This Article Was Originally Published On: February 3, 2015 #Issue 15.
The Company Line
Fender really wowed us with their top-of-the line Super Bassman 300 head and Bassman Neo 610 cab. This time around, we take a look at the third iteration (V3) of their more affordable, but solid-performing, Rumble™ series. This line of bass amplification products includes six combos (ranging from 15 watts to 500 watts), two bass heads (200-watt and 500-watt flavors), and two bass enclosures (4x10 and 1x15). For this review, Fender sent us a Rumble 200 head and Rumble 115 enclosure.
The Rumble series has always meant great bang for the buck, full-featured products, ranging from personal practice solutions to gig-worthy rigs. In their latest form, the Rumble combos, heads and cabs are now lighter than ever before. But do they maintain the high customer expectations earned by the prior incarnations? Let’s find out…
The Rumble lineup, as a whole, has a mostly vintage-inspired look and feel, with some modern touches. The black and silver theme sported by the cabs and combos is offset by the “ivory soft touch radio” knobs and chrome accents. When I first saw the new Rumble product line at the NAMM Show, I spent a little time talking to Fender engineer Dave Lewis before I started picking things up. He told me that the new cabs and combos employed ceramic drivers, which are heavier (but decidedly more affordable) than neodymium-based drivers. However, when I did get around to picking them up, I was surprised by how light they were. In fact, even the biggest combo (the Rumble 500) passed my “pinky test.” Obviously, Fender is shaving some weight on the plywood side of the equation, but they felt pretty sturdy (though obviously only years of hard gigging will tell you exactly how sturdy). The heads are not huge, but yet not as “micro” as some of the other micro heads on the market. They are quite lightweight, though, and it is nice to have reasonably sized and spaced controls.
Taking a look at the Rumble 200 head, the front panel layout starts with a single ¼” input, followed by the input Gain knob, and then the three small push-button switches for the Bright, Contour, and Vintage tone circuits. Next up is the switchable Overdrive section, with controls for both the amount of Drive and the volume Level of the overdrive effect. In addition to being able to turn this circuit on/off using the push-button switch on the front panel, it can also be controlled via the optional footswitch. An LED indicates when the Overdrive circuit is active. A 4-band EQ follows, featuring controls for Bass (+/- 15dB at 80Hz), Low Mid (+/- 12dB at 280Hz), High Mid (+/- 12dB at 1.2kHz)and Treble (+/- 15dB at 10kHz). The final knob is the Master volume control, and a red indicator light (showing power-on status) completes the front panel features. The back panel has the IEC input connector (100-120v), power switch, two ¼” speaker outputs, XLR line out (with ground lift), 1/4″ footswitch jack, 1/8″ stereo Aux In and Phones jacks, and 1/4″ jacks for Effects Send and Return. Note: the balanced XLR Line Out is affected by all preamp controls, including EQ and gain.
The companion 1x15 enclosure is covered in textured black vinyl, with silver grill cloth and chrome (non-stacking) corners. Two meaty recessed dish handles are placed on the sides of the cab. The bottom of the enclosure sports four rubber feet and removable casters. The top of the cab has four small cups which accept the feet on the bottom of the Rumble series heads. What’s even better is that the Rumble heads and cabs use Fender’s patented “Magnetic Rumble Head-Attachment System.”
A Closer Look
While the Rumble 200 has a number of welcome features, I did notice a few omissions. The first thing I noticed is that there are no gain or clipping indicators, so you really have to use your ears when dialing in the Gain and Master settings. It also lacks a mute switch (which is not so uncommon in the 200-watt head market, but it is pretty much expected on a 500-watt head – like the Rumble 500). I was kinda hoping for at least one Speakon® output, as well. Once again, this absence is not unexpected on the 200-watt Rumble 200, but I was surprised that Fender did not include Speakon outputs on the Rumble 500. Those nits being picked, let’s move on to talk about how this baby sounds.
The baseline tone of the Rumble 200 is pretty neutral, and it sounds very good with the EQ controls set to “noon” and all tone circuits disengaged. Engaging the Bright circuit (+13dB at 10kHz) sounded great with my passive basses, but it was a bit too much (for me, personally) with my basses in active mode. The Contour circuit was pretty subtle (at least in comparison to other “contour” controls I have used on other brands), and very usable. It cuts the midrange a bit (while boosting both low and high frequencies a bit), but does not seem to scoop the heck out of the mids. The Vintage tone circuit takes the edge off of the top and upper mids, much like rolling back the passive tone knob on your bass. It definitely fattens things up, and seems to have a slight gain boost in the lows.
