Review of Markbass CMD 151 Jeff Berlin Players
Combo bass amp -
Any bass amp carrying the name of the great Jeff Berlin has to
be good, doesn't it? Dan Veall just wanted to make sure....
Another super 'cube' combo in for review, this time with a big
name in bass endorsing. Here is the 'JB Players School' CMD 151
combo that takes its name from Jeff Berlin's own 'Player School Of
Music' located in Florida and founded by Jeff in 1996.
The combo itself is a wonderfully simple idea. Take one of
Markbass's most popular bass heads and put it in a no-nonsense and
easy to carry ported cabinet featuring a light weight and efficient
15" bass speaker. Markbass was careful, where possible, to keep the
combo competitively priced the company says and accessible to the
market it's aimed at, namely students.
The neat and tidy box is covered in the usual black Markbass
carpeting and features a nice big carry handle on the top. Students
of a smaller stature may prefer side located handles but being only
15Kg, it's not a huge lift for an adult.
The combo has a front facing 15" speaker that is protected
behind a metal grill easily capable of withstanding everyday knocks
and bangs, the sort of thing expected from rehearsals and
I like the fact that Markbass didn't just squeeze the large
speaker in to the smallest cabinet they could, but moved the big
bass ports round the back of the cabinet to at least keep the
dimensions as manageable as possible. The speaker itself is a 200
Watt 8 Ohm unit that has a surprisingly smooth and sweet top end.
No, it doesn't, and couldn't possibly, reach up in to the sparkling
top end of a Markbass cabinet including a tweeter (which of course,
would be more expensive), but that's not to say it sounded in
anyway muffled. Frequency response is said to roll off at about
5Khz which is more than enough for the average bass player to gets
those plucks and pops ringing out! Harmonics too for that matter -
as I found when I used the Markbass to review the Tech 21 pedals
elsewhere in this issue.
The amplifier in the combo package is a Markbass Little Mark
250, just one of the superb 'Little Mark' bass amplifier range.
Markbass was one of the first manufacturers to set the trend of
light weight 'super amps' and the Little Mark range now includes
models all the way up to 800 Watts, including valve pre-amplifiers,
as well as a special SD1200 model with a 1,200 Watt output in a
mere 4Kg box. Impressive stuff, eh? The output volume vs. weight
saving benefits isn't the only thing that has brought countless
bass players to Markbass, though. The super clean reproduction of
bass tones has made Markbass a huge hit, along with the inclusion
of those highly musical equaliser sections.
You will find two knobs on pretty much all of the Markbass heads
labelled 'VLE' and 'VPF'. I have often heard bass players leave the
EQ section at zero settings on these amplifier heads (i.e. what is
usually called 12 o'clock position) preferring the use of
these two additional controls alone to set their preferred stage
sound. The first knob, 'VLE' is the 'vintage loudspeaker
emulation', a variable filter centred at 250 that progressively
cuts top-end as the knob is advanced, thus giving a more vintage
vibe to your bass sound. This control is also handy for using
distortion, helping to soften a fizzy top end. Next to that is the
'VPF' or 'Variable Pre-Shape Filter', a control that has three
actions. Firstly as the control is advanced, two separate
frequencies are boosted. The very deep lows at around 35 Hz as well
as sparkling, airy top end frequencies at 10Khz. A third middle
frequency of 380Hz is cut and scooped out at the same time, giving
you a deeper, wider bass sound. The control is absolutely brilliant
for making smaller combos sound much bigger. I think this ability
will be a big hit in such a combo as this with its 15" speaker.
Round the back of the amplifier there are a number of useful
connections. The line-up starts with a standard a 1/4" speaker
output socket, next to that is a Speakon connector that you could
use to plug in an additional cabinet. As the internal speaker in
this combo is rated at 8 Ohms, you'd be able to connect another 8
Ohm cabinet to the amplifier at the same time. The rear panel also
features an effects loop, a tuner output and DI for connecting to
PA or recording equipment. There is a 'pre/post' EQ patch point
switch for the DI, as well as a ground lift switch on the far right
Getting to the connections around the back is a bit of a
struggle in certain environments, even for the power socket. It's
not a major problem as you can lean the combo forward to get enough
light in to see where you need to connect your cables - however, if
you have stacked additional kit on top of the nice, flat and stable
surface that this combo makes (for example a guitarist's amp!) then
unfortunately, you'll have to feel your way around a bit. I
appreciate that it's a downside to using a standard amplifier head
mounted vertically into a cabinet, but I suspect that many would
prefer the amplifier mounted in a horizontal slot on top of the
cabinet for ease of access. That said, having the controls facing
upward is brilliant, as is colouring the gain, line level and
master volume controls yellow, so they stand out on a dark stage.
Good work Markbass.
Tonally this is a great sounding combo and it comes at an
attractive price, too. Even without the endorsement of a big star
like Jeff Berlin it would be bound to score well with players as
it's a fine product at a fine price. It's aimed at a pretty
specific market but don't let that sway you too far. You wouldn't
have to be a beginner to find this a very appealing purchase. If
all you want is a small, affordable, highly portable, bass combo
with a fabulous sound, this should definitely be on your 'ones to
Check out the full review inc. video of
the Markbass CMD 151 Jeff Berlin Players
Combo by Dan Veall in The Bassment of
Guitar Interactive Magazine Issue 19.