Gear Review: TC Electronic BG500

TC Electronic BG500 (featured image)“Small. Under-powered. Lackluster tone.” These words come to mind when one thinks of a bass combo amp. We’re pre-programmed to assume this as most combo amps are all those things because most combos are beginner amps. TC Electronics’ has set-out to destroy the old combo amp negative connotations with its new BG500.

The BG 500 bass combo amp comes in an Eminence 2×10 or Eminence 1×15 option, both with a 1” Eminence tweeter. Delivering 500 watts of power, these are not like the combo amps of years past. These combos will blow the door off its hinges or offer a great rehearsal volume in a relatively small 70 lb. package. And with a built-in tuner, compression, line-in, and tube tone replicator, these amps are on the cutting edge of combo amps.

Borrowing from Big Brother

Borrowing from the RH 450 bass head, the BG 500 offers the impressive SpectraComp™ built-in compressor. This is most impressive because unlike other compressors, it compresses the tone of each string, rather than a single-band compressor found in other amplifiers. This gives the amp a much cleaner, more-balanced tone than it would have otherwise.

Another feature borrowed from the RH 450 is a “TubeTone” effect. Rather than using a small preamp tube, this effect emulates the characteristics of an all-tube amp, giving you an arguably better, fuller tone. This gives the player the ability to dial-in a variety of tube tones, and even over-driving the tone, in a solid state amp. Yes that’s right, SOLID STATE.

Ever have a problem remembering the precise settings you had last week before your room mate moved all the knobs while cleaning? Not anymore! Maybe you need three different settings for three different playing styles that can be dialed-in hassle-free? This amp has three built-in memory banks so you can save your favorite amp settings. Just dial-in the right sound, save it to one of three banks (each has their own button and indicator light) and you’re good to go.

Improved Classic Combo Features

The BG 500 offers a bass tuner that automatically mutes all output (speaker, headphones, etc.) when engaged. The tuner will tune B-G, the most typical bass tones. The lack of a chromatic tuner does leave a little to be desired as far as alternate tunings, but there are plenty of other tools available to help with this.

The BG 500 also offers a horn attenuator so you can adjust your tweeter. However, TC placed it in the most brilliant and long-overdue position: on the front of the amp. Many horn attenuators are situated on the back, and bass players have always just dealt with it. This is a feature many of us have been waiting a long time for. Many amps also only offer a few positions (OFF, -15, +15) for the horn attenuator. This amp offers -5 through +5 settings, which gives the player much more flexibility.

The balanced out on the BG 500 is also placed on the front of the amp which is yet another long-overdue improvement on its “typical” placement on the back of the cabinet. Along with RCA auxiliary in for play-alongs and a headphone out, this amp has many industry-standard features, yet new designs that make this amp something special.


The BG 500 is punch enough to play rock, and boomy enough to play country. Delivering refined tone suitable for jazz and dirty, nasty punk/metal tones, this amp delivers tones suitable for almost every tonal palette. Playing around with the EQ, I was able to dial-in some wonderful jazz tones. With a tight low-end and crisp highs, this amp has a great sound if you’re looking to play Jaco or in a Big Band. For fun, I cranked the gain WAY up, and over-drove the tube emulator. I got some GREAT over-drive sound that took me back to my bedroom when I was 15, learning Cliff Burton’s (Anethesia)-Pulling Teeth.

There is only one drawback: portability.

There are no wheels or castor receptacles on the BG 500. This is a big miss for TC. I’m surprised there is nothing of the sort to help us out with getting this thing to the gig. It could really use a dolly-style handle and wheels, or at least a place to put some castors on the bottom. I often used a lumber cart when I had relatively small amps. This was not only to help me get it around, but let’s face it: amp wheels are NOT meant to be dragged through a parking lot, they are meant to help us move it around on smooth surfaces like stages and carpeted floors. The BG 500 is not heavy. 70 pounds is not completely obscene when it comes to amp weight. It is, however, large. Even with my long arms, I had a little trouble reaching around the cabinet to grab the recessed handles by myself. It’s a good idea to have a buddy help you carry this thing.

