Long Term Test Drive LogoTrace Elliot® recently introduced the TE-1200 bass head (a class-D monster putting out 1,200 watts into a 4-ohm load) and an impressive-looking new enclosure, the Pro 4×10 Road Ready Bass Enclosure. These are big tools (relatively speaking) for big gigs, and needless to say, we are excited to get them in for review sometime soon! But before we get to the big meal, allow us to whet your appetite with something smaller, but equally savory. The 200-watt ELF™ bass head, along with the 1×10 and 2×8 cabs (and the Transit-B preamp/pedal) were introduced in 2017, and we highlighted them in our coverage of the 2017 Winter NAMM Show. The ELF bass head went on to win the 2018 Musikmesse International Press Awards (Bass Gear Magazine is a voting member of MIPA).

I acquired an ELF head, Transit-B preamp, and two each of the 2×8 and 1×10 cabs in 2017, and I later acquired a second ELF head and an ELF 1×10 Combo (the ELF 1×10 and 1×8 combos were introduced at the 2019 Summer NAMM Show, and officially launched in February 2020). I have had this gear in numerous practice/gigging environments and really put them through their paces, so I am thrilled to bring you this Long Term Test Drive report.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

Please also note that while I was working on this Long Term Test Drive review, my buddy and BGM reviewer Dan Veall also got some of these same products in for review, so we asked Dan to give us his own take, via the attached video supplemental reviews. Enjoy!

The Company Line

Back in BGM issue #10, I reviewed the (then new) 600-watt 1210 combo and 1028H bass enclosure, and at that time, I gave a brief rundown of the history of the Trace Elliot brand. Peavey® bought the brand back in 2005, and then spent significant time and effort bringing the brand back to life and offered modern iterations of some of the tried-and-true Trace Elliot classics. Over the years, we would occasionally ask our friends at Peavey/Trace Elliot if they had some new products in the pipeline, and for quite some time, they were pretty elusive, though did mention on more than one occasion that the bass playing community was moving towards lighter and more compact bass gear.

We have also reviewed a number of Peavey® branded products, including the impressive MiniMEGA™ bass head, so we knew that Peavey had a tendency to design their own amp modules, instead of using some of the seemingly ubiquitous class-D modules commonly found in many other brands.

So when Trace announced that they had a new line of compact amps and cabs, and that the amp would be an in-house design, we were certainly intrigued, but not necessarily surprised.

Basic Elven Design

Many of you may recall the eye-catching ad featuring an ELF bass head ($349.99 street) in the back pocket of a pair of (rather shapely) jeans. While I do not recommend this as a means of transporting your bass head to/from a gig, I have to admit, it got your attention. And of course, once I had one in my possession, I had to see if it actually fit in my back pocket (it did!). This is certainly one very compact amp, but it also feels very sturdy (a trait often missing in modern compact and lightweight gear). I will admit that the feature set – though reasonably related to the amount of real estate present – does not initially scream “Trace Elliot.” On the front panel, there is a single ¼” Input jack (with an input impedance of >10Meg ohms), followed by (larger/sturdier than expected) black metal knobs for Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, and Volume. A full-size (1/4”) headphone jack rounds out the front panel. The rear panel is even more austere, with an IEC power cable insert jack, power switch, a single ¼” Speaker Output, a small, recessed ground lift button, and a slim XLR D.I.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

That Gain knob deserves a little more attention, though, as it’s actually doing more than you might think. At lower Gain settings, when the corresponding LED is showing green, the signal is passing through the preamp without any compression. When you turn up the Gain some more, and the LED starts to flicker red, the compression circuit kicks in. The more you turn up the Gain (and the more time that the LED is red), the more compression is added. The compressor is also influenced by the settings of the tone stack, and boosting the EQ can also add more compression. Finally, when the Gain control is turned all the way up (and even just shy of all the way up), an overdrive circuit kicks in. Fortunately, with a separate Volume control, you can set the Gain to get the tone/compression/drive you want, and then adjust the Volume to set your overall output levels.

