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Hartke 5500C 500-Watt Tube Preamp Bass Head Reviews

4.5 stars based on 4 customer reviews
  • from Seattle August 23, 2016Music Background:
    Recreational, Little to no formal training

    Love it!

    I'm really not super sophisticated at this point. I've played several gigs in small-ish Seattle clubs, and after the first couple, borrowing a friend's gear, I needed to get my own rig. After TONS of research, and after playing on several different rigs owned by other folks, I really wanted an Ampeg SVT, classic-type tube and rig. Being that the Ampeg SVTs were crazy high above my budget, I wanted to find a more budget-friendly option, so I settled on this. Partly what drew me to it was that since I don't yet have a 'signature sound,' I really want something that offers lots of flexibility - to experiment with different sounds and feelings. I've had this for about a year now, and have only played a handful of gigs with it, but I'm telling you, this thing is fxxking insane. In a good way. It offers tons of flexibility in creating wildly different sounds. Among them are: Tube vs. Solid State Preamp (subtle difference in sound quality, but noticeable if you're listening carefully), compression, 9 band eq., which makes a huge difference in sound quality, and the option to turn the eq off, and then a separate Low and High adjustable knob, which is kinda like bass boost and treble boost. Anyway, I love how I get to shape the sound so much, and by the way, I'm running this to an Ampeg classic 410 and a 115 cab. It puts out insane amounts of power and easily drives these to brain-numbing volume without stressing either the speakers or the amp. In retrospect, the 500 watt is a bit overkill for playing in small-ish clubs - I would have been happy with the 300 watt I'm sure. Anyway, I've only ever cranked it up to about 2 or 2.5 on the master volume, even while gigging. Hitting 3 (with tube pre-amp up half-way-ish, solid state preamp at zero-ish), makes guitarists cry and lead singers whimper so I've really got to keep it at around 2

  • from Springfield, IL May 14, 2015Music Background:
    Working musician

    Great amp!

    My favorite bass amp. Simple, logical controls, easy to get great sound out of it. I also have the HA2500, also a great amp. Plugged into a Hartke 115XL and a 210XL, I can get just about any tone I want out of it EXCEPT a hairy tube overdrive sound. The graphic EQ is excellent. Some rooms we play in resonate at certain specific frequencies, the EQ helps to tame that ringing. The power on tap makes it ideal in any gig situation. I usually don't use PA reinforcement, this amp doesn't need any in most of our venues. My amp developed an intermittent problem, I sent it to Hartke and they fixed it under warranty, so far no recurrence. I wouldn't hesitate to buy the same model again if lost or stolen.

  • from Byron, GA June 30, 2011Music Background:
    Gigging musician

    Hartke 5500C

    I bought this head after not being overly satisfied with the GK-MB210 combo (which has the MB-500 head in it). I really look for that lower mid "growl" as part of my signature sound and, despite the reputation, the GK just didn't deliver. So I took a chance with the Hartke 5500C.

    And am I ever glad I did. This head is outstanding.

    I played the 3500 version of this head at a local music store and liked the tone, but 350 watts just wasn't enough for some of the medium to larger sized bars my band plays, so I went with the 5500. The head has a great array of features without being over-complicated. To me, the best features are 1) The tube and solid state preamp 2) the 10-band EQ and 3) built in compressor. The preamps really allow you to shape your tone. The tube section has a warm, crunch type feel and the solid-state section has a deep, smooth tone. The EQ allows you to dial in any sound imaginable from motown soul type bass to the hard grinding tones of heavy metal. The amp really shines in the "growl" department I previously mentioned - crank the tube preamp section and the low mids and you have a simply outstanding rock tone. The compressor is a must - this amp is very powerful. It simultaneously prevents speaker damage, clipping, and volume peaks while adding that much needed "punch" to your tone that really allows you to cut through the mix. For those of you that are looking for the low frequencies that rumble the audience's guts, the amp has a low pass contour that really brings out the notes that are more "felt" than heard - if you crank the low pass, this bad boy thunders.

    The only drawback is the highs. At louder volumes, they can be a tad harsh, but the high pass contour switch allows you to fix that. You can completely remove all treble from the mix, if you so desire.

    Overall, this is undoubtedly the best bass amp I have ever owned. The head has so much natural tone, it can make even a crappy instrument sound great. I plugged in an old starter Yamaha bass with dead strings that was lying around and this head made the thing sound like a Warwick!

    If you are looking for an amp that can provide loads of power and a multitude of different tones, the Hartke 5500c is hands-down the best choice in this price point. This bad boy blows some $1000 heads I've played out of the water. Go for it! You won't regret it.

  • from Jacksonville June 3, 2015Music Background:
    Making music since the late 70's

    A Proven Workhorse

    The Hartke HA Bass Amp series has been around for so long because they sound good, have a ton of EQ options, are rugged and dependable, and they don't cost an arm and a leg to own one. The contour controls and 10-band eq make it easy to get a satisfying tone and the FX loop allows you to push the tonal envelope of your bass. I also own an Ampeg SVT4 Pro and the Hartke holds its own, at 1/3 of the price too. Try one and find out for yourself.

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