Extreme Makeover: GK RB Edition

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Kro, Aug 14, 2017.

  1. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Well, it seems my impatience has got the best of me. I'm just as likely to praise my 700RB-ii and 1001RB-ii models for the way they perform as I am to complain about how aesthetically unappealing I find them - and that's an understatement. That "scratched-in-blood", mid-90s John Handy typeface on the front makes me :rage:, so I've decided to do something about it.


    I say my impatience got the best of me, because I know that we're, at the time of my writing this, potentially only a few months away from maybe getting new RB models with a look that hopefully won't become dated a few months before its release (hoping more Plex, and less Diesal... Dawg :vomit:), but in this case I've convinced myself that a bird in-hand is worth two in the bush - especially when those damn bush-birds will likely cost upwards of $800...

    I was talking with the GK technicians earlier last week on the topic, seeing how much it might cost to overhaul a Mk.1 1001RB with Mk.2 guts, and it turns out most of the parts are straight-up drop-ins. To be more specific, apparently the only component that isn't is the transformer: since the Mk.2 transformer is physically bigger (MOAR WATTS!), the mounting hole at the base would need to be moved to allow for enough clearance between it and the power amp board. I'll likely call and confirm this one more time before doing anything drastic, but the Mk.1 transformer will allegedly play nice with the Mk.2 power amp board* (note that asterisk there), albeit with the reduced wattage rating of the Mk.1: 540w@4ohm, 340w@8ohm (vs. the Mk.2's 700w@4ohm, 460w@8ohm).

    *As long as the Mk.1 transformer has the 7-pin connector housing that connects to the power amp. Apparently there are at least two different Mk.1 transformer models: 7-pin and 5-pin variants. The 7-pin version is the later version, and the one that is compatible with the Mk.2 boards.

    Given how ridiculously powerful and clean my current 1001RB-ii is, I honestly don't think I'll miss the 120w decrease all that much (my personal cab is an 8ohm Fearless F115). Hell - I may even prefer it. Plus, if I ever change my mind, I can still take the thing to a tech to punch a new hole and professionally install my Mk.2 transformer to fully complete the overhaul.

    Anyways, fast forward a few days, and I've located a used 1001RB-i on the market with 7-pin connector, in good cosmetic condition, that is experiencing some problems with noise. The seller would rather sell it as-is at a decent discount than get it repaired :thumbsup:, so it seems like the perfect shell for my new project: dropping my 1001RB-ii pre-amp and power amp boards into the classically styled 1001RB-i chassis with Mk.1 transformer.

    A good bit of price negotiating later, and an offer has been extended and accepted. Funds have changed hands, and I'm eagerly awaiting delivery :nailbiting:, hence this post - and then the real fun will begin!

    If you've been interested enough to read this far, stay tuned, as I'll be posting lots of pictures :snaphappy:... and hopefully no profanity laden posts following unexpected hiccups :banghead:. At least I live within 40 minutes of something like five authorized GK service centers if things go belly up... and thankfully I'll still have two other functional GK amps as backups to hold me over worst comes to worst!
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2017
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  2. Can't wait to see this kap'n! :)
    Take care,
  3. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Thanks, I'm very excited. I won't go so far as to say GK glory days or anything, because their gear right now is undoubtedly as good as ever, but I can't be the only one a little nostalgic for the older style.

    Man, that is an amp that means business!
    Screenshot 2017-08-14 15.15.00.png
  4. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey

    In the year 2000.gif

    Screenshot 2017-08-14 15.21.10.png

    While it appears this was the era where they outsourced their product photography to Glamour Shots, you have to love their tagline back then. Not the hip "Power to Groove" or the confrontational "Tools Not Toys" - it was just simply "Always Listening...".

    Alright, I've let the marketing nerd in me take over this thread for too long. I'll give it a rest.
  5. I always liked the black on white. Lets face it, the 800RB face is so iconic. But the newer ones didn't bug me too much either. I'm looking forward to see what they're cookin' up! :)
  6. alaskaleftybass

    alaskaleftybass Will Hanbury, Jr. In Memoriam

    Mar 21, 2012
    Sitka, Alaska
    I'm always interested in anything GK new!