The control panel on the ELF combos ($599.99 street, each) is extremely similar to that of the ELF head, with the only visible change being the addition of the words “/ Line Out” to the headphone jack. The back panel has a few additions, as well, namely a (protected) switch for selecting 100-120 VAC or 220-240 VAC, and switch for selecting the internal speaker or the headphone/Line Out jack to be live. While it is nice to be able to turn off the speaker for silent practicing, I wish the Line Out would work in tandem with the internal speaker, to make it easier to drive multiple combos at the same time. I will also note that on the ELF head, this output does drive a set of headphones quite nicely, but will not adequately drive the input of another head/combo, so maybe this wouldn’t work as I’d like even if the switch didn’t disable the internal speaker. You will also find the port for each combo on the rear panel. Both combos feature a large, sturdy leather handle on top, four decent-sized rubber feet on the bottom, and a spray-on “truck liner” finish.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

The Transit-B preamp/pedal ($349.99 street) has a lot more going on, and in many ways, it seems like a “greatest hits” of prior Trace Elliot design elements. Across the top, we have (smaller, back-lit) chrome knobs for Output Level, Lo-Band compression, Hi-Band compression, five-band tone stack (or “Equalisation,” as the Brits would phrase it) – Bass, Lo-Mid, Mid, Hi-Mid, Treble – followed by the Drive and Blend knobs, and then Input Gain (500k ohm passive input impedance) on the far right (which also feels rather British). Across the bottom of the pedal, we have the “stomp-able” switches (also back-lit and color-coded) for Mute/Tune, Compression, Equalisation, Drive, and Pre-Shape. Smaller (non-stomp-able) switches for Bass Enhancement (which introduces a proprietary subharmonic generator circuit), for determining whether the tone stack comes Pre-Comp or Post-Comp, and one for setting your input to Passive or Active are also present, as is a Tuner display.

Trace Elliot ELF Transit_B

On the back panel of the Transit-B, from left to right, we find the ¼” Input jack, ¼” Dry Out (which is a buffered copy of the Input signal), 1/8” Aux In jack, 1/8” Phones output, two separate XLR D.I. outputs (on Pre all processing, and one Post all processing; note: the Output Level control does not affect the output of either of these D.I. outputs), a ground lift switch, two ¼” output jacks for Line (high-level unbalanced output, to send to an amplifier) and Inst. (low-level unbalanced output for driving a preamp or mixer input channel), and finally, the 9VDC power supply input jack.

Transit_B

The ELF cabs are a study in elegant minimalism, with a single recessed handle on the top-rear edge of the enclosure, a built-in “cradle” for the ELF bass head, a pair of dual Speakon® and ¼” input jacks, spray-on finish, rubber feet, and heavy-duty black metal grills (with the iconic Trace Elliot badges). The 1×10 enclosure ($349.99 street) is rear-ported and features an Eminence neodymium driver. The 2×8 enclosure ($499.99 street) sports two triangle ports on the front baffle, between the two Faital 8” neodymium drivers. Neither enclosure features a high-frequency driver, so there is no crossover needed and the main drivers operate in full-range mode. The ELF 1×10 is rated to handle 300 watts (RMS), and the ELF 2×8 is rated to handle 400 watts (RMS).

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head
Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head
Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head
Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

A Closer Look

So, they sport the right shade of green (in places), and they have the Trace Elliot name, but does this new – and tiny! – gear really deserve the beloved Trace Elliot brand? There were certainly skeptics back in 2005, but the first round of “Peavey Trace Elliot” gear did not stray far from the classics, and really sounded/performed quite well. But Trace Elliot gear has never been small (with a few exceptions), and definitely not lightweight (as I am reminded whenever I move around my vintage Trace gear). The move to neodymium drivers and class-D output sections was inevitable, though. Done well, these technologies offer major advantages in terms of portability, with no real unavoidable disadvantages. But … will it still sound like a Trace?

In addition to the reduced size/weight, the new feature set and tone stack is also quite the departure – visually, at least – from most vintage Trace Elliot bass heads. True, Trace did offer the V-Type preamps/heads, which used a 3-band version of the “Fender tone stack,” but the 3-band ELF amp/combo tone stack is intentionally trying to “emulate the response of the classic Trace Elliot multi-band graphic EQ filters.” Trace Elliot does not publish the amount of cut or boost (which we learned is +/- 12dB for all three bands), but they do list the frequency centers as 80Hz, 400Hz, and 4.2Hz. What’s more, Peavey General Manager Fred Poole (more from him, below) told us that each band uses the same gyrator EQ circuit that is common to the classic Trace Elliot gear. Very cool!

