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TheGreek

Trace Elliot Elf head

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I was able to try the TE Elf at LBGS 2017 - like most other people I only managed to snatch 3-4 minutes but was sufficiently impressed to place an order with Bass Direct on the spot - delivery, according to the B&M rep, was scheduled for "[i]late March, if not early April[/i]"....frustratingly this didn't happen...so after 5 months of waiting, my TE Elf finally arrived.

http://www.traceelliot.com/

For those who didn't follow my earlier saga, the launch was delayed from the original March date to late September as a result of TE (USA) pushing back the release date for a reason buyers were never made aware of. Updates would have been nice. Correspondence with the importers (B&M) yielded little further info - all in all, my experience was not good. I expected a company [i]relaunching[/i] a brand to be more client focused.

So the amp (eventually) arrives and it really is as tiny as I remember, roughly the size of a Smart Phone but a little deeper, weighs in at about 2lbs - ridiculously light by any standard. Obviously with something this tiny there are going to be concerns if it can actually deliver what's expected from an amp which claims to produce 130w at 8ohms or 200w at 4 ohms.

Well, being a Trace Elliot, it satisfies most of these concerns - plenty of volume and punch though, in it's basic form, it is NOT your "[i]classic[/i]" Trace Elliot compressed tones in a tiny package. The 3 band eq ([i]bass/mid/treb[/i]) is adequate but just doesn't put out the tones we've come to love ([i]or hate[/i]) from TE of old.

As part of the new range, Trace Elliot are also producing an effects package - the Transit B - which paired with the Elf you'd expect to supply all the classic tones.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/TransitB

I have to question whether these were initially a single unit but separated during R&D. I'm interested in trying the Transit B.

On some levels the Elf exceeds expectations, on others it disappoints - especially those of us who love that classic TE tone. Adding a compressor and a Behringer BD121 modeller fills some of the gaps and provides a closer resemblance to the older gear, suggesting that TE are expecting most buyers to jump in for both units..

I'm well aware of the "[i]honeymoon period[/i]" we all experience with new gear so held back on making my initial "[i]disappointment[/i]" known and, with less than 3 weeks ownership under my belt, took mine down to the SE Bass Bash in September to get a wider pool of opinion - there was a flurry of surprised faces and positive feedback from those who tried it with the available Vanderkley, Berlinatino and Barefaced cabs.

The build quality looks good, feels solid despite it's lack of mass. Fitted with a DI and 1/4" jack socket makes it user friendly for those going through a PA though a Speakon fitting might have been a sensible addition considering how many top cabs have this feature as standard. Not a deal breaker but again you question the lack of foresight.

Loud - Yes, punchy - yes? The finished item? - I wouldn't say so.
Instant classic it isn't and I don't think it's going to make the impact or be remembered in the same way the classic gear did. At £250 for the head, that's not bad VFM - justifying adding the Transit ($299) is something I'm wrestling with. R&D will surely result in a 500w model which will be more appealing to gigging players.

Would I buy it/recommend it?
If you're looking for a small compact (Class D) head this should exceed most people's expectations and would make a fantastic Bedroom amp. For small/medium gigs I think this produces ample kick to supply what you'll need and as a back up this is as good as the competition. For bigger gigs, it's already designed to work with a PA but a quality Poweramp should probably provide any extra headroom required if you don't have access to said PA.

I'm still exploring this amp and what it can do - I think it's going to be a while before I'm 100% convinced but I didn't break the bank in purchasing this. If it doesn't become my main amp, so what....I think that I'll get value from my money - I've paid £250 for speakers and cabs I didn't get on with - I can only hope.

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Great review - thank you. I need something as small as possible so It's down to a choice between one of these wee jobbies, which I haven't and won't get a chance to 'try before I buy' and a GK MB200 - which I have owned before and really liked :) So I'm if'ing & r'ing between tried and tested & the dreaded GAS for something new? - get thee behind me Satan :(!!

Edited by dodgnofski

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I have to say I quite liked it at the Bash.

Thanks for bringing it and sharing!

I don't know if you were around when some folks were talking about it perhaps needing to be louder and (I think it was me?) just said "Well buy two then!".

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I think you may be right but I expect a 500w model won't be too far around the corner.

I don't think too many will disagree that it's powerful for it's size, but it is what it is, a small head - I have a 1000w power amp I could use if I needed the extra oomph..

I still think it's going to influence a lot of what appears on the market in the next 5 years.

