I bought my Hartke gear years ago, but it hasn't seen a lot of hard, steady use. Right now it plays out every Sunday at very low volumes. I have two Transporter 410TP 4x10 cabs (aluminum cones).Reliability
If you search these forums (and the other bass forums out there), you'll find that the biggest problem reported with aluminum-cone Hartke cabs is reliability. For an example of what can
happen, check out this thread
. [Note that in this case the faulty gear was made by Behringer, not
Hartke. Behringer's reputation for reliability makes Hartke look infallible. :rolleyes: ]
The weakness appears to be joining two materials with dissimilar expansion coefficients. More simply, the aluminum expands and contracts at a different rate than the paper it is attached to. It's the same reason why a lot of cars with iron blocks and aluminum heads have more of a chance for head gasket failures.
At least this explanation makes the most sense to me. I came to this conclusion after reading about a guy who's cones came undone after playing an outdoor concert where the sun was shining directly on the cones, undoubtedly making them rather hot.
As a precautionary measure, I try to keep my cabs at a fairly steady temperature and avoid drastic temperature changes. So far, so good. All 8 drivers are still intact (knock on wood).Build Quality
The rest of the cab is designed rather sturdily. The interlocking corners work well and have been durable, standing up to being moved/dragged short distances over concrete. The felting is nice and thick, and hasn't torn or worn after many trips being wiggled into my trunk. The only thing I'm concerned about is when I carry the cab by the bottom, I can feel the join in the felting, although it has not come undone. The wood seems to be thick and sturdy. I have some confidence the metal grill will protect the cones; haven't had that tested yet. The jack has been faultless after many insertions. Nothing rattles; no screws have come loose or fallen out. I don't think there is any way the integral handles could possible break and are convenient, although they may not be as convenient as other handle designs.
In contrast, some other gear I've used has had thin metal corners that don't protect as well and remain dented after any mishap. I always worry about stacks that don't lock together, although haven't had any disasters yet. Casters or metal feet are better, but using a furniture dolly (a.k.a. "four wheeler") is probably better anyway. One combo I had only had a thin plastic/vinyl covering that tore and scratched easily, revealing bare wood. I've never had a problem with wood breaking. That combo also had a thin fabric driver cover which picked up some small tears over time, and the velcro-like things that held it on wore down. I've never had a jack go bad on any amplifier system (only on guitars). The only things I've ever had come loose were vacuum tubes (valves). Strap-style handles are often inconvenient and I always worry they will break, as I have seen evidence of this happening to others.
So overall I'd say the build quality of Hartke gear is solid. However, there were some bad reviews reported in this thread
, although those were on a discontinued product. It's conceivable that those problems came about because that particular model didn't sell well and sat around for too long. I certainly didn't have those kinds of problems with my Hartke gear.Sound Quality
In terms of sound quality, it can be rather subjective. The biggest objection surprisingly seems to stem from pairing Hartke heads with Hartke cabs. There are far fewer complaints about Hartke heads driving other-branded cabs. Although other-branded heads driving Hartke cabs seems to be preferred, some still dislike the tone coloration from the aluminum cones. There seems to be more tolerance for the paper cones.
For the record, I have two Hartke HA 3500 heads, so I fall in the minority of those that don't mind the Hartke/Hartke combination. I have heard my head drive a Mesa Boogie 4x12 cab before -- either with or without one of my 410TPs -- and it did seem to round out the tone quite a bit.
When I bought my rig I brought my bass in to test out some different setups at the store. I think they had three similarly priced systems on the floor I could try, the other two being Ampeg (?) and something else. I didn't like the third system at all. In choosing between the Ampeg (?) and Hartke, it appeared the Hartke was louder (probably because of the pronounced mids). It was also less expensive so that's what I chose.
After reading a lot of posts here and elsewhere, I realize now that I was looking at some of the smaller, lower-end systems. Is anything in that price range considered to have really good sound quality? Probably not when compared to bigger, high-end rigs. For me it was a huge step up from a 100W 1x15 combo in many ways.Paper Versus Aluminum
Without a doubt the aluminum cones will color your sound. You'll either like it or not. A lot of people use adjectives like "metalic" or "tinny" when describing them. (Examples of hearing with your eyes?
) They are certainly brighter, more trebly, and accentuate higher frequencies. Here\'s another discussion
about amps and cabs, and in particular how Hartke stacks up. As you can see by the responses, it's a highly subjective thing.
Just as an example of a pro that does use Hartke gear (with aluminum cones), check out this pic of Jack Bruce in concert
from the Jack Bruce website
. Although some have suggested it is purely an endorsement-type deal ( here\'s one example
), none the less he's still using them on stage.Tone, Tone, Tone!
Almost any bass rig is going to alter (color) the tone of the bass. Going the PA/SR route seems to be better for getting that ideal "ruler flat" response, although do the people with those rigs necessarily always run them "flat"? Granted it's still probably the better choice because you can dial in the lows if you want because they are there, whereas you won't get lows out of a system where they are not present in the first place.
Unlike guitars, in the studio it's far less common to mic a bass rig for recording. If the engineer wants to record you amp'd, he's probably got an old Ampeg B15 he'd rather use than whatever you bring with you. So it's a little unrealistic to rely on your amp to define your tone. In fact, Geddy Lee from Rush is at least one pro bassist that develops his tone up front, so he can use the same signal chain in the studio as well as live.
So a bassist's rig only has one purpose: to make him/her loud enough on stage. And somewhere around here there's evidence that most venues absolutely stink when it comes to acoustics. And then there is talk of "bedroom tone" -- that tone that sounds great when we play all by ourselves at home -- and how that great sounding tone often does not cut it on stage.
Does it matter if your rig doesn't pump out the lows if the room is going to swallow them up anyway? If your mids are muddy, but the room muddies up your mids far worse anyway?
Isn't there a good chance you're going to be sending a DI signal to the FOH anyway, and the sound guy is going to EQ you (or whatever) for the room? Your amp is just acting as a stage monitor then, no?
In smaller venues, yes, you have to rely on your rig to fill the room with sound. But you still have to fight the (horrible sounding) room. With a true full-range system you'll have more options.
But wait a minute ... at least in the studio the engineer is going to cut your lows to give the kick drum more sonic space, and then roll off your highs to make room for everyone else. What are you left with? Could it be that midrange hump that most bass rigs are designed to deliver? (I have no idea what a live sound guy does to dial everyone in.)Summary
Ok, obviously this is a huge topic and we could go on about it all day. It's been talked about on here for years. It's impossible to pick one system as the clear winner for everyone in every situation. Or even for one person over the course of his/her career.
Yes, there is plenty of anecdotal information on the web that should cause anybody to think twice before buying aluminum-cone drivers from any manufacturer. Hartke just happens to be the most visible of those manufacturers. If that's a sound you want and can't get it any other way, then I'd just suggest you be a little more careful in how you treat your equipment, and be prepared if the worst should happen.
Assuming I haven't bored everyone to death, this post should spur quite a bit of conversation.