Price paid: A$ 1218
Purchased from: Kosmic Sound
Sound — 7
The sound output from the amp and cabinet is fairly broad-ranging encompassing both modern and Vintage tones. To be perfectly honest, whenever I see advertisers of amps talk about tone' I cringe a bit, considering how ill defined the term is. I've found the amp can change it's tone significantly depending on whether the tweeter is in use or not. Additionally, the EQ can vastly change the tonal output (As you would expect) from Vintage warm tones all the way through to more modern bright tones. Put it this way, for an amp in this price range, it's tonally versatile enough to suit most playing styles. I'm in a grunge/alternative band and have very few qualms with the sound I'm able to produce with it. Having said that, I also have played in a cleaner styled Britpop band and am able to produce a tone that fits to that style as well. The speaker output from the 2 10 setup is tailored to more high end sounds as is the sealed cabinet design, so that places some limitation on the low frequency response. Another limiting factor is the nature of the cabinet; it's a sealed design, but the flip-top doesn't completely seal the cabinet. Again, this is a design flaw that can likely be solved through adapting. In any case, the air movement through the cabinet often causes some shaking vibrations that can cut into your sound particularly at high volumes. Having said this, I've played live a number of times and the use of the XLR output means that the shaking fortunately isn't transferred into the final mix. The tone remains clean most of the way to the top of the volume range, with some slight clipping. The limiting circuit is of use in this context. I play with a jazz bass, and the warmth of the speakers compliments the tone of the guitar well. Naturally the low frequency is less pronounced on a jazz bass and this is, I fear matched by the limitation on the speakers. Don't get me wrong, the low frequency is fine, but I wouldn't want to go below drop C tuning if that. Finally the effects handling is fairly impressive for a 2x10. I use fuzz, overdrive and octave effects all of which are handled well by the speakers, albeit with some adjustment. The low octaves are however a bit much to expect of 10 speakers as you would expect. Having said that, the overall sound performance is highly satisfactory.
Overall Impression — 7
Overall this amp is a quality all-round package with a decent versatility coupled with a suite of usable features that I've come to find useful in a live setting as well as in practice. The sound quality and versatility is extremely good considering how small and lightweight the gear is. Obviously we could all do with a little more power, but in the medium sized gig with a PA, you won't be left wanting even with a loud drummer. Believe me, 250 watts at 8 ohms is enough, and an extension cab will most definitely help your cause if you're needing a boost. To this end, I'm looking to complement the 210 with the PF 115LF - a ported 15" speaker cab. Look, there are a number of design flaws with the portaflex system such as the poor cabinet seal and the lack of handles but these are fixable and not fundamental. Finally, the flip top design is immensely handy, and frankly, it's always a real joy to flip the head unit only to have people turn around and say "What did you just do?". It's a novelty that I'm still enjoying even after 10 months. Overall, it's been a good amp for gigging and the like and I think it'll serve me well for a while yet, assuming I'm not plagued by reliability issues. It certainly has problems that Ampeg should look at if they come to update it, but I think it's fair to say you won't be disappointed.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Reliability and durability of this amp package is not completely class-leading, but I don't find myself too disappointed with it. There was one mishap with the head unit when it failed to power up one day. It had to be returned to the store and repaired, a process that took 6 weeks. This was pretty annoying and I never heard back as to why the amp stopped functioning, however I'm assuming it was to do with the power amp. I would have expected a class d amp to be more resilient than this, but I guess it happens. Other than that, I've had no reliability issues to speak of and the dealer support has been extremely good. Leaving aside the issues I've had, the head unit is well constructed and is designed to channel dust and debris out of the enclosure. Also, when used as a flip top in the recess of the cabinet, the amp is well protected from potential hazards. This has helped me to keep the head in immaculate condition and surely damage prevention factors into durability. The cabinet is well built although the castors are pretty flimsy and could well break if roughly handled. Also, the clasps on the flip top can handle the weight of the amp, although this is not something I want to test that regularly. Still, to the credit of the package, there have been no noticeable damage incidents to the cabinet even though I transport it fairly frequently. The only problem I have durability wise is the tolex: it looks beautiful, but I'm sure it will be prone to ripping and marking if I ever have a mishap. I guess it's a matter of time. Overall, I'd give reliability a 5 out of 10 due to the amp failure and durability 8.
Features — 8
Head Unit: - Single channel Class D power section with Solid State Pre-amp - 350 watt output at 4 ohms, 250 watt output at 8 ohms - 3 band rotary EQ, Volume and Gain Control - Defeatable limiting circuit with peak indicator - Balanced XLR Output (No ground lift function) - Effects loop (No Switch) - 2 Quarter inch output jacks to power 2 cabinets - Variable voltage switch to handle 115 or 230 volts Cabinet: - Lightweight poplar ply enclosure, - Flip-top design, - Removable casters - 2 10" eminence LF drivers with 1" tweeter, - Variable level of HF output Overall this is a pretty well furnished amplifier package, without too many amazing features, but by the same token, nothing you don't need. In that sense, it's a bit spartan: the EQ is fairly minimal but it provides a decent tonal range for use with effects and for different styles. The volume and gain control work well and the defeatable limiter is most definitely a good inclusion especially when playing with overdrive and octave effects. I play in a grunge band and the effects handling is more than adequate. Other plus's include the XLR line out which is extremely useful in a live context and the dual outputs allow you to use an extension cabinet. Other than that, the head unit is extremely lightweight and the built in venting/fan allows for very efficient heat dissipation. I've played this thing for 2 hours straight in plus 30 celcius and had no problems with overheating. The only shortcomings with the head are power output (350 is adequate, but could be better) and the lack of on-board compression. Again, nothing fundamentally wrong though). The cabinet is well built and durable enough to stand up to constant transit and gigging. The castor wheels feel a little flimsy, but so far I've had no complaints, also, the single carrying handle whilst adequate doesn't give me too much confidence. Often I've just carried the cabinet from the bottom to avoid putting pressure on the clasps and the handle. That's another thing, because of the flip-top design coupled with the handle placement, pressure is placed on the clasps, which is not ideal. This is the main shortcoming with the cabinet design. Other than that, the speakers are very responsive and crisp and there are a lot of neat features like padding on the inside of the cabinet and Velcro straps to hold gear in place. The portable touches made to the cabinet are extremely useful. Overall, in terms of features, the head unit gets 7 out of 10 and the cabinet 8 out of 10.