Hartke HyDrive HCH210 500W Bass Cabinet review

Popular for their bright clean sound, Hartke amps date back to the 1970s. Gareth Morgan looks at the company’s new 500-watt cab.

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Hartke Systems was established in the late 70s by schoolmates Larry Hartke and Ron Lorman, becaming renowned for the aluminium-coned speakers fitted to its bass cabinets. First available in 1985, Weather Report’s Jaco Pastorius gave them a head start by gigging a prototype worldwide for a year, and they soon became popular.

The shiny silver cones were a visual boon and the bright, clean tone made them immediately a serious choice amongst the clarity-starved bass fraternity. Recently, Hartkes have been paired with traditional cabs, with paper coned drivers offering more fundamental depth.

It’s a trend that inspired Hartke to develop paper/aluminium hybrid units designed to allow the discerning bassist to have their tonal cake and eat it. These cabs make up the HyDrive series, which now boasts the addition of the HCH210 we have for review.

The HyDrive 210 is a porting-free, basic oblong constructed from birch plywood using the dado joinery method, and is also extensively braced. At 371mm high by 612mm wide and 383mm deep, its moderate proportions and weight of 17.7kg (39lb) equate to a highly reasonable lug for the 500 watts on offer.

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Dressed in a mottled black vinyl cover, with steel corners and rubber feet, Hartke fits one shiny, recessed metal carry handle for lugging purposes. This is fine for your in and out of venue heft, but for smaller nudges, we’d have preferred another on the opposite side or an additional carry handle on the top. Just a thoughtº

A chunky silver-coloured steel grille dominates the vista, a large badge screams the company’s name and a smaller offering, the model’s moniker. Beneath this lurks a pair of Hartke’s HyDrive 10-inch speakers with paper/aluminium hybrid cones and rare earth neodymium magnets and a one-inch tweeter with attenuation switch on
the back.

Sounds

Hooked up to a Hartke HA2500 head, the HyDrive 210 spits out impressive low-end bump for a sealed unit. There’s depth and warmth without a hint of wooliness, so if your axe is B-string equipped, be confident you’ll hear the note and not just feel it.

We cranked the amp and were delighted to discover the cab will also handle being driven hard without inducing unwanted clanky excesses; the HyDrive 210 is just clean and loud. Of course, hollow stages and platforms are going to have an effect on any speaker cabinet, but you may find the smaller drivers/sealed enclosure combination will cut this back a bit.

There’s no hint of unwanted colouring to the midrange, so if you desire tonally even and expressive, dark and soupy or snappy and gurgly, it’ll reproduce that without necessary recourse to tonal correction facilities.

Highs are well realised without involving the horn, and the cabinet responds musically to your playing dynamics: play softer for smoother notes or dig in a bit for bite and aggression. Activating the horn is brighter and more aggressively cutting, but at either half or full level it rapidly induces the presence of fret clank in all but the lightest of playing touches.

Key Features
Hartke HyDrive HCH210 500W
• Price £442
Description 500W 2×10” bass cabinet, sealed enclosure of birch ply construction with two Hartke HyDrive neodymium 10” speakers, plus a 1” tweeter with attenuation control. Two Speakon and two jack input sockets
• Dimensions 371x381x406mm
• Weight 17.7kg/39lbs
• Contact Korg UK 01908 304635
samsontech.com/hartke
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