When a manufacturer like TC Electronic presents a new bass amplifier head, we all have the feeling that we are about to discover something modern, and we are right! As soon as you start opening the amps' packaging, you'll notice that you're not dealing with a "vintage" model. The RebelHead 450 has a very nice design–in the best TC tradition–, LEDs all over the place, a very compact size, and seems very sturdy at first glance. The amp is packed with good ideas: a handle that allows an easier transportation of its 8.8 lbs., the possibility to place it vertically or horizontally, endless rotary knobs with LED rings, a nice PVC front panel with black glossy finish...
The RebelHead makes a very good first impression but let's see if the inside matches the outfit...
In spite of its futuristic look, the front panel isn't frightening nor isn't quite like the control panel of a space shuttle. In the end, what you'll find are things you probably already know: 4-band EQ (bass, lo-mid, hi-mid and treble), input gain–that becomes the compression control if you push the Shift button–, a "Tubetone" control to add tube-like sound coloration–and it becomes the preset volume control when you push Shift–, and a general volume control. The 1/4" jack input allows you to connect an active or passive bass guitar and adapts itself automatically to any pickup type. Opposite to this instrument input, you'll find the 1/4" headphone output.
Above the controls you'll find three buttons for the three user memories. To store your settings just press one of the three buttons for two seconds. To recall your setting just push it again briefly. All settings are stored and recalled, except for the general volume setting and the position of the Shift and Mute buttons. The integrated tuner works perfectly well and shows the played note on a small display. An arrow indicates if the sound is too high or too low. However, if you activate the Mute mode, the LED ring around the Bass knob helps you tune the instrument with a better resolution and more precisely. Add the possibility to adjust the reference frequency (from 438 to 445 Hz) and you get the perfect tuner!
Let's go back to the Mute and Shift buttons. The first one allows you to mute the amp signal, while the second one gives you access to advanced functions: for example, you can adjust the center frequency for each of the bands of the EQ for a more accurate setting, and you can set the compressor and the tube-preamp simulation. The Shift button deactivates automatically after some time, which is good idea!
Now, let's take a look at the back of this little rebel...
The Rebelhead has very comprehensive and high-quality connectors. First of all, the power supply is compatible with all sorts of power outlets from 90 to 240 volts. People won't be blowing up their amp when traveling to foreign countries, one worry less! It also sports a Speakon - 1/4" combo connector to connect up to three RS210/RS212 speaker cabinets or any other loudspeaker with at least 4 ohms impedance. On the right you'll find a 5-pin remote input to connect the optional footswitch to control the three user memories and the mute function, as well as display the tuner's note. Then, you'll find the XLR 24bit/96kHz AES/EBU digital output, which is also S/PDIF compatible with an XLR to RCA adapter. You can choose between pre or post-preamp output signal with the switch on the bottom right: smart. The analog line output "Line Driver Out" on balanced XLR has the same feature too. You also have a stereo RCA input to connect an external sound source (CD/MP3 player, for example), which is pretty convenient to play along with your songs! Last but not least, an effects loop (on a 1/4" jack) gives you the possibility to insert a processor between the preamp stage and the power amp, but also to link several RebelHeads to sum their output power.
Now that we've explored the RebelHead's features, let's listen to it...
The integrated compressor, called SpectraComp, is a multiband compressor that processes three frequency bands individually (lows, mids and highs). Thus it allows you to get a more transparent and effective compression. The SpectraComp works extremely well while keeping things simple: you just have to turn a single knob! It is optimized for bass guitars so TC Electronic left out many parameters, making it easier for bass players who are not always used to set a compressor. The LEDs around the Gain/SpectraComp knob indicate gain reduction so you can easily know how much signal is being compressed. A nice detail is that the SpectraComp has an automatic makeup gain function to make up for the level loss due to compression. Since electric bass guitars are highly dynamic instruments covering a wide frequency range, the multiband compression is a very good idea because it allows you to benefit from an ideal compression ratio for the lowest notes (E or even B) up to the highest ones. This is almost impossible with a standard compressor.
We tested the RebelHead with a Fender Road Worn Jazz Bass, a BeyerDynamic M88 mic, and also through the direct out.
You'll find here some samples with the compressor in action: first you'll hear the uncompressed
sound, then the sound with an average compression ratio
and finally the sound with a heavy
(we-might-have-gone too-far!) compression. On the left channel of the stereo file you'll hear the signal of the M88 mic placed in front of one of the 10" speakers while the right channel is the signal of the direct out. You'll notice that the compressor works very good with reasonable settings. With extreme settings you'll notice a pretty evident pumping effect and more noise, but it's still usable considering you're taking the processor to the limit. A small shortcoming of the direct out is that it tends to distort the signal (e.g. on slapped notes) earlier than through the M88 mic.
Now let's listen to the TubeTone function which is supposed to simulate a tube preamp. The goal of the effect is to add to the signal a certain color resembling this type of amps. TubeTone simulates both a preamp stage and a power amp. In practice, it adds a typical sound character to the signal, and whereas the effect stays rather pleasant and subtle with reasonable settings, higher settings produce a rather unpleasant sound through the direct out (because of the very aggressive highs). Nonetheless a good mic placed in front of the speaker gives better results! This kind of sound could also be used as an occasional sound effect.
Below you'll find some additional sound samples of the RebelHead 450:
* Pick 1
* Pick 2
* Pick 3
* Slap 1
* Slap 2
* Slap 3
* Finger picking
* Distortion 1
* Distortion 2
The main feature to be highlighted about this amp is its very precise and effective EQ. We liked the four parametric bands that allow you to freely shape your sound. We discovered a comprehensive and versatile amp enhanced with an ultra-effective multiband compressor and a really nice TubeTone function. TC Electronic successfully created a modern amp with all the advantages that that entails: high output power, compact size, ergonomic design and competitive pricing. Well done!
TC Electronic also offers a more affordable version without some of the features of the RebelHead450. With a nearly 20% lower price tag, it also provides 450 watts of output power and the SpectraComp and TubeTone functions, but it has no integrated tuner, no headphone output, no user memories, no AES/EBU digital output, no remote connector (does it really matter?), no aux input and a simple 4-band EQ with fixed frequencies instead of the parametric EQ. Even though it does have the main features, we do miss some of the special functions that make the RebelHead so appealing. It's up to you (and your needs) to decide if you're willing to pay the difference.
Being its first attempt on the bass amp market, TC delivers a masterstroke with an original, modern and comprehensive product. So far so good. The RebelHead is a very powerful tool with a very good multiband compressor and a nice tube simulation section.
The presets and the compact size are very convenient, the compact and rugged speaker cabinet provides high-quality sound... To be honest, it's very difficult to find drawbacks. Bass players looking for a versatile amp ought to give it a try at their favorite dealer. In the end, choosing a high-class amp is a matter of taste, but we are positive that the RebelHead will easily find its fans.
- Convincing TubeTone
- Very effective SpectraComp
- High-quality sound
- Very good EQ
- Digital output
- Compact size
- Carrying handle
- Three presets
- Integrated tuner
- Headphone output
- High output power
- FX loop
- Easily linking to other amps
- Aux input
- On/Off switch on the rear panel
- And that's it!