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[color=#000000]OK, so it's been a few weeks since the Elf arrived and I've had a chance to stretch the capabilities of the head, including a journey down to the SE Bash where a few other BCers were able to give it a blast through a variety of cabs. General consensus was that it was surprisingly good and could knock out the sort of volume you'd need for a small venue gig. A couple of people even suggested that they might be interested in one as a back up amp.[/color]

[color=#000000]I was initially reserved about the limited tonal package ([i]no 7/11 band graphic and pre programmed shape with this nipper[/i]), however while experimenting with it at home I've had the opportunity to test the head with some effects to expand the tonal palette. Ideally I would love to get my hands on the TE effects packaged released at the same time, however while they're available in the States for around $250 I haven't seen one in Europe for much over £300. Expect prices to come down in time.[/color]

[color=#000000]First effect I added was a compressor - made the world of difference - gives a more Trace Elliot-esque tone and enriches the tonal palette significantly. Highly recommended. With the compressor added you feel like you're on more familiar ground and finding those legendary TE settings becomes achievable in minutes rather than tens of minutes.[/color]

[color=#000000]Next I added a Chorus which helps colour the tones for my fretless. Not something everybody would need but if you are a flat board player you're probably thinking about adding one anyway.[/color]

[color=#000000]To warm the tone I'm also using a Behringer BD121 modeller which also helps. Many of you will be thinking about a Sansamp for the same purpose but there were few who could tell the difference during Lozz's pedal test at the Herts Bash 2016 so the less expensive choice it was. [/color]

[color=#000000]Just for silliness, following a conversation with Hen Barn at the SE Bash, I've added a Synth pedal, not something I'd ever use but I'm hoping to experiment with this along with an incoming Looper. Also looking to add an[size=4] [font=arial, sans-serif]Envelope Filter which is currently living in it's box.[/font][/size][/color]
[color=#000000] [/color]
[color="#000000"]The initial novelty value ([/color][i]it's sooo small[/i][color="#000000"]) has long worn off yet I'm still happy to go to Elf whenever I practice - IMO the Elf is worthy to wear the TE badge and offers competition to similar powered heads despite it's limited output. [/color]

[color="#000000"]For those looking for a real beast, I'm afraid this isn't it - you'll have to wait for it's (yet to be announced) big brother...or get yourself a power amp.[/color]

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At the risk of stating the obvious, having to add other gadgets to make the Elf sound as you wish it should, kind of defeats the object. I'm sure many would relish the prospect of a larger lightweight TE Class D head with a full TE feature set - compressor, pre-shape, graphic - and maybe a 500W output.

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Still at a complete loss as to who needs a head this small, sacrificing so much flexibility and power and relatively speaking not so much cost. Majority of Class D heads will fit in your gigbag and weigh very little, so why go this small?

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[quote name='Kev' timestamp='1508573519' post='3392980']
Still at a complete loss as to who needs a head this small, sacrificing so much flexibility and power and relatively speaking not so much cost. Majority of Class D heads will fit in your gigbag and weigh very little, so why go this small?
[/quote]

Maybe to break the back pocket barrier? But yes I agree, e.g. whilst my Nano Mark is almost twice the size of the Elf, it still fits in the front pocket of my gig bag, delivers 50% more power, and has a Speakon socket.

I can't really criticise the Elf though, as I haven't tried one - I might love it!

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I'm sure that one day the Elf will be considered oversized....progress means things will get smaller over time.

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[quote name='TheGreek' timestamp='1508586808' post='3393108']
I'm sure that one day the Elf will be considered oversized....progress means things will get smaller over time.
[/quote]

Soon we'll just have a preamp app which wirelessly connects to your powered cab...

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[quote name='JapanAxe' timestamp='1508547330' post='3392928']
I'm sure many would relish the prospect of a larger lightweight TE Class D head with a full TE feature set - compressor, pre-shape, graphic - and maybe a 500W output.
[/quote]
Yes! Me for one. I love my Shuttle 6, but if TE released a light(er)weight SMX-equipped head, I'd definitely be very [i]very[/i] interested.

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Just got hold of an ELF in the last few days, completely blown away by it, looking forward to trying it out on next week's gigs! It can never be anything more than a 200w head but for its size it is very very good, certainly shook my studio via a selection of different cabs etc!

N x

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[quote name='Kev' timestamp='1508573519' post='3392980']
Still at a complete loss as to who needs a head this small, sacrificing so much flexibility and power and relatively speaking not so much cost. Majority of Class D heads will fit in your gigbag and weigh very little, so why go this small?
[/quote]

For me this is the perfect head for about 60% of what I do these days, the fact it’s even smaller than others is actually a great help as other “gig bag” amps tend to be not quite small enough. This really does fit in the front pocket of my gig bag. Or would do, if I owned one. Which I probably will one day.

Edited by Merton

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So, forgetting about all the extra gear you would need to add to make it sound like the classic TE tone... How does it sound on it's own?

Does it have a warm, flat, scooped, mid-bumped, harsh sound? Is it more modern sounding like a Genz Benz/Darkglass amp or more vintage sounding like Mesa/Aguilar amps? Is the 3band tone control useable, more fender stack oriented or diferent? Finally, how does it cope next to a loud hitting drummer in a rock band going through a 4ohm cab, volumewise?

Thanks

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I saw one of these "in the flesh" yesterday. My God, they make my GK MB200 look massive. :blink:

Mind you, I'm very happy with the MB200 so the size advantage doesn't bother me.

Frank.

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[quote name='Ghost_Bass' timestamp='1510240562' post='3404930']
So, forgetting about all the extra gear you would need to add to make it sound like the classic TE tone... How does it sound on it's own?

