CMC Music Australia | (02) 9905 2511 | | RRP: $1050

Renowned bassist — is ‘Jazz God’ too strong a term?- Jeff Berlin has long been a fan of Mark­bass prod­ucts, and bass play­ers around the world already use his sig­na­ture Jeff Berlin CMD 151 combo on gigs every night. Now there’s a new option for stu­dents look­ing for a reli­able combo, again at an afford­able price and with the stamp of approval of Mr. Berlin him­self. This model fea­tures the exact same cir­cuitry as the Lit­tle Mark 250 Black Line head with the addi­tion of a sin­gle 200 watt 15″ speaker. Berlin and Mark­bass designed the amp to meet the needs of Berlin’s stu­dents at his Play­ers School of Music in Florida, as evi­denced by the nice big badge on the speaker grille.


At the heart of the sys­tem is a 250 watt ana­log power amp and a solid state pre­amp. There are two inputs — a bal­anced XLR input (great for acoustic instru­ments and sig­nals processed via effects rigs) with a 100 kohm imped­ance and a reg­u­lar 1/4″ jack input with an imped­ance of 500Kohm. The con­trols are Gain (from –80dB to +23dB range), a full suite of tone con­trols with up to 16dB of boost or cut at care­fully selected fre­quen­cies (Low — 40Hz, Low Mid — 360Hz, High Mid — 800Hz, High — 10kHz), and two addi­tional tone con­trols, which add an even greater level of flex­i­bil­ity: the VPF (Vari­able Pre-shape Fil­ter), which sits at 380Hz, and the VLE (Vin­tage Loud­speaker Emu­la­tor), which lives in the 250Hz-20Hz range: it has the abil­ity to remove ‘mod­ern’ sound­ing fre­quen­cies that may be per­fect for some styles but not for oth­ers, leav­ing behind a deli­ciously vin­tage patina. Of course there’s a mas­ter vol­ume con­trol as well, and since this is a solid state design it doesn’t par­tic­u­larly affect the over­all tone of the amp: it just lets you tame the vol­ume. There’s a ded­i­cated line out knob on the front of the amp (often you might expect this fea­ture hid­den on the back), and around the back you’ll find the line out XLR jack, effect loop send (pre-EQ) and return, and the 1/4″ Speakon speaker out. This bad boy cranks out 150 watts RMS at 8 ohm or 250 watts RMS at 4 ohm.


With­out any addi­tional com­pres­sors, lim­iters or tubes, the CMD JB Play­ers School Combo is very much a ’what you see is what you get’ amp. It strikes the per­fect bal­ance between trans­parency and char­ac­ter. When I plugged in my Fer­nan­des Jazz Bass copy — a bass with a lot of per­son­al­ity — both amps empha­sised that bass’s smooth attack, rich midrange and sub­dued tre­ble. When I hit it with my Ibanez 5-string, the thun­der­ous low end, scooped mids and clear highs were pow­er­fully abun­dant. And yet the VPF is great for fine-tuning the midrange char­ac­ter of the instru­ment, mak­ing my Fer­nan­des sound more slap-friendly and my Ibanez warmer. You can play up these dif­fer­ences by exper­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent speaker cab­i­nets: the 15″ speaker of the combo is great for pow­er­ful, all-encompassing tone but if you want lots of detail — say, for solo work or less low-end-domineering styles, it sounds great through a 4x10” array with a tweeter.


This is a very flex­i­ble amp, as you’d expect from some­thing designed to thrive in a music edu­ca­tion envi­ron­ment with such a highly-regarded fig­ure­head as Jeff Berlin. But of course the word ‘school’ doesn’t mean this thing can’t rock in a bed­room, garage or club. It puts out what­ever you put in, and yet it has enough tone-shaping power to add some extra magic to your bass as well.

Hits and Misses



Son­i­cally versatile

Jeff Berlin mojo




Speaker Size: 1 x 15”
Tweeter: None
Speaker Power Han­dling (AES Stan­dard): 300 W RMS
Fre­quency Response: 40 Hz to 5 kHz
Sen­si­tiv­ity dB SPL: 100
Imped­ance: 8 ohms
Reflex: Rear
Pre­amp: Solid State
Amp Out­put Power: 250W@4ohm | 150W@8ohm
Power Sup­ply: Spe­cial Mark­bass Dig­i­tal Power Supply
Dimen­sions: 18.27”/ 46.4 cm (w); 18.27”/ 46.4 cm (h); 18.9”/ 48 cm(d)
Weight Kg/lbs: 15.7 kg / 34.61 lbs