Bass Gear Issue 9 : Page 46
T! S E T bass gear ass 46 b gear
Baer Amplification ML-112 Bass Cab
During my tenure at Bass Gear Magazine, I’ve laid hands on a lot of speaker enclosures. Over the last 30 years, as a player, I’ve played through many more, always looking for that one setup that will do all things at all times. Vintage tones, modern tones, electric bass, double bass; this cab with that head; that cab with that bass; yet something else for double bass. Sealed cabs, ported cabs, ceramic cabs, neo cabs, one-way cabs, two-way cabs, three-way cabs! Aiiieeee!!! It’s enough to make your head spin!<br /> <br /> Having so many choices has been both a blessing and a curse. Just about the time I think I had some things figured out, Eminence releases their line of lightweight “super drivers,” and everything changes, again! Their LF and HO-series of neo drivers now means not only lighter weight cabs, but higher output from smaller boxes. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure how this is a bad thing, until I tried two very good flavors of LF-loaded “Super Cabs:” the AudioKinesis TC112 and TC115 cabs; and several variants of David Green’s “fEARful” designs. While these two designs share some similarities, they ended up being more different than similar to each other. David’s designs use “off the shelf” components, and have big lows, high highs, nicely present mids; and are a distinctly different flavor than the AudioKinesis products, which use custom-tweaked components, have tighter lows, highs that don’t range as high and are, overall, very even and more “reference monitor” sounding. I had hoped one or the other would be the “end-all” for my needs. Instead, they’re two distinctly different flavors of great – neither of which meets all my many needs, all the time, and neither of which “sound like a traditional” cab when pushed hard. These new-fangled lightweight drivers sure do make for some nice, lightweight, high-output speaker cabs, but they just don’t break up and add harmonic content when pushed, like more traditional drivers do, and I miss that at times... Dang!!!<br /> <br /> So, I called up Boss Man Bowlus and whined: “Oi! Boss, I’ve got such a headache! I thought one of these newfangled ‘Super Cabs’ was gonna be ‘The Final Solution!’ They’re both great cabs, but neither is every last thing I want it to be. They each sound great in their own way, but something about this new generation of drivers just doesn’t sound the same as a more traditional cab... What’s a boy to do?” <br /> <br /> His answer was as brief as it was obtuse: “Take two Bayer and call me in the morning.” And click, he was gone; leaving me wondering, what, exactly, was he talking about... <br /> <br /> Oh: Now I Get It!<br /> <br /> Not knowing what else to do, and, The Boss being The Boss, I did as instructed, and took two aspirin, and went to bed.<br /> <br /> I woke up the next morning, shook the cobwebs out of my gig-addled brain, started some coffee, and was re-hashing my conversation with Mr. Bowlus when the doorbell rang: it was The Big Brown Truck, delivering two large boxes labeled “Baer Amplification.” Ahhhh: now I get it: “Baer,” not Bayer!” Boss-man done sent me an answer to my question! Time to get to work... <br /> <br /> “I Looove New Gear Day!” or, “What’s Behind Door Number Three?” <br /> <br /> I love new gear day! I couldn’t wait to open those two boxes and see what was inside; so I set down my coffee, hauled ‘em in, and opened ‘em up. What would Contestant #3 in the Battle of The Super-Cabs look like? Four-way? Five-way? Would it have dilithium crystals, and be robot-powered? As it turns out, no, not so much... <br /> <br /> Out of the box, the ML112’s look pretty normal. A very, very nice normal! The padded covers were the first thing I noticed while taking them out of their boxes. They’re very nicely made, and even have a spiffy Baer logo on them.<br /> <br /> The Baer’s immediately impress with a super level of fit, finish, and attention to detail. The lightly “pebbled” tolex is very high quality. The carry handle is nicely contoured for comfort, and held down with two fasteners per side. Even though the ML112 is a large box for a 1x12 –measuring 23.25”w x 16.25”h x 16. 625”d – it weighs only 36 pounds and is a very easy one-handed carry. The grill is a nice solid piece with rolled-over edges, and its retention screws have covers on them. The mid driver is contained in its own built-in chamber. Even the Baer badge on the grill is nicely made and looks classy. The Baer’s twin triangulated ports serve not only to tune the cab, they also promote even airflow across the driver during severe duty, and serve as internal bracing – nice touch.