Aguilar Amplification first joined the class-D revolution in 2011 by combining the preamp from their popular Tone Hammer pedal with a class-D power amp section for their Tone Hammer 500 head. And while today’s bass-amplification market is no doubt flush with lightweight, class-D-powered amps at fairly affordable price points, the Tone Hammer series has remained a staple for many bassists in widely different applications. The company’s newest class-D entry, the Tone Hammer 700, provides all the features a number of players have come to know and love, but Aguilar also added more of the feature that so many bassists know and love the most: power.
The first thing that caught my attention after pulling the Tone Hammer 700 out of its shipping box was how incredibly light it is. At just shy of five pounds, the 700 is noticeably lighter than many others in its class. I might sound like an old guy here, but it’s still astounding to me that 700 watts can actually weigh less than a big, hardcover book.
Those already familiar with the Tone Hammer 500 will recognize the front plate—where the gain and drive controls, 3-band EQ, midrange-frequency selector, effect send/return, and DI out are placed in their tried-and-true positions. Around back, the rear panel is a simple affair with two Speakon speaker outputs, a tuner output, and the mains on/off switch located right above the power-cable connection.
Straight to Work
On the day the Tone Hammer 700 arrived at my house, I was booked to play a 1,000-capacity club here in Southern California. Along with my 20-year-old Sadowsky Vintage 5, I brought the Aguilar to run the Ampeg 8x10 house cabinet.
My first impression was how distinct the sound of the Tone Hammer is. The amp has a fingerprint that’s hard to miss when the EQ section is left untouched, and that fingerprint comes with a lot of mids. With the drive circuit barely engaged, at 9 o’clock, the feeling of tube simulation was instantly present, and I felt like the amp made for a good pairing with the large cabinet. With its 700 watts, I had no problem getting a commanding stage volume with the master volume set to 10 o’clock.
As a fairly aggressive player who keeps his electronics in passive mode about 90 percent of the time, I found myself cutting quite a bit of the mids and boosting the highs slightly to help make the bass clear and keep it from honking too much. I enjoyed the Tone Hammer’s definition with this setup, especially when playing fingerstyle. My tone never got too muddy, it provided plenty of attitude, and the amp’s slight tube simulation made slides with fret noises sound musical.