Price paid: € 160
Purchased from: Used from local music store
Ease of Use — 8
The controls are as simple as they could possibly be, with only gain, a 3-band EQ, output volume and an additional bass boost switch, eliminating any potential sources of confusion. Thus, it is quite easy to get started with the amp and dial in the sound wanted. Everything is clearly labelled. The knobs are fitted with scales to easily reproduce amp settings, but due to the small indicator on them, they're hard to read from a bit of distance. There is enough space between the knobs to turn them without accidentally messing up the settings of adjacent knobs.
Sound — 7
I mainly play rock and related styles (ranging from punk over alternative rock and emo to hard and heavy rock), but also the occasional country, blues or funk, so I need some tonal variety. The Five Fifteen delivers a pretty good solution to cover a broad spectrum of sounds, from a deep, full bass with little treble to fill up the lower frequency end of a mix, all the way to a sharp, treble-laden clean sound that cuts through and provides enough drive.
The amp features a 3-band EQ as well as an additional "deep" switch to toggle a bass boost. When turning the treble up all the way - which I do in order to achieve a bass sound that clearly stands out in a mix -, the amp produces a level of noise that is enough to be noticeable when the bass is not played, but not overly intrusive and can easily be filtered by a noise gate in the studio, live or in a practice space, I'd recommend turning down the volume between songs.
The EQ allows for easy shaping of the sound - surely not as precise as a more sophisticated tone control, but the simplicity makes the controls easy to use, enabling people with little understanding of equalisers to quickly dial in the sound they're going for.
The amp is unable to deliver a satisfyingly distorted sound, even with the gain knob turned all the way up, but works for most other purposes.
I've played a clean guitar through the amp as well, just to see how it sounds, and found that, provided the EQ is adjusted to the sound of a guitar, the Five Fifteen can serve as a makeshift amplifier for guitar for a couple of songs. It also features a headphone jack (mutes the speaker), but that has quite little output and produces way more noise than the amp itself.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The amp is covered in felt, with the controls situated on top of the amp and recessed about 3/4 of an inch to protect them. The speaker is protected by a metal grille. A handle is mounted on top.
The casing looks solid enough, so unless you try to kick in the speaker, everything should be fine. The power switch, located on the back of the amp, is recessed as well. The amp is rather hard, due to the lack of extra handles on the side, it might be hard to lift for one person, carrying the risk of it being dropped.
Overall Impression — 10
I bought this amp for the purpose of a) practice, b) homestudio recording and c) potentially small (acoustic?) gigs. So far, the amp has served its purpose well. I haven't had the chance to test it in a band context (due to the lack of a band), but it certainly has enough power to work for the aforementioned situations; for bigger gigs, I'd go for mic'ing the speaker.
It also features an additional speaker output (8 Ohms) and a headphones output, allowing for either more volume or silent practice (the headphones jack mutes the speaker).
The amp works for everything I've played on it, be it Flea, Pastorius or Dirnt. I haven't had any trouble getting the sounds I wanted, and it sounds just as good mic'ed up as it sounds "live". I'd totally buy it again.
I contemplated getting a new china amp instead of this used brand one, and I'm rather glad I decided in favour of the Ashdown. I playtested it for half an hour with my own bass (P-Bass copy) and purchased it a couple days later.
The only thing I miss would be a "bright" switch to complement the bass boost one, but that's just a minor detail. My most favourite feature might actually be the CD/Line input jack, because it allows me to re-use the amp as a monitor speaker for the purpose of shooting music videos.