I was pretty excited when I heard we were getting a Matrix power amp in for review. The small British manufacturer has won a lot of accolades from pro guitarists in recent years, notably those who have embraced the Fractal Audio Axe FX system. Dispensing with the once inevitable valve/tube amps, an increasing number of discerning players have taken to plugging straight into an Axe FX and running that into a Matrix power amp. We reviewed a Matrix GT 1000 amp in issue 10 but this was our first chance get our hands on the bigger 1600 model down, so us low-enders could give it a real work out!
For this review I plugged my CIJ Fender in to the Providence Dual Bass Station pedal that we reviewed in issue 20, plugged that into the GT1600FX power amplifier and ran that into a standard 4x10 bass cabinet.
The first thing that struck me about this 2U all-metal construction power amplifier is how light it is. You'll know by now that I love lighter and more powerful gear these days and the Matrix weighs-in at a pretty astonishing 4.7 Kg, which is not much over 10lbs. Matrix has somehow squeezed two bridgeable 800 Watt power stages and a custom switch mode power supply into this package, which comes in a well ventilated casing as well as with a whole host of connections and functionality to suit pretty much every configuration.
The two power amp units can be run completely separately - one channel for one instrument, another for something different, or of course, in the case of the Axe FX which is more than capable of looking after bass duties too, you have the option of running in stereo, making the most of rich swirling choruses, ping-pong delays and shimmering reverbs. If you are a bi-amping bass player, then this configuration is going to be for you, too. The switch on the back that selects this mode also has two other settings: You can select 'Parallel' also known as 'dual-mono'. By connecting a signal to input A it is shared by both the A and B channels at the same time. Great for daisy chaining speaker cabinets to even out the impedance load if pairs of cabinets go below the specified rating for example.
You also have the option by way of a third switch position to 'tie' the two power stages together for bridge mode, allowing you to derive1,600W RMS from the unit into an 8 Ohm load via a dedicated socket. No special cables required here. I think that pretty much trumps all of the other light weight bass amplifiers in terms of output power!
If specs and weight alone were all there was to the Matrix, well, it would still be pretty special, but there's more: the sound of this amp! No, not all power amplifiers are the same I'm afraid. The Matrix's designer, Andy Hunt, has a long history in the PA industry where the need to deliver real punch into subs is paramount - that and flawless reliability, of course. Here he has brought all that experience together in the GT1600FX, whose AB Class output modules just sound superb. There's lots of weight in the sound, which is a hard quality to describe but you'll soon notice if you compare the Matrix to an amp that doesn't have that quality! Of course, all this power needs keeping in check, so Matrix has also included a protection circuit with indicators for status too.
Input connections are via Neutrik combo sockets for XLR and 1/4” plugs and there are Speakon 1/4” combo sockets for outputs too. This is brilliant! Finally, the last massive tick in the box for me is despite the huge output power of this light weight monster, it's still fits in to a shallow rack case with plenty of space to spare! No overhang and room to leave cables plugged in!
If you're ready to move beyond the obvious bass amps and start to configure your own system, the Matrix GT 1600 offers a superb sound, superb build quality and an easily portable way of doing it at a very attractive rice for the high quality on offer. For a player on the move, you could easily take one of these and a pre-amp with with you and just hire-in speakers for your gig. For the rest of us, it could be the cornerstone of a definitive custom bass system.