Jumbo Sunshade - Ezine

 
Music Gear Review - TC Electronic BH250 250W Bass Amp Head
 
I needed a bass amp for practice and some gigging.  A combo is what i needed but i already have so many different speaker/cab combinations that i just figured i'd get a bass head instead. 
Lots to choose from in my budget but based on size, power and weight it came down to just two: the Gallien-Krueger MB200 ($300, 200w, 2 lbs) and the TC Electronic BH250 ($300, 250w, 4 lbs).  Both of these amps are class D.

Obviously i went for the BH250.

They're both very similar.  I like the GK's EQ better, but i liked the TC for the FX and because 50 watts makes a big difference in a small amp.  I also liked that the TC Electronic head has a built-in tuner, but it turns out the tuner is pretty useless to me, hehe.

 

SIZE & OPERATION
The BH250 is seriously tiny at about 9x9 inches and 2.5 inches tall.  You could get another half inch off if you removed the rubber feet (there is no venting on the top or bottom).  Not only does it easily fit in any of my gig bags; it also fits into some of the outside pockets of my gig bags.

And 4 pounds for a 250-watt head?!... awesome

The most use mine gets has been bar gigs where it's left on from around 9 til just before 2AM.  For my gigs i never push the

volume past halfway.  I've never had it shut off from over-

heating, nor have i even noticed that it gets more than just slightly warm.  It's well-vented and the fan moves plenty of air while being about half as loud as a computer power supply fan.
The real test of course would be an outdoor gig in the summer sun with the amp cranked.


 

SOUND & POWER
Cabinets i've used this head with: 2x10 ported, 2x10 ported with horn, 4x10 ported with horn, 1x12 open back, 1x12 closed, 1x12 closed with horn, 2x12 and 4x12 closed.  My bass is a Fender Geddy Lee Jazz with vintage-voiced passive single coil DiMarzio pickups.

With the 1x12 and 2x10 cabinets it sounds just fine.  Nothing out of the ordinary; no magic.  Just a decent solid-state bass amp tone.  With 4x10 it kindof sounds (to me) like an under-powered Carvin combo.
With the bigger cabinets and with the volume cranked up you will definitely start to notice that this isn't an extremely high-powered bass amp.  It's not terrible; it's what you would expect: some sagging and definitely a lack of punch compared to your standard 500-watt bass amp.

 

         
 

EQ & TONE
The BH250 EQ control/frequencies make very good sense.  They don't cut/boost at the same frequency.
Low: cut @80Hz, boost @100Hz
Mid: cut @500Hz, boost @800Hz
High: cut @1,800Hz, boost @3,150Hz
I've found that you really wanna be careful and pay attention when getting your stage tone because the Bh250's EQ doesn't have the same feel as most amps that you'd be used to.  For front-of-house i always send Direct Out pre EQ.

BH250 tone is decent for a class D amplifier.  Compared to the more expensive full-sized bass amps that i borrow/use on a regular basis i like this TC Electronics amp least of all, lol.  But compared to all of the practice/combo amps that i use on a

regular basis, i like the BH 250 best, probably partly because of the cabinets i use.
I've read online that the best match for this amp is a closed 1x15, which unfortunately i don't have.  If i ever get the chance to borrow one i will.

At practice through a 4x12 (EV's) i have more than enough headroom for the moderate volume we play at.  But when at the loudest that i've used it (50-75%) i can definitely hear the amp start to sag and there is of course less punch compared to a full-sized/powered bass amp.  Obviously pushing the amp past the point where it's already sagging is just gonna give you more of the same.
The bass player in one of my other bands says that active pickups would help this situation and he may be right.

Out live i mostly use a 2x10 ported closed cabinet with the BH 250 and a Boss graphic EQ (GE-7).  Not a ton of low end on stage with this rig but it cuts through perfectly and no ear fatigue into the 3rd set.  Since i'm going DI Out to the board my on-stage tone is completely independent from front-of-house (the way it should be!).
At home my favorite tone out of this amp is when paired with a closed 1x12 that's loaded with an 80's Celestion guitar speaker.  You can't turn it up even loud enough for full-band practice but the sound is so damn good i would be happy recording with it, seriously.  To my ear this BH250/Celestion combo is along the lines of some of the 70's stoner-rock studio tones (Foghat, Terraplane Blues); very cool.

I use a graphic EQ stomp box for some very specific tweaking, but it needs to be said that with the built-in EQ on the BH 250, TC Electronic has made this a really versatile amp tonally.
As i said, my bass has two SC pickups, but i did play one gig with a borrowed Music Man Stingray (active humbucker) and dialing in a good tone took about 30 seconds.
I'm sure there are situations where the BH250's unique EQ is going to hurt you but if you've got a stomp box EQ you should be just fine.

 

CONTROLS & ROUTING
BH 250 routing is basic.  1/4" input on the front with 1/8" Aux input on the back, plus 1/8" headphone out (mutes the speaker

output when in use) for practicing at night.  Direct Out can be set pre or post EQ. 
Speaker output is a speakon-only jack (not speakon 1/4 combo), which is definitely an unnecessary hassle for a 250-watt amplifier, especially for somebody like me with 1/4" jacks on ALL of my cabinets.  I have to remember to bring a
speakon/quarter inch adapter with me to gigs.

