May 19, 2005
Shenendoah Stereo 60 Review
Reprinted by permission of Acoustic Guitar Magazine.
Pint Sized Power
Genz Benz Shenendoah Stereo 60
Since Jeff Genzler founded Genz Benz as a high-end bass-amp manufacturer in the 1980s, the company has gone on to develop proaudio gear (including mixers and PA enclosures) and quality amps for keyboardists as well as electric and acoustic guitarists. Earlier this year the Scottsdale, Arizona–based outfit rolled out what can be considered its third generation of acoustic amps. Part of the new generation is the midsized Shenandoah Stereo 60—an amp compact enough that most players could make a trip from their car to a gig with it in one hand and a guitar in the other.
Armed to the Tweeters
Decked out with metal corner protectors and a metal speaker grille, the Stereo 60 flaunts rugged construction, and the recessed front panel—which protects knobs from damage in case the amp gets knocked on its face—adds even more toughness. Another nice feature is the angled cabinet design that lets you tilt the amp back 30 degrees if you wish.
On the front panel, the amp’s two channels have identical controls: preamp (gain), effects level, and a three band parametric EQ with low and high knobs, as well as gain and mid-frequency controls that sweep from 250Hz to 5kHz. Both channels include unbalanced 1/4" inputs, and channel one has a balanced, phantom-powered XLR input. There are also two controls for the footswitchable, Alesis-powered digital effects section. One knob rotates through 16 available effects, while the other sets the effect output level. Finally, at far right are the master volume and power switch.
The Stereo 60’s back panel includes a receptacle for the detachable power cable, 1/4" stereo speaker outputs (which are connected to the amp’s internal speakers but could also drive external cabinets), a quarter-inch headphone out, an input for the optional footswitch, stereo quarter-inch and XLR outputs for interfacing with recording or PA equipment, and a ground-lift switch for the DI section.
Natural and Punchy Sound
I tested the Stereo 60 with several guitars, including a Lowden O10 with an L.R. Baggs Dual Source pickup system, a Taylor 712c with a D-TAR Timberline and a Seymour Duncan Mag Mic, and a Juan Huipe flamenco guitar with an active L.R. Baggs Hexaphonic system.
One thing I noticed amid my trial runs with the Stereo 60 is that, if you don’t like feeling as if you’re looking at a mixing board when you’re using an amp, you’ll probably take an immediate liking to this new Genz Benz. Once I matched the preamp gain with my guitars’ output signals, it sounded very natural and punchy run completely flat. Because I’m used to playing through smaller amps, I appreciated the Shenandoah’s rich, buttery low end (particularly when used with the Mag Mic and lowered tunings), and I was impressed by how smoothly it followed my fretboard explorations, offering definition in the trebles and focus when I played fingerstyle bass lines. The EQ section is a powerful tool: the low and high knobs are very musical sounding for both cutting and boosting frequencies, and the parametric mids helped me optimally reproduce each guitar/pickup combination. Further, the Stereo 60’s effects are easy to use. I found the hall and room reverb settings particularly useful, as they offered a realistic representation of actual environments.
Power Enough for Two
To test the Shenandoah’s vocal amplification capabilities, I enlisted ace vocalist/AG music editor Andrew DuBrock. We plugged a Shure Beta 87A through the amp’s mic input and Andrew belted out several of his original acoustic pop tunes while pumping chords through the second channel. We found that turning the volume past 12 o’clock on both the preamp and master controls yielded a boxy sound, but when we backed off a bit and gave the amp enough headroom for a dynamic response, the Genz Benz really shined in double-duty application.
While the Stereo 60 has plenty of power reserves for most amplified acoustic environments, it may not provide the levels necessary for a band with a lot of amplified instruments - such as your typical rock band - or in a larger solo setting. DuBrock felt that the amp wouldn’t be powerful enough (by itself) for the large and noisy brewery he sometimes plays. However, when I used the Stereo 60 as my sole monitor at a medium-sized restaurant gig (feeding one of the DI outputs into the PA), not only was it vastly superior to the venue’s monitors (which I turned off) but I was eventually asked to turn it down because it began to overpower the PA. This amp is definitely no weakling!
With the introduction of the Shenandoah Stereo 60, Genz Benz has enriched the field of compact acoustic amps. This great amp offers excellent, real-world functionality and spunky tone—all without breaking the bank!.