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

As previously mentioned, the Gain control is also highly impactful on the overall tone, controlling not only compression, but also the drive circuit. I have found that you can also dial in varying degrees of “warmth” with the Gain control, though this may be a function of the compression and/or drive circuits. Between the various Gain settings and tweaks to the 3-band tone stack (which, remember, is interactive with the compressor), you can actually dial in a surprisingly wide range of usable tones from the ELF. The “home base” tone does generally overlap with a lot of the various tone profiles Trace Elliot gear is known for, with good clarity and articulation, but still in the context of a full, and slightly warm, tone, that is slightly mid-forward.

The Transit-B approaches things from a very different perspective than the ELF. Whereas the ELF approach may be thought of as “do more with less,” the Transit-B seems to favor “doing more with more” – or at least with only slightly less than the max allowed by law. The packaging may be new and shiny (and those color-coordinated backlit knobs/switches are certainly both eye-catching and very useful), but many of the features themselves are old favorites: the Mid Pre-Shape (which boosts both lows at 55Hz and highs from 2kHz to 5kHz, while simultaneously cutting the mids around 400Hz); separate Lo-Band and Hi-Band (footswitchable) compression (with a crossover point of 333Hz); switchable EQ; and switchable Drive section. I was able to replicate a number of my favorite “Trace tones” pretty much right out of the box with the Transit-B. It is not quite as inherently warm as, say an SM-era head, but it offers a lot of the same tone-tweaking options. I do have to admit, though, an EQ Balance knob would have been the bomb! Speaking of EQ, the specifications on the tone stack are as follows: Bass +/- 15 dB @ 117Hz, with a Q of 0.91; Lo-Mid +/- 15 dB @ 279Hz, with a Q of 0.89; Mid +/- 15 dB @ 664Hz, with a Q of 0.88; Hi-Mid +/- 15 dB @ 1.73kHz, with a Q of 0.74; and Treble +/- 15 dB @ 4.95kHHz, with a Q of 0.73.

The Input Gain knob on the Transit-B does not have the same “triple-function” design of the Gain on the ELF, but it does indicate clipping (when the backlighting turns red); you should definitely back off the gain if it starts to clip, as this is not intended to offer “musical overdrive” when clipping. I really love the flexibility of the Transit-B, and it feels equally at home as a pedal before your main bass head, or as a preamp directly feeding a power amp, or as a headphone practice station on steroids. Like the ELF head, the Transit-B ships with an unpadded zippered bag, with enough extra room for some cables.

 

Trace Elliot ELF bag
Trace Elliot bag

The design engineers at Trace Elliot made some interesting choices when it came to the driver configurations for the ELF cabs, and I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with the results. They seemed to keep the focus on the classic Trace characteristics of “fullness and warmth, with clarity.” The 1×10, with its single Eminence driver, is the warmer of the two cabs, and a tad more mid-forward. This is quite compact for a 1×10 (measuring 12” wide, by 14” deep, with a height of 12.5”) and is also remarkably light, at just over 16 lbs.

The 2×8 features two Faital drivers, and extends both deeper and higher than the 1×10, sounding more “refined,” with a bit more clarity. Each 8” drive is rated to handle 200 watts, providing an overall power handling of 400 watts. The 2×8 cab sounds very nice with the 200w ELF head, but these cabs really come alive when you feed them more power. I was convinced that an 800-watt Trace Elliot head (most likely based on the Transit-B, I opined) was on its way once I heard these cabs, and it seems I was partially correct. The 2×8’s sell for a bit more than the 1×10, but considering the price of those excellent Faital drivers, the $499.99 asking price is very fair. Thinner and taller than the 1×10, the 2×8 is 10.3” wide, 12.3” deep, and 21.2” tall, weighing in at 27 lbs.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head
Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

The little “indented” area at the top of each cab is there to facilitate the ELF head and keep it in place, and this works really well. Each cab also has round “indents” on the top of each cab to hold the feet of a matching cab when stacking. These little “attention to detail” features are very nice, and definitely appreciated. I also like how you can route your power/speaker cables down underneath the handle on the cab, for a very clean look (and to further help keep the head in place). The spray coating feels thinner than what I have seen on some cabs, but after 4-5 years, it seems to be holding up quite well. The metal grills are really nice and give off an impression of being “professional grade.”

