Ever since reading a review of this amp in a magazine, and seeing a couple of adverts for it, I have felt a desperate internal desire to try this new all-digital amplifier out. Many heads both old and new incorporate large, bulky tube power amps, and most have at least a single tube preamp system. This new Yamaha completely avoids both the benefits and drawbacks of having tubes by sticking firmly to a solid-state base for both the pre and power amp stages. This amp is compact, light enough to carry around, has a lot of power, and offers possibly the most extensive range of controls ever to be found on an amp of this price.
List price: US$ 949.99
(though I saw it in the shop yesterday for about $567)
First off, it has a 500 watt power amp at 2 ohms, that will do a decent 250 watts at 4 ohms. Before your signal hits the power stage though, it has to go through a very thorough pre-amp process. First up is the usual variable input level, then there's the amp modelling stage. This gives the pre-amp the characteristics of 11 different amplifiers, including a tube model, distortion, fuzz, overdrive, and a flat setting. Up next comes a variable-ratio compressor (other settings can be adjusted using the function control), another gain knob, and an incredible equaliser.
Essentially the equaliser is a 5-band parametric, offering bass, lo-mid, middle, hi-mid, and high controls. But by pressing the functions controls you can also adjust the frequency centre for each band and the width of the band. This new function button opens up a huge range controls, but many would remark about how inconvenient that would make quick setting changes. Fortunately Yamaha also provide you with 6 memory slots (just hold down one of the buttons and all your settings are saved to that slot) for quick changing between settings.
I have always remarked about how well the Hartke 3500 (http://www.musicianforums.com/forums/showthread.php?p=7829387#post7829387) amp has been able to re-create a lot of tones, without ever having a tone of its own. Yamaha have followed that concept and outdone Hartke by a mile. Perhaps by two miles. The EQ not only lets you shape your tone any which way you want it, but the different amp models let you emulate almost any other amplifier system and distortion setting.
Despite the huge reliance on modelling and 'faking it', the BBT 500H sounds remarkably accurate and on almost any setting I tried it had a really huge and enjoyable sound. There's warmth when you want it, grit and bite when required, growl and also punch also stand ready to be conjured up from the depths of this insane amp. Oh, and the fuzz and distortion don't have you lose too much low-end either, because they are designed for bass.
This amp is powerful, incredibly versatile, portable, good-looking, sturdy, and what's more, cheap. For this price, you will never find an amp with so many features, certainly not one that can execute any tone so precisely. It's everything both a home-player and a gigger wants from an amp, and to be honest, I've never seen better value.
Obviously this amp is a jack of all trades, and as such is a great purchase for anyone who likes using many tones, or who hasn't settled down into a single tone yet. It's just unreal what you can do with this amp, I am still stunned.
*Reviewer would like to note that although he did spend over an hour testing this at a store, he did not have time to explore even half the possible settings it could deliver.