An Ashdown combo for less than £200? Joel McIver plugs in…
The venerable Brit amp makers Ashdown have sent us this fun-sized 60W AAA bass combo, and fans of the company’s bigger gear as we are, it would be churlish not to put it through its paces and see how it matches up to its more powerful siblings.
Now, a fun game that we have at BGM’s secret command bunker is to plug gear in and play with it before we know what the price is. That way, you get a feel for its performance without thinking ‘That should be better’ or indeed, ‘That could be worse’ because a price tag is influencing your judgement. We did this with the AAA combo and, without wanting to spoil the verdict so early in this review, were pleasantly surprised when we later found out that it only costs the same as a curry and beers for your band and crew.
Pick the thing out of its box and stand there smugly for a minute, holding it in one hand (assuming you’re of average human stature). It only weighs 12 kilos, or less than two stone, and is therefore unlikely to give you sciatica unless you attempt to throw it across the stage at your guitarist. The heyday of the pointlessly heavy amp is long gone, as you’ll know unless you’ve been living in a Tibetan yurt for a decade, and a good thing too.
Plug in via a high or low input, switch on and a friendly green LED beams at you. Next to that is a socket for a cable to your smartphone, in case you fancy using Ashdown’s AppTek software, more of which in a minute. Refreshingly, Ashdown include the cable: if we had 10p for every time a manufacturer fails to include a power supply/battery/useful gizmo as part of the RRP, dinner would be on us.
Flatten the EQ – without using AppTek, a simple but functional bass/mid/treble three-potter – and play. The default tone is round and punchy with plenty of bottom end and definition. Familiar but useable, this sound has a reasonable amount of clarity and stays clean all the way up to the top end of the volume, with merely the slightest signs of breakup as you begin to run out of headroom. Roll on the treble and a glassy slap tone develops, but crucially not a weak or weedy one: there’s solidity there too.
The AAA’s secret weapon is its Drive control. This is where you’ll have most fun. Give it a little twist and your tone gains a subtle warmth. Add more and you’re in crunch territory. Max it out and you’ll discover a wonderfully aggressive John Entwistle-indebted bellow that will scare sheep at 100 paces, especially if you add serious volume. For a 60-watt amp, this combo punches above its weight.
The AAA has obviously been designed to work in various scenarios, hence the 8 ohm extension speaker out (evolving the amp into a stage rig), DI out and line in. The red grille looks effortlessly cool, but I’m not sure how well it would take an accidental boot in the face by a brain-dead roadie or stage invader, so keep it well clear of crowds. The rest of the unit is solid, despite the lightweight ply construction, helped along by a tough Tolex covering.
For £199, the spec we’ve just described is great value for money – but add in the AppTek functionality and you’re into even broader tonal territory. Download the app to your phone (it’s free, hurrah!), plug into the combo and you’ll be rewarded with features from Ashdown’s ABM series, sub-harmonics, tube drive, compression and a wider EQ among them. It’s the future, readers: be in it.
So, three cheers for the AAA combo, then. Light, useful, affordable and easy to use. If only all amplifiers, etc etc etc…
RRP | £199
Materials | Lightweight plywood, Tolex covering
Features | 1 x 10” speaker, 8 ohm min. load jack socket, tube emulating overdrive, four-band EQ (Bass, Hi-Mid, Lo-Mid, Treble and Variable Mid Sweep), Hi and Lo inputs, AppTek socket (cable supplied, app free to download), line in, headphones out, DI out, speaker mute
Power | 60W
Weight | 12kg
Dimensions | H 418mm x W 406mm x D 325mm excluding feet
What We Think
Plus | Lumbar-friendly weight, impressive overdrive, AppTek is useful
Minus | Grille could be stronger
Overall | At this price, it’s a steal