My Search for a Gig Worthy Bass Combo

As I’ve gotten older I have come to realize that I no longer have a need for a large bass rig.  For years I’ve relied on my trusted Ampeg SVT-410 HLF cab paired with an Ashdown EVO II 500 head.  While I love the tone I get from this setup, the size, volume and weight have become more and more of a downside for me.  In fact I haven’t used this setup in a band situation for quite some time.

I’ve decided to bite the bullet and sell off this rig, instead finding a lightweight, gig worthy combo that will better suit my needs.  At this point I would prefer a combo over a head/cab setup for ease of transport and setup.  I’m kind of at a less is more point in my life.  Downsizing will make things easier.  I do have a few requirements, however; I want something that I can use for band band practice in a small space, yet something loud enough to be used at small to medium sized gigs.  It should be light, high powered and have an external speaker option in case I ever need more.  Of course tone is of the utmost importance, but at the same time I don’t want to break the bank buying this thing.  Lastly I don’t want to buy it online.  I need to be able play through the actual amp I settle on, putting it through it’s paces and listening to it’s tone.  It’s not like I am gigging regularly right now, but when I do I want to be prepared. 

I am currently using a GK MB200 head with 1×15 MBE Cab at band practice and am fairly happy with this setup.  It is light and expandable, but only 200 watts.  While this is enough for band practice, I fear that it may not cut it in a live situation.  As such I hope to check out the GK MB210, assuming I can find one locally.  This is of course the key, I know I will be somewhat limited on my options by what is available locally, but am fairly confident that I will find enough options to get a good feel for what is out there.  If not, I guess I’ll just continue my search until I find what I am looking for.

I can honestly say that this is not a decision I have taken lightly.  In fact I talked about this very same scenario two years ago in my post The Downsize Dilemma.  The thing is, since I wrote that post two years ago, I have not used my full rig once.  This is why I feel that the time is right.  In fact I have already sold off my full rig.  So at this point I’m pretty much committed.  I’m either going to stick with my MB200/115 setup or get a new combo, either way my days of stadium worthy rigs are over.  As always, I’ll keep you posted on my journey.



Review: Gallien Krueger MB200

As you may have read in my earlier posts, my idea to downsize my bass head and cabinet to a combo didn’t quite work out as I planned.  I was having a rough time parting with my Ampeg SVT 410HLF, and a hard time finding a buyer for it.  I had hoped to sell the 410 and use the cash to get a decent powered combo, I would keep my Ashdown ABM500 EVO II head and pair it with my Avatar 210 if I ever found myself needing more power.  Once I had decided to give up on this idea I started looking at some of the new “micro” bass heads.  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I was hoping for something with a Headphone Jack and Aux in for jamming along with my iPod.  As that I had been looking at the Gallien Krueger Combo’s, the GK MB200 was an obvious choice for me, and at a mere $229, I just could not pass it up.

Weighing only 2 pounds, yet delivering 200 watts of power at 4 ohms, this little guy gives you a lot of bang for your buck.  Packed into 1/2 rack space, it’s stripped down controls are on par with a decent combo amp and include a -10db Switch for Active basses, a Gain Control, Contour On/Off Switch, Treble, Hi-Mid, Low-Mid and Bass EQ Controls.  Outputs include a Headphone/ Line Out Jack, an XLR Direct Out and a combination Speakon/ 1/4″ Speaker Output.  A 1/8″ Aux Input is also included for monitoring external sources such as an ipod.  The Direct Out includes a Pre/Post EQ switch to run your signal dry or with your preferred EQ settings.  The Aux In works great, but volume must be controlled via the connected device as there is no volume control for this input on the amp.  The Contour Switch basically scoops the mids while boosting the highs and lows, and is either on or off.  It’s steel case seems rugged, as one would expect with a GK amp.

For this review I first ran the head through my Avatar 210 NEO, 8 ohm cab, and then through my Ampeg SVT 410HLF, 4 ohm cab.  I used 5 different basses to see how each would sound, leaving the amps setting the same for each bass.

My amp settings were as follows:

Active = On
Gain = 10 o’clock
Contour = Off
Treble = 11 o’clock
Hi-Mid = 1 o’clock
Low-Mid = 1 o’clock
Bass = 2 o’clock

Below is my how each bass sounded with each cab:

MIM Fender Jazz Deluxe, pickups blended slightly forward, bass slightly boosted, Treb/Mid flat:

– Avatar 210:  Crisp, clean, clear, lots of presence, nice slap tone

– Ampeg 410:  Clear, thick tone, like the slap tone better on the 210, definitely more headroom with this cab

Fender American P-Bass with Thomastik Infeld Flats, Volume/Tone full up:

– Avatar 210:  Clear even tone, growly with a bite (in a good way)

– Ampeg 410:  Sounds like a P should, even sounding across all strings, nice fat P-Bass tone

Fender Mustang, Volume/Tone full up:

– Avatar 210:  Boomy lows, bright highs, not liking this combo so much

– Ampeg 410:  Nice vintage tone, less boomy, more P like

Lakland 44-01, EQ flat:

– Avatar 210:  Active switch is definitely needed for this bass, nice modern tone, clear, good slap tone

– Ampeg 410:  Wow!  Powerful tone, sounds fantastic, with Contour turned on this combo is slap nirvana

Lakland 55-01, EQ flat:

– Avatar 210:  Modern tone, B slightly muddy sounding, E a bit thuddy

– Ampeg 410:  Much more depth, clarity, B & E more powerful, warmer, most of the mud & thud are gone

I also had the chance to take GK MB200 out to my last jam session.  For these particular sessions we typically run everything, including an electronic drum set, into a computer interface and jam with headphones on.  For this jam I took my Fender P-Bass with flats on it and ran it into the MB200 sending my signal post EQ through the Direct out.  My bass sounded strong, clear and sat well in the mix.  I was very happy with the tone I was getting and will definitely be using this amp in this capacity again.

Well, there it is.  My review of the Gallien Krueger MB200 Micro Bass Head.  So far I have been very pleased with the tone and versatility of this little amp and look forward to putting it through more thorough paces in the coming months.  I have yet to play through it amplified with a live drummer and guitar amps, but am confident that this little amp will hold its own.  The way I see it is that this little guy has the best of both worlds, all the features of a nice combo with the versatility of a head/cabinet set up, and at only 2lbs you know you’re not going to hurt your back lugging it to a gig.

GK MB200