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One might ask…

October 21, 2011

Genz-Benz …after over ten years with just two amplifier companies, why have you added Genz•Benz to the mix? As usual, it comes down to the same reason I first began to use, and then sell Acoustic Image and Euphonic Audio’s stuff. My never-ending “in search of” philosophy brought me to another amplifier company, one that has some gear unlike what we currently have, as well as some options for lower priced amplification solutions for you, our customers.

I don’t know about you, but my pattern for gear adoption has usually been driven by gig needs. Lately, electric bass gigs have been mostly the blues on electric five string, leading me to look for a more “tubey” sort of sound, not unlike the legendary Kern IP-777 tube preamp I used to pair with a power amp a dozen years ago… but lighter and more compact. I should mention that its replacement, the Euphonic Audio iAMP800, was to meet the need for a more articulate yet still warm sound that could better cut  through a dense mix, the primary gigging needs at that time, and something I still admire and need.

A Genz•Benz Streamliner 900 will sit atop my new Euphonic Audio NL-210 (coming out in late October 2011) 2×10 speaker cabinets, as my electric bass guitar (and very loud URB/EUB) rig. The Acoustic Image Contra (now Coda Series 4) remains my favorite for low to medium volume upright bass gigs, and my compact EA Doubler (or Streamliner)/EA Wizzy 10 rig will also still see service for small electric gigs and some URB/EUB stuff. Just like having two upright basses set up for different sorts of gigging duties, having multiple rigs is also a good thing if you have the resources to do so.(Yes, there are advantages to owning a music store as well as having kids that are well past their college years.)

But back to the Genz•Benz gear… The Genz•Benz Streamliner amps have three 12AX7 preamp tubes utilizing six gain stages, so it is definitely very Old School Tone Land. Their other amps, and most other “tube preamp” rigs on the market, have but one tube in the preamp section, so the result can be far less “tubey.” In fact, many of those amps seem to use their single 12AX7 tube more effectively in the marketing of the amp than in the actual circuitry, but the Genz•Benz are not in that category. I should also mention that all the Genz•Benz amps have tube preamps with solid state power amp sections, and some even have circuitry to lend a tubey tone to the power amp’s limiter, so doesn’t go splat when you hit the wall.

Amps with tubes can have characteristics that can make them desirable… or unacceptable. You have to decide what you want your amp to do for, or to, your bass tone, and also recognize that all do not offer the same characteristics. The perceived benefit of a tube in the preamp section is a desired coloration of the sound, and varying the level of tube involvement and gain level of the circuit can take it from mildly warm, somewhat fat, or all the way to overdriven nastiness… if the amp maker includes that ability. My personal goal was more “heft,” with more body in the higher register, with a subtle smoothness and softening of the overall bass signal. The price you pay by going in this pillow-ish tonal direction can be the loss of some of those edges to the note that help it overcome a dense mix, as well as some jagged overtones that exhibit the distinctive character of your bass.

Of the Genz-Benz lineup, the Streamliner’s three-tube preamp definitely can deliver more of the pillowy, rich sort of old school goodness, but can also get pretty intense and driven as you advance the tube gain control. The Shuttle
and ShuttleMax single-tube preamp offers a slightly less intense tube experience, not as thick or dense, but still pretty satisfying, and is probably a better choice for players who want to play on both sides of the fence. The Genz•Benz
ShuttleMax 9.2
is in a class by itself, offering both a tube and FET (solid state) channel that you can mix for a little sharpness in your cream, or move between tube and clean channels depending on the gig or song. I have been swaying back and forth between the Streamliner and ShuttleMax, as the surgical fine tuning ability of the latter is quite attractive, similar to the Euphonic Audio iAMP800 (now iAMP Pro) I have used for the past several years.

In any case, one does have to step back and evaluate their personal amplification goals. None are wrong, all are valid, and admittedly, the differences can be quite subtle… especially in the mix. We are indeed fortunate to have the variety of such highly capable and precise bass amps and cabs from which to choose.

I should also say how thankful I am that Class D amps and Neo speaker cabs arrived just in time for the decline of my ability to carry the heavy stuff. What a wonderful world!


This blog preempted Making Friends With Your Amp (Part 2), which will be published shortly.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2011 7:24 pm

    Bob, great read. Thanks. Glad you are carrying the GB stuff. I am considering the Shuttle 3.0 8″ with 8″ extension cab for light to medium weight upright jazz gigs. Do you know if I can get “a little more” out of the 3.0 by later switching to a larger cab (like a “12) or is the amp too small for anything other than the 8” cabinets?

    • October 26, 2011 2:38 pm

      The 300 head is the same on the 8 and the 10 combo; it’s got the guts (175W/8 ohms; 300W/4 ohms) to run the 12 pretty well too. Should be fine!

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