As expected, the ELF 1×10 Combo behaves very much like an ELF head with a single 1×10 cab, so most of those features have already been discussed in detail. It is worth noting that the ELF Combo features a very nice, large, leather handle (mounted on the top), and it ships with a (lightly) padded slip cover. Both combos are priced the same, with a list price of $749.99 and a street price of $599.99

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

 

Hanging Out at the Poole

Peavey General Manager Fred Poole has been a friend to Bass Gear Magazine for many years, and he has always been very approachable and very informative. A bass player, himself, Fred also regularly contributes on our favorite bass-centric forum, TalkBass. I asked Fred for a bit more insight involving this batch of Trace Elliot gear.

Q: The first Trace Elliot products to hit the market after Peavey bought the brand were pretty faithful to the original designs and overall vision previously associated with the brand. We had discussed in the past that when/if Trace Elliot moves into the smaller, more lightweight world (which we all agreed it had to do), things may look a little different, but Trace would stay true to the brand. Tell us a bit about the design goals for the ELF line of products and how you tried to keep it connected to the history and spirit of the Trace Elliot name.

A: Trace Elliot has always been “The Original Bass Amplification Specialist.” Its mission has been to faithfully recreate the tone and talent of the instrument and player, in a spare-no-expense-in-doing-it-right fashion. When we created the ELF, the idea was to have the smallest bass amp available that had enough power to cover 90% of today’s gigging bass players. The result was a home run and turned out to be the best-selling Trace Elliot amplifier of all time.

Q: With regard to the ELF head, did you have any particular prior Trace Elliot heads in mind as a tone goal, or was it aimed at an “average Trace Elliot tone” based on the range of prior heads?

A: Absolutely. Even with the reduced feature set of the ELF, the amplifier has the distinct Trace Elliot Pre Shape and compressor built in. We went out of our way to make sure the ELF series maintained the soul of the brand.

Q: With regard to the ELF head, were you just trying to go as small as possible, or did you have a specific size in mind – say, something that would fit into a back pocket?

A: It started with, “What is possible?” How small could we make something USEFUL? Anyone can make something small – many of our competitors have attempted to copy the ELF – however NOT ONE of them has the RMS power and size of the ELF, even though some of them claim to.

Q: With regard to output power, was 200 watts into 4 ohms a goal that was set at or near the beginning, or is that just how the output section design played out?

A: That was our goal from the beginning – we need at least that much RMS power to drive the speakers we had chosen to guarantee the performance we desired.

Q: Tell me a bit about the design goals for the ELF cabs. Did you decide on 8’s and 10’s early on? Was this initially a space-saving decision, or a tonal decision, or both?

A: We are also looking for the best tone. Our goal with the speakers was to be lightweight, compact and bad ass. If we can make the best speaker, we will make it; if someone is making something better, we will use it. In this case, we chose the best speakers for the application. The 2×8 is an amazing sounding cabinet. RadKey, who recently opened for the Foo Fighters, was using four 2×8 cabinets on some of the biggest stages in the world, powered by two ELF amplifiers.

Q: One unique aspect of the ELF cabs is that they do not use a tweeter or other dedicated high-frequency driver, but they are “full-range” designs. Was it your goal to avoid the need for a tweeter (and crossover), or is this something which developed after you decided on the main drivers and their performance capabilities?

A: In order to maintain their compact form, we chose speakers that did not require a high-frequency driver for this application.

Q: The ELF 2×8 is an 8-ohm cab, so I would presume it employs two 16-ohm drivers. The ELF 1×8 Combo, though, is listed as having an 8-ohm internal load, so I presume the driver in the Combo is an 8-ohm variant of the one used in the 2×8 cab?

A: Yes

Q: I am sure that you are very excited about the new TE-1200 and Pro 410, and needless to say, we are eager to get them in for review! Are there any other new Trace Elliot products that you can hint at, or will this represent the lineup for the time being?

A: The Pro 2×12 cabinet – which is the best sounding bass cabinet I have ever heard! Super excited.

Real World Use

My earliest “band” experiences with the ELF rig was in a band practice setting. Initially, I really gravitated towards the double 2×8 stack – partly for the tone and partly because I liked having the controls up higher – and I have to admit that in my particular band (bass, drums, guitar, keys, four vocals), the ELF head was barely able to keep up, volume-wise. I do know plenty of players/bands who get by with a LOT less volume, and there are plenty of players out there happily gigging with an ELF as their main head. For me, though, a single ELF head pushing two ELF 2×8’s was barely enough for practice, and not enough for a live gig. I loved the tone, but just needed more volume.

