A few years ago, Warwick got together with Swedish bass player Jonas Hellborg (Public Image, John McLaughlin) to design an amplification system. The result was the Hellborg Signature Series, and we’re taking a look at the Preamp and Mono Power 500 amp.
The MP500 is a 500W solid state power amp that offers, Warwick claims, ‘warm tube-like sounds resulting from the large speaker output transformers’. It’s housed in a rack-mountable, solid metal box 482mm wide, 88mm high and 370mm deep and weighing 19kg/42lbs. The controls are simple: Level on the front, ohm selector on the back plus one Speakon and one jack speaker socket and a ground/lift switch.
The Preamp has a similar metal casing, and although of course the width and depth stay the same, it’s only 45mm high and weighs 4.5kg/10lbs. Beneath the casing lies high quality studio-standard components, and while the brushed chrome control panel looks straightforward it houses some sophisticated features. You input your bass via a Neutrik jack/XLR combo socket and choose active or passive via a -20dB pad switch.
There’s Gain, from -6db to a massive 60dB, an EQ on/off switch, and a three-band EQ with /-18dB from Bass (60Hz) and Treble (10kHz). You can select three Lo Mid points (110Hz, 300Hz, 800Hz) and boost/cut them by 15dB, while three Hi Mid points have cut/boost at 1.5kHz, 3kHz or 5kHz. The Master control sets the output level with a range from -40 to 10dB, and there’s a global mute switch. On the back panel you’ll find a number of jack sockets – tuner, FX loop (with effects balance control and -10/ 4dB button) and twin power amp outs, plus an XLR balanced out.
Through a monstrous 2x15" Hellborg Big Cab the MP500 and Preamp kicks out lots of power with excellent clarity without sounding cold. Whether it’s truly ‘valve-like’ is another question, but there’s plenty of sonic quality here. The Bass control is warm and well defined, even on full boost. The mid and top are even and smooth, while boosting Treble increases the sharpness and snappiness but keeps things musical.
The three Lo Mid settings give access to dark thumps, raspy growls and punchy aggro, while the Hi Mid section is great for fine-tuning clarity and presence, with each frequency point providing just a little more sparkle plus a subtle diminution of width. For fatness and clarity with high headroom, this preamp has a lot to offer.
Warwick’s Hellborg power amp has plenty of clean power, and the preamp’s EQ makes it easy to get high quality results. The only downside is price: at over £3000 this is a rig aimed at the serious pro player. But if you’re looking for a rugged setup that’ll do the business night after night, the Hellborg system has got to be worth a look.