It’s called Occam’s razor—the simplest solution to a problem tends to be the best.
It’s a good route for choosing a bass rig, too.
Add too many features and you have a better
chance of doing damage to your tone. In fact,
the longer I’ve played bass, the less I twiddle
with an amp’s knobs. When I do decide to
twiddle something, I’ll do it in moderation.
The rig reviewed here does a good job of
following the Occam’s razor principle. You
might remember the Kustom bass amps,
ubiquitous in the ’60s and ’70s with their
legendary tuck ’n’ roll auto upholstery, that
were offered in an array of sparkly colors
and decked out with chrome ports and a
cool script-like name badge. The appointments may have been fancy looking, but
Kustom bass amps were downright humble
when it came to knobs. This new Kustom
bass rig retains that simplicity while knocking down the weight considerably—thanks
to the use of some newer technologies.
and Indicator light
Aux In and
A Tidy, Basic Package
The first key technology contributing to
big power in a lightweight form is the use
of a class D power amp. The KXB500 uses
a Bang & Olufsen ICEpower module that
puts out 500 watts RMS at 4 Ω—all in
a package measuring a mere 12" wide, 8"
deep, and 2. 5" high.
Despite its diminutive stature, the
KXB500 has all the features the average
bassist needs—Occam’s razor in action.
On the front panel sits one Input jack, one
input Gain control, a 3-band EQ, and a
Master volume. Kustom includes a push-pull switch on the Midrange knob that toggles its center frequencies between 500 Hz
and 700 Hz, both useful for bass, though
a little close together. The front panel also
includes a handy Mute switch (with a red
light that flashes when engaged), a 1/8"
Plugging in, I found it a simple task to
get a good basic sound by centering the easy-
viewing EQ knobs, turning the input Gain
up to around noon, and adjusting the Master
to taste. I found that the EQ knobs had plen-
ty of sound-shaping ability, with tonal centers
at musically pleasant frequencies. It would
have been nice, though, to have center detents
on the three tone controls. The input imped-
ance, at 690k Ω, is a little low for acoustic
piezo-based pickups, but should be fine for
magnetic pickups on electric basses.
Though the Master control seemed to
get loud a little quicker than I’d prefer,
Kustom states they used an input stage that
could accommodate a very wide range of
input signals, allowing for clean tones and
still having enough gain to overdrive the
system. All said, it was still easy to adjust to
my desired level, and I found the KXB500
to have a neutral voice—one that would
be useful for a lot of musical situations.
Kustom does include rack ears if you’re so
inclined, but keep in mind that a rack case
would likely weigh more than the amp itself.
Aux In jack (for practicing along with your
iPod), and a similarly-sized Headphone jack.
The Bass control offers +/- 20 dB at 40
Hz, right at the bottom of the E string’s
range. On the high end, the Treble control
has the same amount of control at 20 kHz,
adding snap to your slap. In between, the
Midrange knob allows up to +/- 12 dB of
scoop or presence.
On the back of the KXB500, there’s a socket for a removable power cord, a pair of output
jacks (speakON and 1/4"), and an XLR DI
out that’s switchable pre/post with ground lift
and level controls. There is also a Tuner Out
jack, effects loop Send/Receive jacks, and a
Footswitch jack for both the mute and effects
loops. Everything a bassist needs is there.
Deep End DE115NEO Cab: Yet
Another Tidy, Basic Package
This Kustom Deep End Neo cab is both
lightweight and compact, thanks in part to the
Eminence neodymium magnet speaker that
weighs far less than a conventional ceramic
magnet design. The use of plywood over par-ticleboard also keeps the weight in check, especially by going with rear ports that eliminate
about 6" or so of height necessary for front
shelf porting. This cab ends up a little smaller
than many others with a 15" speaker, measuring 24" high, 20" wide and 16" deep.
The DE115NEO uses an 8 Ω speaker,
which allows the amp to put out 300
watts RMS. A second Deep End 115 Neo
would be needed to reach the amp’s full
power. The jack plate’s connections had a