At our next gig, I brought the two ELF 2×8’s and the Transit-B – which I then fed into the power amp section of another brand’s 800-watt class-D bass head. This proved to be an amazing combination, and one of my favorite rigs of recent years. The Transit-B provided all the controls I needed (and then some), and I had all the volume I could ask for, plenty of authority down to a low B, plenty of clarity from top to bottom, and great presence, without overwhelming the mix. All this from a rig with a footprint the size of a shoebox!

While I initially used the ELF cabs in matched stacks, I did try the mixed stack (2×8 on top of 1×10), and this worked really well. In fact, I liked this enough that at one gig, I brought both mixed stacks and drove them each with one side of my old Trace Elliot AH1200SM head (which has two 600w power sections). This was overkill, for sure, and it was glorious! It proved to me that this new Trace gear can definitely play nicely with vintage Trace Elliot gear.

Once the 1×10 Combo came in for review, I (naturally) found myself spending more time with the ELF 1×10’s, and I came to appreciate them even more. In addition to being a tad more warm and mid-forward than the 2×8’s, this also lets the 1×10’s fill a room a bit more and cut through the mix a bit better. I still don’t think I could gig out with just 200 watts of ELF power and two 1×10’s, but I have certainly gained much respect for the capabilities of such a rig.

Comparatively Speaking

When I first saw the ELF head and cabs at the 2017 NAMM Show, I was pretty excited, and to be honest, a little taken aback at just how tiny everything was. After getting over this initial shock, though, my brain immediately jumped to trying figure out which prior Trace gear – if any – this new ELF line would sound like. After those initial practice sessions, I felt like maybe the natural voice of the ELF head was closest to my V-Type 600H. This proved to be a fairly accurate first guess … more or less.

It felt a little ridiculous when I set them all up for comparison testing, but I did compare the ELF to my 600H, my AH1200SM, and a (Peavey-era) AH600-12. I used a pair of the ELF 2×8’s with each head for this comparison. Going from newest to oldest, I first put the ELF up against the AH600-12. The Pre Shape on the AH600-12 was engaged, but the Valve, graphic EQ, and compressor were all bypassed. On the ELF, the tone knobs were all set to noon. With these settings, the ELF is decidedly more full-sounding than the AH600-12, which, in turn, is more cutting and clear than the ELF. Once you start adding the Valve circuit, compressor, and of course 12 bands of EQ, the AH600-12 becomes very versatile. But as a starting point, the ELF really is the more full-sounding and musical of the two.

Trace-Amp-Comparison

Next up was the ELF versus the V-Type 600H. Noteworthy to the V-Type line of products is the lack of a graphic EQ – the tone stack is a slight variation on the “Fender tone stack,” and “flat” is somewhere close to 2-10-2 on the Bass, Mid, Treble knobs. With the ELF 3-band stack set to noon, and the 600H 3-band stack set to 2-10-2, the overall tonal balance is very similar between the two. This is a very good thing, as I absolutely love the way a 600H sits in the mix, with a great blend of warmth/fullness and clarity/articulation. The 600H does have some added tube texture, growl, and clarity, but the overall tonal balance is very similar.

Moving on to the AH1200SM, with the ELF at noon, AH1200SM with Pre Shape 1 engaged, but EQ bypassed, I was surprised to hear how similar the two sounded. The AH1200SM has a bit more pillow and depth to the lows, and the ELF has a bit more presence in the upper-mids to lower treble, but otherwise, they had a lot of similarities. As a side note, this did cause me to A/B the 600H to the AH1200SM, and I found them to be more similar to each other than I had remembered. The 600H is the “tubier” of the two, with more texture and character, and the AH1200SM is a bit more solid and clean.