    Best of luck on your build. I hope @Passinwind and @agedhorse can drop by to watch. Oops! I just invited them! :bag:
  7. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Ha, popping out a few boards and popping them back in shouldn't be much of a show. Unless you're a GK nut you'd probably be bored to tears, that is unless something goes spectacularly wrong...

    Oh well, as I always say, if you're going to fail, fail spectacularly... and, um... in front of some of the most respected members of your online community. Or something like that.
  8. Wicked G

    Wicked G

    Jan 19, 2017
    Hell Paso Texas
    Hey kap'n kro, I normally find myself agreeing with you on many things, but on this I have to say I actually like the aesthetics on the MK II series RB heads better. While the MK I isn't bad looking at all, I don't really like the early versions of the 400 or 800rb series heads. They just seemed very boring looking to me. I know Blasphemy right? Lol.

    Anyway, good luck with your project. I know how it is to not be happy with the look of your amp. I never got over the look of my MB500. It always bugged me to no end. YMMV.
    BrentSimons and kap'n kro like this.
  9. I love the simplistic styling of the original 400RB and 800RB amps. However, I didn't really care too much for the early 2000s look of the updated models.

    The current offerings though, grew on me. They look menacing. On stage they shine, both visually and sonically, and go well with the silver grills of the NEO cabs IMO.

    I am curious to see what you're makeover will look like though.
  10. Wicked G

    Wicked G

    Jan 19, 2017
    Hell Paso Texas
    Forgot to mention that I also never liked the "Tools not Toys" phrase. I also found it very confrontational especially when someone on here would use it all the time to insult other brands.
    kap'n kro and agedhorse like this.
  11. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Agreed. "Always Listening" says more.
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  12. birminghambass

    birminghambass Supporting Member

    Sep 18, 2002
    Birmingham, AL
    All of this because you don't like the way your amp LOOKS? And I thought I'd seen everything on TB, well done sir.
    murphy and SwitchGear like this.
  13. I get the dislike for some of the fonts on the newest versions, but I definitely prefer everything else. The oval is much more appealing to me than the older style.
  14. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I never said people weren't allowed to disagree with me, it's just a visual vibe thing that I like, and when it comes down to it, GK has been doing these Mk.1 to Mk.2 factory upgrades since the Mk.2s came out because, as I said, the parts are drop-in and they don't have the older versions any longer.

    Also, a bit of background - my very first amp was a 700RB-i, so I likely have a connection to that era's aesthetic. :)
  15. somegeezer


    Oct 1, 2009
    Don't think I'd ever actually seen a Mk1 1001 before today. They do look groovy. Though I'm personally more a fan of the khaki/grey front of the II. The faceplate on either looks really flimsy and cheap. Though it does suit the I better than the II. and you're right on the weird red lettering, in the silly font.

    If I were to go about it, I'd probably just sort out a new faceplate that looks more sleek, and covers the red lettering whilst it's at it. Maybe swap the knobs out. Though I think they look alright, and feel great. Really nice grip and movement to them.
    BrentSimons likes this.
  16. blubass


    Aug 3, 2007
    Modesto Ca
    Current: Blackstar, DR strings, Nady. Previous endorsements with: GK, Rotosound, Ernie Ball, Cleartone, EMG, Dean, Dava Picks, Rebel Straps, Dickies
    I look forward to seeing this done on a DIY level. I've had several opportunities to pick up MK1 heads dirt cheap, but I never had a need for 3 GK's at the same. Best of luck!
  17. gregmon79

    gregmon79 Supporting Member

    Dec 20, 2012
    Chicago IL
    Yeah I'd like to see what you end with too OP. Not to say I can't stand the way the newer 1001's look, but I've never been a big fan. I love the amp itself and what it provides. But I would much prefer the OG 1001 body as well. I dig that look much more than the casing it's in now.
    BrentSimons likes this.
  18. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Well, first off, I have one of each Mk.1 and Mk.2 currently in my collection not counting the Mk.1 that is in transit on its way to me, so I can tell you that there's nothing flimsy about the front of either - for the same reason why you can't just swap a face-plate as you proposed: the chassis is fabricated from one piece of metal. Not sure what that metal is exactly, but it's super sturdy.