The Bottom Line

The BG 500 is a great combo for all styles. It gives a jazz combo bassist enough sound to be heard over the set. There is theoretically enough stage volume for rockers and with the balanced-out, you can throw it into the mix to run through the house PA, giving you a huge presence. With all the features on the BG 500, you’ll surely be able to dial-in any tones you want. You’ll be able to have complete control over everything on the front panel, even the tweeter. You can also mute and tune quickly, so long as you’re using standard tuning. And you’ll never forget an amp setting, thanks to three memory banks. However, you’ll need a friend or a cart to help you haul it around.

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  1. Ronnie

    Are these amps available in India

  2. John

    I’m really beating myself up as to whether I should replace my Trace Elliot combo with this. It looks great on Paper & I love the high end TC equipment – but even though its powerful @ 500 watts…it’s heavy!

    Has the usual TC quality been compromised, it’s also quite cheap (which worries me) Has anyone got one?

  3. Wes McMillan

    Absolutely NO TC quality has been compromised. This amps sound leaps out at first touch. This amp sizzles with rich tone (not horn hiss). It’s amazing all of the tones you can get with the EQ set flat! Just the spectracomp, tweetertone, & tubetone alone offer a world of tone varieties. Throw in tiny bits of boost & cut with the 4 EQ settings & whatever your going for will punch you much more than you expected. It’s wired @ 4 ohms for maximum performance with no additional speaker outs. Doing so would have required the combo to operate @ 8 ohms with a spkr out to achieve its’ operative 4 ohms. I would usually be annoyed with this, not thinking that 2 10″ spkrs would suffice for 500 watts. I WAS COMPLETELY WRONG ABOUT THIS! TC simply did us a favor by putting the whole rig in one box that is quite versatile & also ROCKS! Best hifi sounding bass combo I’ve ever had. So glad I bought one!!!

  4. Bezmotivnik

    # Has the usual TC quality been compromised

    YES! It’s a POS, now discontinued.

    # it’s also quite cheap (which worries me)
    # Has anyone got one?

    I bought one and it was literally falling apart on the way home, with the panel buttons falling out on the floor. The final run were all like this and everyone who got stuck with one seems to be griping about it.

    How well do you expect the insides to work when they can’t even make the controls stay on?

    I’m taking mine back. I never even bothered to plug it in. It’s just Chinese-made crap with a 12-month warranty that’s hard to access in the US.

    They dumped these through Guitar Center for $349, and I don’t think they’re worth the risk at even that price.

    Big hit to TC’s reputation.

  5. I have the 1×15 version of the BG500, and this amp rocks! It’s plenty loud enough, and has a great variety of tones.
    For the price there is not a combo on the market that even comes close to the “Bang for the buck” factor of this rig!
    No, it doesn’t have casters, but I went to the hardware store and $20.00 and 1 hour later, guess what? It has casters! Problem solved!
    The only thing I don’t like about this amp is the rat fur covering; God I hate that stuff! Hello? Tolex!

    This amp was obviously designed by Bass Players, as it is very well thought out.
    Bottom line: It’s a lot of amp for the money. If it got hit by a train, I’d buy another one.

  6. Picked up one that was next to new. I had a button fall off on the way home from picking this up. Although i picked it up for 250 dollars and this was literally brand new……i guess i’ll except the bad designed buttons. As long as i can obtain them from TC Electronics…..i’ll be ok with the fact the buttons are a bad design. I’m not going to judge the amp but a few small pieces of plastic button. Amp sounds very good powerful and clear. Anyone with a tiny bit of knowledge can pull a small button and replace it. If i bought this new when they were $650 dollars, id be pissed…but for 250. I’ll order a few buttons from TC and life goes on.