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Comparing GK 1001RB-II and Ampeg PF500

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jd_watt, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. jd_watt


    Mar 22, 2013
    Hi everyone,

    I have a chance to pickup a used GK 1001RB-II, but I won't have a chance to compare it side by side with my current amp, the Ampeg Portaflex. I'll be able to try the Gallien-Kruger, but I was wondering if there's anything I should look for/ keep in mind as I try to compare it to my portaflex. Right now I'm pretty happy with the portaflex, but thought I'd look into something new. Thanks!
  2. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I gigged with the original 1001RB for years and when a glass of ice water slipped off a shelf above the amp, into it's cooling fan vent, I had to find a new head. I bought the PF-500.

    The first 1001RB is 540 watts. The II is more.

    The 1001RB was a nice head. Plenty of power for me. However, I never bonded with the tone and performance. It got the job done, but something was "missing."

    I found the GK to be sterile. I was not happy with the character of the low end. While solid, there was something too narrow and "polite." I started using a BDDI, which added the low end character I was looking for. I also liked the tone and performance of the BDDI DI over the DI in the amp.

    When I plugged into the PF-500, using the same speakers, I was immediately satisfied. It had the tone and response I was missing with the GK...no BDDI needed. The low end is thicker and fuller and fills a room. The bit of grind I find in the PF-500 contrasts with the dry tone of the GK. The Ampeg feels like an extension of my bass while the GK was just a utility head that got the job done, but never really made me happy.

    Our guitar player uses a 65 Ampeg Reverbrocket. It is a huge part of his sound. When the amp needed some routine maintenance, he used other amps...a Fender Blues Jr, and later a Hot Rod Deluxe III. While good amps, they never had the character of the Ampeg.

    I found the same thing comparing the GK to the PF-500. I'm having a ball with the Ampeg, and really look forward to hearing it and playing through it at upcoming gigs.

    I will repair my GK, but I've been in no hurry. It will be my backup head after I repair it, but I don't anticipate playing through it again.

    At church we use a BDDI into a GK MB115. We also use IEM's and an Aviom system. Same experience as with my GK. It does the job, but there is nothing satisfying about the tone or response. Recently we stopped using the amp, just going with the BDDI and IEM's. While some miss the presence of the bass amp onstage, it's been just fine with me.

    I enjoy the increased presence and complexity of the PF-500 tone and response over the relatively dry, sterile, lifeless tone and feel of the GK. Admittedly, the GK was a workhorse that took a lot of use and abuse (it survived a major vehicle accident and after I cleaned the caked mud from it, worked fine.) I do "baby" the Ampeg after the reports of failures, but in the year+ I've used it, I've had no cutouts or shutdowns.

    In the mid 70's I used a Carvin amp that served me well, and had plenty of power and good tone control. I got a deal on a used SVT head ($300 for the SVT head, and a Cerwin Vega bottom) and couldn't pass it up. The band didn't like the SVT by comparison at first. There was a period of adjustment. The Carvin was pretty transparent, and the Ampeg sounded like Ampeg. I loved the Ampeg immediately.

    I found a similar period of adjustment for the band going from the GK to the PF-500. The GK blended with the band more transparently while the PF-500 stands out with an unmistakable signature character. But it adds to the band more than the GK did. I definitely get more compliments on my bass playing than I did with the GK.
  3. Warmuth


    Aug 6, 2012
    Night and day. Those are the two amps I own coincidentally. I find the pf to be very bland and only use it at home as a practice amp. Plenty of love for both around here so until you try both you'll never know. The GK is brighter than the PF and much more in your face. Its also much, much more powerful. If you like the tone from your PF the GK may sound harsh to you. I never liked the PF a whole lot which is why I ended up with the GK. Most likely you'll highly prefer one over the other and end up with not much use for having both heads.
  4. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    They are two different thangs for sure. But I can get whatever sounds I want out of either. The Ampeg stuff makes it easier for me to find a sound, whereas I find myself tweaking GK stuff whenever it's supplied on my road gigs more often than the Ampeg stuff. Wouldn't call either of them bland or sterile, though. Just different.
  5. jd_watt


    Mar 22, 2013
    Thanks guys, good info. I really don't have anything bad to say about my portaflex, just wondered if the GK had some amazing sounds that I might be missing out on. More than anything, I was kinda curious about the valve emulation the gk has. I don't think it would be enough to get me to buy though, and I'm definitely not interested in super pristine tones if that's more of the gk's bag. Can't help but wonder though..
  6. Both G-K and Ampeg make awesome gear, but it sounds different - so you need to keep that in mind.

