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Acoustic Image Ten2Ex, Ten2 vs. Coda+

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I’ve had about one month to get to know the Acoustic Image Ten2Ex and compare it with the Coda+. For those of you who are not familiar with the Ten2Ex it’s the same cabinet as the Ten2, except that it does not have the amp head built in. I already own the Coda+ so it would not make sense for my application to buy another cabinet with the same head, especially since the newer AI amps have the “cabrio system”, which allows for easy docking and undocking of the head.

If you recall, the Coda+ comes with a single 10″, 5″ mid and a 1″ tweeter. The Ten2 cabinet consists of two 10″ speakers and a tweeter, no midrange speaker .  The benefit of having two 10″ speakers is that the cabinet can move more air. More air movement equals more volume. Just like the Coda+, the Ten2 has a downfiring 10″, but instead of the 5″ midrange and tweeter mounted into the front, it has a 10″ in the front and a 2.5″ coaxial tweeter in front of the speaker. This makes the cabinet taller and heavier, yet it’s still much lighter than other brands of 2×10 speaker cabinets.

I love the Coda+ and how transparent and accurate it sounds, but it’s weakness is volume. It’s impressive for its size and weight, far louder than a polytone or GK and has way more headroom. It does have a hard time keeping up when the stage volume is up because of an aggressive drummer in more rock n roll oriented genres. I would say that 90% of the time, the Coda+ is plenty loud and that’s all that I need. I could have gotten a Contra+ to duplicate the same sound, but the idea of a 3×10 stack seemed like a better option for loud situations.

To test the Ten2 against the Coda+, I used the same head and went back and forth to hear differences between the speakers.  The most obvious thing is that Ten2 is noticeably louder. It’s at least 50% louder at the same setting based on a rough guess. The next thing that is noticeable is that it does sound different than the Coda+. There is more bottom end on the Ten2 at all volume levels. At the upper half  of volume settings the bottom sounds deeper, clearer and rounder than the Coda+. The lows are not boomy at all. The midrange frequencies on the Ten2 drop off, so it lacks the flat frequency response of the Coda+. Boosting the mids to match the levels with the lows only resulted in a midrange that sounded somewhat harsh,  similar to a Polytone.  The Ten2 sounds best with minimal equalizing. The high frequencies are clear and more audible than the mids, but their levels are also low compared to the lows frequencies. Unlike the Coda+, this cabinet is scooped in other-words, but it’s not colored like one would expect from bass guitar cabinets.

Out of curiosity, I dusted off the old ’72 Fender Deluxe Jazz to see how the Ten2 would sound. The Coda+ didn’t do so well making the bass sound good, but the Ten2 did much better. It still sounded a bit sterile and a bass guitar cabinet’s coloring would be very beneficial, but it’s still very usable unlike the Coda+.  With some eq’ing, I could get a very decent sound out of the amp. With the bass guitar, the bottom on the Ten2 was tight and fill and the highs were clean.

It’s not to say that I don’t like the Ten2, but I like the Coda+ far more. For what I want to hear out of my amp, the flat response of the Coda+ with BassBalsereit Studio active pickup + AKG microphone does a exceptional job of making the amplifier indistinguishable from my bass. If the sound coming out of your pickup/mic jack is exactly how you like it, then the Coda+ is a clear winner in terms of quality of sound. If you’re going for volume because you routinely play where stage volumes are high, the Ten2 will get the job done while still providing clean, transparent sound. You will sacrifice some detail and accurancy, but at high volume levels and playing against other instruments, that loss wouldn’t be as perceivable.

The Coda+ stacked on the Ten2Ex was the best of both worlds. How the speakers are arranged makes a very large difference in the overall sound. With both speakers on the ground, the lows are very pronounced. Stacked, the sound is closer to flat level across the full spectrum. By stacking, one cabinet off of the floor and is decoupled from the floor which reduces its bass response. The lows are still more pronounced so a little equalizing is needed to get the response to flat. This arrangement is very loud for an upright bass amplification system and for one that weighs less than 50 pounds total.

Ideally it’s probably best to have both the Coda+ and Ten2Ex, but if you had to choose one amp, you should choose one based on what you do. If you do jazz combos, the Coda+ is a very clean, accurate amp with a lot of headroom and detail. If you routinely play where the stage volume is high, the Ten2 may be a better alternative.

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