Aguilar Tone Hammer 500 Bass Amplifier

Aguilar have long-running relationships with top jazz players such as John Patitucci, one of the most famous ‘doublers’ out there playing acoustic and six-string bass guitar, as well as leading fusioneers Gary Willis and Tim Lefebvre, and Led Bib’s own jazz-punker Liran Donin among many others. Which brings us to their Tone Hammer 500 bass amp (that’s 500 watts at 4 ohms, 250 at 8 ohms) that combines discreet circuitry and tube-like warmth in a highly portable package. And it should be no surprise that these amps are highly sympathetic for jazz-related playing situations combining both subtlety and muscle with its simple-looking set-up hiding a few little extras.

These are to be found in the Gain and Drive controls that sit next to the usual Mid-Level, Mid-Freq, Bass and Treble pots, an effects loop send and return, Master Volume, and a handy front-panel XLR DI socket. The secret of the Gain control is that it adds volume to the signal coming from the bass and drives the next stage of the preamp section. The Drive control on the amp also adds gain and contributes to the tone by adding midrange grittiness and is also interactive with the gain control. So the lower the Gain control setting, the ‘flatter’ the EQ applied while the higher you set the Gain control, the more saturated the gain structure becomes, and the more the bass is tightened and the treble smoothed. If that wasn’t enough, then the Drive circuitry ‘surrounds’ the midrange controls, enabling you to get a huge variety of tonal characteristics by simply adjusting the Gain, Mid-level and Mid-frequency controls.

What all this boils down to is that providing you use a high quality instrument with the amp, then dramatic tone shaping can be achieved simply by raising the Gain level, making this one of the best-sounding ‘flat’ preamps I’ve ever played. If more EQ tweaking is required the Tone Hammer’s huge dynamic range is matched only by its transparency, which, while not ‘colouring’ the sound in any discernable way, does give all manner of tones a definite warmth with real depth and punch.

Add to this two high quality whisper fans and this amp is practically hiss-free when idling between songs. With a three-year warranty backing up what looks and feels like a really solidly built, thoughtfully designed lightweight amp, the Tone Hammer 500 is simple elegance personified.

– Mike Flynn

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