    Tip: Flat EQ on GK heads, is, more or less: Contour and Boost off, Treble at 10 o’clock, High and Low Mid at 1 o’clock, Bass at 10 o’clock. This varies a little across models, but is accurate, more or less. G-K manuals suggest starting with the EQ knobs set at 12 o’clock noon and both the contour and boost controls turned off because most of the time it will put you the ballpark (depending on the cab and what sound you’re looking for) - but if it doesn’t, as a 30+ year G-K user, I recommend: try starting with both the contour and boost turned off as well as EQ knobs turned off, and then add to get the sound you need/want (also start with the volume low too).

    Hmm okay. Well, Ampeg and G-K gear does sound different from each other, and you're welcome.
  7. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    GK and Ampeg are really near opposite ends of the tonal continuum, and the GK vs. Ampeg comparison is a classic one. In some ways, the comparison tells you as much about the players, as it does about the amps themselves. :meh:

    Though I wouldn't refer to the GK sound as "hi-fi", it definitely is clean & clear - the epitome of the solid state tone. I wasn't aware of any "valve emulation" circuit. :meh:

    It isn't necessarily thin or brittle to my ears, though it may sound like that to a hardcore Ampeg guy. It does have a sort of baked-in high midrange gank. But IME, that can easily be addressed with some EQ adjustments.

    The 1001RB-II has huge headroom, and loads of bottom end power. Be prepared.

  8. Two different basic ways to run the G-K amps that make them sound like totally different amps. One, woofer high (master) 3:00 and set your volume level with the volume (input gain) control. Second, start with the woofer control low 9:00 and turn up the volume to just below clipping on the preamp and use the woofer for overall loudness. #1 clean and
    hifi, #2 warm and rich. The boost interacts with the woofer master volume and will vary the character even more. Many different "flavors" to explore. The clip light is set to warn you that you are approaching clipping and is ONLY affected by your bass's volume control or the "pad" switch. If you don't see it lighting up a lot when you are playing then don't engage the pad switch even if your bass is an active one.
  9. dune2k


    Sep 26, 2009
    I agree, though you forgot the "Boost"-control. The higher you turn it the louder the amp will be and the earlier it will clip. Boost high, Volume low will get you in the same general direction as Volume high, Boost low.
    The most important thing to learn with GK amps is how to use Volume, Boost and Woofer/Master. The EQ is pretty simple but effective.
  10. Yes I didn't go into too much detail on the boost. The boost adds harmonic content (also increase in loudness), from smooth to raunchy depend on how high the level from the preamp is.
  11. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    The boost is a volume after the preamp followed by a Jfet. Turning it up makes the preamp volume louder, hitting the Jfet harder, causing the Jfet to breakup.
  12. Steve Dallman

    Steve Dallman Supporting Member

    I was surprised at the tone of the PF-500. I've looked over the schematics for the preamp and I'm surprised it does sound as good as it does. I gigged with an SVT for many years back in the 70's and 80's and plugging into the PF-500 brings back those memories.

    I used my SVT with high efficiency cabinets, usually EV and occasionally an Altec 2X15, as well as a folded horn 2X15. I never had an 810. Despite playing in a high volume hard rock band, I never did get the head turned up high enough to get any breakup. I don't remember it with the volume over 9 o'clock.

    I can get more 'grind' out of the PF-500, if I want it. My gigs these days with the PF-500 are not at the volumes I played at in the 70's. I did do some very loud gigs with the GK, but it was usually quite clean, compared to the Ampeg.

