For over two decades, Marco De Virgiliis has been trailblazing new paths for bass amplification with constant innovations and a relentless flow of products from Markbass that have gained a large and loyal following across the world of bass. Since his cutting-edge Class D breakthroughs changed the trajectory of amps in the early 2000s, De Virgiliis has made it his goal to listen to the players and evolve his creations into the perfect tools for the gigging bassist. Regardless of how ambitious his visions are, or how intangible they might seem, he somehow continues to raise the bar and accomplish them using his acute attention to detail and deep sense of curiosity in achieving his goals and expanding the Markbass line.
I was lucky enough to witness this in action on June 30th of 2022, when De Virgiliis and the Markbass family unveiled their new line of MB58R products at their headquarters in beautiful Pescara, Italy. With a room full of music journalists from all over the world, De Virgiliis, legendary bassist Richard Bona, and the entire Markbass staff presented the future of their brand in stunning form. Made in Italy, the new line of amps and cabinets boasted slick new looks, curiously lightweight designs, added power, and even biodegradable materials. This was no run of the mill updating of previous releases with a new layer of paint slapped on them, this was rewriting the book of the already established brand.
Having been privy to seeing a preview of these products, I was naturally thrilled when the boxes bearing the Markbass logo showed up on my front porch so I could finally test these amps out myself. Having reviewed a lot number of amps in my day, and having the lower back pain to prove it, I was shocked at how lightweight these packages were. Was there a mix up in the mailroom and I was mistakenly delivered some t-shirts and swag? Nope. It was simply the lightweight new 2×10 cabinet that somehow weighs in under 22lbs. Within minutes of unboxing the Little Mark 58R and MB58R 102 ENERGY cabinet, I already had it plugged in and was exploring the tonal options. Even leveled out and unadjusted, this amp was sounding pretty spectacular.
One skill that De Virgiliis has mastered is offering a wide array of complex options on his amps but making them profoundly simple to control. This gives the player a ton of customizable freedom, while not making them consult the manual at every turn. The Little Mark 58R has a straightforward layout with control knobs for Gain, Low, Mid/Low, Mid/High, High, Master, Line Out, and Old School. With a 4-band EQ, it’s easy to adjust every little nuance of your frequency, which is expanded with the three-way rotary switch that that includes the options of a Flat, Scooped, or FSW (Footswitchable) EQ. The difference from the Flat to the Scooped setting is drastic and makes it easy to swap from a deep, rumbling tone, to a slap-ready, punchy sound. Offering 500 watts, this amp offers a lot of headroom, especially when paired with the 102 ENERGY.
Unbelievably lightweight and easy to carry, while somehow being biodegradable, the 102 ENERGY cabinet is a thing of beauty. It features two 10″ Markbass Neodymium custom speakers and 1″ driver with horn, and it weighs only 21.6 lbs thanks to the revolutionary enclosure material. Having gigged with the Markbass Ninja 102-250 for some time, I was accustomed to an easily portable and durable unit with enough power, but I was not prepared for what this cab was capable of. The box has three switches on the back that allow you to activate and deactivate the tweeter and set it from 0db up to -15db. In testing a range of passive and active basses on this, I found this option to be big bonus to the overall sound.
Naturally, I knew I had to test this amp out in the wild, so I decided to take it along to one of my more demanding gigs where I play both electric and upright basses on a four-hour set. The look on my bandmates’ faces as I strolled up with my upright strapped to my back in its travel bag, my P-bass case strung over my shoulder while hefting the 102 ENERGY in one hand and the Little Mark head in the other was amusing. I mean, that’s a lot of gear for one car trip, but I’m as prideful as the next bassist, and genuinely, this amp weighs nothing. Luckily, no performance enhancing drugs tests ensued, only a quick and easy set up and I was ready.
One handy tip that I discovered while switching back and forth from electric to upright basses on the Little Mark 58R is to set the rotary switch to Flat when I use the upright and to Scooped when I use my electric. The Flat setting for upright bass lets the natural tonal qualities of the instrument shine and brings forth all of the woody, earthy tones that you want out of the double bass. The midrange punch projects plenty of finger attack, while the lows fill out the bottom for the warm, round sound every upright player strives for. For electric bass, the Scooped setting delivers the expected frequncies that provide punch and presence, while rolling on the Old School knob to your liking will help you cop some genuine vintage feels.
One song in and I was hooked. It’s rare that a bass player gets complimented on their sound in the mix of a seven-piece ensemble, but both my bandmates and the audience took notice of my sound. “That’s the only amp you should use from now on,” the bandleader remarked after the first set. Performing an eclectic mix of music that spanned jazz, soul, indie, rock, and coffeehouse songwriter tunes, the Little Mark 58R and MB58R 102 ENERGY delivered exactly what I needed at all times. The entire spectrum of frequency from highs to mids to lows were present and commanding, and like all Markbass bass amps that I’ve tested before, this one truly lets the bass and the player’s hands define the sound.
In creating the new MB58R Series of amps and cabinets, De Virgiliis has once again succeeded in ushering in the next wave of innovation for amplification. The eco-friendly element of these units shows that his focus is not only on the future of sound for bass players, but the future of our planet for one and all. By listening to the demands and desires of bass players in 2023, Markbass is delivering what they want at the highest level, and the MB58R Series is a major leap forward on all fronts. –BM
Little Mark 58R
Power Output 500W @ 4ohm / 300W @ 8ohm
EQ LOW – MID/LOW – MID/HIGH – HIGH
Controls Gain, Low, Mid/Low, Mid/High, High, Master, Line Out, Old School
Switches Pre/Post EQ, Ground Lift, Mute, Power
Input 6.3 mm jack
Line Out XLR
Dimensions 10.87” x 3.27” x 10.08”
Made in Italy
Street Price $599
MB58R 102 ENERGY
Speaker 2×10″ Neodymium
Tweeter 1″ HF Compression driver with custom horn
Power rating 400 W/ 8 Ohm
Frequency range 40 Hz- 20 kHz
Crossover frequency 3.5 kHz
Impedance 8 or 4 ohms
Sensitivity 101 dB SPL
Dimensions 15.35” x 22.76” x 18.5”
Made in Italy
Street Price $699
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