Customer Reviews: Ampeg Portaflex Series PF-500 500-Watt Bass Amplifier Head
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on March 7, 2012
I play bass in a Boston-based pop/rock band. So, what's most important to me is a full, consistent sound. I don't need a lot of bells and whistles, but I like to have a lot of on-board control (so I don't need to get tone pedals or anything).

This is the best amp I've played in this pricepoint, period. I'm coming from a Hartke 3500,which lasted a while but finally kicked the bucket late last year. I play in a lot of small-mid sized clubs in th area and it works more than well enough (although unless you're running your own PA setup, most clubs will DI you anyway).

In general the compression is great, the EQ controls (while more limited than the graphic option on my old Hartke) are great and I like the idea of the effects loop if I want to introduce a fuzz pedal or something into my setup. Of coruse, you can't forget about that great ampeg sound. Excellent amp--totally worth every penny.

My equipment, for reference:

Bass: Fender American Jazz (typically with Ernie Ball standard strings)

Cab: 4x10 Ashdown
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on January 4, 2013
I bought an Ampeg BA-115 combo several years ago when I first start playing bass and really liked the tone. So when I wanted to move up to an amp head and separate cabinet I naturally went with another Ampeg. I bought an Ampeg Heritage SVT-810E speaker cabinet, which is the "assembled is USA" version, and the Chinese made PF-500 amp.

I liked the tone of the PF-500 just fine but that was about all I liked. I couldn't help but notice the fan runs all the time and is noisy. If you'll be playing with the amp well away from you at a gig it won't bother you. But in the quiet of my practice area, which is where I spend most of my time playing, a noisy fan running all the time is annoying. I keep the volume turned down so low there shouldn't be any need for the fan to run if it was thermostatically controlled.

With the first one of these I received, the power section went out within roughly 1 hour of play. I heard a popping sound and from then on I could get sound from the preamp but no output at the speaker jack. I was keeping the volume set about as low as it could go--around 2 or 3. The gain was also turned down to around 4.

I figured it was a fluke when that one went bad on me so I had another one shipped. The second one I got lasted around 2 hours and that one just died completely. I was jamming along and POOF. Nothing. Man that ticked me off! I'm pretty sure the power supply failed that time. There was no way I was going to try a third one.

I'm actually glad about what happened. I ended up buying a Gallien Krueger MB200 which was nearly half the price. The sound was different than the Ampeg but the more I played it the more I liked it. Ampeg's solid state amps have more of an artificially colored tone whereas the MB200 is very transparent. I find I prefer the more transparent tone. The MB200 has a small thermostatically controlled fan that so far I've never even heard running. IF it ever runs I can't hear it. I've had no problems with it whatsoever and I've had it since December 2011. It's amazing how much sound comes out of an amp so tiny it can almost fit in your pocket!

It's unfortunate that the quality of Ampeg gear has plummeted in recent years. As far as I'm concerned the PF-500 is constructed of absolutely substandard components. I buy gear that will last. You can't trust this particular amp to hold up. I've noticed in the forums there are quite a number of people who are unsatisfied like I was with the inconsistent quality of current Ampeg amps.

