The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
The Hartke HA3500C
The Hartke HA3500 bass amp is a great option for bassists who are looking to put together an inexpensive rig that sounds amazing. If you play in a band the 3500 has plenty of power to get the job done, and it has enough flexibility to nail just about any tone you’re looking for
I’ve used the Hartke HA3500 with every band I’ve ever played bass in, from metal bands to cover bands to jam bands, and I’ve never been disappointed. This review looks at one of my favorite bass amplifiers from the perspective of both a working musician and a hobby player.
Hartke HA3500C Features and Specs
- 350 Watts at 4 ohms; 250 watts at 8 ohms
- Tube/Solid State Preamp Controls
- Active and Passive inputs
- Rotary Bass and Treble Controls
- 10-Band Graphic EQ
- Compression Control
- Low Pass / High Pass Contour Controls
- XLR Direct Out
- Effects Loop With Balance Control
If you are looking for a versatile, inexpensive bass amp head that sounds great, I suggest checking out the Hartke HA3500C
Is the Hartke 3500 Loud Enough?
The power rating for the Hartke HA3500 is 350 watts at 4 ohms and 250 watts at 8 ohms. For a long time, I ran the 3500 with an 8 ohm Genz Benz 1x15 cabinet. It was more than loud enough to be heard with a heavy-hitting drummer and our guitarist’s Marshall half stack.
I even used it on small gigs alongside our band’s 600-watt PA system and it hung in there just fine. Later I switched to a pair of Avatar cabinets, a 2x12 and 1x15, which changed the load to 4 ohms, and the amp sounded even better.
The benefit to adding another cabinet and pushing the amp to 350 watts is partially the additional air moved by more speakers, but also the extra headroom. This means you don’t have to crank your amp up so loud to be heard, and you’ll get a clearer, richer tone.
You may have lower volume needs, and be happy pairing the 3500 with a small and portable 8 ohm 1x12 or 2x10 cabinet. Or, you may use the line out to the house PA and it won’t really matter as much what cabinet you are using with it, aside from stage volume.
The point is, the Hartke 3500 is a very flexible amp. It’s powerful enough to hang in with a loud band but small and portable enough to use for coffee-house gigs.
Sound, Graphic EQ and Tone Shaping
One of the things about this amp that puts it over the top for me is the 10-band graphic EQ. Many bass amps in this price range feature three or four-band EQs, or a three-band with parametric mids, but the 10-band EQ really give you some incredible tone-shaping options.
I had my 3500 dialed in all over the place, depending on what kind of band I was playing. For more rock and jazz-oriented music where I played using my fingers, I would roll off the highs and accentuate the mids and lows to get a smoother sound.
For metal, where I played with a pick, I’d scoop it a bit to get some gravelly low-end texture.
You can play with the EQ to bring out different frequencies of your bass, and conjure up exactly the tone you are looking for. Or, you can bypass it altogether. There are also high and low-pass knobs you can use in conjunction with the EQ, or on their own if you choose to bypass the equalizer.
The HA3500 features a dual preamp system, tube, and solid-state. You can blend the two sounds using a pair of knobs on the face of the amp.
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Finally, the 3500/5500 has a built-in compression system, controllable by a knob on the front panel. Again, depending on your style you may find this useful or shut it off entirely, but it’s nice to know it's there.
That’s most of the important stuff, but the HA3500 has more going on that you ought to know about. There is a pair of inputs, one for basses with active electronics and one for passive. The volume of the bass is managed via one master volume control.
On the rear panel, along with a pair of speaker jacks the 3500 has jacks for effects send and return, with balance control. You’ll want to use pedals “in-line” between the bass and the amp, but if you want to use an outboard effects processor this is an easy setup.
In fact, you can mount the Hartke HA3500 in a rack if you want, and include an effects processor along with any other fancy gear you wish. It takes up two rack spaces (2U) and comes with the attachable “rack ears” for mounting. I had my 3500 in a 2U rack bag for a while, and it was super easy to lug around and set up.
For hooking up with mixing consoles, there is an XLR direct out with a pre/post switch for bypassing the EQ section. This is useful if you wish to allow your sound guy to manage your EQ settings. As a musician, it seems kind of like blasphemy to allow someone else to arrange your tone, but as bassists, we sometimes must endure such things in order to get the bass to sit right in the mix.
Again, this is testimony to the flexibility of this amp. No matter what situation you end up in as a gigging bassist, these amps have you covered.
Hartke HA3500 vs LH500
To me, the Hartke 3500 is the perfect answer to my tone and power issues as a bassist. Especially if I were playing in a band, this would be my go-to amp.
However, if you are looking for something a little less complicated and with more power under the hood, I recommend checking out the Hartke LH500.
So, how do these amps stack up against each other and which should you choose? Here are a few things to think about when making your decision:
- Like the 3500, the LH500 is a hybrid amp, meaning it utilizes both tube and solid-state circuitry.
- The LH500 is more powerful, rated at 500 watts at 4 ohms and 350 watts at 8 ohms.
- The HA3500 has far more tone-shaping options—the LH500 only has a three-band EQ and a bright switch.
- Both amps have an effects loop and XLR out, but the LH500’s XLR out is located on the face of the amp, which makes it really easy to access.
- The LH500 has a fan filter port on its face for easy cleaning. Nice!
- The HA3500 has a rotary compression control, where the LH500 only has a limiter switch.
Both amps are gig-worthy, and both are very affordable. In my opinion, your choice really comes down to whether you prefer more power or better tone shaping.
If you need even more power, you may want to go straight to the LH1000, the big brother of the LH500, which puts out a monster 1,1000 watts at 4 ohms, and 500 watts at 8 ohms.
Remember, often more headroom means better bass tone.
Vic Wooten on the Hartke LH1000
The Hartke HA2500
The HA3500 is pretty affordable, but if you are on a tighter budget you may consider the little brother HA2500. It puts out 250 watts at 4 ohms, and 180 watts at 8 ohms.
As for tone, features, and specs, most everything that applies to the HA3500 also goes for the HA2500, except the 2500 incorporates tube emulation circuitry instead of a real tube in the preamp. If you don't need as much power, this could be the better choice for you.
Obviously, I really like Hartke amps. They not only make great bass heads but some of the best bass combo amps out there as well.
Sure you can spend more on some big-name brands, or grab some micro boutique amp, but it’s hard to imagine you’d find more value. Both the HA3500 and LH500 come in at a street price of under $400 as of this writing.
And, they're flexible amps. You can mount the 3500 in a rack bag and bring it to a small gig along with a small 1x12 cabinet, or throw it on top of a 4x10 and 1x15 bass stack. The EQ lets you dial in tones for funk, jazz, metal, and rock. No matter what the situation, this little amp is ready for it.
As always, remember this is all based on my opinion and experience, and be sure to check out the Sampson Technologies website for the latest info on Hartke gear.
I hope this review was helpful, and I hope you find the Hartke HA3500 bass amp as useful as I have.