    I'll be able to give some better shots of this once I open mine up (something I won't do until I'm ready to begin the swap), but check out the images below (not mine, from a cool little blog post here) - in it you can sort of see how the base is bent from a single sheet. On the Mk.2s the oval grill portion is a plastic piece inserted from the back, but the Mk.1 front is completely solid.



    If you can't tell, I did a lot of homework on this topic before deciding to pull the trigger - I scoured the web for pics of Mk.1 and Mk.2 internals so that I could eyeball the different 7/5-pin versions. FWIW this was the other thread that was of great help, and is one of the only places where I could find a verified MK.1 image (albeit a 700RB-i) with the earlier 5-pin connector:

    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
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  19. KickingBass

    KickingBass Look into it

    GK heads in general I find pretty ugly but hey it's the goods inside right? That's why I get along with my 700RB-II.
  20. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    So, my recent increased level of activity here is a bit unusual, but having just finished up a big product launch at my day job, I was ordered to take a few comp days for the late nights and 20 hour days that I had been putting in... and apparently this is what happens when I have "down" time. Don't worry, I've been actually playing bass as well, not just posting about it - spent a good chunk of time in the studio last night actually doing some tracking using my 1001RB-ii, but that's a topic for a different thread.

    Anyways, given that I had nothing better to do after that last post, that I'm not a fan of surprises, and that I had just ingested a good amount of caffeine, I decided - what the hell, might not be a bad idea to do a dry run to make sure that all of the necessary tools for the project are on hand and that there isn't anything I hadn't considered. So, I pulled out my stunning ;) 700RB Mk.1!

    Warning - pic heavy, and spoilers below for the final swap ahead.


    4 rack-ear screws, 4 side lid screws, and 6 top lid screws later, and we're in business - top slides right off. Not my first time opening one of these RBs up... but I think it is for this amp in particular. Come to think of it, I think the Mk.2s have a few more screws on the top to secure the fan to the lid as well... will have to look into that when the time comes - or I may just opt to use the Mk.2 lid if it fits.

    Alright, here we are - all opened up. Note the power amp board here in comparison to the last shot of my previous post that showed the 5-pin variant. I'll give a close-up of the connector later, but this 700RB-i has the later power amp board and transformer. One of the only major functional differences in the cases between the Mk.1 and Mk.2 models is the placement of the preamp vs. power switch. Here you can clearly see the power switch under the preamp. In the Mk.2 versions, that placement is reversed.


    Another look at the power amp board, as well as a better view of the preamp attached to the front there. Needed to make sure I had a correctly sized phillips head screwdriver to unscrew the smaller screws connecting it to the chassis, but it wasn't difficult to do. Nothing unusual - no odd star or hex shaped screw heads or anything that I'd need to be concerned with. A few screws to the chassis, and a few on the outputs on the back are all there are to secure the power amp board. The preamp looks to be solely attached by the nuts securing the pots and jacks on the front. They come off pretty easily.


    Here's that 7-pin connector housing to the power board that was the primary cause of trouble for me when looking at used models. Thankfully I got lucky on that front, and the discounted Mk.1 model that I found was the right variant! Pretty!


    Last, but not least, the other connectors to the power amp board - this was the section that I was most concerned with - would it need any soldering, or wouldn't it... answer is... nope. Just 4 insulated crimp terminals and the ground that's secured with a nut to the chassis. :D


    Shipping tracking says that the 1001RB-i will be delivered to me by tomorrow end of day, though given that my down-time will have expired by then, I'm not sure if I'll be able to get to this until next week. I may try and squeeze the work in, especially as I don't expect the entire thing including reassembling both amps (I'm going to store the spare Mk.1 parts installed in my Mk.2 case for safe keeping) to take more than an hour tops with me being my absolutely most careful and methodical.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2017
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