Review of Gallien Krueger MB800 -
As the race to make the loudest and the lightest bass amp shows no
sign of abating, US maker Gallien-Krueger makes a bid for the 'best
in class' award. Dan Veall looks very thoughtful...
The last couple of years have seen a real step up in the output
power of bass amplifiers. They seem to be getting smaller and
smaller too. Recently we have reviewed the TC Electronic RH750 and
the Ampeg PF350 (that is also available in a 500 Watt version) and
enjoyed looking at the Randy Jackson TTE500 from Markbass, yet
another company which also brings lightweight and powerful
amplification to the table. Amongst the well known manufacturers
showing off new kit at this year's NAMM show in Anaheim was
Genz-Benz with its updated Shuttle and Streamliner heads, boasting
huge D class amplifiers in gigbag sized cases. And then there was
Gallien-Krueger's latest - the MB800.
Since hearing via the 'bass playing grapevine' rumours that a
higher power version of the Gallien-Krueger MB500 was on the cards,
I've been waiting rather patiently to get my grubby paws on one.
Like many iGuitar readers, I am very much a musician with those
'gear buying needs' and have read many a comment online, comparing
this new head to the others I have mentioned above. The MB800
promises much, so it was with a certain amount of excitement that I
finally hauled one down the stairs into the Bassment for what we
like to call...a good once over'.
For someone who has a certain penchant for coloured lights, even
switching this amplifier on is a joy. On pushing in the power
switch, the outer ring changes from a red light to blue when it is
all ready to go. Similarly the mute switch has a ring round it that
glows red when engaged and should you clip the input with a signal
that is too hot, the ring around the pad switch flickers red too.
But there's more on the front panel: the MB800 includes a foot
switchable channel function (a simple but very sturdy metal foot
switch with integral LED indicator is included in the box for the
amplifier along with a standard instrument lead for connecting the
two.) On the front panel of the head are two gain controls and a
separate level control for the second 'channel'. When the second
channel is selected, the blue lit ring on the channel A gain knob
changes over to the Gain B knob providing visual notification of
the channel change. Incidentally, without a foot switch, channel
changes are made by pushing the gain A or gain B buttons in.
Soundwise, those who have already had an opportunity to try this
amplifier have suggested it is unmistakeably G-K in character. It
is punchy in the bottom end with a great clarity that is a little
forward without being harsh, they say. I've played through a few
G-K heads in my time and I am inclined to agree with that, but
there's something about the MB800 that feels more energetic than
the other MB heads I've tried. The mid-frequencies are great too.
It has a lot of power on tap which almost seemed to burst out of
the test cab we were using. This head does include a completely
different preamp in comparison to other MB heads though, featuring
an all FET design for a 'valve-like' feel. To over-simplify, 'Field
Effect Transistor' circuits can be configured in such a way that
they have a similar effect on signals to valve circuits, which is
pleasing to the ear and the MB800 sounded great when the
pre-amplifiers were driven towards distortion. That means the 'G-K
growl' is very much alive and well here when the gain control is
pushed up! Bob Gallien obviously knows this tried and tested method
works well and has used the same 'G.I.V.E' (Gate-Induced Valve
Effect) design in his FET pre-amps for the last 30 years. I have to
say, this amp delivers by the spadeful and is fast becoming my
favourite 'gig bag' sized amplifier - and I've been lucky enough to
play through a lot of the current crop of favourites too.
Whilst we were recording the videos, we did notice the sound of
the two fans situated on the side of the unit kick in with a fair
amount of gusto. You may think of it as a negative point, but I see
fan noise as a by-product of the technology used and thus I can
easily live with it. Hopefully, you'll be making use of those huge
Watts in a gig where you won't hear too much of that fan noise - it
will be masked by those luscious bass tones coming from the superb
Speaking of huge Watts, the MB800 also includes a power
amplifier limiter that can be disengaged. One of the nice things
about the functionality is that when the limiter is not part of the
signal path, you will still get indication that the amplifier
section is peaking. That's good thinking on the part of G-K,
providing constant indication of the amplifier's status .
Also on the front panel, as well as a wonderfully usable and
musical four-band EQ section, is a contour control. This allows
manipulation of the amplifier response, for example scooping out
those mid-frequencies to make the amplifier do a brilliant modern
slap sound. Yes, I am really pleased to say that this amplifier is
able to produce a wide range of usable sounds, with very little
tweaking. I find that some amplifiers either have an inherent tone
that you just can't get rid of, or the EQ section makes it
difficult to dial in the sound you want easily. Not so with
the MB800. I'd have been happy leaving all controls at 12
Around the back, G-K has managed to cram in even more usable
functionality. Two Speakon connectors and the IEC power socket at
either end of the shell flank the foot switch socket, effects loop
and tuner out socket (for silent tuning). As if that wasn't enough,
there is a socket that can be used as a line-out or headphone
connection. A 'mode' switch next to it allows you to choose between
the two modes of operation. There is also a D.I. output.
Once again take a look at the technical specs for this
amplifier. It's great to see so many cool features in a head that
will slide nicely in to a 1u rack space or gig bag and weigh just
over 2Kg and be powerful enough for pretty much any gig. The tone
of this amp is great, the price is very fair. In fact I think we
have just found a new review favourite. This is just a brilliant,
Check out the full review inc. video of the Gallien Krueger
MB800 by Dan Veall featured in The Quiet Room in Issue 10 of
Guitar Interactive Magazine (
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