Next up, I compared the ELF head to the Transit-B (paired up with an Acoustic Image® Focus SA™ power amp). With the EQ bypassed on the Transit-B, the ELF sits somewhere between the tone of the Transit-B with the Pre-Shape on, and with the Pre-Shape off. With the EQ engaged, the Transit-B definitely presents a much wider range of tonal adjustments. Comparing the overdrive options proved to be quite interesting. Dialing in a nice overdriven tone on the ELF is quite easy. Just crank up the Gain all the way, boost the Bass a good bit, and there you have a really great, warm, organic overdrive. On the Transit-B, it takes a bit more tweaking, as you have not only the Drive and clean Blend knobs to deal with, but also all five bands of EQ have a noticeable impact. Most importantly, though, you need to set the Input Gain a little higher than you might otherwise do in order to get the best overdrive tones. I found that turning up the Input Gain made a huge difference in the range/style of overdrive I was able to dial in. Ultimately, I was very impressed by the range of overdriven tones I could dial in with the Transit-B, but I was also impressed by the simplicity – and results – of dialing in overdrive on the ELF.

Regarding the compressor, once again, the ELF’s approach is much more simple (and non-bypassable), as it is tied to the Gain knob setting, whereas the Transit-B offers two separate bands of compression, controlled by a footswitch. In addition, you can set the EQ to come either before or after the compressor in the signal chain. In addition to the vastly greater control over compression offered by the Transit-B, the inherent tonal impact of compression on the Transit-B is generally more transparent than that on the ELF. When the compressor on the ELF starts to kick in, it is initially more transparent, but if you push it a bit, you definitely hear it squashing away. On the Transit-B, if I didn’t see the green light ring around the Lo-Band and Hi-Band knobs going dark, I might not have even known that it was compressing my signal.

Comparing the Transit-B (and Focus SA) to the AH1200SM, with the Pre Shape engaged on both and the EQ bypassed on both, again, the overall tonal balance was relatively similar, with the AH1200SM being a bit more smooth/warm, and the Transit-B being a bit more quick/clear.

All in all, I can definitely vouch for the fact that both the ELF head and the Transit-B do a surprisingly good job of producing bona fide “Trace Elliot tone,” though each with their own twist. It is also worth noting that the older Trace heads I used all have tube preamps, and the ELF and Transit-B are both entirely solid state.

I also spent some time comparing the ELF head to some smaller-stature bass heads from competing brands: GK MB200 (200w at 4 ohms, $369.00 street), TC Electronics BH250 (250w at 4 ohms, $279.00 street), and the GR Bass Mini One (350w at 4 ohms, $399.00 street). Though these other heads are thought of as being on the small size, the ELF is the tiniest of the bunch by a decent margin (with the Mini One being second, in that regard). To compare them, I set the tone controls to noon on all heads, and most of the “features” were all disengaged, other than the fact that the Deep switch on the Mini One was engaged (it was far closer to the others with the Deep circuit engaged, as opposed to bypassed). The BH250 and Mini One ended up sounding relatively close to each other, with a tone profile that was a bit less aggressive and a bit more mellow. The MB200 is slightly more aggressive than the others, with a bit more high-end bite and a bit more low-end presence (but with the expected reduction in terms of midrange presence). The ELF sits between these two camps, but closer to the GK than to the other two, though more balanced from top to bottom than the GK. All in all, for my preferences, the ELF came away as the tone champ.

Interestingly, when I cranked them all up quite a bit, and pushed them about as hard as I could without the signal breaking up and starting to sound stressed, they all started to sound much more similar to each other. It is also worth noting that the overall apparent volume – again, pushing a pair of the ELF 2×8’s – was very similar, despite the varying output power ratings.

One other comparison I made to the ELF was the Ampeg® Micro-VR (which is a lot bigger than the others, but otherwise sports similar specs in a similar price range; 200w at 4 ohms, $349.99 street). The ELF is more full-sounding than the Micro-VR with the EQ’s set “flat,” but even with the Bass boosted and the Treble cut some on the Micro-VR, the ELF still sounds more full. The Micro-VR does have that particular cut/clarity associated with the mighty SVT®, though, and I couldn’t quite dial that in on the ELF.

With regard to the sparring partners for the ELF cabs, it wasn’t quite as easy to find apples-to-apples comparison options. For the ELF 1×10, I first put them up against a pair of very old Trace Elliot 1×10’s – I am not even sure of the model numbers, though one has a tweeter, and one does not. The older cabs are both deeper and brighter sounding, even without the tweeter, and a bit “bigger” and more open sounding (they are larger enclosures, by a fair bit). The ELF 1×10 has more low-mid presence and more overall “focus” to the tone, making the older stack sound a bit thin by comparison. My other measuring stick for a pair of the ELF 1×10’s (combined 4-ohm load) was a single Ampeg SVT-210AV (8-ohm, 200w, $349.99 street). I made minor gain adjustments when doing this comparison to try and address the impedance difference. There are some definite similarities between these two rigs, with the 210AV presenting more upper-mids and the ELF 1×10’s being stronger in the lows and in the lower to middle-mids, and generally sounding more full. The 210AV is perhaps not as mid-forward, but also not as powerful sounding as the two ELF 1×10’s.

