Hartke HD500 2x10 Bass Combo Amplifier
By Phil O'Keefe |
Hartke HD500 2x10 Bass Combo Amplifier
Ultralight bass heavyweight
by Phil O'Keefe
Hartke has been a big name in bass amplification for quite a while now. Players of a certain age will no doubt remember the buzz Hartke created among bass players when they introduced their first cabinets with their aluminum cone drivers back in the mid 1980s. Fast forward to today and the subject of this review - Hartke's new HD500 bass combo amp. This latest addition to their popular HD series of bass combos is the most powerful model in that series yet, and bound to turn more than a few heads. Let's dig deep and see what all the commotion is about.
- The first thing you're likely to notice about the Hartke HD500 is its size - it's relatively small, measuring only 19.6" W x 12" D x 20.27" H. In other words, it's not a heck of a lot larger than some bass practice amps. But this isn't an amp that's limited to just practice duties.
- The second thing you'll notice, at least if you grab the metal reinforced molded handle and try to pick one up, is just how light it is. At only 34.39 pounds, it's surprisingly easy to grab and take with you.
- Okay, we've all seen small, lightweight bass practice amps before, so what's the big deal? The big deal is the combination of compact size, light weight and serious power. With 500 watts (peak) of power onboard courtesy of a lightweight and efficient Class D amplifier, this compact amp is a bit of a wolf in sheep's clothing, with a voice that is far louder and fuller sounding than the amp's small size and light weight would lead you to believe.
- The dual ported cabinet seems tough and rugged, and is covered with pebble-textured vinyl and equipped with metal corner protectors. The grille is a sturdy metal affair with enough strength to keep your drivers safe from just about any threat they might face on the road, short of a deliberate attack.
- Inside the cabinet are a pair of 10" HyDrive speakers with neodymium magnets. Their unique appearance is plainly visible, with black center dust caps and dual-material cones, with bright aluminum in between the dust cap and the paper outer cone. The HyDrive speakers were designed to give you both the warmth of paper along with the clarity and extended high frequency response of aluminum cones.
- According to the Hartke Story as told on the Samsontech website, the inspiration for the HyDrive speakers came to them in 2005 when Jack Bruce reunited with fellow Cream members Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker for the first time in 30 years for a concert at Madison Square Garden. At the show, Jack used a pair of Hartke's traditional paper cone cabinets alongside one of their cabinets filled with Hartke's aluminum coned speakers.
- The control panel is top mounted. It features a black panel with white and black labels and is outfitted with black aluminum knobs with white position indicators that make your settings easy to see.
- As you'd expect, there is a 1/4" input jack for your bass, and the first knob controls the amp's overall volume. You may be surprised by how much there is from an amp of this size - it can get quite loud, and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed with how effortlessly it was able to do so.
- Also expected was the three band EQ, which has Bass, Mid and Treble controls centered at 70 Hz, 700 Hz and 5 kHz, respectively. These are active controls, and they can boost or cut at their respective frequencies by +/- 15 dB. The Treble and Bass EQ bands are shelving controls, while the Midrange is peaking.
- This was my first exposure to Hartke's tone-enhancing Shape control. A pushbutton allows you to bypass it if you wish, and a knob lets you set the frequency anywhere between 100 Hz and 900 Hz. When engaged, the Shape circuit applies an EQ curve that is designed to enhance the sound of bass instruments. It does more than just add a moderate boost at the selected frequency - it also deeply attenuates other frequencies, and its response is influenced by how the three band EQ is set too since their EQ curve is layered with the curve from the Shape circuit.
- The top panel also has a handful of other connectors built into it. An Aux Input on a stereo 1/8" (3.5 mm) jack is included so you can plug in and practice along with your portable music player of choice.
- Hartke also included an effects loop with the HD500. The Send and Return both use 1/4" jacks and while it doesn't tell you so on the top panel (although it does in the manual), the loop is optimized for professional +4 dBm line level effects, and isn't really suitable for use with most pedals.
- For feeding the PA at larger gigs and for running direct to the board or audio interface when recording, a Direct XLR Output is also included.
- Hartke also provides a headphone output on a 1/4" stereo jack. This has a built-in switch that automatically mutes the built-in speakers when you plug in a pair of headphones, so you can practice silently without disturbing anyone else nearby.
- The illuminated (when on) power switch is located on the back panel. Also on the rear panel you'll find an IEC fuse holder / power port for the included 6' cable, as well as a fan that automatically kicks on when needed to keep the amp cool.
- There is also a recessed switch that lets you set the amp for operation at 100-120V, or 220-240V, so no matter where you go in the world, as long as you have an appropriate IEC cable for that country, you should be fine.
- There is no external speaker jack. For many players this won't matter, but for others, it could be a deal-breaker. It would be nice to have the option of adding a 1x15 cabinet to the built-in 10" drivers for extra low-end wallop.
- There is no onboard limiter or compressor, although I did try plugging a couple of my studio rack mount compressors into the effects loop, with excellent results. The effects loop is designed to operate with +4 dBm rack effects, and is unsuitable for use with pedals.
- There is no dedicated tuner output jack.
Hartke really packed the power into this deceptively small and lightweight bass combo amp. While the name may be somewhat misleading in that it's 500 watts of peak power, the 250W RMS of continuous power on tap is still nothing to sneeze at. This may look like a puny little guy, but it's really a punchy little powerhouse that will comfortably hang out with much bigger kids without getting picked on - you can easily gig with this amp without being drowned out by the drummer and the guitarist's half stack. Urbanite musicians who use public transportation will love this amp's compact size and light weight. It's one of the most portable yet still giggable amps on the market today.
The Shape control adds a lot to the sound of the amp, giving it a subjectively more powerful, detailed, and punchy sound when engaged that makes the tone more attractive, less muddy and more polished sounding. The three band EQ is also quite effective for tonal shaping. The HyDrive speakers seem to have a nice tonal balance, with more brightness than you'd expect from an all-paper cone. I never really missed not having a tweeter built into the HD500, and the neodymium magnets also help to give these speakers plenty of punch. While there is a surprising amount of bass available from such a small enclosure, my biggest disappointment was in finding there's no external speaker output jacks. Even if the venue has a larger bass cabinet available, you won't be able to use your HD500 to drive it. Fortunately there is a line output, so you can still feed the PA, making this amp suitable for even the largest stages.
Even without assistance from a PA, for home practice, recording and small to midsize gigs, the Hartke HD500 is a real contender that punches way above its size and weight class. If you're looking for an amplifier that is easy on the wallet and light on your back, yet still has the power needed to hang with the band, then give the Hartke HD500 an audition. It may be just what you've been looking for in a bass amp. -HC-
Want to discuss the Hartke HD500 bass amp or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Bass Forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Hartke HD500 2x10 Bass Combo Amplifier ($779.00 MSRP, $599.99 "street")
Hartke's product web page
You can purchase the Hartke HD500 bass combo amp from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.