With the latest EBS head, the Classic 450 and matching 8x10 cabinet, any bassist can give the guitar player a run for his money. But the lead-heavy Classic 450 is so much more than a rock´n´roller´s rig.
This year celebrates EBS´ 20th Anniversary. In two decades, they have evolved from a basement in midtown Stockholm to the major arenas and the international crème de la crème of bass players. The first product in 1988 was the EBS-1, a technically innovative studio quality preamp aimed at bass audiophiles who put sound over money. Over the following years, an impressive number of products were launched, and in 1995 came the Fafner head, the first EBS amp built for bass players preferring “plug and play” to flexibility and features. That path has now lead to the 450 watt head that will be scrutinized this month: the Classic 450. This is a no-frills good-sounding amp.
Upon first sight, the Classic 450 looks like a valve amp. The amp is built into a black lacquer metal chassis, which in turn sits in a vintage-style wooden box covered in black vinyl, with spring-loaded side handles and a rubber handle on top. It has more of a rock´n´roll look than previous EBS amps, and feels like a natural partner to the Classic Line speaker series, which design-wise has its roots some decades back.
What’s new is that the Classic 450 is made for EBS in South Korea, which reflects only on the price, not on the quality. EBS has designed all the circuits and specified all components. The construction quality is top notch, with carefully applied vinyl clothing and neatly mounted components on the circuit boards.
The preset Character filter, which adds a slight lift to the bass and treble, is a souped-up version of that found in most other EBS amps. The treble part has been lifted from 6 to 9 kHz to better augment the new treble and midrange filters. The Gain control has a peak indicator and the input stage is basically the same high quality stage found in the other models, which also includes the bass and treble filters. One difference, though, is the lack of phantom feed. The midrange section is new to EBS, and their first with double sweepable filters. The notch feature found in the midrange filter on some other EBS amps has made way for simplified use.
On the back are two speaker outputs (Speakon), an unbalanced tele line output and a balanced XLR output with earth lift switch and pre/post EQ. All switches have a built-in diode, a well thought out detail that makes your settings easier to see on dark stages.
A DISCREET BEHEMOTH
The CL-810 cabinet is surprisingly easy to lift in spite of the size. The two wheels and the upper handle give it a cart-like feel. If you consider buying a cabinet this size, you must consider your transportation needs and whether you have a vehicle to match or not.
When you hit the power switch and the standby switch, there is just a sound of silence. Not even a hum or a hiss from the fan. Not until you turn up the volume will you hear a normal noise.
BASIC CHARACTER AND FILTERS
The basic sound is a bit meatier and less sterile than in the other EBS heads, which stems from the fact that the bass filter adds a slight lift even in zero position. If you look for a truly dry sound, turn the bass down a little bit. The Drive function is also active even in zero position, but it does not bother a bit and only adds life to the sound. The idea behind this design is to make it easier to find a good sound, and in my opinion, EBS has succeeded. If you plug in an active bass, just turn up Gain and Volume and you’re set to go. The sound is balanced, with a soft low end, good body and a controlled and restricted high end that offers a good basic sound regardless of musical or playing style. With a passive bass I recommend the Character filter, which softens the sound without removing presence or body – you may have to back off the Bass a little so as not lo lose focus in the lower end.
The Bass control is really powerful and makes a lot happen in the lower frequencies even at small turns, so use it modestly.
The treble control is higher up, frequency-wise, than usual, actually in the same field as the bright filter found on other EBS amps. The Treble has a very open character with a lustre and brilliance that opens up the sound in a very natural manner.
THE CROWN OF THIS CREATION
The Drive control is the crown of this creation. I have never heard an overdrive sound so good. It has a balanced graininess that livens up the sound without making it stingy, unfocused or lacking fundamentals. It works evenly from squeaky clean to very distorted, which makes it a breeze to work. The new Drive function in the Classic 450 has an extended range that goes from overdrive to distortion if you look for a really busted up sound. And the distortion sounds good, too. I enjoyed playing this rig immensely. It was quick and easy to dial up settings, from traditional finger-style, to raw flat-picking, to slap playing, all the time with a vivid tone. The Drive control offered extra pleasures, and I did some experiments adding it to slap/high end sounds, with good result.
On their other amps, EBS has a number of practical and well-sounding features that this one lacks, for instance compressor, loop, phantom feed, tuner out and speaker simulator. If the goal was to make a good-sounding, user-friendly rig at a low price, they made the right exclusions. The power amp designed is tried and tested and the MOSFET in combination with the protective limiter makes the amp sound good even under strain. When using a pick, the rawness appears even more. The generous output in combination with the 8x10 box gives tremendous sound pressure and the huge dynamics keeps the sound focused in a nice way.
It is obvious that EBS has scanned and analyzed the needs of their users, something they’ve always been good at. The ambition to make a bass amp for those who prefer simplicity to the number of features is obvious, too. In my opinion they’ve done a great job.
The CL-810 cabinet is fitted with eight 10” EBS Classic speakers and a 2” treble horn made in China by a supplier carefully selected by EBS. The back panel has two parallel Speakon jacks and two tele jacks.
The cabinet is made from seven-ply laminate and of the bass reflex variety with three internal shelves stabilising the cabinet. All four speaker sections are connected by open columns, thus the box acts as one big cabinet.
The cabinet is covered in the same vinyl as the amp head and has protective metal corners. To facilitate transport, it has two wheels on the lower back so you can wheel it when tipped backwards, which is easiest done by using the two large metal handles on the top backside. There are also two recessed handles on the sides. The back has two protective slide rails, to make it easier to push the cabinet into a van.