First Impressions: Synergy BMan

Recently, I picked up a BMan preamp for my Synergy rig. How did I get on with it? Read on for my First Impressions.

Let’s Cut To The Chase

Right now, I think I’m in love. I think this might just be my desert island guitar amplifier.

Let me try and explain why.

What Did You Buy?

I bought a Synergy Amps’ BMan preamp module.

What Is It?

Synergy Amps make and sell a modular guitar amp system. Think of it like hi-fi separates, and you’ll get the idea. (I’ll do a full article on Synergy Amps another time. I’m a huge fan – apart from the huge fan in their poweramp!)

The preamp modules are fully-analogue, all-valve circuits, and you plug them into either one of their amp heads, or into a chassis that you can pair with a separate power amp.

The BMan is their recreation of the sound of Fender’s iconic Bassman 5D6 amp.

Why Did You Buy It?

I’ve been working on the draft for my long-delayed Marshall Origin One Year Later … One Year Late review. There’s an important (to me) point that I want to get across in that review, and I’ve been struggling with how best to demonstrate that.

When I first got it, I said that the Origin wasn’t a budget plexi amp. Two years and change later, I feel even stronger about that point. My original plan was to try and borrow a JTM45 or a Marshall Studio Vintage to demonstrate the point, but that’s not an option during a pandemic lockdown.

I need to go in a different direction. That’s where the BMan comes in.

The original Marshall amps were based on the Bassman’s design. And if the Origin isn’t a budget plexi or JTM45, does the name allude to it being their new take on the Bassman? (Much the same way that Fender’s Bassbreaker amps were Fender’s take on the JCM 800 …)

I don’t have access to a real Fender Bassman amp to borrow. I’ve nowhere to put one if I bought one (and they’re rarer in the UK than you might expect, if you’re an American reader).

Lack of space is the reason I’ve got a Synergy rig in the first place. It made sense to get their BMan module over anything else.

Haven’t You Tried This Before?

True story: back in February 2018, when I went over to Peach Guitars (hi Jack!) to get my Synergy rig, the BMan was the very first module we tried. It was farty as anything, even with the bass dialled all the way out.

The rig we tried the BMan into came home with me (there wasn’t much Synergy gear in stock in those early days). The BMan module that I picked up recently sounds epic through this rig.

So You Like It Then?

Regular readers will know that I’m very much into my tweed-like tones at the moment. Although I grew up on Marshalls and the like with hair-metal super-Strats, I’ve learned that the tweed sound is just more me. It’s the sound that I didn’t know I was after for the last 25 years.

My only experience with the tweed sound is through pedals like the Mad Professor Sweet Honey Overdrive (SHOD for short). I’ve never even seen an actual tweed amp in person, never mind got any experience playing one. They’re not impossible to find here in the UK, it’s just that we’re a land of Marshalls and Orange – and genuine tweed amps are far too loud for our tiny residential spaces.

If you’re American, where these kinds of amps are highly accessible, please forgive me if the sound I like isn’t authentic.

What’s It Like With Pedals?

It sounds absolutely great with the pedals that I’ve tried so far.

That said, I’d still recommend the Synergy T-DLX module, or the Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 instead.

  • The T-DLX has separate Twin and Deluxe channels, making it more flexible. If a pedal doesn’t like one channel, it always sounds great through the other.
  • The Blackstar Studio 10 6L6 currently costs just over a third of the price of a minimal Synergy rig, and sounds great. It’s also much easier to find one, as Synergy gear is often “out of stock”.

And, as you’ll hear when I post my Marshall Origin long-term review, the Origin can also be a better choice for pedals.

Why? Well, the reason for that is the BMan has quite a bit of thickness to the lower-mid range, whereas the other amps have a bit more emphasis on the upper-mid range. In the room, the BMan sounds glorious, but the other amps can bring a bit more clarity to the party.

That’s not the whole story, though.

Can It Be Used Without Pedals?

Oh yes. And it’s so good, I could give up pedals for it.

The BMan module has two channels. The Synergy write-up doesn’t say anything about them being different (or if it does, I’ve missed it). To my ears, the only difference between them is the amount of gain available.

At the same settings, the green channel is still pretty clean, while the red channel puts all my tweed-tone pedals to shame. Yes, even my beloved SHOD.

A lot of people complain about gain from pedals, and say it’s not the same as from an amp. The difference for me isn’t so much about the overdrive itself, it’s more about the frequency response.

Overdrive pedals typically don’t have a full-frequency response. Click them on, and quite a bit of the overall bass goes away. Maybe it’s because they’re designed to go into the amp’s preamp stage? The end result sounds pretty good in the room, and is easier to work with in a mix.

But boy – the cranked BMan just fills the room I’m in. The overdrive is much thicker. The sound isn’t more distorted, there’s just more of it across the frequency spectrum.

Since I got it, I’ve hardly played anything else.

All those tweed-tone pedals … yeah, they all offer something in the same ballpark, but the cranked BMan, this is it. This is the sound that I’ve been after.

Final Thoughts

I bought this preamp module to help me figure out my Marshall Origin long term review. I was expecting to use it for that, and then put it away with my other Synergy preamps for occasional use only.

That’s not going to happen.

I want to record with this amp. No pedals, just guitar straight into the amp. And if I’m happy with the results, I’m going to have to ask myself: what do I need my pedals for?

That’s a scary thought.

2 Replies to “First Impressions: Synergy BMan”

  1. Hi there, I am just about to join the synergy family. I’ve ordered a synergy 50/50 power amp. I have concerns about people saying the fan noise is too much. How have you found it, and did you look for a more quiet replacement fan at all. Thanks for any help you can give, I found your blogs very informative, thanks Matthew.

    1. Hi Matthew! Welcome to the blog 🙂 Only just seen your comment here. We’ve since talked about it on the Synergy Facebook group.

      For anyone else coming across this comment at some point in the future, here’s what I said over on Facebook:

      – the SYN 5050 power amp has a fan that’s always on
      – the fan seems to have just two speeds
      – even at the low speed, the fan noise is annoying for home use, at least it is for me
      – when the fan kicks into high speed, it’s really too loud for use at home
      – I haven’t looked for a replacement fan
      – I’m assuming it’s a bigger problem for us here in the UK because our homes are far smaller than American homes, and also that the step down from 240V is producing even more excess heat
      – I just put up with it, and switch to a passively cooled amp (or the Kemper)

      At the end of the day, there just aren’t many rack-mountable value stereo power amps around. I looked at Thomann’s website, and they only sell one other such power amp. Second hand Marshall and Mesa Boogie power amps turn up from time to time. I’ve had one of the Marshalls (the 9200 iirc), and didn’t like it at all. The Mesa Boogie amps tend to come with a step-down transformer, and they need active cooling of their own. They also take a hell of a lot of glass (valves), which make them expensive to run.

      If Synergy released a passively-cooled version of the SYN 5050, I’d buy it today. Until then, I’ve just put up with it. I like the sound I get from the power amp, and I make use of the fact that it’s a stereo unit.

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