Pro studio bass amps just got smaller.
Line 6 owes its success to realistically modeled guitars and basses, amps, speaker cabinets, and stompboxes. Its POD processors, Variax guitars and basses, and Vetta guitar amps have all contributed to establishing the company as an industry-leading innovator. Last year Line 6 launched the LowDown series of portable combo bass amps, beginning with three models at retail prices from $569 to $839. In November it shipped its most compact and affordable bass amp yet, the LowDown Studio 110 ($349).
Designed primarily for studio use, the Studio 110 is a 12.5-inch cube covered in black pile, containing a heavy-duty 10-inch speaker and an amplifier rated at 75W into 4Ω. A metal grille covers the front, and the backplate sports an unbalanced ¼-inch preamp output, a balanced XLR direct output, a ground-lift switch, a power switch, and an IEC power receptacle. On the top panel are a ¼-inch instrument input, four buttons for selecting amp models, seven chrome-plated knobs, a ¼-inch headphone output (which defeats the speaker), and a minijack input for an MP3 player, a CD player, or a drum machine. For basses with active electronics, the instrument input has a button that enables a -10 dB pad.
The Studio 110 furnishes five digital models inspired by specific amps and cabinets, with buttons for selecting Clean, R&B, Rock, and Grind. It also simulates a bass synth and provides controls for editing waveform, envelope, and filter parameters. If you change the settings for any preset, its corresponding button flashes; holding the button down for two seconds replaces the preset with a snapshot of the knob positions.
The Clean model emulates an Eden WT550 amplifier with a 4 × 10 cabinet. It has a round, punchy tone suitable for countless situations (see Web Clip 1). R&B gets its sound from a 1968 Ampeg B-15 Portaflex, an amp-and-speaker combination popular with Motown session players (see Web Clip 2). Rock sounds a lot like a 1974 Ampeg SVT amp with an 8 5 10 cabinet, a classic rock 'n' roll rig that's graced many club and concert stages (see Web Clip 3). Grind reproduces an SVT rig overdriven by a Tech 21 SansAmp PSA-1, a rackmount preamp for guitar and bass that's popular for metal, mixed with a direct signal (see Web Clip 4).
The fifth model is hidden unless you read the manual. If you hold down the Clean and R&B buttons as you power up the Studio 110, Clean is replaced by the Brit model, which is based on a 1968 Marshall Super Bass (see Web Clip 5). Repeating the procedure restores the Clean model.
I plugged in my bass and was immediately pleased with all five amp-and-cabinet models. The top-panel knobs let me dial up changes in tone and sustain. Four knobs control bass, low-mid, high-mid, and treble boost and cut. The Opto Comp knob determines the threshold of the onboard compressor, which simulates the Teletronix LA-2A. The Drive knob functions just like the Gain knob on an Ampeg or Eden amp.
Pressing two buttons simultaneously turns on the Synth model, which reassigns all knobs except the master volume. One knob controls a lowpass filter's cutoff, and another controls resonance. The Attack/Decay knob affects the filter envelope, and the Envelope knob changes its depth. The Waveform knob yields nine different sounds, some featuring chorus, detuning, and octave effects. The Studio 110's synth timbres range from sustained fuzz to outrageous funk (see Web Clip 6).
Let's face it, my concert-playing days are behind me. For practice, recording sessions, and casual gigs, I no longer need a hefty bass rig. I want a versatile combo amp that's as compact as possible but still sounds impressive in intimate settings. Other amps might fit the bill, but few are as portable as the Studio 110, and even fewer deliver its tonal range. If I need more output, I can route the Studio 110 to the house system using its XLR direct output, which quite effectively eliminates the need for a direct box.
At 23 pounds, the LowDown Studio 110 is lightweight enough to take nearly anywhere, and it sounds awesome. Granted, it has no footswitch input for changing presets, no tuner, and no onboard effects other than compression; for those, you'll have to spring for one of the pricier LowDowns. Nonetheless, the Studio 110 deserves the highest rating I can give. It is indeed an amazing value, and as good as it gets with current technology.
Value (1 through 5): 5