The current trend for portable amps is something I can really get behind. Ashdown saw which way the wind was blowing and dropped the lunchbox-sized OriginAL HD-1 bass head on us. Despite being backpack friendly, the 300w amp is a real monster. We demoed the OriginAL HD-1 and also put it head-to-head with the CMT30 20th Anniversary reissue 30w head. You can pick up the HD-1 for $399 USD (£329, $699 AUD).
Whole lotta amp in 2.4kg package
We’ll start with a quick summary of the Ashdown OriginAL HD-1. The 2.4kg head has switchable passive/active input and a DI output, which is handy for both recording and live shows. There’s a VU meter, which is a great visual to see how the controls drive the amp. There’s two speaker outputs, which are both rated for a minimum of 4 ohm. This means you’ve got a lot of options in terms of which cab(s) to pair the amp with. The controls are: bass, low mid, mid, high mid, treble. There’s also an FX loop and a Shape button, which boosts the low end and high end.
Massive tone monster
So how does it sound? In a word: beastly. I love the phat tone it pumps out. It’s a modern sound, and you’ll see what I mean when you listen to the OriginAL HD-1 and the vintage voiced CTM30 back-to-back. I used it to reamp some tracks that previously had plugin amp tones on them. I thought the plugins sounded good before the reamp, but the HD-1 just absolutely blew them out of the water. It also holds its own in the jam room very well.
The OriginAL HD-1 is pretty versatile, with its five-band EQ and Shape button. Having three controls just for the mids was too much for me though. I think it would have been more user-friendly to have a total of three or four EQ bands. I’m sure some players would like the more in-depth shaping you can do with a five-band set-up though. The Shape button is a quick and easy way to scoop the mids, which provides a more punchy sound.
Demoing the EQ and gain controls
I’ve included two demos of the OriginAL HD-1, one showcasing how the EQ controls interact and a second showing how the tone changes as you drive the input control harder. This is where the design really shines, as you get that delicious phat gain. It sounds huge and it’s just perfect for any kind of in-your-face music.
The output knob controls how loud the amp drives the cab, but does not change the tone. This is a very important point, as it means you can record at home using the DI output and drive the hell out of the amp without getting the cops called on you. All the HD-1 demo tracks were recorded from the amp DI.
Demoing the Ashdown CTM-30 head
I have also included demos of Ashdown CTM-30 Tweed head (RRP $1,120 USD, $1,799 AUD) and CTM 112T cab (RRP $419 USD, $799 AUD). I used a similar format, going through EQ options and then increasing the gain step-by-step. As you’ll hear it resembles the HD-1 tone somewhat, although it’s a lot more old-school sounding.
The limited edition Tweed release was made for the 20th anniversary of the CTM-30. The CTM-30 has a simple control set-up, with a three-band EQ, master volume and bass, mid and ‘bright’ switches. The single master volume means if you want to drive this amp, you’ve gotta get loud! It’s only 30w but it’s still more than enough to shake walls once you drive it.
CTM-30 production winds down in favour of Little Stubby head
The CTM-30 Tweed is still available if you like the sound of it. However Ashdown are no longer making the standard CTM-30. They’ve replaced it with the CTM 30 ‘Little Stubby’ head (£699), which is in a lighter, smaller unit and includes a drive and volume set-up rather than a single master control. Ashdown have also done away with the bass, mid and ‘bright’ switches.
The OriginAL HD-1 verdict
Ashdown have created an excellent modern amp with the OriginAL HD-1. It has a monstrous, unique sound comes in a light, portable package. The value for money is also excellent. The only downside for me is I would have liked a simpler EQ set-up, but that’s largely a matter of personal taste.
Power Output 300 Watts
Power Requirement 115-230 Volts
Speaker Outputs 2 x Jack outputs
High Instrument Input Impedance 3.9m Ohms, input range 150mV – 20mV p-p
Low Instrument Input Impedance – 1M ohms Input range 150mv to 10v p – p
Line Input Impedance 10k Ohms, input range 300mV – 40V p-p