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ATS SL310 - Pete Townsend Signature

Just how is it possible to be objective about a bass cab that bears your signature, was designed specifically for you, based on your personal sound preferences? Not easy, but I will try my best ;O)


CONSTRUCTION/FEATUES:

Firstly, here’s what ATS say about the cab: Super lightweight and compact 1x10 bass guitar cab. Equipped with one 10” Custom Woofer with Neodymium Magnet in a innovative cabinet with three tuned levels, and one high efficiency compression mid-tweeter. The high frequency level is determined by the setting of the dedicated knob on the rear panel. The range level is from complete exclusion to +12 db. 

Both cabinets are high quality constructions in a durable coating that is tough enough to withstand most knocks and bumps. The cab has  a metal grille (with a mounted plate containg the ATS logo and a signature :O) and rugged plastic corners - allowing for easy and secure stacking. The cab has a recessed, top-mounted carry handles for easy moving about and, at a mere 10.5 kg, should prove a simple, and back friendly lift. The cab has two Speakon connections at the rear of each unit along with a level control for the tweeter, which ranges from a -9 dB cut to a boost of +12 dB. 

At just 445mm high, 355mm wide and 385mm deep, this cab handles 300 watts effortlessly. For a relatively small enclosure, the cab has a unique voice that remains articulate irrespective of the volume. 


SOUNDS:

As a stand-alone cab, the SL310 has an articulate, punchy tone with enough bottom end to satisfy most small to medium-sized venues. However, adding a second SL310 is sheer aural paradise! None of the articulation is lost and the bottom end is still very defined. What is immediately noticeable is the spread of sound. Obviously, placement of the cabs is crucial and, as with any bass cab, poor positioning or placing it on a resonant surface, or more commonly a pub chair (!) will compromise its voice. 

Using the ATS LBA5, provides a great combination with the SL310. Running a flat EQ, the response from the single cab, and both SL310’s, is sufficient to please the most ardent audiophile. You can push the cab volume-wise with no noticeable break-up of the signal. The tweeter control is a great way of tuning the cab to the acoustics of a venue or simply to proved a range of tones that work their way through the smooth, velvety lushness to a more transparent tone that cuts through the mix without any trace of harshness. 

RELIABILITY:

Givedn their robust construction, these cabs have carried out their role perfectly time and time again. It’s so reassuring to simply link up the amp and cabs and concentrate on the performance without ever a thought given to a potential back-line issue. Obviously, tramsporting the cabs in padded covers goes a long way to preserving their integrity and appearence. BHut I would suggest that providing you don’t mind a few rough edges or marks, then these cabs are built with a ruggedness that will more than test any roadie’s ability to inflict ‘character’ or the proverbial ‘raodworn’ look to your gear.


CUSTOMER SERVICE:

Simple - ATS customer service is second-to-none. ATS are people who care about their products and the people who use them. In the competitive world of bass gear reliabilty in every aspect is everything and ATS are rapidly building a distinctive reputation.

OVERALL:

OK, you will argue that I’m bound to give a glowing review of a piece of gear that not only bears my name but was a collaborative project. However, given the range of brand named gear that I’ve used, I can genuinely say that ATS gear is stunning. The cabs may not rate highly on the ‘bling’ scale but, let’s face it, this is back-line gear with an emphasis more on being heard rather than seen! A great piece of kit, which I’m proud to use. 

The Esoteric Choice...

Esoteric’ is an apt name for this delightful bass amp from ATS (Advanced Telecommunications Systems)  which may be of interest to only a small number of people, but many of you will appreciate the classy design of the amp and certianly appreciate its character when you hear it! 

Built by Enrico and Maurizio Santagati and their family in Italy, this piece of audio wizardry has a lot going on inside the diminutive chassis. Firstly, let me introduce you properly. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the 'ATS LBA-5 MK111’. Right, formalities over, let’s get up close and personal.

Construction/Features.

The amp’s size is small, I mean small at 23.5cm wide, 24cm deep and just 9cm high and weighs in at a mere 2kg. It’s metal body is reassuringly solid with two convenient grab handles at the front, which also serve to protect the controls from accidental knocks or inadvertant tweaks! 