    I was not complaining about the GK. It was a solid head, with a signature voice that served me well and was lighter and more convenient than my other bass heads. It's voice was just not as suited to me as Ampeg's voice.

    I have a lot of different bass cabinets. The GK was more fussy as far as getting a great tone. I find the PF-500 more forgiving and it is easier for me to get the tone I'm looking for with any cabinet than it was with the GK.
  13. Jack


    Sep 6, 2003
    Newcastle, UK
    You have to really know how the gain/boost/volume controls interact on the GK stuff. You can go from super clean and fat like a lot of the soul and r&b players right through a grindy but not overdriven sound more similar to Flea or Duff McKagan just with the interplay between those three controls.

    The other thing to be aware of is that head is more than capable of doing serious damage to your cabs and your ears. Use the volumes and the bass controls carefully!

    I really miss my 1001-II. I sold it and got a MBF and whilst I wouldn't swap straight back I'd love to have both.
  14. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    The 1001rbII will have a ton of clean head room, which is why I prefer the 700rbII. You don't have to be so loud to get that grindy GK sound out of it. I set my gain (volume) at about 12:00 to 1:00 and control volume with the Master (woofer), with the boost at about 11:00. Set the contour at 0, then rip the knob off and throw it in the garbage. Unless you like to be lost in the mix. I run my Presence at about noon, Treble at about noon, High Mids about noon, Low Mids about 1:30, and bass at about 11:30. This is the EQ I use in my blues/Classic Rock/Country band. It is a good overall starting point, for either the 700 or 1001

    I get a good tone that sits in the mix very well, and has just enough grit to make it not sound to clean. It also has plenty of low end, I never understood why people think that GK lacks down low.
  15. jd_watt


    Mar 22, 2013
    Wow, great, detailed information everyone. Thank you!

    For a more general, and perhaps more of a personal opinion-related question, would you consider the GK an upgrade from the portaflex?
  16. Mystic Michael

    Mystic Michael Hip No Ties

    Apr 1, 2004
    New York, NY
    You're right. It is a matter of personal opinion, as there is no consensus on a question of that type, because it is subjective in nature, and the answer depends on who you ask. :meh:

    Therefore the matter of whether or not it is an upgrade seems quite irrelevant - in the same category as "pickstyle or fingersty'e", "flatwounds or roundwouds", "solid state or tube amp", etc. The key question is which one is preferable to you - not which one is "better".

  17. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    As far as tone goes, that's a matter of opinion. My opinion is yes it would be an upgrade.

    The GK will be an upgrade as far as power and headroom are concerned, there is no denying that. Also the GK will most likely be more reliable than the PF500. I'm sure that the PF500 is fine, though they did have their problems, but the RB line are absolute work horses, I don't believe there is a more reliable head on the market.

    The Ampeg wins as far as weight and portability goes, Though the GK isn't exactly heavy or large.
  18. Just different, similar power output maybe a some more tone shaping with the G-K but if you like the "native" sound of the PF then that doesn't matter. If you like the "native" sound of the G-K you have the choice to vary more widely from it.
  19. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Some consider the iron power transformer an upgrade from a micro's switchmode power supply. I go back and forth on it myself. I only have tube amps and micros now and didn't care for SS and hybrid amps in comparison, but a few recent experiences with an SVT 4 Pro are starting to make me change my mind about traditional SS and hybrid amps. That said, I'd take a PF500 over a GK any day of the week ;) A PF500 vs a 3 or 4 Pro, though...that one gets a little tougher for me.
  20. cableguy


    Jun 4, 2009
    North Bend, WA
    My main rig is a SVP-Pro into a power amp. I also have a GK 700RB-II, and a PF-500. The GK and the PF are both great amps. When I 1st got my PF I was a little underwelmed playing it through my 12/6. Once I added another cab, my opinion changed. It'a a little powerhouse. I learned to that I needed to dime my mids to get the sound I wanted though. It will not give me the grind I can get through my SVP though. My GK has more power on tap, IMO and a little more low end push. It can really be in your face and punch. The GK will be more easily repaired should it need it. The PF makes a great practice amp with the headphone out & audio in. Both are different flavors of awesome.