Hartke VX3500
Hartke VX3500

VX3500, Bass Guitar Combo Amp from Hartke in the VX series.

MGR/Chris Cruise 10/24/2004

Hartke VX3500 : MGR/Chris Cruise's user review

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After a lengthy search (internet and in person) and comparison of several makes/models, including Ashdown, Ampeg, Fender, GK, and the likes, I found this model manufactured by Hartke. I already owned and used a Hartke B-90 (which is another review in itself, as it is an extremely cost effective and effecient amp, so I was familiar with the brand and quality.
I purchased the unit at Damm Music, in Wichita, Ks. I went in and asked if they could match the price I had found on the internet ($699.99)and they said they could. So, I prefer giving my business to a home-owned store, and they were new in the town and needed the biz, so they ordered it for me. I found it to be a deal in that I didn't have to pay shipping for it (and it is one heavy dude, being about 110# or so).
I wanted a combo amp, due to the portability of one compared with the rack-mount and cabinet concept. Having owned both, I was looking for easy this time, with an amp which could render the "goods" as a combo amp.

This amp is a "combo" amp, in that it is a single unit,approximately 16"x26"x33". It has the Hartke HA 3500 series head (350 watt, effects send/return, two seperate preamps, one being a tube preamp vs. a solid state preamp, both being able to be mixed in any combination for preamplification. The power section is controlled by a master volume, so one can achieve a full tube preamp and power output, or mix them any way they choose. It offers a multitude of sounds and tones, via a 10 band graphic EQ, (lit by LEDs)which can be placed in or out of the mix,as well as a bass and a treble contour control (ie. boost or cut). It has a compressor, which is switchable (in/out) having an LED which shows when compression is occurring.
I prefer to run the tube (I believe it is a 12AX7) preamp full-on and adjust the volume with the master. Sounds like a tube amp (Ampeg) and performs like a tube amp.
One can get about any type of amplification wanted, from extremely bright, punchy tones to the "ooomph" of a 2x15 cabinet. The speakers are Hartke's 10" paper cone type. Not the aluminum drivers they are known for, and this probably helps keep the cost down, as well as giving it a bit more warmth. It has four drivers with a piezo horn mounted center off them.
At 350 watts, this baby will crank it out. It is an impressive looking amp, with most functions (EQ, compressor, etc.) being LED lit, making it extremely user-friendly for a gigging musician working on a dimly lit stage.

A footswitch would have been a nice touch, so that one could control the compressor, the graphic, and the boost/cut contours. Of course, with such a concept, one would have to rely on presets at the amp itself, but the ease with which it could be achieed would be nice.
The weight is a bummer, I must admit, but it is equpipped with good side mount recessed handles (needed, believe me!)which balance the unit for carrying pretty good. It has casters which are integral, making it much easier to move around stage or home.

The unit seems to be extemely road worthy. The fact that it is a combo (picture a 4x10 cabinet with a head mounted above it which is integral in the cab.)makes set-up and tear-down pretty easy. I will admit that it is, pretty much, a two-man/woman amp when it comes to transport. The unit is covered in black carpet, with a steel mesh grill. The speaker frames are a dull silver, as is the horn, giving it an agressive look. It looks as good as it sounds.

Having owned many amps and basses in the past, from Kustoms (circa 70's) to GK's (mid 80's), I find this amp to exceed the requirements for most bass players. It would be strong enough for stage in mid-size venues, and more than adequate in clubs and bars.
Bang-for-buck, you can't beat it. It has features and tones which are comparable to much higher priced amps and cabs. Given the fact that it is a combo amp, making transport much easier for the working bass player, it is a great value.
You like it loud, this baby can provide it. You want flexibility and portability, as well as great sound, it can provide it. For the cost, I feel it truly cannot be beat.

This review was originally published on http://www.musicgearreview.com