The front face, with its black and pale grey livery, forms the background for two input channels. The top channel - labelled Input 2 - is a straiightforward three control affair of Gain, Level and Frequency. Basically, this channel is your no frills, flat EQ with a very subtle tonal shade provided by the Freq control. Although you can use this input alongside the main input and have two instruments - or instrument and voice, playing at once, it is most useful for those times you have two basses on the go (fretted and fretless?) making any changes quick and seamless. Here is the offical description of this channel: 'Channel # 2 of the LBA-5 MKIII is a ultra-linear channel and is a true reference channel, perfectly linear in frequency response and phase.'

The main input has the advantage of keeping you twiddling and tweaking into the small hours - almost the most fun you can have when wearing just your dressign gown! Along with the Gain control, you have a Contour, Bass and Treble control. Firstly, a word of caution, these controls are very sensitive and the slightest of tweaks makes a huge difference - you have been warned! The Bass and Treble controls are self explanatory but each offer the most amazing amount of range I have ever found on an amp. The Contour control is the magic button here and I would suggest leaving it set flat (centre) while you get the EQ set as you prefer. When turned clockwise, the Contour control intensifies the lows and highs while cutting the mids (yes, the ’smiley’ face) but this is a very musical sounding control and allows you to achieve some lovely jazz/fusion tones and, yes, it does make you want to slap too! Counter-clockwise, the mids are enhanced while slightly reducing the lows and highs. Some might say it’s a Precision to Jazz control but it’s far more than that and, again, slight movement makes a big difference - handle with care.

Finally, on the right you have a master volume, a limiter light and a vibrant blue light to indicate that you have power via the small on/off switch. There is also a Phones socket for those late night meanderings. 

On the reverse of the amp you have the mains socket and amp holder, the fan - which is extremely quiet - Speakon socket, DI and level control, Ground lift switch, Tuner input and effects send/return. Underneath the amp you have four sturdy, removal feet should you wish to use the available rack kit.

Sounds

Using a Ritter Roya, with a flat EQ, and the new ATS S112 cab, Input 2 produced a neutral sound that left virtually everything to your bass guitar EQ settings. A great idea if you simply love the sound of your bass (although you may never have really heard it before given some of the colouration provided by many amp manufacturers) or a really useful input for electro-acoustic instruments.

The main Input is where the fun begins and never ends. As previously mentioned, slight adjustments make big differences and it will take you a good while of tweaking to find that sound you can hear in your head. But, and this is where this amp excels, the sound that you have always wanted but never quite found is in there, it’s just going to take you some twists and turns, dead ends and various rouites to find it. This is by no means a detrimental comment but, let’s face it, if you could nail that sound immediately with any amp you’d have done it by now! Think of this as one of those computer games that requires you to go through several levels of learning and adventure before you reach the goal!!

Once the EQ is to your preferred sound then play with the Contour control and you’ll be amazed at what a vast range of tonal variation there is at hand. In fact, this amp could get away with just a Contour and Volume control - providing you can get the EQ on your bass and/or effects as you want them. Although, to be honest, you can throw away all those tweaky effect units and EQ boxes and simply enjoy the range of control provided by the amp. Keep it simple, it works!

Overall, the range of sounds can go from your reggae, dub thump through to your blues, jazz and, dare I say it, metallic crunch! At this point, I should say that the variable tweeter on the cab is amazing and never brittle or glassy.

Reliability

Apart from being built to a very high standard and feeling extremely robust, the amp has no flimsy controls or switches that are too apparent on amps these days. Everything feels solid and capable of withstanding years of musical endurance. 

Customer Service

ATS equipment is available from those extremely helpful folk at Bassgear. Apart from the UK connection, any questions or advvice is readily available from ATS

Overall

The old adage of “You get what you pay for” firmly applies here. The LBA-5 is in a similar price bracket to quite a few other, top quality manufacturers. The difference here is the attention to detail, everything being built by a small company who care passionately about their products and who have gone way beyond the basics to provide an amp that is not only built to last but built to entertain - both your ears and those of the general public who have become indifferent to the booming wooliness or raucous glassiness of far too many bass amps. 

The ATS LBA-5 (give it a pet name, it’s easier to remember) is a top quality, top notch product. It has been developed not only by a technical genius but by people who care about how you and the audience hear music. Highly recommended.   

 


© Pete Townsend 2015