December 2004

Mega Boogie Walkabout/Scout Bass Combo

In an enthusiastic review of the Mesa Walkabout hybrid bass amp (JazzTimes, December 2002), I noted its tonal accuracy, timbral flexibility and dynamic aplomb. I also alluded to the fact that a jazz bassist's concept of portability may best be defined as having a fighting chance of carrying the instrument with one hand and your combo amp with the other-wherein you can shoehorn them both into a taxi cab.

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Canny advances in cabinet construction and bass loading, coupled to some new proprietary loudspeakers (that employ neodymium magnets in an ultra-lightweight, dynamic design), have allowed Mesa Engineering to introduce a pair of new single 12-inch and single 15-inch Scout cabinets with dynamic tweeters (that allow for ? 2db of cut/boost) while offering a special top-mounted docking bay that allows you to insert or decouple the company's acclaimed Walkabout bass amp head (300 watts-into a 4-ohm load) from the cabinet. Thus, you have the option of deploying the Scout/Walkabout as a portable, great-sounding, stand-alone combo or as a discrete high-powered head that can easily drive humongous cabinets to greater levels of volume, projection and visceral impact.

But the Scout/Walkabout Bass Combos are not just an exercise in ergonomic compromise; they represent a definitive new paradigm of the portable bass amp-a 21st century variation on themes of compact practicality, tonal warmth, low frequency extension and sonic articulation as first enunciated by the classic Ampeg B-15.

A B-15 for the new millennium? Bingo.

The manner in which the old Ampeg's vacuum-tube head could be folded back into the cabinet allowed for practical storage and cartage of a powerhouse, cube-shaped amp that for decades was the definitive tool of the trade for gigging acoustic bassists (and many jazz guitarists as well). However, while both the 60-pound 15-inch and 50-pound 12-inch Scout/Walkabout combos can effortlessly recreate the dark, creamy, old-school punch and paunch of the B-15's bottom end, where the Scout/Walkabout really ups the ante is how it allows you to fine-tune your sound. You can ax out the wooliness and dial up the snappy, penetrating, thumb-slap percussive twang, or fine-tune the string-to-string balance of your bass (with the 3-band parametric EQ) to eliminate feedback and boominess for a clearly rounded, balanced, dynamic immediacy and a modern style of tone and projection that are light years beyond what the B-15s were ever capable of.

Mesa's innovative use of a down-firing passive radiator-essentially a speaker membrane that moves in push-pull tandem with the bass driver-is what allows the Scout/Walkabouts to stand toe-to-toe with much bigger, heavier rigs. Acoustic Image deploys a similar device in its tiny SS-bass combos, but the diameters of the passive radiators in the Scout combos are actually smaller than the loudspeaker. The manner in which the Scout's passive radiator extends the low end while eliminating the necessity of a long-baffled bass port and a massive cabinet is impressive. Plus, the sound is so beautifully balanced from top to bottom-or if it isn't, some quick, intuitive tweaking with the parametric EQ does the trick. And it's plenty clear, loud and punchy save for larger venues in which case you can add a single 12-inch Scout extension cabinet, which I found very effective at giving me more spread and coverage for a bigger, wider sound. Or just pop the Walkabout head out of its own cabinet and pair it with some big cabinets for a much louder, more penetrating sound.

The Scout/Walkabout combo will get jazz bassists where they want to go, whether they are carrying their own weight or out-sourcing as road warriors.

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