Is this a joke? What is this tiny thing I see before me and how in my right mind am I to expect anything resembling power to come out of such a little box? It’s the size of a greeting card for God’s sake; if I open it up will it play a low bit-rate version of Happy Birthday to me? *Flicks on switch and tentatively punches low E*… Holy hell, what kind of sorcery is this?
The unit in question is easily one of the most successful designs on the age old ‘tiny but mighty’’ adage ever and proof immemorial of just how far solid state technology has come in the last few decades. Sat atop an 8x10 fridge, you’d be forgiven for mistaking the new ELF Bass Amplifier from Trace Elliot for a DI or a box of chocolates. Masterfully and stealthily hidden within the 1.6lb - i.e. less than a kilogram - chassis, however, is 200watts continuous, or 30 RMS, of clarity, headroom, versatility and unadulterated guts to rival pretty much the rest of the bass amp market.
Counter to guitar players’ parochial addiction to power tubes, it’s been interesting to me to watch the compass of favour pitch bass players back towards the tightness and might of weird solid state builds from days gone by. Names like Acoustic and Peavey’s more esoteric PA builds are gracing stages the world over more and more with people favouring grunt and firepower over the often over-the-top sensitivity of the tube driven sound. Trace Elliot have for a long time been the go-to builder for those with a predilection for the heavy and mean and so it holds that they would look to that end of engineering to deliver on the tiniest of promises and do so in the simplest way possible.
In all honesty I didn’t expect much when I slapped it atop my cab. However, I certainly ate my words when I felt the three-band EQ wrap its fist around the output of a P Bass and deliver a tidy, crystal clear note back to me. Push the front end to its uppermost and it barely breaks up like you would assume. In fact, I tried and tried to get the thing to sound like its size but it just would not falter. Heat up the output stage and the sustain of your instrument is delivered unsullied and there is enough flexibility in the circuit to find the honey pot in your pick-ups with no trouble at all. It has an XLR DI out and ground lift for live applications, headphones for when you’re at home and on top of it all, and enough headroom to give Sunn 0)))’s pedal boards some breathing room.
It may sound trite to say but I felt something akin to pride when I discovered just what the ELF was capable of. It was like a puppy had brought me my 20-up Dr. Martens ready for a walk through the sub-frequency park. Trace Elliot promised the world’s smallest functioning bass amp and have quite honestly delivered and then some.
Hits and Misses
Tiny but mighty with all the flexibility and headroom you need from a functional bass amp
Two words: neon green