<br /> <br /> Roger Baer explains: <br /> <br /> “We feel there’s more to porting a cab than simply randomly sticking a plastic tube anywhere there is room for it. The ports are part of the overall design of the cab and also serve to tie the bottom and side walls together, as well as add extra rigidity to the baffle. Between the Baltic birch baffle, the diagonal bracing and the mid box, the baffle is extremely rigid. Both the inside edge of the board that makes up the port, as well as the outside edge where it meets the baffle are fully rounded over to help prevent turbulence.” <br /> <br /> The ML112 also has two sets of feet: one for horizontal, and one for vertical use. I really like this option! I’ve been using two small cabs stacked vertically for a long time. The vertical stack not only gets the sound up where I personally can hear it more easily, but I feel the vertical stack throws into a room a bit cleaner.<br /> <br /> Turning to the rear panel, two things are immediately apparent. The panel itself is black and red – the “company colors,” a nice bit of detail. Perhaps not so readily apparent to those not familiar with them are the two “dual use” Speakon™ input jacks. These allow you to use either a Speakon-terminated cable, or a ¼” cable. This virtually eliminates the odds of you showing up at a gig with “the wrong cable,” and it’s a feature I really like.<br /> <br /> What Makes a Baer Roar <br /> <br /> Roger Baer, the man behind the name in Baer Amplification, is a bassist himself and came up listening to, admiring, and playing the music of guys like Chris Squire and Geddy Lee. You know their tone: grindy, aggressive, driving... Roger also grew up tinkering with, and building, lots of different things. His current job outside Baer Amplification reflects this. In fact, you probably already know his work as the art director for the competition department of the hit TV show, Big Brother.<br /> <br /> With that mindset and those skills at hand, it was really just a matter of time before Roger tried to fix the shortcomings he’d always felt he had in his bass rigs. “I always felt like horns were too bright, and didn’t present the grit, grind, and overdrive I like very well. And I always felt that cabs without them were too dark.” His answer: the ML-series cabs, which he hoped would split that difference, providing enough brightness and clarity, without the harshness he’s always felt horns delivered.<br /> <br /> The Baer ML112 has two components that immediately set it apart from many bass cabs on the market today. First, is the 12” neo woofer. It is a custom design by Eminence that combines pieces and traits of both the 3012LF and 3012HO “super” drivers. Second, it uses a mid driver, instead of a more traditional horn. In fact, the “ML” stands for “mid-loaded.” <br /> <br /> Roger’s choice for the main driver, a 3012LF/3012HO hybrid, was a direct result of looking at what was already present in the marketplace, and trying to fill an empty niche. There are already plenty of “standard” bass cabs. There are also several varieties of “next generation Super Cabs” using either LF or HO-series speakers; both of which he felt had certain shortcomings. “The LF drivers are essentially a subwoofer. They can be a little too deep, and get boomy in some situations, and while the HO drivers provide more traditional response, they just don’t quite have the heft I was looking for.” <br /> <br /> So, he spent many hours talking to the engineers at Eminence, who then built him several iterations of an “LF/HO mash-up” driver for testing. In the end, Roger’s hybrid driver incorporates what he feels is the best of both the LF and HO drivers: plenty of bass, plenty of output, and a frequency response well beyond the LF’s subwoofer range, giving it the feel of a traditional cab. Roger’s hybrid has frequency response from @ 55Hz to @ 4kHz, at about 98dB sensitivity. “Our engineer at Eminence thinks of this driver as a tweaked LF with less low end, more midrange and higher output. But, for that matter you can also think of it as an HO with a little more low end and less mids.” <br /> <br /> Next up: how to deliver plenty of mids and highs, and remain both pleasant and present while doing so. Roger found his answer in a high-performance neo mid driver from Faital.