The Fender 100T / Fender 410 neo cab in the trences
I purchased the new Fender Bassman 100T with a 410 neo cab about a month ago, but didn't want to post a review until I had used it in a gigging situation. I had sone worries about "only" 100 watts and "only" one 410 cab in a gig with no mains help. Doesn't matter what a rig sounds like sitting at home practicing or in rehearsal, it's what it does on the battfield that counts. The bar I played was around 5000 sq. ft. - about 60'x85' with the band toward one side facing longways down the room. The stage area isn't elevated. Nothing but vocals through the mains except a touch of kick drum. There was anywhere from 75 to 100+ people there at any one time, which is a factor. This size bar with 20 people in it you could play without a sweat with 100 watts. But the more people there are the more the guitarist has to crank and vocals have to come up, especially if you're not elevated and you're blowing right into people.
This was the new band's first gig. We're 3 piece for now, a classic-rock deal with stuff ranging from Police to Dwight Yoakum to Led Zeppelin. Guitar player plays Telecasters through a '72 100 watt Twin. We're seasoned players so we don't try to blow people's heads off, but the drummer is very powerful so it's definitely not meek.
The basses I used were a passive G&L L-1000 with GHS Bright Flats, and a passive Jack Casady Epiphone with roundwounds.
Finally regarding my style and what I needed from a rig, I think the biggest compliment someone could pay my playing would be to call it bombastic. I didn't get the nickname Freight Train by hiding behind the drums. I currently use no pedals or fx other than the 100T's overdrive occasionally. I've always molded by bands around bass and drums carrying the load, and everything else playing as sparse and with many holes as possible. I don't do any slapping/tapping stuff currently except for two sections on one song, So upfront grunt and punch is what I need.
The last rig I had was dual Hartke 410XL's with a GK 800RB. The Bassman 100T with a single 410 neo had so much more punch, headroom and clarity than that rig it's not even worth talking about. Having played amplified bass since around 1965/66, I've never had a rig sound like this. It gives you the impression of unlimited headroom.
I play sort of stream of consciousness, so I'm prone to whank on it with a thump or chord punch at any time, and I couldn't believe how the rig barks it right out with total authority. I had switched to the Epiphone/roundwounds on a few songs the first set, which I used on the active channel and was able to use the overdrive pretty heavy on one song, and it sounds great. But the G&L in single coil position through the vintage channel was such magic I settled in on that and had no desire to change anything except switching to single coil w/bass boost position a couple of times. For a gig this size, both channel volumes were on 6, and I started with the master on 5 and was on 6 by the end of the evening. I found the 410 neo delivers what I want with almost no EQ. I had the tweeter level set at 11:00. The vintage channel with the G&L/flatwounds was basically flat (passive tone stack). The active channel with the Epiphone/roundwoulds I boosted bass just slightly, mid just slightly probably around 2k, and rolled high's off a touch, and that was it. On the overdrive songs I had overdrive on 8 and blend on 5, and the overdrive is sweet, crunchy and punchy. It's a lot more musical than what I've heard in most any pedal I've ever tried.
We are actually a very dynamic band, and on songs where I use a light touch the 410 neo delivers everything clear, focused and present - it doesn't disappear when you go to a light touch like some cabs will. Overall I had a lot of compliments on my sound during the night, embarrassingly so eventually, and had a few people tell me at our loudest they were feeling the bottom in their chest when I punched, even at the back of the room.
The 100T didn't seem to stress over all this in the least. It really didn't seem to get much hotter than it does at rehearsal in the drummer's living room. I didn't look but I'm sure the fan came on, but after 3 sets it was no hotter than you'd expect a tube amp to be. I never got anything close to speaker breakup. The chord punches I would do gave the impression of clean, but it had that tube grease on it so it wasn't abrasive or piercing, and again they were crazy dynamic. I don't know how much louder the rig could have gone - it gives the impression it can give all you can take. But I seriously don't see much need to ever play much louder than I had it since at any place much larger I'd usually have mains help. What I'm really interested in next time we play this place or similar is seeing what happens in 25 watt mode. Should be some interesting power tube grind if it doesn't just suddenly jump into distortion.
Anyway, blah blah woof woof, this is a fantastic rig and the only reason I can think of me personally wanting one of the larger cabs or stacked 410's is for the look onstage, and I got over that 20 years ago. Plus what looks better than the 100T/410 neo?
The gig was a rousing success btw, with the bar owner clamoring to lock us in for New Years Eve at a 'tell me what it'll cost' kind of thing. Gotta give Fender some props for that.