So the choice is you can either buy a vintage US made Ampeg amp if that's the sound you're after, which I wasn't interested in, or you can look to other manufacturers who have more consistent quality. The Gallien Krueger worked for me but there are plenty of other choices.
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on September 19, 2012
I went to the music store and I played an Ibanez Gsr6ex 6-String Electric Bass (Amber Burst which is beautiful BTW) through this Ampeg Portaflex Series PF-500 500-Watt Bass Amplifier Head using an Ampeg SVT-410HLF cabinet and WOW. This head sounds great through that rig!! It has a compression knob which makes this amp a must have. I tried the compression and it made such a big difference. Especially if you switch between slapping and fingering. Without the compression, the slapping is much louder than the fingering but with compression set up right, the slapping sounds very punchy and clear and no louder than your fingering. Great little amp!!
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on March 30, 2012
I play in a reggae/ska band that plays small clubs and bars and this unit paired with the Ampeg 115 cabinet is just enough power for me and my three-piece band. I really need and like a very bottom heavy sound, and you can really dial in a very clean and bottom heavy sound with the EQ and ultra-low functions. At about 50 pounds, this flip-top unit is a dream for gigging. If you play in a heavier band, you probably want to go with a pair of 410 cabinets. The iPod input on mine did not work upon delivery, which was disappointing, but not enough for me to go through the hassle of sending it back. Overall, I've been using it for three months and I'm very happy with it.
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on July 26, 2016
This amp is junk.... It cut out twice in studio and once in live performance all within two weeks of owning it....
Returned for refund and will try 500 watt Hartke and hope for better dependability....
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on March 27, 2013
I have been playing bass for about 15 years but my last real gig was nine years ago. It's amazing how technology has changed. My "rig" at the time was an ADA tube pre-amp with a Mackie power amp in a rack with a power conditioner through a Hartke 4 x 10 and a Peavy 2 x 10. The rack itself weighed in at close to 55 pounds and had to be on it's own electrical circuit in the practice garage. Then, the fun of the two speaker cabs. Three apartments, two condos, and now (finally) a house later I'm ready to give up the combos and get back into a rig. I'm amazed at the warmth and depth of this amp, coupled with the available crisp highs that provide the snap when I want it. With a surge protector at the end of the mains I'm weighing my new rig in at less than 15 pounds. Cabs, yeah, still heavy.

The fan is quiet with a "tone" that doesn't irritate me when playing quietly. There is a built in compressor that smooths over the inconsistencies of my playing technique. I still utilize an effects board and the amp has a built in mix control for the effects. I can add some distortion mixed with the original signal into the power amp to add some fuzz all the while keeping the depth and smoothness of the native signal from my guitar. The mid-tone control and hi/low boosts give me the flexibility to adjust the personality of the amp and have fun with the harmonics. I can recreate the tone of the combos I have grown accustomed to as of late. I can get the rumble of a Peavy, the snap of a Hartke, or the bottom end of a Genz and I love it. Still haven't quite found the tone I had with my little Orange combo but I'll keep playing with it.

Be sure to buy a good speaker cable. A standard guitar cable to too light to carry the high amperage the amp sends to a speaker.

Final note: the mute switch is great. I'm so used to putting my tube guitar amps into standby when I need a break so the Mute button, allowing the amp to stay on, just feels right. I realize it's solid state but some of you know what I mean.
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on June 28, 2012
I got this as a mid-point purchase as I am upgrading to ABM Ashdown equipment and I have to say, I was impressed by this little giant. I use this with my Ashdown ABM 410 and it powers it with plenty of warmth and provides a very solid sound. The only downside to this amp is the lack of adjustable EQ, only three truly adjustable knobs can dialed in, but being able to select your mid-range is nice.
I'd recommend this amp to anyone looking for power, good tone, and reliability on a budget.
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on March 20, 2016
I got this six months ago and love it so far. I don't play out right now, just jam with friends or practice at home. I went from an SWR redhead to this mainly because I have to go up a full flight of stairs and the redhead weighed 90 pounds. This and the cab I use are under 50 labs total. I have had no issues with the fan being noisy. It does run all the time but its not really loud. I use the aux in, which only plays through the headphone jack, on a regular basis to play at night. I think it sounds great and the controls are simple but effective. I use the mid freq boost selector for quick changes when I go from treeless to acoustic to hollow body basses. I use an Eden 1x15 cab.

Pros: light, loud, easy of controls, a tank for a body,

Cons: fans does run all the time no matter what, the finish on the shell will scratch if you stare at it wrong, headphone jack is only 1/8 inch instead of 1/4.
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on January 5, 2016
At first I loved the size/weight and the sound was OK. However, soon after it started cutting out during practice and during my last gig. It's a helpless feeling when your amp just decides to stop working for most of a song. Not sure what to do now but I can't jeopardize my next gig with unreliable equipment.
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on January 4, 2015
This is a great amp. As a church musician, I run the full spectrum of musical styles(contemporary). I use this amp with a SWR Goliath 4/10 cab and a Tech 21 modler/pre amp which makes up for any needed tone adjustments not available from the 500. Bought it about a year ago and has performed flawlessly. I am currently about to acquire an Ampeg Heritage 8/10. I think the 8/10, 500 and Tech 21 will compliment one another well :-)
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