A full 15 inches of bass, assessed and analysed by Dave Clarke.
Eighteen years ago, I possessed unshakable faith in the misguided opinion that what the world needed was my crap rock band. Accordingly, it made perfect sense that I should possess a bass cab that matched the stature of my delusion. In this regard, I did not fail.
Within that old cab’s walls lurked a 1×18 speaker and its 2×10 accomplices, and when I drove to Cambridge’s Drum & Guitar Centre I realised my bright orange Mini Metro was no longer fit for purpose. With the cab sticking out the back of the car, I clearly recall my dad sounding like Chief Brody in Jaws when he observed: “You’re gonna need a bigger car.”
Adding to the ‘new car’ scenario, I’m also yet to live with anyone who’s happy about sharing his or her living space with a speaker-filled monolith.
My point is that, until recently, big bass cabs have been a thorn in my side. Thankfully, technology has made the life of the working bassist a much more enjoyable affair over the past decade, and recently Montage has come to the table with a new range of cabinets. Had they done so in the mid-1990s, there’s a chance I might still be driving an orange car.
Build Quality And Features
The Montage PRO 15” Bass Guitar Full Range Cabinet contains the company’s top-of-the-range driver. Its manufacturers make the bold claim that its performance can be compared to a 1×15 plus 4×10 stack or an 8×10, but at half the size and weight. Now, if this is the case, I’ll be re-christening this cab ‘The Stack Slayer’.
A bit of back-story is needed here to understand the thinking behind this product. Montage started life a few years ago with the goal of designing a range of UK made and imported ‘empty’ guitar cabinets that can readily accept virtually any 10”, 12” or 15” guitar drivers. The idea was that customers could either load their own drivers or choose from over 100 pre-existing types, and Lean would assemble the cabinet for them.
The next stage was to design a set of cabinets specifically for bass guitar, which was a slightly more complicated issue due to bass cabs using a different set of principles. Fundamentally, the bass cabinet’s volume and port dimensions need to be tuned to suit the driver that is going to be placed inside it. Another consideration is that bass drivers are considerably more demanding on the cabinet, therefore the cabinet must be stronger. Another important design factor was portability and weight.
Having looked at the competition, Montage decided on using a higher specification driver which has enabled them to use a more compact cabinet design, but one that is tuned to accept a handful of carefully picked drivers that give players a choice, catering for various budgets.
They also looked at more traditional designs, such as 1×15, 4×10 and 8×10, all fairly big and, in Montage’s humble opinion, not very efficient at what they trying to achieve sonically. Using their PA knowhow, Montage was confident they could create alternative types of speakers. To do just that, Montage use a modern coaxial speaker which smoothly incorporates a full range in one driver.
Essentially, coaxials are two speakers in one; in the case of the cabinet we tested, it is a 15” bass driver with a 2” compression driver fixed to its back, keeping the cabinet compact in the process. The 15” bass driver is a highly efficient 99dB (maximising your wattage), while the 2” compression driver throws its sound through the centre of the bass unit and uses the 15” cone to ‘flare’ the sound across a wide area. The compression driver is also intended to be highly efficient in the mid-band section, in excess of the performance which 4×10 drivers usually achieve. The same compression driver also provides high frequencies up to 16khz: ideal for bassists who like using tweeters. The high-tolerance crossover specifically designed for this coaxial maximises the wattage to each driver, without wasting watts by sending them where they can’t be used efficiently. Got all that? Then read on…
The cabinet is built using dense Baltic birch (which stops colouration) and features an 18mm baffle, 15mm wall thickness for reduced weight and internal bracing for added rigidity. The cab is then lined with acoustic wadding to stop any standing waves. Externally, the cab accepts NL4 connection or a ¼” jack, has a black metal grille, stands on rubber feet, has two solid carry handles, and is coated with a highly durable, scratch-resistant paint. The overall weight comes in at 26kg – not bad, especially if it does actually sound like a stack…
When testing the cab I was constantly switching from the Montage to my own cab as I attempted to hear the difference. I was a little cynical as to whether the Montage could deliver on its promise of the mid-range and top end you’d get with a stack, while still retaining a thunderous bottom end. However, I have to say that I did notice a difference, especially when slapping or playing notes in the middle and upper reach of the neck. It simply had a little more depth to the sound compared to my standard cab, and adding a pinch of sub-harmonic effect to the mix made for a particularly pleasing sound, with smooth transitions between the low, mid and high frequencies.
As you would expect for a cab in this price range, it ably handled the lower end abuse I was imposing, and only struggled to cope when I unfairly inflicting dub reggae EQ settings to the mix. This is in no way a criticism: I wanted to push it to the limit and like most cabs of this size it has one. That said, it took a fair degree of pounding before the proverbial white flag appeared. For me, the key feature was all about those mid and high range frequencies, and there was a difference – on that front the Montage delivers on its promise. Of course, it can only do so much but, fair play, it sounds better than the cab I normally gig with. That said it’s also considerably heavier. Pros and cons…
If you’re going to spend £700-plus on a cabinet, the chances are you’ll be looking to see what the market has to offer in exchange for your hard-earned cash. The difference this cab makes might be subtle and therefore perhaps not quite worthy of the ‘stack slayer’ nickname, but it’s enough of a USP to be worthy of investigation.
Realistically, this is a cab best suited for club and medium-sized venues, and while there will always be a market for the bass-ageddon stacks of the world, this Montage cab is worth taking seriously as a convenient alternative, if not an out-and-out replacement. Ironically, I’m in no doubt that a stack made up of Montage cabs would sound ridiculously good. One last thing: the Montage has a no-frills look about it, but if you’re more concerned with how your cab looks over how it sounds, then you probably need to access your priorities.
Features | Coaxial 15” loudspeaker with 2” compression driver
Frequency | Range 35Hz to 16000Hz
Dimensions | 58cm x 50cm x 40cm
Weight | 26kg
What We Think
Plus | A rock solid cabinet, with a USP that’s worth checking out
Minus | It’s not the lightest beast on the market
Overall | Montage has delivered a cab that does what it says on the tin. Will it replace the stack? Of course not. However, those looking for a convenient alternative might find what they are looking for