Review: Bergantino Reference II Series 115 

Bergantino Audio Systems brings the lowest of the lows with their 15” offering in their Reference II series

Review: Bergantino Reference II Series 115 

Bergantino Audio Systems brings the lowest of the lows with their 15” offering in their Reference II series

As bass players, we’re always on a quest of finding the best way to convey the frequencies that define our place in music, which resides in the low end. We all love the burly hum of an open Estring, or the deep and satisfying wave of sliding down the fretboard on a B string. It’s what separates us from other stringed instruments, and it’s likely a large part of what attracted us to bass in the first place. But when it comes to electric bass, our sonic reach is only as powerful as the gear we use to express it. Amplifiers now come in a wide range of configurations with any number of 8”, 10”, 12”, and 15” speakers packed into a cabinet for your heart’s content. But if we’re always striving to be the lowest of the low, why not go for the biggest of the big?

That’s exactly what sparked our interest in Reference II Series 115 cabinet from Bergantino Audio Systems. Released in 2022, Jim Bergantino responded to the demand for the reemergence of his 15” cabinets and decided to take everything that players loved about his previous creations and reduce the weight of them while modernizing their design. To achieve this, the Reference II 115 is equipped with ceramic-based speakers, a lightweight Poplar ply shell with Baltic Birch baffles, rugged tolex finishes, and cloth grills. The result is a lightweight cab with a modern look that offers a tremendous amount of power.

Unboxing

When the package arrived, I was happily surprised at how lightweight the box was, as many hefts of 8x10s and other bulky amps had prepared me for the long haul from doorstep to office. Digging right in, the cabinet was more compact than I initially intended and had a fresh modern look that would be fit for any stage. The black cloth and tolex finish give it a clean appearance, which is emphasized with the golden Bergantino logo adorning the top left corner. The build of the box makes it highly durable, if not indestructible, and the triangular port in the front makes it obvious that this thing pushes a lot of air, which is exactly what I intended to do.

Trial by Fire

To properly test out this cab, I knew that a simple office or bedroom exploration just wouldn’t give it justice. Luckily, I had a large-stage, outdoor gig the weekend that it arrived, which required both electric and upright playing—the perfect setting to see what this thing really could do. Powered with an 800-watt Bergantino Forté head, I was primed to jump right into the world of amplification that Jim so calculatedly constructed, while tandemly testing the vibrational fortitude of my bandmates. The first series of songs required my electric bass, which happened to be my go-to Fender Mod Shop Precision. Within hitting the first few notes of the opening tune, my drummer, who I stick incredible close by given the 7-piece band stage arrangement, looked up instantly while gesturing to the amp and mouthing, “Whooaa!” The sentiment was shared by both myself and the lead guitarist, who turned to raise his eyebrows mid-lick. The 15” cab did exactly what I imagined it would do: articulate low notes powerfully and precisely while pushing a lot of air with them. Having never played a 15” live before, this was a very gratifying introduction. With the amp volume at 10 o’clock, the bass at 2 o’clock, the low-mid at 1 o’clock, the hi-mid at 1 o’clock, and the treble at noon, this unit conveyed a lot of low end. And I mean a lot.

The one fear I had going into it was that the depth might muddy the tone or leave the individual notes indistinguishable, but that was not the case. The articulation of the Reference II was precise and pronounced, giving each note its proper space with a surprising amount of clarity. The first set oscillated between electric and upright songs, and the response on the double bass was rich, earthly, and woody. To play an upright bass out of a 15” is a true thing of beauty, though I did learn that my distance to the amp at those levels could create some excess resonance with low whole notes on my upright. This was no fault of the rig and easily corrected by dialing in the amp slightly differently to accommodate it.

Jim Bergantino with the Reference II Series

Mid and High Love? 

The other question I had leading up to this trial was that while the lows were no question with the Reference 115, would the mids and highs suffer without the punch that comes along with smaller 10” or 12” speakers? As the second set dipped more heavily into funk and soul songs, I adjusted my settings to raise the mids and highs a hair, while activating the Bright mode on the Forté and this put my worries to ease. Muted plucking, high fret grooving, and even soloing projected beautifully, and the punch and grit of the mids responded better than I expected. While the timbre and overall tonality is not exactly what you get from an 8”, 10” or 12” speaker configuration, each note contains a greater depth and richness with the 15”. Additionally, I found myself attacking the strings with less ferocity with the Reference, even during mid-heavy funk runs, as the cabinet does all of the work for you. And of course, in the days after that gig, I went nuts plugging in my various 5-strings to enjoy the deepest depths that the Reference provides so well. I’d be remiss not to state that the true joy of this cabinet lies with its 5-string pairings, though it’s equally enjoyable with the 4-string of your choosing. 

Low Down

For those of you tempted to take your sound to new depths, this is a top-of-the-line cabinet that’s built well enough to likely outlive us all. Every component of the Reference was thoughtfully considered, allowing it to handle anything you throw at it and making it an asset to players of all genres and styles. With a list price of $1,100 it’s a solid investment that will reflect instantly on your sound. And honestly, as a bass player, it’s just a very, very fun cabinet to play through.

Bottom Line This lightweight and ergonomic cabinet is packed full of power and all the low end you could desire in a slick and modern package 

Pros Tremendous headroom and power, low articulate notes, covers the full sonic spectrum, lightweight and easy to move 

Cons None

Specs

  • Woofer: 1-15” Ceramic Magnet Woofer w/ Vented Pole Pieces
  • Cabinet Design: Ported
  • Cabinet Material: Baltic Birch Baffle, Light Weight Plywood Shell
  • Cabinet Covering: Black Tolex
  • Impedance: 8-ohms
  • Power Handling: 400W RMS
  • Frequency Response: 40hZ – 3.5KhZ
  • Sensitivity: 100db @ 2.83v / 1-meter
  • Dimensions: 23”H x 18-1/2”W x 18”D
  • Weight: 46 Lbs.
  • List Price: $1100.00

For more visit: Bergantino Audio Systems

Jon D'Auria   By: Jon D'Auria