The TC Electronic RH450 bass amplifier head is the company's first full bass rig and from the looks of it, they’re starting off on the right foot. The RH450 comes packing 450 watts of Class-D power and is potent enough to run multiple bass speaker cabinets, especially those made by TC Electronic themselves – naturally – such as the RS210 and RS212 cabs. This means that it can run up to three cabinets simultaneously which should be more than enough for bass players who aren’t yet playing Madison Square Garden. From my own time with the product, I can firmly tell you that the RH450 packs enough juice so that you’ll have tons of volume on hand without getting anywhere close to its full setting.
Among the most important features on this amp head include an input that accepts passive or active instruments, 4 semi-parametric tone controls (more on that in a bit) with light rings around each knob that make your settings visible even on those dimly lit stages, along with tone centers that can be adjusted. Other notable features include a built-in tuner that is precise and extremely easy to use, especially if you’re like me and hate eating up time on stage just as much as I hate playing out of tune. Honestly, I’m not sure why integrated tuners aren’t standard on these things. Another great feature that should help performance-minded musicians is its three user-memory locations which let you store your favorite setups for quick recall.
You might not use presets, but maybe it’s simply because you've never had the chance. Anyone who's used different basses on stage knows that a few user memories on your amp would be welcome. With the RH450 you can easily switch between, for example, your 4- and 5-string. Just plug in the bass and use the car-radio-style Store and Recall controls to easily switch between presets for your chosen model. There are 3 bass user memories, remote control access via the RC4 Control (which is actually sold separately) and visual indicators for Mute and the Tuner.
Although it might look a bit complicated at first sight, the RH450 bass amp head has straightforward controls like you know them from traditional amps but voiced to give you plenty of tweaking options and enough sensitivity to nail down that perfect tone. For most bassists out there, these controls are probably all they’re going to need but if you’re one of those audiophiles that aren’t satisfied with the defaults, the RH450 gives you the option to change the focus of each of the tone controls, thereby greatly expanding the range of sounds possible. The technical term for this is ‘semi-parametric’ bands which work by tweaking the “hidden parameters” of your sound to a pinpoint frequency that lets you do anything from removing or boosting each tone control which can then be saved in the settings. All this spells huge control over your sound – down to the tee.
The Details in the Sound
As far as sound goes, a ‘TubeTone’ circuit affects both the preamp and the output for realistic tube-amp character which should please plenty of bassists looking for that old school signature sound. Most transistor designs have tried to replicate tube sound using one small preamp tube but they generally fail since they don't take into account the crucial characteristics of the full preamp and power amp sections—both of which are essential to the sound. This is where the TubeTone comes in; emulating all characteristics to deliver the full tube sound!
And keeping in line with another technical sounding but made-up term, ‘SpectraComp’ technology provides multi-band compression that luckily is even across all strings – I can’t tell you how annoying it is when it’s not. The input/output on the RH450 is comprehensive and includes an AES/EBU connection, a standard in digital audio connection which means that you can hook this up straight to your favorite DAW programs such as the popular Pro Tools. Presets, Mute, and Tuner can be selected remotely with the RC4 floor controller but unfortunately, it’s sold separately.
We all know playing any instrument on its own can be a little dull after a while but everyone needs time to practice which is why like any good modern amp, combo or head, the RH450 has rehearsal inputs! This rear panel-mounted feature allows you to plug in your iPod, phone, computer or MP3 player via the supplied mini-jack to RCA cable adapter for easy practicing and playing along with recorded music. The headphone amp is a high quality model taken straight from TC Electronic's Studio Konnekt 48 and includes a speaker filter on the bass signal.
When first claimed that the RH450 was an amp system with “no compromise,” it was easy to dismiss it as over-hyping the product but after taking a closer look, it does enough of the important things right that we can let that pass. All in all, the RH450 from TC Electronic is built for bass players by bass players and draws upon decades of cutting-edge amp design and signal processing experience.