August 01, 2004
Bass Player NEOX400-112T
Reprinted by permission of Bass Player Magazine, August, 2004 issue.
By Johnathan Herrera
By now, neodymium isn’t so neo anymore. Each NAMM show finds more cab manufacturers debuting products utilizing the lightweight rare-earth drivers. Genz Benz’s NEOX line utilizes 12" neodymium drivers exclusively, pairing them with a unique Xpattern porting system which places a shelf port in each corner of the baffle face, for “increased low frequency support and projection.” If the NEOX400-112T looks familiar, it’s because the amplifier section is essentially identical to the GBE 600 we reviewed in February ’03.
Considering its power output, the stout NEOX400 is compact in size. However, extensive cabinet bracing, Baltic birch plywood construction, and a hefty toroidal power transformer add up to a burly 59 pounds. The cool “edge lift” handles are substantial and well placed, but the optional casters would undoubtedly be a welcome addition for any urban gigger. The brushed aluminum front panel is thoughtfully organized, with pictographic diagrams that help illuminate EQ curves and a thorough array of status LEDs. The knobs turn smoothly, and the switches depress with definitive clicks. The cabinet incorporates a springloaded tilt stand for orienting the NEOX at a slight upward angle.
To remove the NEOX400’s amp chassis, the side-mounted retaining screws and edge lift handles must first be removed; it’s a laborious procedure, but it shouldn’t be necessary often. Our first tester suffered from shipping damage - likely the result of being dropped on the combo’s top - that resulted in the toroidal transformer being ripped from its mounting location, allowing it to float freely in the amp’s interior. Genz Benz quickly sent a replacement that functioned perfectly. The interior circuitry was neat and orderly. The socket for the single 12AX7 tube was well reinforced and easily accessed.
The NEOX400 has two footswitchable gain stages. The FET stage is all solid-state, while the TUBE stage utilizes a 12AX7 as an impedance buffer. As may be expected, the solid-state sound is quick and immediate, while the TUBE sound exhibits the blooming warmth and pleasing overdrive characteristic of typical tube circuits. Dual GAIN and VOLUME controls for the TUBE stage allow for dialing in just the right amount of grit. When blended, the two circuits can combine to offer the best attributes of both solid-state and tube sounds.
The NEOX400’s tone-sculpting circuit is powerful, simple, and effective. The footswitchable SIGNAL SHAPE section includes three preset EQ contours. The accompanying knobs control the amount of cut or boost for each curve. The ACTIVE EQUALIZATION circuit includes five bands of wellvoiced EQ: shelving LOW and HIGH controls and three bands of peaking midrange filters. You can bypass the soft-clip limiter via a front-panel switch, but I never felt that the musical-sounding limiter unnaturally detracted from my bass’s dynamic range, so I left it engaged most of the time.
IN WITH THE NEO
In our Soundroom, the NEOXproved its mettle with a varietyof passive and active basses.With a Music Man Bongo, I wasimmediately taken with the GenzBenz’s growl and impressive low-end output. Most of the 12" speakers I’ve encountered bark like 15s but are also quicker, punchier, and particularly adept at midrange-heavy tones. The NEOX is no exception. Because of its edgy, slightly raw tone and substantial punch, the combo excels at back-pickup finger-style and rock sounds. When the EQ is set flat, the adjustable tweeter doesn’t provide much super-high sizzle, but dialing in highs with the H.F. ATTACK control helps the NEOX make like bacon.
The groovy dual-stage pre-amp is extremely flexible, and the accompanying footswitch is more than another gigging gewgaw; it allows for profound tone changeon the fly. With a passive Lakland Skyline Darryl Jones, I liked being able to dial in a snappy solid-statetone for slapping and a juicy, har-monically rich tone for fingerstyle rock; each sound was accessi-ble with a quick toe tap. With a flatwound-equipped Lakland Sky-line Hollowbody, the NEOX delivered righteous booty, particularly when I boosted the lows with the L.F. EXTEND circuit. On its own, the NEOX was plenty loud for most gigs, and it commendably communicated B string depth—but connecting the NEOX-112T extension cab resulted in a substantial volume and power increase and a more pliable feeling of head-room and resilience to aggressive pops or ultra-loud lows.The NEOX400-112T chalks another notch for neo. Its versatile preamp, loud output, and excellent footswitch integration would make the NEOX a formidable asset on most gigs. It’s not the lightest of the neo gang, but it’s another piece of hard evidence that neo has arrived, and it’s here to stay.
In the last few years, bass cabs featuring neodymium-magnet-equipped speakers have found their way into many a cab maker’s lineup. Since a neo magnet is about ten times as powerful as a comparable-size ferrite magnet, the magnets in neo speakers need only be about one-tenth the size of their conventional counterparts. Neo-equipped speakers can weigh half as much as conventional speakers, translating into major bass-cab weight savings. Neo drivers are not perfect—they can permanently lose magnetic strength when subjected to high temperatures, for example—but the technology is evolving quickly, and neodymium may become de rigeur in the next few years.
Power rating: 275 watts RMS into 8ohm; 425 watts RMS into 4ohm minimum load (with 8ohm extension cabinet)
Input impedance: 500kohm passive, 150kohm active (w/12dB attenuation)
Tone controls: LOW: ±12dB @ 80Hz; LOWMID: ±12dB @ 200Hz; MID: ±12dB @ 500Hz; HIGH-MID: ±12dB @ 1.25kHz; HIGH: ±12dB @ 4kHz
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 phantompower protection Power amp topology: Class AB
Speakers: Custom-designed neodymium speakers with compression bullet horn
Dimensions: 21w" x 21q" x 16w"
Weight: 59 lbs
Options: Four-button SIGNAL SHAPE and MUTE footswitch, $59; removable casters, $50 Made in: Taiwan and U.S.
Warranty: Three years limited