Bass Gear Magazine is simply one of the most dedicated and thorough bass mags around. It’s one of those cases where one guy’s passion, but backed with support from the bass community on e.g. TalkBass, can dig so deeply into covering the best low-end gear in such detail.
This combined review and interview with Jeff Genzler is no exception in that regard. Bass Gear Magazine’s founder and chief editor, Tom Bowlus, connected with Jeff for a chat about his thoughts behind the design of the Genzler Amplification gear, and then he brought along a full rig on the road for a good round of testing in the real world.
One of the most critical decisions when it comes to design a new bass amp is the ‘nature’ of how it sonds one you start dialing in tones. In other words, how does the preamp / EQ section work – and sound. And what thoughts went into this in the case of the Magellan 800?
Inside Jeff’s Head
Tom Bowlus (TB) – I am definitely a fan of the semi-parametric mids, and I know that you have employed a similar EQ in the Neo-Pak 3.5 and Shuttle 3.0/6.0. Other than the frequency range on the Magellan’s midrange control extending up to 3kHz (versus 2kHz on the former designs), what are the differences between newer and older tone stacks?
Jess Genzler (JG) – Even though the EQ network of the MG-800 may look similar to others on the market, it, too, is a case in taking a look at what “is” and asking the question as to what it could “be.” The EQ circuits for the MG-800 were designed with the goal of maximizing musicality and versatility, eliminating interactions between controls, reducing corner frequency shifts in the shelving filters during boost and cut adjustments, and lessening the effect each filter has on adjacent bands.
TB – The dual-function Contour control is a new twist. Tell us a bit more about the inspiration for this control. Have you done a “contour” control in the past?
JG – There are many amp designs with some form of a contour, signal-shaping option, either by a rotary pot or multiple switches. We had experience with this in a few previous designs. The inspiration for the Magellan’s Dual Adjustable Contour circuit was to provide the user with an easy option to dial in any of four different tonal pallets:
Flat (no pre shape filtering), for the purist who only wants to hear his instrument without any additional coloring from EQ.
Slap tones, from classic to modern. This is Contour A, range 9:00 and above.
Traditional pre shape curves (found to one degree or another in many of the popular preamps and amps over the last 50 years). This is Contour A, range 1:00 and below.
Vintage tones, as made popular by the amp and cabinet designs originally produced in the ‘60s and ‘70s. This is the beauty of Contour B.
Tom also asked about the Drive channel of the new amp, and Jeff happily shares his mind on that topic:
As we brainstormed the preamp design and features, we pulled from our vast experience with FET and tube preamp designs to design circuits that produced the characteristics most desirable for our objectives. We found we could create this within an all-FET preamp. And because we chose a dedicated Drive channel, we were able to design the circuit more specifically to tailor that sound and harmonic content to be much more pleasing to the ear as you drive the gain higher. Even when run in cleaner settings, the Drive channel offers a distinct difference to the pristine Clean channel. And as the Drive channel Gain control is increased, the tonal shape of the signal is tapered at the lower and upper ends to provide a smoother and more pleasing overdrive. This does represent a next generation in Genzler Amplification design.
Obviously, the cabs are also covered and in particular the idea behind the 3″ Bass Array design:
Yes, the Magellan cabinets are certainly more traditional in design and speaker compliment, but we worked diligently to make a new statement with these, as well. We’ve heard from players using them that they really do sound just as they look – a modern take on classic tone. They are full-bodied, with throaty mids and smooth highs. Now, the Bass Array design has been a concept that has been floating around with me for some time – without specific form. I’ve tested small cone drivers for a long time, looking to find the right blend of frequency response and design to bring it all together. Over the past few years, in the player community, there has been a lot of discussion about the use of tweeters and designs of alternative woofer/mid driver cabinets. Over the years, I’ve designed cabs using 15” and 4” drivers, 15” and 8” drivers 12” and 2 x 8” drivers, etc. I think we have a heritage of looking at cabinet design in a different paradigm.
I think the Bass Array is a culmination of the development of the right speaker components and a market place open to hearing themselves through a “new aural experience.” I’m a firm believer that the frequency range that a tweeter provides is a very critical component to a quality bass cabinet design, BUT that there are other, and perhaps better, ways to reproduce those frequencies. When I first presented the initial cabinet design to our team, I got some funny looks. But as the design evolved through proto #3 and #4, it really started to come together, and we really felt that this is something very special and different. It is always a great feeling when the science and performance of a design just fall in line with each other.
The single word used by all beta testers of the first testing samples was … smooth. Or smmmoooootttthhhhhh. I had Ed Friedland, Doug Johns, Carey Nordstrand, Michael Tobias and Roger Sadowsky test the early production proto cabinet, and they all had nearly the exact same comments. Probably the most smooth, musical and articulate-sounding cabinet they’d experienced. This is mostly due to the line array column offering more articulate and defined mids, smoother-sounding highs, better projection and wider horizontal dispersion.
The Review by Bass Gear Magazine
“Jeff Genzler amps have, for the most part, always displayed great clarity and definition. In fact, I described the first Genz-Benz head I reviewed, the GBE 1200, as being “more clear and aggressive; really articulate and cutting.” These characteristics definitely carry over to the MG-800.
(…) The Drive channel definitely behaves rather like a tube preamp. By varying the amount of Gain, more harmonic content can be dialed in. There is a bit of a “tube compression” feel as you turn it up, as well. The Volume control on the Drive channel of course allows you to keep the overall output of this channel similar to that of the Clean channel.
(…) After spending some time comparing the MG-800 to a variety of other heads, I kept reaching the same conclusion. Namely, the Genzler has a certain quality about the attack and articulation of each note that I couldn’t quite match with the others. While some of the other heads may have sounded more “smooth,” or more “warm,” the MG-800 is neither harsh nor sterile sounding. In truth, it is very balanced and musical, throughout its range. It is also very dynamically responsive. The notes just really seem to explode out of this amp!
(…) I was really eager to see how the MG-800 would fare in a live setting. That control and high-pass filtering which I had experienced in early play testing definitely served me well at this gig, which happened to be in my “favorite” “problem room.” In the past, I have had to use some serious EQ to tame the boominess in parts of the room, while still filling-out the thin areas of this room. The variable midrange frequency on the MG-800 would be invaluable – or so I thought. It turns out, the particular marriage of the MG-800 with the BA12-3 cabs did just fine in this room, without the need for heroic EQ adjustments. The combined Genzler rig is powerful, complex, detailed and full, but it maintains a great balance, from top to bottom – even when the room is trying to force its own idiosyncrasies on the bass tone. Color me impressed! I think I am going to have to add the MG-800 and three BA12-3’s to my permanent arsenal…
Bottom line: Before spending my first moment with these new products from Jeff Genzler, I knew they were going to be good. With Jeff’s long product history, and his consistent (and intelligent) approach to bass amplification design, it is not unreasonable to put such faith in Genzler Amplification. The Magellan 800 is the ultimate evolution of a “Genzler amplifier,” with a great feature set, all the power you’ll need, and a slick, classy design. The Bass Array cabs break from the modern trend of relying upon tweeters to convey the high frequencies, and feature trademark smoothness and impressive off-axis dispersion.
The more time I spend with this rig, the more I love it. If possible, try and audition the MG-800 with three of the BA12-3 cabs, as I believe some real magic happens when the third cab is added to the equation.”