Gear Review: Epifani UL901 Bass Amp and DIST 2 1×12 Cabinet
In the past year, Epifani has revamped its flagship products with the next generation. The UL901 is the even-more modern version of the already sleek UL501, while the introduction of their DIST 2 series updates their line of cabs. Founder Nick Epifani’s vision for clean, accurate bass amplification was honed in working with bassists like Ron Carter, Anthony Jackson, and Oteil Burbridge. We got to take the 750-watt UL901 and a DIST 2 1×12 cabinet for a test run to see how they perform.
Upon opening the box, the rig’s sleek design and bold color scheme bring images of a high-end sports car to mind. Neither piece is a burden to carry, with the cab weighing in at 34 pounds and the amp coming in at just six pounds. That’s thanks to a Class D power section and digital power supply that Epifani designed in response to not liking any of the other digital amplifiers he heard.
Before firing it up, I had set up the cab’s impedance. As part of the DIST series, it has a switch to toggle its impedance between 4 and 8 ohms. I set it to 4 ohms, as this is what Epifani suggests to “get the most power from your amp.” You can add a second cab and set them to 8 ohms for extra power. The cab also has a four-position knob to adjust the tweeter level – more on that later.
There’s something a little magical about turning this amp on. Three lights pop out from the black and yellow scheme: a blue power indicator, a green peak light, and the red mute light. A 2-second diagnostic is done every time you turn the amp on and off, and it is always muted when you turn it on. This, for me, is a wonderful feature. It essentially always safeguards you from pumping sound out before you’ve gotten your settings (or bearings) on the gig. It is also a reminder to set your gain appropriately every time you use it. The peak indicator will flash red when you’re too hot.
Before you hit the gain, an input pad lets you select active or passive. It’s interesting to note that the active setting is the starting point and pushing the pad switch in sets the input for passive basses. This suggests Epifani knows what type of player is after this type of setup. After the gain knob, you get a three-band EQ complete with a frequency shift for the treble control that toggles between 3kHz and 6kHz. Next in line is the mid-cut knob that scoops up to 8dB at 800Hz. This control has an on/off switch for quickly changing your tone, but the knob’s configuration takes a minute to get used to. I’m used to turning a knob to the right to increase a cut, but in this instance, there is no cut when turned all the way to the right. Instead, that is its starting point and as you turn it to the left, the knob cuts deeper into the high-mids. It makes sense as you are removing frequencies by turning counter-clockwise just like the other EQ controls but just adds a small adjustment period.
The rear panel is fitted with a Neutrik Speakon 1/4″ combo speaker output, a tuner output, an effects loop with a mix control, and a D.I. output with a ground lift and level control. There’s also a jack to connect a foot pedal (not included) for activating the mid-cut and mute.
Ok, that’s enough about the features – now how does it sound?
I used the UL901 and DIST 2 1×12 cab with a few basses: a boutique active five-string with humbuckers, a budget J-bass, and my trusty upright. In every case, it was clear that this rig puts out what you put in. The character of each instrument was realized in a way that is clear, but not sterile. This was especially exciting for me with the upright, as I’ve always been picky and found amps to be either too boomy or too “honky” with the sound.
The whole amp offers clarity in every register, but I found myself in awe of the tightness of the bottom end. It responds immediately to your playing and gives plenty of heft when you want it. I was also impressed when letting a low B string ring out and noodling on the upper registers of the D and G. This amp’s power and voicing didn’t let anything get lost in the mix.
Speaking of clarity, each notch of the tweeter control on the cabinet backed off the high end to smooth things over into a more vintage vibe. Since I was so taken with the clarity, I found I preferred keeping the cab’s tweeter on full. It did prove useful when tuning the amp to certain stage situations.
Epifani describes their EQ as similar to a channel strip on a recording console, and they’re not kidding. A little bit goes a long way and, as they once again suggest, I discovered cutting a hair was preferable to boosting. The preamp’s architecture brings the full spectrum of your sound to the table, so you’ll only need to EQ a bit to adjust for the room. Hitting the treble shift helped to add brilliance to harmonics and a little more presence.