<br /> <br /> Before you make any snap judgments about a mid driver design choice, thinking “a cab with only a mid driver and no horn is never going to deliver enough top-end content for me,” let me assure you that this is not the case. In fact, even calling the Faital in the Baer ML112 a mid driver is probably a misnomer, as it delivers content well beyond what you might expect from a driver with that label.<br /> <br /> While the Faital Roger uses has a bit of a bump at 1kHz – which one might think of as traditional midrange – it’s very strong from 3-6kHz, and still delivers content well beyond that. “I was looking for a driver that would deliver a top end with punch and weight to it, which I just don’t feel a one-inch compression driver does very well. Something that could deliver a pleasant slap without being overly bright and harsh sounding. It was also a top priority that the driver be able to deliver overdriven tones with warmth and musicality, and I just feel that paper cones are much better at delivering that. We really wanted the ML series cabs to have a signature sound that no other cab in the marketplace has, and I feel that our custom woofer and Faital mid driver really help these cabs deliver on all that.” <br /> <br /> Roger and crew spent a lot of time playing with the crossover to get it where they wanted and ended up setting it at @ 1.5kHz. “Our custom woofer has a bit of a spike at 1.5kHz. A lot of work went into letting just the right amount of that spike from the woofer through, but not all of it. I’ve always felt that this is an area that lends a lot of bite and articulation to your tone, but most players don’t like to boost here – because the EQ on your amp tends to have too wide a bandwidth – which ends up boosting some unflattering frequencies, as well. We feel this makes for a very smooth transition, great midrange presence, and plenty of top end.” <br /> <br /> Defying Expectations <br /> <br /> Bass Gear Magazine recently tested a very nice two-way 3012LF-based “Super Cab” with a compression driver horn – the AudioKinesis TC112AF. This cab had nicely balanced frequency response from bottom to top, and a super sweet, but present, treble presentation. We also recently tested two three-way LF “Super-Cabs” with a mid driver and a compression driver horn in the fEARful 15/6/1 and 12/6/1. These cabs had beefier low end, a nicely present mid range, and much more extended treble response. Based on my personal experience with these LF-based “Super Cabs,” and considering the ML’s parts list and design, I thought I had a fair idea of what the ML112 would sound like; I was wrong.<br /> <br /> Frequency response for the ML112 listed on the Baer website shows 55Hzto 7kHz at -3dB, and usable frequency response of 40Hz to 9kHz at 10dB. So, what do all those numbers add up to? I was anxious to find. The first thing I did was get out my trusty Sadowsky MV5 J-bass and my GK MB Fusion amplifier and hooked up one of the ML112’s.<br /> <br /> I’ve been one of those bass players who always preferred to have a horn, and yet always felt they had their shortcomings. I have felt in the past that cabs without them are just too dark. I also feel that many horns not only can sound harsh at times, but also don’t do a great job presenting grit, grind and especially overdrive. Distortion through a horn has made me a distortion anti-fan.<br /> <br /> With that in mind, it took me half an hour or so of futzing with my EQ, technique, and just plain old “letting my ears adjust” to the way the ML cabs present their treble. There’s certainly no lack of it. Finger, string and fret noise are all there, and well represented. In fact, this cab encourages you to clean up your technique! Clarity: present and accounted for. Aggression (single-coil J-bass grind): it’s all here. Slap-tone: no problem; dig in and beat your strings to your heart’s desire, that Faital mid won’t fold up and go home like some horns do. The ML’s don’t present like a traditional horn though, and that does take some adjusting to, at first. There’s plenty of usable treble response there. They deliver great mid-presence. The ML’s treble response doesn’t range quite as high; it’s a little more pleasant and easier on the ears than many horns. What a nice surprise!? What it won’t do is deliver that sheen, air or extended range sizzle that a horn will. But, of course, this isn’t a fault; it’s by design.<br /> <br /> What’ll She Do?