Audiophiles are used to paying top dollar for high-quality audio, right? Mike Brooks takes a look at two bass equivalents
Let’s cut to the chase: these two products from Jule Monique and James Demeter are handcrafted, limited-edition boutique amplification and come with a pricetag that reflect the care and craftsmanship put into them. Bass Gear in Twyford are bringing these beauties into the UK for our delectation and, in much the same way as audio fans constantly seek the perfect audio experience, these components follow a similar remit, with James Demeter striving to produce the best bass reproduction available and Jule Potter attempting to craft the perfect bass valve amp out there.
Build Quality And Features
Both units are handmade, handwired and assembled in the US – and the attention to detail shows. The Dovecage amp is eye-catching to say the least, although it is available in several different formats such as a bamboo-finished case (looking not unlike a radio), the Tardis (a more conventional amp design) and a powered or pre-amp only two-space, 19-inch rackmount. Measuring in at 10 inches wide, six inches deep and eight inches tall, first impressions are that it’s very much a niche product and probably won’t appeal to most bass players who gig on a regular basis but in all fairness, it has the credentials to power through any band mix, particularly when paired with this power amp. Although small intimate gigs and recording environments are its most likely applications, this combination would be more than loud enough for most gigs.
Both units are minimalist and refined to a fault but as with the best hi-fi equipment, what they lack in frills and features is made up for in sound quality, sensitivity and tone. The amp grille protects the valves and innards while offering cooling to the most heat-sensitive components as well as providing an impressive visual basis for the amp. The front control panel features the power switch, blue jewel power indicator and controls for Line Level (push/pull for +4dB boost to Line Level and XLR outputs), High, Mid, Low and Sensitivity (push/pull for +4dB boost for passive pickups) followed by the Input socket. The EQ is a ‘Baxandall’ design, three-phase EQ providing the player with +/-20dB of cut and boost. The rear panel has a balanced XLR output with ground switch, a balanced out level control, line out jack socket and power socket. We’re talking minimal here! The Minnie power amp has even fewer features: power switch and indicator, volume control, input jack socket, fan control switch, two Speakon outputs and the power socket.
Looks aside, the sounds are really what count here: for our test I hooked up to an EBS Neo 2×12 cabinet. For comparison I used a passive Fender Jazz, an active Ritter and an active Fodera. The tonal quality is impressive indeed and with this setup, without frills and tricks to cloud what you are hearing, the true character of the valves and the available performance level is crystal clear. The warmth and rich tonal colouring on display is a joy to hear, while the harmonic delivery and resonance of each instrument is brought to the fore: the character of each bass truly comes across in a defined manner. Having said that, if you want to push the valves progressively harder, you can sonically pick out the detail as the grind and rasp become gradually thicker and dirtier. Digging in with your fingers or using a pick gives the signal further attack and character, the pre-amp conveying the finer nuances with authority.
There is something pleasing about natural distortion from valves as they are pushed to perform, and this setup illustrates this perfectly. The power and brute force offered by the power amp is a perfect match for the Monique pre-amp, yet at no point does the sonic display sound harsh or forced, it simply sounds as though the amp can take anything you wish to throw at it. The push/pull features are a bonus, especially when using the passive Fender Jazz. There was an additional boost to the sound, but it also allowed the active pickups on the other basses to be distorted a little further if I wanted them to have a less clinical tone.
When players such as Dave Swift and Paul Turner use a product, it is usually with good reason, and in this case, it doesn’t take a genius to appreciate that this is high end, quality gear with a capital Q. Sonically, I can’t fault this rig, but I would need to live with it in a variety of situations to fully appreciate its versatility and exquisite performance. It’s hardly surprising that the whole package is expensive, but then boutique equipment, by its very nature, will always cost significantly more than mass produced equipment. But if you care about your sound and are looking for a lightweight, portable setup with tonal reproduction to die for, look no further.
Jule Potter ‘Monique’ Dovecage Pre-Amp
Price | £985
Made In | USA
Controls | Power switch, line level (push/pull for +4dB boost to line level and XLR outputs), three-band EQ (high, mid, low +/-20dB cut/boost), sensitivity (push/pull for +4dB boost for passive pickups), ground switch, balanced out level
Inputs | ¼-inch jack input (passive & active)
Outputs | Balanced DI XLR output, ¼-inch jack line out output
Dimensions | 203mm (H) x 254mm (W) x 152mm (D)
Weight | 3.8kg (8.3lb)
Demeter ‘Minnie’ 800D Power Amp
Price | £885
Made In | USA
Controls | Power switch, volume, fan switch
Inputs | ¼-inch jack input
Outputs | 2 x Speakon output (8 ohms), 1 x ¼-inch jack output
Power Output | 800 watts at 4 ohms, 500 watts at 8 ohms
Dimensions | 59mm (H) x 254mm (W) x 152mm (D)
Weight | 1.6kg (3.5 lb)
Impedance | 4/8/16 ohms
What We Think
Plus | Lightweight, classy with finesse by the bucketful. Exemplary bass tone coupled with the warmth of valves.
Minus | The Dovecage may not take to life on the road so opt for a different design format. The price isn’t pocket friendly but this is to be expected
Overall | This is the real deal, quality craftsmanship and design in one package from two leading lights of bass tone reproduction. Listen and enjoy!