The mid-cut is a real gem of a tool. Cutting a little bit will get a sort of Fender Bassman sound, while really scooping it out will give you an almost instant Marcus Miller tone. The toggle lets you slip into a funky slap tone on the fly, but I can imagine slap fanatics leaving this on all the time. On upright, it helped to tame any upper-mid honk from my pickup.
This thing has headroom. The head is rated at 750 watts, while the cab is rated for 350 watts. I barely had to inch the master volume up to get some serious sound. Its warmth and definition are not like any other digital power amp I’ve heard and helped to give a new dimension to my jazz gigs. I also used it on a country-rock gig, where it had no problem filling up the room. A fellow bass player in the back of the venue told me it was always present, but not overpowering, letting the bass sit just right in the mix.
As far as connectivity, I appreciated having the level control for the D.I. to give me a little more control when working with sound engineers. I got to use the effects loop a handful of times, and also appreciated the mix knob. Many pedals have a blend knob for retaining your tone, but its cool to be able to retain your tone with your whole board. One change I’d like to see is the effects loop mix control being fitted to the front panel, which would make it easier for setting on the fly.
The Epifani UL901 and DIST 2 1×12 make a powerful, elegant amplifier solution that can suit a lot of needs. As they suggest with the EQ, it really feels like playing through a channel strip on a console. This is the closest I’ve ever felt to having my bass sound the way I envision it; almost like I had the tone from an album in a live setting. Now, an incredible rig like this does come at a cost. The UL901 carries a street price of $999.99 and the DIST 2 1×12 goes for $799.99, making this a $1,800 setup. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but in my mind, this is an heirloom kind of an amp and not a flavor of the month setup. This amp is for tone lovers and audiophiles. If you fall into one of those categories, this might be the setup for you.
Epifani UL901 Bass Amp Specs:
|Configuration:||Single Channel Preamp, Class-D Power Amp, Switch-Mode Power Supply|
|Power Rating:||1000 Watts RMS|
|Minimum Load:||2 Ohms|
|Input:||1/4-inch TS Phone Jack Passive: 470K? - Active: 200K?|
|Output:||Combination SpeakonTM and 1/4-inch|
|Send:||1/4-inch TS Phone Jack 200K?|
|Return:||1/4-inch TS Phone Jack 50K?|
|Tuner Out:||1/4-inch TS Phone Jack|
|Foot Switch:||1/4-inch TRS Phone Jack|
|Direct Out:||Low Impedance XLR w/ Level Control|
|Pre/Post EQ:||Selectable Switch sets DI Output to Pre/Post EQ|
|Tone Controls:||Bass: Shelving, +22 dB @ 40 Hz; Mid: +17 dB @ 450 Hz; Treble: Shelving, +22 dB @ 3 kHz or 6 kHz; Mid Cut: -8dB @ 800Hz|
|Dimensions:||12.25 inches (W) x 10 inches (D) x 3.5 inches (H)|
|Amplifier Response:||20 Hz - 25 kHz|
|Sensitivity:||98 dB (1W @ 1m)|
|Voltage:||Auto Adjusting Voltage - 115 Volts or 240 Volts, 50 or 60 Hz, 750 or 1000 Watts|
Epifani DIST 2 1×12 Bass Cabinet Specs:
|Configuration:||1 x 12-inch 350 Watt Epifani Neodymium Dual Voice Coil driver, 1 x 1-inch compression tweeter with adjustable control|
|Impedance:||User switchable between 4 Ohms and 8 Ohms|
|Power:||350+ Watts RMS|
|Frequency Response:||44Hz - 16kHz|
|Connections:||2 x Combination Neutrik Speakon and 1/4-inch input/output connectors|
|Hardware:||Lite-Ply Italian Poplar with Dado Joint construction, Reinforced carrying handle, 18-gauge steel grill, High-impact steel corners, Laster-etched logo|
|Dimensions:||20.5 in x 16.25 in x 17.25 in|