<br /> <br /> All the tech and company details aside, what’s always foremost in our collective minds at BGM can be summed up in “car speak:” what’ll she do? Plenty of good things, as it turns out. My first gig with the pair of ML’s was a smallish, boomy club. I packed along a Sadowsky RV5JJ, and a Mesa WalkAbout, hoping for a vintage meets modern kind of tone, and that’s just what I got. Even though I prefer a taller stack, I started with the cabs horizontal for the first set. Roger says they’re a little fatter like this, since they couple together more completely, and I think this accurate. I used the vertical stack for second set and the rest of this show. It’s not a big difference; stacked vertically is “a little tighter,” which was helpful in this room, and, something to consider if you’re using these in a room where low-end reverberance is an issue.<br /> <br /> The WalkAbout’s fat, plush, vintage feel was delivered very nicely by the ML’s: thick, warm and very three-dimensional. By goosing the treble on the Sadowsky preamp, the ML’s went from a more vintage feel to a more modern feel quite nicely. Turning the WalkAbout up a bit yielded increasingly complex and wellrepresented midrange and harmonics. <br /> <br /> Turning up a bit more, put the walkAbout into the “breakup zone.” I’ve never liked grit/overdrive through a horn, and so I don’t use that part of the WalkAbout’s powerband very often, but the ML’s mid driver makes that sort of tone very pleasant and musical. I was surprised to find that I, a Devout Overdrive Hater, actually enjoyed a bit of overdrive for a change. The ML cabs turn overdrive from a harsh pile of grit I never cared for into something much more pleasant and musical. Very nice. If you are a regular overdrive user, this is a big plus, in my opinion.<br /> <br /> The treble response from the ML’s is different than a horn, but after playing the ML’s for this first gig, I completely forgot about missing “that horn feel.” Noteworthy on this first gig was the ML’s bass response: just right. Some LF-based cabs I’ve tried were overly bottom heavy, compared to the rest of their frequency response. Roger’s combination of the LF/HO hybrid driver and astute cab tuning yield a completely controlled low end that delivers fat without boom, and is very well balanced to the rest of their frequency response. Also noteworthy is that just a little bit of treble boost on the Sadowsky had my tone as bright and cutting as I could ask for; but again, it just feels a little different, if you’re used to horns.<br /> <br /> The next gig was a much bigger club. I took the ML’s, a GK MB Fusion head, and a Sadowsky MV5PJ. The Sadowsky/GK pairing generally delivers a crisp, clean, hard-hitting modern tone for me, and the ML cabs did this surprisingly well.<br /> <br /> The ML’s mid-forward nature punched right through a dense mix of guitar, piano and horn section with no problem, and took the added power of the MB Fusion (500 watts, compared to the WalkAbout’s 300) without complaint. Despite the fact that my Sadowsky P/J is a bass with quite a bit more native low-end heft than the Sadowsky RV5JJ, the ML’s never felt stressed or pushed. The ML’s delivered the more modern, aggressive nature of the Sadowsky/GK pairing well, and also took EQ changes from genre to genre quite well. Country, jazz, rock: the ML’s delivered, consistently.<br /> <br /> Baer say their 6” mid driver delivers mid/treble content with more punch than a 1” compression driver horn, and that feels like an accurate statement. The mid driver may not go as high as some horns, nor feel as “airy or modern” in its presentation as a compression driver, but there’s absolutely no lack of content. In fact, the ML’s deliver a bit of a mid-push; if your technique isn’t spot on, you’ll now hear string/fret/finger noise you might not have heard in your playing before. Dig in on the strings, or slap them into the fingerboard, and that content comes at you hard, loud, and clear.<br /> <br /> I did several more gigs with the Baer ML stack, and they both went very well: one with a 700-watt GK 1001RBII, and one with a 900-watt Mesa M9. In neither case did the Baer’s flinch under a boatload of power. They did a great job of making the GK’s growl and grind sound pleasant and musical.