February 01, 2003
Bass Player GBE 600 Review
Reprinted by permission of Bass Player magazine, February, 2003 issue
By Terry Buddingh
With contemporary music’s increasing stylistic diversity, we bassists are often required to provide a wide variety of tones over the course of a gig. The Genz Benz GBE 600 acknowledges this evolution by offering EQ presets that can provide on-the-fly tone shaping. Evolving from Genz Benz’s earlier ML 200 and GBE 500H models, the flagship GBE 600 is the company’s highestpowered and most feature-laden amp to date.
SHINY NEW BENZ
The solidly built GBE 600’s heavy-gauge steel chassis sports a brushed aluminum front panel with sharp-looking graphics: Gray painted boxes frame each control section, and helpful pictographs illustrate EQ curves. The buttons and metal knobs (on rugged metal shafts) feel substantial; Genz Benz obviously built the GBE 600 to survive tough gigging conditions. The pots feel cool, too; each has 41 detents and a sensuously viscous feel. Our test amp came installed in Genz Benz’s protective and easily portable EZ-Sleeve rack.
A peek under the GBE 600’s hood revealed a toroidal power transformer and three large circuit boards. All components and wiring are neatly secured to resist damage from vibration. A single cooling fan (mounted to the GBE 600’s right side) blows air though the output stage’s internal heatsink and expels it though the rear-panel vents. The GBE 600’s durable internal construction indicates Genz Benz’s high concern for reliability.
The GBE 600 features two footswitchable parallel signal paths in the preamp: a solid-state FET (Field Effect Transistor) path and a tubepowered one. Overdriving the GBE 600’s tube can produce dynamic compression as well as woollier rock-style mild distortion, while the FET stage offers the crisp attack commonly associated with solid-state electronics; LEDs indicate operational status and the onset of clipping. A two-button footswitch toggles between the FET and TUBE sections, or you can run the two sections simultaneously for a hybrid sound. One gripe: Since the footswitch cables are hard-wired at the pedal, they are not user-replaceable. Footswitch cables typically reside in the most exposed stage areas and are especially prone to damage. (Genz Benz responds: “In our experience, placing bulky plug and jack connections in heavytraffic stage-floor settings can cause more signal-interruption challenges than a good hardwired cable that’s strain-relieved inside the footswitch.”)
The GBE 600’s gig-worthy features include a well-voiced 5-band EQ and a full-featured XLR DI out (with PRE/POST and GROUND LIFT switches and LEVEL control). Three footswitchable SIGNAL SHAPE presets further augment the EQ section. Rather than simple on/off EQ contours, for each preset, Genz Benz has added a level knob that adjusts boost or cut. Front-panel buttons activate the three SIGNAL SHAPE presets. The flexibility afforded by the optional four-button footswitch (the fourth button is MUTE) is worth its extra cost. The Benz includes a pair of Neutrik Speakon speaker jacks and q" speaker jacks for flexible speaker connectivity. Genz Benz incorporated a two-speed fan switch into the rear panel for quiet operation.
My first test gig was with a jazz quartet; I teamed the GBE 600 with a Flite 2x10 and played a flatwound-equipped Celinder J-Vintage 4-string. I was a little late, so there was just enough time for a hasty setup without knob tweaking. I wanted a warm and lush faux-upright sound, so I set all of the EQ knobs flat and engaged only the MID SCOOP preset, with its knob pointing straight up, and punched the button for the tube-preamp section just as the bandleader counted off the first tune. The result? I didn’t touch a knob for the rest of the night. The tone was round, lusciously warm, rich with detail, and evenly balanced.
The next day I had an R&B gig, where I used an MPG 5-string and a Bergantino 2x10, a combination that brought out the GBE 600’s more aggressive side. I started with only the FET preamp section engaged, the L.F. EXTENSION knob turned up about 25 percent, and the H.F. ATTACK knob up about 50 percent. The fingerstyle tone was growly and assertive, with impressive clarity and bite. For slapping, I engaged the MID SCOOP button. Instantaneously switching from a happenin’ fingerstyle tone to a killin’ slap tone is one of the most difficult on-the-gig challenges, but the GBE 600’s footswitchable MID SCOOP made it easy. With its steep rolloff below the boost frequency, the L.F. EXTENSION control added depth without jeopardizing low-frequency speaker control, even on the B string’s lowest notes. The bottom end was uncommonly huge yet taut, controlled, and focused. As the gig progressed, I mixed a little tube channel with the FET, which retained the FET’s quick and crisp leading edge, but added a touch of liquid smoothness that was especially apparent through the midrange. Sweet.
Another staffer tried the GBE 600 at a rehearsal with a ten-piece R&B band and found it had plenty of power, describing its tone as “warm, natural, and girthy.” Though he initially found the many tone-shaping options daunting, he liked how the tube imparted “cool grit.”
BIG BANG THEORY
The GBE 600 provides a lot of bang for the buck, and it’s obvious that a lot of real-world experience influenced its design. Sure, the GBE 600 sounds great and has all of the contemporary features we’ve come to expect, but the Benz’s footswitching versatility sets it apart from the pack. If you’re looking for an affordable, well-made amp with chameleonlike versatility, definitely take the Genz Benz GBE 600 for a test ride.
Power rating:275 watts RMS into 8 ohms, 425 watts RMS into 4 ohms, 625 watts RMS into 2 ohms minimum load
Input impedance:500k ohms passive, 150k ohms active (w/12dB attenuation)
SIGNAL SHAPE presets:MID SCOOP: -6dB @ 800HZ, broadband scoop; H.F. ATTACK: +6dB @ 4kHz, narrow peak filter; L.F. EXTEND: +6dB @ 35Hz–45Hz, variable asymmetrical filter. To protect woofers from over-excursion, the rolloff below the boost frequency becomes steeper as the boost increases.
XLR DI output: Differential op amp driven with PRE/POST and GROUND LIFT switches and capacitor coupling for phantom power protection
Power amp topology: Class AB (eight bipolar output transistors)
Tube: One Russian-made Sovtek 12AX7LPS
Dimensions: 19" x 14t" x 3w" (2U rackmount)
Weight: 25 lbs.
Options: Four-button SIGNAL SHAPE and MUTE footswitch, $59; EZ-Sleeve two-space rack, $99
Made in: Taiwan
List price: $1,049
Warranty: Three years limited