I’m an admitted tube snob, and in the past, I have treated on-board solid state “overdrive” circuits with a strong level of suspicion. However, I have to say that this Overdrive circuit is pretty good. Dare I say, this is an overdrive that I could gig with. True story. Yes, it was a bit harsh with some of the cabs that I tried with the Rumble 200, but this can be fixed with EQ. The character and tone of the drive stay consistent throughout its range, and pretty much the entire range of the Drive knob is usable. While it would be ideal to be able to tweak the EQ of the overdriven tone, relative to the clean tone, there isn’t any real need to “fix” the tone in overdrive mode. The lows stay nicely full, more so at the higher Level settings. The Overdrive circuit does introduce some noise/hiss, but I mostly heard this when using basses in active mode. With passive axes, it’s not very noticeable. The Level control allows you to match the volume of your dirty tone to that of your clean tone.
The 4-band EQ offers lots to like. All four bands have center detents, and the large knobs are both easy to use (no holding your fingers just so to adjust one control without moving the other) and readily visible on stage. All four EQ bands seem well-chosen, and they all sounded musical and useful in both boost and cut mode. A rarity, in my experience. Another pleasant surprise: the Bass knob is usable through its entire range.
The 200-watt, lightweight bass head market is actually a bit more crowded than I would have expected. Having a few on hand, I was able to make several direct comparisons. Compared to the GK MB200, the Rumble 200 is a tad warmer, but in the same general ball park. The GK’s contour circuit is more noticeable, with more high-end sheen. Compared to the TC Electronics BH250, the TC was more full/warm/round than the Rumble. Moving on to the Ampeg Micro-VR, the Ampeg is more edgy/gritty, and the Fender is more warm/full. All of these had very similar output volume into an 8-ohm load, and they were within spitting distance of each other driving a big, 4-ohm 2x15.
Moving on to the Rumble 115 cab, this enclosure impressed me right out of the box. It looks great and feels solid. Once I plugged it in, the Rumble 115 continued to please. It has a strong low B, a nice blend of warmth and articulation, and good clarity and detail with the tweeter full on. The 3-way tweeter switch (full-on, off, and on, but -6dB) is surprisingly effective. Turning the tweeter off yields a very different, more vintage tone. The -6dB setting is more subtle (compared to full-on), but sounds very nice (with most basses and heads, it was my favorite setting). The black vinyl covering was well applied, and the silver cloth-covered grill is held on with eight Velcro® strips. Acoustic treatment is visible through the ports.
For comparison’s sake, I put the Rumble 115 up against the Ampeg PF-115HE (which is a sealed enclosure). There were definite similarities, but the Rumble has a bit more low end depth and high end clarity, whereas the Ampeg is a bit more mid-forward and a tad more full up high. The sealed PF-115 had a tighter low end, whereas the ported Rumble 115 was a little “bigger” sounding. I am very impressed with the Rumble 115, and I’d love to hear two of these enclosures with the Rumble 500 head.
The Rumble series from Fender has always offered solid gear that gets the job done. This latest iteration is perhaps the best yet. The lighter weight will appeal to many, but the warm yet clear tone, and excellent EQ section, will seal the deal for others. When you factor in the reasonable price and Fender’s 5-year warranty (1-year for speakers), there are lots of reasons to love Fender’s new Rumble line of amps, cabs and combos.
Rumble 200 Bass Head
|Preamp Type:||Solid state|
|Rated Output Power:||140 watts @ 8 ohms, 200 watts @ 4 ohms|
|Inputs:||One ¼” input jack (1MΩ), 1/8” Aux In (10kΩ), Effects Return (22kΩ), footswitch Input|
|Outputs:||Two ¼” speaker outs, Effects Send (1kΩ), 1/8” headphones out|
|DI:||Balanced XLR, with ground lift|
|EQ:||4-Band (Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, Treble), Bright, Contour and Vintage options|
|Other Features:||Switchable Overdrive circuit (with Drive and Level control), footswitch control for Overdrive, magnetic head-attachment system|
|Dimensions:||2.68” x 13.8" x 7.19"|
|Price:||$399.99 List, $299.99 Street|
Fender Rumble 115 Bass Cab
|Enclosure:||15mm Indonesian Meranti plywood|
|Exterior:||Black textured vinyl covering with silver grille cloth|
|Driver:||One 15” ceramic Eminence driver|
|Tweeter:||One 1” HF compression tweeter w/ 3-Position Full/Off/-6dB switch|
|Rated Nominal Impedance:||8 Ohms|
|Rated Power Handling:||300 watts|
|Inputs:||One ¼” and one Speakon speaker jacks|
|Other Features:||Side-mounted handles, removable casters, magnetic head-attachment system|
|Dimensions:||20.75” H x 23" W x 14.5" D|
|Price:||$399.99 List, $299.99 Street|