Does it have a warm, flat, scooped, mid-bumped, harsh sound? Is it more modern sounding like a Genz Benz/Darkglass amp or more vintage sounding like Mesa/Aguilar amps? Is the 3band tone control useable, more fender stack oriented or diferent? Finally, how does it cope next to a loud hitting drummer in a rock band going through a 4ohm cab, volumewise?

Thanks
[/quote]

I would like those questions answered as well.
No can give an answer to these basic questions.
Please someone how has one step in and give us all the answers to the above.
Thanks.

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Unfortunately, [i]for me anyway[/i], it doesn't sound like the classic TE gear... but IMO that has a very distinctive sound of it's own which has proved impossible to replicate by any of the Class D designers.

TE have "[i]suffered[/i]" from the same problem - the tones are not what I'd hoped for when I ordered the Elf way back in the previous century ([i]well, that's how long ago it feels with the delivery date being pushed back 5 months[/i]).

Though being a powerful and punchy little monster in a [size=1]tiny little[/size] package, it's very much like many of the other sound-alike Class D amps on the market, lacking any individuality, character or class of it's own. I doubt that there will be many players out there who could differentiate it from a Genz Benz/ Aguilar/ Ashdown/ Eden or any of the multitude of Class Ds. That said,I prefer it to the Mesa Walkabout I had, and it does seem more versatile with warmer tones in a smaller package.
In reality however, it distinguishes itself only in it's size, which I've no doubt will be replicated in the not too distant future.

In comparison, the tonal palette is as broad as any of the competition and I'm pretty sure that there's a tone in there for most players, except for those looking for that "[i]classic TE sound[/i]" of course, and at around £250 it won't disappoint those expecting a Class D package which takes up no space. I took mine down to the SE Bash in September and there were many positive comments made, especially at the surprising output from such a small amp - [i]think 2x iphones stacked on top of each other[/i]. Tonally, it's as good as most of the competition, if you're not totally happy, buy some effects ([i]I'm using a compressor to get it closer to what I want).[/i]

The Elf is the proverbial "[i]you get what you pay for[/i]" with a bit more punch. It'll be powerful enough to play small to mid size venues, in the same way as you'd use your typical/existing 300/500w Class D. It isn't going to blow the roof off these venues though, but why would you expect it to? It's 200w for God's sake.

[i]Would I recommend one?[/i]
As long as you think of these as a small Class D amp and not a small TE there's no reason not to buy one. They are certainly well priced and they will exceed your expectations in the same way as your first Class D head 10 years ago - remember questioning how a book sized amp could make the same amount of noise as your old Fender/Marshall? Same as...only smaller.

Personally, with hindsight, I'd consider waiting for the 500w version (not currently in production) or save up and get the Transit B effects package - [url="https://www.gak.co.uk/en/trace-elliot-transit-b-bass-preamp-effects/909657?gclid=Cj0KCQiAlpDQBRDmARIsAAW6-DP0QJA-SnfMbCThgeZYfeI-g3vJGAwTsYunCysVjo7axLJdA5k6IcQaAqFfEALw_wcB"]https://www.gak.co.u...cQaAqFfEALw_wcB[/url] - which I suspect was a single unit with the head at some point on the design table.

VFM?? Definitely

Edited by TheGreek

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Many thanks for the great review.
It's on my list of amps to try as I need a small lowish powered head.
Thanks again.

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So I now own one of these too, and gigged it yesterday. I like it a lot, very impressive power and punch, plus I managed to find a tone not too dissimilar from the Trace of old. Paired with my Barefaced One10 it sounds glorious, I suspect I could easily do small pub gigs with it and my Barefaced Super Compact :)

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The classic scooped mids thing is where my brain is at. I don’t scoop anywhere near as aggressively myself but I was able to make the Elf sound like the Trace preshape (at least sound like my memory of it!)

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But any amp can do a scooped mids sound. I'm puzzled because people keep talking about the "Trace sound". I had a Trace 300W head for a while and, although it was nice, it didn't seem to have a sound that was different to any other good quality amp. I could have been missing something obvious, of course.

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Whenever I see it mentioned I (perhaps mistakenly) just presume they mean the preshape and that’s what I always have in mind. A slightly clipped mid cut sound.

I completely agree many amps can provide this - Eden and SWR have a mid cut control, Ashdown have a very similar preshape etc etc - but for some reason the “Trace sound” is the one which sticks in mind!

I’m only speaking for myself of course :)

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I think it's the TE preshape buttons that's the 'Trace' sound' smiley face on the EQ to different extents, 

Pre-Shape 1:+6dB at 50Hz and 2kHz, -6dB at 400Hz.
Pre-Shape 2: +5dB at 100Hz, +3dB at 3kHz and -5dB at 650Hz.

IMO sounds great on your own but not in a band situation, I use Trace Elliots but not the preshape button, to me the seem to have a nice thick sound that cuts through, in other words mids, the opposite of the preshape sound

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