Price paid: € 119
Purchased from: BAX shop
Ease of Use — 8
Very easy to get good sound, no manual in package (but you probably don't need one).
Note: This little amp has no "soft start" so when you turn it on it kicks your speaker with quite a nasty thumb. I don't think this will damage your speaker in the long run but it's annoying and it would take just a minor change in the design to incorporate a "soft start" time delay relays.
Note: When it's dark you see a nice orange glow through the ventilation slots on top of the amp, this gives the impression of a tube amp although it's a pure solid state device, I think this is a really cool feature and (imo) it proves that the designers at Hotone thoroughly thought about the design.
Note: The signal to the speaker stays on when the headphone/line out is connected. To me that is a useful feature because I like to use my cab as a monitor while recording the Line-out signal. For silent practice you've to disconnect the speaker. Here a quote from the Hotone FAQ page: "The Nano Legacy heads don't need a speaker load to function, so you can certainly just use it with headphones. They also work great directly through an interface for computer recording."
Sound — 9
5 W class A/B solid state amplifier
voiced to sound like the legendary Ampeg SVT bass amps
number of channels: 1
controls: bass, middle, treble, gain, volume, on/off micro toggle switch
connections: (bass) guitar input, headphones out, aux in, effectsloop, speaker out (4-16 Ohm)
dimensions: 128 x 75 x 59.9 mm
weight: 440 gram
External 18 volt power supply
Initially, because both amplifiers have a 5 watts rated capacity, I thought I'd do an A/B comparison with my "little" Ampeg GVT5H 5 watt tube amp... but tube amps and solid state amps are two different worlds, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. Only thing I can say is that the Thunder Bass is almost as loud as the GVT5H. For a good comparison of the sound I took my Ampeg Micro VR 200 watt solid state bass head and played both amps on equal volume through my Ampeg SVT210AV cab. With clean settings there's just a tiny little advantage for the real deal in the lower- and upper mids... considering the huge price difference Hotone did a very good job mimicking the signature Ampeg bass sound. I'm not shure if I could tell which is which and pick the Ampeg over the Hotone in a blind test... for clean tones that is. With the gain cranked up the Ampeg wins by a mile or 10. The distortion of the Thunder Bass doesn't work for me. It sounds harsh and the breakup is way too artificial. With the volume at 9 or 10 there's a little sizzle but that occurs with almost all amps I know, even with the Ampegs and other very expensive boutique amps.
Underneath 5 sound samples from Hotone, these give a good idea of the tones you can expect when connected to a good quality bass and cab.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Fit & Finish: All steel chassis in black and silver finish, ivory plastic knobs for the controls. All the screws and in/output connections are neatly mounted and all panels fit seamlessly without any gaps. No sharp edges and/or flaws in the finish, the whole (little) thing looks and feels very solid. Quality built I'd say. I don't want to void the warranty yet so I didn't open it up to check the inside.
I have the Thunder Bass for a month now and extensively played with it for a good few hours, no issues so far. Given the build quality and the 3 year warranty I don't expect any either. Time will tell.
Overall Impression — 9
ME LIKE! These little amps are well made fun toys for gearheads, made for the practice room or studio @ home, nothing more, nothing less... If you like to have clean low volume SVT sound at home for a reasonable price... this one is for you. If you are looking for a bass head for band practice, look further.
If this little amp were lost ( and that could happen very easily because it's microscopic small ) i would buy another one, no doubt. I love the sound and the feel of this bass head.
Note: Use an efficient, good quality bass cab for best results. With a good 4 or 8 ohm cab this thing will shake the neighbours, at 16 ohm it will be somewhat on the quiet side.