I put the (8-ohm) ELF 2×8 up against a (4-ohm) GR Bass GR208 (500w, $499.00 street), which is larger than the ELF 2×8 and also equipped with a tweeter (with three settings: Half, Off, and Full). Again, I adjusted gain as I switched between the two. With the GR’s tweeter set to Off, the lows and mids between the two cabs are relatively similar, though the GR is a bit more beefy, and the ELF is more extended up high. Setting the GR’s tweeter to Half, it takes the lead in high-end extension, and setting to Full, it has much more sparkle up high. The mids, though, are quite similar between the two, and with some EQ, the ELF can match the low-end output of the larger cab, as well as much of the high end content – though it can’t quite replicate the air and sparkle from a tweeter.

Not wanting to leave the ELF 1×0 Combo out of the A/B comparison fun, I put it up against what I suppose would be its grandfather (great-grandfather?), the venerable Trace Elliot BLX-150 combo, which sports a “slot-loaded” 1×10, no tweeter, and is rated at 150 watts. With the Pre Shape out, the BLX is definitely woolier and more forward in the low-mids. It is a closer match to the ELF Combo with the Pre Shape engaged, but the BLX still has a bigger, warmer, more enveloping tone, though there are some similarities. The ELF is more inherently clear and much more controlled sounding, with more going on in the upper-mids. The 7-band EQ on the BLX is very capable, though, and you can dial in a lot more clarity and really change the tonal character, from top to bottom. It’s amazing how it all comes through that vertical slot! While the ELF 1×10 Combo puts out a decent amount of volume for its size, the BLX makes it sound small (and in all fairness, the ELF is much smaller!), puts out more volume, and definitely moves more air. I will say that the fan on the BLX is much louder than that on the Elf. Both combos can drive an 8-ohm extension cab, and this greatly increases the volume capabilities of each.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head

One rather unfair comparison I made actually yielded some impressive and surprising results. I put the ELF 1×10 Combo up against an AER® amp one 1×10 combo (200w, $1,799 street). While the AER gets insanely loud for its size and rated power, and has a more powerful tone stack, I was very impressed by how similar the two combos sounded at lower volumes with both EQs set relatively “flat.” At 1/3 of the price of the AER, that is a fairly impressive feat for the ELF!

The Bottom Line

The new “big rig” Trace Elliot gear is certainly cause for excitement and anticipation, but the ELF lineup (and the Transit-B) are quite impressive in their own right. If nothing else, the success Trace Elliot has had with the ELF line gives me even greater hope for the success of the new Trace gear to come.

The ELF cabs are legit stars in their own right, and I would love to hear a pair of the ELF 2×8’s with the new TE-1200! The Transit-B can add some “Trace Elliot flair” to any pedalboard, or can serve as its own (mostly) fully featured “pedalboard.” And with the ability to throw it in your back pocket (or gig bag pocket), the ELF head may be the ultimate backup head. Whether you are new to the Trace Elliot brand, or a long-time aficionado, the ELF line definitely merits your attention.

