The B15N from Brainworx’ Ampeg line of plugins is the recreation of the legendary all tube flip-top amplifier of the same name. The B15N has been featured in countless rock ’n’roll, funk, country and soul studio sessions from the late 50’s to present day.
To give you some further history the B15 with its launch in 1958 was infact among the very first bass amps made by Ampeg, that was also the very first company to invent an amplification system dedicated to bassists in the late 40’s with the Amplified Peg system that was invented for giving more volume and presence to the upright basses in loud swing big bands with a lot of elements in large venues…because yes, bass players struggled to “cut through the mix” since the dawn of time, it’s a tough life! 😦
Since I never had the chance to play neither the older vintage versions nor the latest reissue part of the Heritage line ( on which this software emulation is based ). I don’t know exactly how the real thing reacts but as far as the videos and demos I’ve seen this plug-in is very close to the original hardware like the previously reviewed SVT 3-PRO.
The GUI is very well made as well and as you can see you have two voicings available, with dedicated input jacks, sensitivities ( active in the bottom and passive in the top ) and separate controls.
The “classic” 1964 bias is reminiscent of the older models, it’s the iconic Motown sound made famous mostly by James Jamerson that alongside with the foam mutes on his “Funk Machine” Fender Precision Bass’ bridge and also with Flatwound strings created that thumpy but extremely big tone featured in a lot of his sessions and live exhibitions.
The 1966 bias is sounding a lot different than the other one, being still very warm but a lot brighter, no matter how you dial the controls. It has a vibe similar to the first tube SVTs ( launched in 1968/69 ) being this voicing modeled after the latest B15 units built in the late 60’s throughout all the 70’s.
Now, to do a very inappropriate yet kinda “blasphemous” test. I used my Spector Euro 5LX bass with extremely bright and fresh roundwound Elixir strings, EMG active pickups and preamp and of course no muting in the bridge, so the exact opposite of what Jamerson was using in the 60’s, still, I was on the 1964 side, using my middle pickup with a kinda precision-ish vibe with the highs rolled off the preamp and the lows fully up on a funk/soul beat and the result wasn’t that far from the original one!
I have also to say that I was a very impressed with how much the plug-in warms up the signal in an amazing and musical way with such a deceptively simple design and control options. I was recording an Amped signal alongside the DI signal ( ironically using my bypassed Ampeg SCR-DI to provide the dry track ) with my Darkglass Microtubes X ultra used as a a Preamp/DI with no drive engaged. The Vintage Microtubes and the Origin Effects Cali76CB is used as my regular “tube preamp” simulation setting that is always on at every gig and every recording I’ve done.
It’s probably the first time where the match between the hardware and the software was very hard til’ I couldn’t hear any difference, I was blown away! The 1964 and 1966 bias control is changing the power amp ballistics in a subtle but still noticeable way and the great thing is that you don’t have to crank up the gain to hear it. Being from 1964, the bias is a lot grainier and lo fi in whatever section of the plugin you are and the 1966 more punchy and defined.
The FX rack is the same as featured in all the Brainworx ampsims so noise gate section, lowpass and highpass filter ( tight and smooth ) Cabinet Simulation with automatic scroll with selectable bars synched to the project’s tempo and horn bypass. This time my favorite part of the plugin was the power soak function in the FX rack because if you dial the input gain and the volume in whatever section you are in all the way up you can get a distortion that is truly nice. It’s not digital sounding at all even with the cab bypassed and then it’s easy to set your desired level in your gain staging of the project right from the plugin, very, very cool!
UPS AND DOWNS
When it comes to seriously warming things up and to deliver a tone that is beyond deep, beyond soulful and “vibey”, the B15 is simply fantastic. As always Brainworx nailed the product in an amazing way and if you are searching for the ultimate vintage tone to put in the mix, this will be definitely your best friend!
See more: Brainworx Ampeg B-15N Teaser