<br /> <br /> While the M9 sounded nice enough through the Baer’s, that amp’s extended, shiny treble response sounded a little muted through the ML’s. In all cases, on all the jobs I used them on, the Baer’s did a great job of reproducing all the small changes in EQ, all the nuances in my playing, and all the different right and left-hand techniques I use. Also, in all cases, the Baer’s felt more like a traditional cab than the other “Super Cabs” I’ve used. The Faital mid driver does a great job of adding pleasing harmonic content when pushed hard, and that feels more like what you might get with a traditional bass cab, compared to the AudioKinesis and fEARful designs – something to consider if that particular feel is important to you.<br /> <br /> The Bottom Line <br /> <br /> The Baer ML’s deliver on all fronts. They’re thoughtfully designed for their mission. They’re a beautifully executed build, using all high quality components. They respond wonderfully to tone-shaping EQ changes, and to player input. They sound great at lower and middle volume use, and hold their own just fine when hit with big power. The one, and perhaps the only thing, they don’t do, is sound like a hornloaded cabinet – which is just fine, since they’re not supposed to. Baer have several other exciting products in development that promise to be every bit as good as the ML112’s; keep your eyes open for them.<br /> <br /> BAER ML112 BassCab<br /> <br /> This is one of the finest cabs which I have evaluated from a technical perspective. The enclosure is covered in a thicker, almost padded, vinyl tolex covering, which Baer Amplification refers to as “Black Cougar.” The corners are of the chrome, non-stacking variety, are fairly compact, and are installed to tight tolerances. The top-mounted handle is extremely sturdy, and definitely inspires confidence when carrying the cabs – though as light as they are, a flimsier handle would have likely done just fine. The (stock) feet on<br /> <br /> Some heads will not clear the handle when the cab is placed in horizontal configuration, but Baer outfits this cab with two sets of four heavy duty rubber feet, which allows for both horizontal and vertical stacking. In its vertical orientation, a flat surface is presented upon which to place your bass head.<br /> <br /> This is a great feature.<br /> <br /> The powder-coated steel grill is lightweight, yet durable, and presents a minimal profile for blocking the output from the<br /> <br /> 12” driver and 6” midrange. The grill is bent around the edges and serves as its own stand-off. Four long wood screws (with snap-on black plastic caps to hide the screw heads) secure the grill in place. The front baffle is covered in a dense, low-fuzz carpet. Nice touch!<br /> <br /> This is a very sturdy enclosure, which has strength that belies its light weight.<br /> <br /> The intelligent bracing scheme contributes to this, no doubt.<br /> <br /> The proprietary 12” Eminence driver (a hybrid of sorts, combining elements of the LF and HO-series neodymiumbased drivers) is held in place by eight bolts seated into threaded inserts – my preferred method of driver mounting.<br /> <br /> The 6” Faital Pro W6N8-120 midrange driver, which sits in its own sealed enclosure, is secured by four bolts (with threaded inserts). Gasket tape is used around the lip of the 12” main driver, but not around the 6” driver (though the carpet covering on the baffle may serve to similar effect). There is no attenuation for the Faital midrange, and no protection circuitry, either. Of course, the 3 rd order crossover offers protection above the crossover point, and that Faital driver is rated to handle 120 watts nominal (240 watts max), and has an Xmax of 5mm, so it doesn’t really need much in the way of protection.<br /> <br /> The internal wiring is seriously heavy duty, and the Erse crossover components are likewise beefier than the norm. This is one of the nicestlooking cab interiors I have seen.<br /> <br /> Everything seems to have been done right. The batting is expertly and securely applied in both the primary enclosure and in the dedicated midrange enclosure. Connectivity is supplied via two of the combined Speakon and ¼” connectors from Neutrik™. <br /> <br /> As indicated by the charts, the ML112 performed very similarly both on-axis and off-axis, with useable extension up to just past 7kHz, and better than 90dB output from 40Hz on up. Output peaked at around 1.5kHz, at the end of a fairly gentle rise, and then showed a few more peaks around 4.5kHz and 6.5kHz. There is really nothing at all to complain of, from a technical perspective, and much to praise. The ML112 appears fairly unassuming at first glance, but a deeper inquiry into its technical merits reveal a very well thought-out, very well constructed bass enclosure.
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