There is a 1/4" jack for an optional 3-button footswitch (about $50).  The footswitch functions are: 1. Mute, 2. FX on/off, 3. toggle between two effects.  I haven't seen this switch in person so i don't know if TC Electronic went with a box that allows you to use your own guitar/speaker cable, or if it's a set length attached to the unit.

On the front of this bass head there are two mini toggle switches; one for cutting input gain (for basses with active pickups) and the other to mute the amp.  Both a great idea.
The problem i have with the use of mini toggle switches is that mini toggle switches are notoriously easy to fail or break.  In addition these switches don't have a nut that mounts them to the amp's faceplate; so every time you touch them you're also putting that stress directly on the contacts & solder joints inside the amp.  I mean i'm happy to easily be able to mute the amp between sets but i feel like it's just a matter of time before the damn thing breaks (i just hope i'm not at a gig when it happens!).
 

The built-in tuner was a good idea i suppose but with an amp this small maybe it was just doomed to be poorly implemented.  The tuner is always on, always flashing.
BH250 has LEDs for E A D & G, plus an indicator for B & C strings.  If you look at this picture you will notice that the "B C" print is VERY hard to
see.  Well i can tell you that in anything other than full daylight those marks are invisible so you'd better remember it before hand!

The BH250 tuner is factory set at 440 and can't be adjusted, nor does it allow for sharp/flat.  Perfect for bands that tune to 440, but kinda useless for those that tune a half step down (as most cover bands do).  So, if your band tunes to Ab, you have to fret an A# (A 440) to tune, and then tune the rest of your bass to that (no tuning of open strings if you're a half step down).  Come on TC Electronic, the $.99 tuning app on my smartphone can do better than this.

Speaking of smartphone apps...

 

TONEPRINT
Ok if you're reading this review, i'm sure you've already seen one of the many videos demonstrating TC Electronic's TonePrint feature.  The TonePrint editor is a good idea in my opinion, but that's not something i will speak to in this review.

TC Electronic makes a very big deal of the BH 250's ability to access their TonePrint library (available online).  In fact in their own promo videos, more time is spent covering the TonePrint feature than is spent on the amp's actual tone.  If you're completely unfamiliar with it, i'm sure you'll either think it's an awesome idea or that it's just confusing (and you'll have more questions than answers).  For this review i'm just going to try and summarize.

The BH 250 can have the following effects on board: Bass Drive, Chorus, Flanger, Octaver, SpectraComp and Vibrato.  It can have only two of these effects available at any given time, selectable only with the purchase of their 3-button footswitch (without the footswitch you only have access to one effect).

Effect control is a single knob that blends dry/effect signal; there is no other way (on the amp) to adjust any parameter of FX.
So for instance, if you want to change the Chorus rate, you would have to do so on your PC with the TonePrint editor and then upload this to your amp.

The amp comes pre-loaded with Chorus.  In order

to use any of the other FX you have to upload them to the BH 250 via one of two methods: USB cable and PC, or, smart-phone TonePrint app (and a bass guitar plugged into your amp).

If this all sounds like the least versatile, least convenient way of dealing with on-board amplifier effects that you've ever heard of... you're right, it is.
I just can't imagine ever being in a situation where i'm at a gig and would say "damn, i need some bass flange" which i would then download from the internet so that i could upload it to my amp through my bass guitar's pickup using my smart phone.


 

       


 

BH 250 SOUND EFFECTS
I'm not really a big FX guy when it comes to bass guitar.  The only effect i ever use is compression.  I only briefly listened to the Chorus and i just immediately downloaded the SpectraComp effect because i had practice and gigs.

I do love SpectraComp i have to say.  It's a multi-band compressor that takes all strings into account, meaning you won't have the low E affecting higher fretted notes (for example) as much as with single-band compression.  I just use whatever the TC Electronic default setting is.  I also tried the "slapncomp" and "compinthemiddle" tone prints; they were both good.

I rely heavily on compression, not because i do a whole lot of slappin n poppin, but because honestly i'm not that great of a bass player; i'm very inconsistent string-to-string.  The SpectraComp is perfect for me personally with the classic/hard rock & blues cover gigs.  I'm actually ok with single-band compression because i don't play a whole lot of chords, but anybody who hasn't used multi-band comp on a bass is really missing out imo.

 

 
CONCLUSION
So far i've been perfectly happy with this amp.  It does what i need it to do: be small & light, loud enough, and sound decent.  Tonally versatile; good for rehearsal (moderate volume with a band or completely silent in the middle of the night) and good for any gig where you don't need ridiculous stage volume.

TC Electronic is pretty much known for being a leader in over-priced gear, and in my opinion the BH250 at $300 fits that description.  At 250 watts and with this feature set, it should be selling for $250-$275. $300 is what i'd expect to pay for this amp if it were in a combo with a 12" speaker.  It's true that i would've bought this amp even if i couldn't have gotten a 10% discount, but only because there was no similar lower-priced alternative available.

The tuner and effects should have been implemented better.  The whole TonePrint/smartphone app thing is obviously a gimmick and honestly kindof a joke.  But, the SpectraComp compressor kicks ass and any bass player would be glad to have it.

Would i recommend the TC Electronic BH250 bass amp head?...  Yes, absolutely; even slightly overpriced at $300.

 

thanks to:
emily

 

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