Trace Elliot ELF Bass Head
Company:Trace Elliot
Hwy. 5022 Hwy. 493 North
Meridian, MS 39306
www.traceelliot.com
Model:ELF
Country of Origin:China
Year of Origin:2017
Warranty:2 years
Preamp Type:Solid state
Output Section:Class-D
Power Supply: Switched-mode power supply (SMPS)
Rated Output Power:130 watts (8 ohms), 200 watts (4 ohms)
Inputs:One ¼” instrument input
Outputs:¼” headphone out, ¼” external speaker out, balanced XLR DI
Controls:Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Volume, ground lift
Other Features:Compressor and drive circuit (tied to Gain control)
Options:N/A
Accessories:Carry bag
Dimensions:6.75” wide, 4.10” deep, 1.35” tall
Weight:1.6 lbs.
Price:$749.99 list, $599.99 street
Trace Elliot ELF 1×10 Bass Combo
Company:Trace Elliot
Hwy. 5022 Hwy. 493 North
Meridian, MS 39306
www.traceelliot.com
Model:ELF 1x10 Combo
Country of Origin:China
Year of Origin:2021
Warranty:2 years
Enclosure:18mm ply
Exterior:Spray-on (black)
Configuration1x10
Driver:Eminence (8 ohm)
Tweeter:N/A
Preamp Type:Solid state
Output Section:Class-D
Power Supply: Switched-mode power supply (SMPS)
Rated Output Power:130 watts (8 ohms), 200 watts (4 ohms)
Inputs:One ¼” instrument input
Outputs:¼” headphone/line out, ¼” external speaker out, balanced XLR DI
Controls:Gain, Bass, Mid, Treble, Volume, ground lift, speaker/headphones switch
Other Features:Compressor and drive circuit (tied to Gain control)
Options:N/A
Accessories
Cover
Dimensions:12” wide, 14” deep, 12.75” tall
Weight:18.5 lbs.
Price:$749.99 list, $599.99 street
Trace Elliot ELF 1×10 Bass Cab
Company:Trace Elliot
Hwy. 5022 Hwy. 493 North
Meridian, MS 39306
www.traceelliot.com
Model:ELF 1x10
Country of Origin:China
Year of Origin:2017
Warranty:2 years
Enclosure:18mm ply
Exterior:Spray-on (black)
Configuration1x10
Driver:Eminence
Tweeter:N/A
Rated Impedance:8 ohms
Rated Power Handling300 watts (RMS)
Inputs:Two dual Speakon/1/4” jacks
Other Features:Recessed top-mounted handle, cradle for ELF head
Options:N/A
Accessories
N/A
Dimensions:12” wide, 14” deep, 12.5” tall
Weight:16.2 lbs.
Price:$749.99 list, $599.99 street
Trace Elliot ELF 2×8 Bass Cab
Company:Trace Elliot
Hwy. 5022 Hwy. 493 North
Meridian, MS 39306
www.traceelliot.com
Model:ELF 2x8 Cab
Country of Origin:China
Year of Origin:2017
Warranty:2 years
Enclosure:18mm ply
Exterior:Spray-on (black)
Configuration2x8
Driver:Faital (8 ohm)
Tweeter:N/A
Rated Impedance:8 ohms
Rated Power Handling400 watts (RMS)
Inputs:Two dual Speakon/1/4” jacks
Other Features:Recessed top-mounted handle, cradle for ELF head
Options:N/A
Accessories
N/A
Dimensions:10.3” wide, 12.3” deep, 21.2” tall
Weight:27 lbs.
Price:$749.99 list, $599.99 street
Trace Elliot Transit-B Preamp and Effects Pedal
Company:Trace Elliot
Hwy. 5022 Hwy. 493 North
Meridian, MS 39306
www.traceelliot.com
Model:Transit-B
Country of Origin:China
Year of Origin:2017
Warranty:2 years
Preamp Type:Solid state
Output Section:Class-D
Power Supply: External 9VDC (900 mA)
Inputs:One ¼” instrument Input, one 1/8” Aux In
Outputs:¼” Dry Out, 1/8” Phones out, ¼” external speaker out, two balanced XLR DI (pre and post), ¼” Line out, ¼” Inst. Out
Controls:Output Level, Lo-Band, Hi-Band, Bass, Lo-Mid, Mid, Hi-Mid, Treble, Drive, Blend, Input Gain, Mute/Tune, Compression on/off, Equalisation on/off, Drive on/off, Pre-Shape on/off, Bass Enh. on/off, EQ Pre-Comp or Post-Comp, Passive/Active
Other Features:Built-in tuner (with display)
Options:N/A
Accessories:Carry bag
Dimensions: 6.75” wide, 4.10” deep, 1.35” tall
Weight:6 lbs.
Price: $429.99 list, $349.99 street
author avatar
Tom Bowlus
Editor-in-Chief, Tom Bowlus, surprised his parents by riding home from grade school on his 10-speed with an upright bass. Thus began a life-long love of all things bass… After writing reviews in 18 issues of Guitar World’s Bass Guitar Magazine, Tom founded Bass Gear Magazine in 2007. If there is one thing Tom loves more than playing all kinds of cool bass gear, it’s telling people about cool bass gear!