The products from EBS have long been known for their workmanship, just like Swedish cars. It is known that the company with the blue
Nordic Amps are currently one of the most interesting trends in the bass range. Could this be because of EBS’s rediscovery of the grim myth of Fafner? The story revolves around a father’s murder; the youngest son’s gruesome seizure of his father’s wealth and his brother’s ensuing role as the dragon guardian of the captured treasure. The tale makes a nice addition to the operating instruction, just like the included ear plugs. Possibly however, Fafner’s recent popularity can be explained by the search of today’s bass players for eternal values when making new purchases.
The steel casing of the rough, ready and brutal amp measures three rack height units - truly the stuff of Nordic legend. This unusual size is due to technical considerations: the gigantic interior aluminum heatsink and above all the massive transformer require a lot of cool air. Thankfully, the massive angle brackets are removable so that the equipment can be used without a rack. In my opinion this turns the Fafner into irresistibly compact, technically powerful eye candy for all well-equipped clubs with fixed backline installations. On the front, high-gloss polished handles help when manouvering the power station, while on the rear panel, its massive feet allows the powerhouse to be set down without damaging any of the numerous connectors. The extremely potent transistorized power amplifier cools via an efficient airflow system; a generous, rear mounted temperature controlled fan blows air to the interior through a large filter grid.
The compact electronic structure of the Fafner is perfectly crafted. A toroid transformer with a diameter of almost 8 inches (20 cm) and the enormous power section of the analogue power amplifier sets the hearts of bass technicians racing. At the sight of Fafner II’s real treasure it becomes clear why consistent performance is guaranteed: power is channeled via 14 power transistors which permit stress-free handling of high continuous power outputs, not to mention the phenomenal reliability of the power amplifier under all load conditions. Fafner II delivers 750 Watts RMS at the low impedance of 2 ohms and 600 Watts RMS at 4 ohms, comparable to a good eight-cylinder Diesel engine. This places Fafner in the high-powered range of analog bass amplifiers.
The second generation of the Fafner head has also in the preamp section a number of useful features ready: the 100% aluminium knobs are comfortable for simple adjustment of all important specifications. Adapted mid and high-mid parameters for using the drive channel in clean mode also enable detailed signal design – for example, there is an adjustable one-button compressor directly behind the input section. To quickly create a basic setting the character filters can be used to set a sound with low-end emphasis up to a more shimmering sound. Both filters combined allow for a powerful bass sound.
In “Tube Mode" you can add the character of the built-in Groove Tube 12AX7 to the sound of the preamp. “Level” in combination with “Drive Active”are used to set the drive portion and volume of the over-drive. In this “dirty channel" there are a number of additional settings; with "Serial" you can decide if the signal for the drive channel is taken after the gain stage or after the processing of the clean channel. Likewise, the “Boost” switch (which only works in the drive channel) allows you to select a lower crossover frequency where the distortion shall kick in. A typical classic rock distortion of the entire bass signal is achieved by pressing “Boost”; in the unlatched position only frequencies above 350 Hz are run through the drive section giving you a sound more suitable for accompaniment.
What is remarkable in the EQ-design of the Fafner II is the above-mentioned additional feature of the drive channel in form of a parametric mid range (50 Hz - 2 kHz). The drive channel also has an edge-knob, often found on tube amps. The EQ for the clean signal path has Bass, High Mid and Treble controls, whereby (bizarrely) the High Mid control range is can be set from 100Hz to 4 kHz. With this semi-dual channel configuration, the Fafner is hugely flexible and can accomodate a wide variety of styles. On the front of the Swedish flagship there are also two XLR outputs to get the signal before or after the EQ. Ground lift and PAD switches can be used to reduce background noise and adapt the output level, respectively.
The back panel of the solid Swede is like the front panel – that is, full of possibilities! Apart from various separate sends and returns for clean and drive channels and the usual connections for line output, tuner output, remote control of the channels and a mute feature, Fafner also offers a low impedance input for wireless systems. The input on the front panel deactivates this connection. The loudspeaker outputs are reliable Speakon-connectors, but they cannot accomodate 1/4” plugs, as many other combination connectors can.
In both rehearsal and performance, the Fafner behaves entirely as you would expect from its state-of-the-art Scandinavian appearance. When power and standby are activated, the F rune glows red. In standby mode “0”, only the dot next to the F rune is lightening up. What looks like tube lighting, is actually achieved with LEDs in an energy-saving, reliable manner.
Fafner’s clean preamp sounds mouth-watering; its power amplifier is striking in its capacity. When desired, it can channel the dynamic power of a dragon. Particularly intense passages on the low B and E-string are instantly and dramatically obvious not only in the performer’s direct audio range but also the neighbouring drummer’s. Fafner permits, if necessary, moderate compressor use and, from the point of view of the flexible EQ-section, proves itself to be a worthy stage partner. Even though I could not use the tube stage live in brutal drive mode, the adjustable sound from the first-class tube from Groove Tubes gives a welcome, Nashville-style enhancement to the powerful clean transistor tone.
Sweden - Twelve points
The new EBS flagship offers an unbeatable range of desirable features on-stage. High power output and excellent stability sit happily alongside a tasteful and purposeful tone control. Even the adjustable tube stage preamp has a host of possibilities for exact distortion adjustment up to an overdrive sound, without losing strength. Without a shadow of a doubt, Fafner II is the ideal lifetime amp for all serious professional bass players. It is also well suited as a fixed installation for medium sized and large clubs. For me, the new 19 inch dragon from EBS seems especially well suited for use at open-air festivals and large rock and metal concerts because of its impressive firepower and never sleeping vigilance. And if one looks past the purposeful design “à la brutal” - although the amp is not so heavy at all - Fafner’s sound possibilities are flexible enough to accommodate any powerful playing style due to the high-quality analog signal processing of the amp.