into the power amp. At the volume I was running at, I was probably down to 1/2 or maybe even a 1/4 Watt, and that was at about loud conversation level.

But the gain that I was getting in Stack Mode was plenty for my needs, and as a home studio recording amp, being able to get that kind of tone without needing an attenuator, is incredible! I do have to say, that if I really want to take advantage of the third gain stage, I’d have to run the amp through an attenuator. Even at 1 Watt, with Stack volume cranked, it’s very loud, and that’s a testament to Obeid Kahn’s genius with power management.

As far as cleans are concerned, from what I can perceive with my Strat, the tone sits between an EL-84 and a 6V6 clean tone. It’s not as glassy as an EL-84 clean, and not as rich as a 6V6 clean. But what I like is that the clean tone has a real nice three-dimensional quality about it. There’s nothing flat about the cleans this amp produces. Adding just a touch of reverb accentuates this quality. It’s pure ear candy. While I love high-gain, to me, the real test of the amp is how it sounds clean. From that perspective, the Bambino totally delivers!

It’s almost midnight, I’m incredibly exhausted, but I have to play a little more before I turn in. So, in summary, my first impression of this amp is that it KICKS F-IN ASS! I haven’t even begun to explore all its features like its balanced line out (can’t wait to re-amp this with my Aracom VRX22 or do direct recording). All I know is that this is one special amp, and one that I am definitely adding to my collection! It’s a no-brainer at $699 for a hand-wired, US-made amp. Like the Aracoms amps that I love so dearly, I’ll take this amp over any name brand boutique amp out there!

Check out my review of the Reason Amps Bambino

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