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Genzler MG800: In-store review (3 cabs, 3 basses) **Long**

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by pablomigraine, Feb 4, 2016.

  1. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Anyone who knows me knows I've been a HUGE fan of Genz Benz for many many years. I always considered them top of the heap in terms of the "mass-market" brands. Lots of companies build a great amplifier... but very few put out a truly great cabinet. I thought the UB cabs were simply the best mass-market cabinets you could buy, and the Streamliner and Shuttlemax amps stood alone in the market. It broke my heart when I heard that Fender would be dismantling the brand.

    So, of course I was thrilled when I heard Jeff was back in business again. There's been a flurry of activity here regarding the new amps and cabs, so I decided to head to Chuck Levin's Washington Music to give them a try. The focus of my visit was the MG800 amp, as my cabinet lusts are well satisfied elsewhere. Test equipment for the MG800 were a Brubaker JXB-5, an Ernie Ball Musicman Stingray 5 and an el-cheapo Chinese Warwick. Test cabinets include the Magellan 212T, the Bass Array 12-3 and a BBC Tank 1015.

    Powering up the amp, I'm immediately struck with how familiar the amp feels to a longtime SL900 user. Slightly wider, but still exuding the same quality feel. I know instinctively that I can drop this amp and it will still power up. Whatever the truth may be, there's more than one micro-amp offering that fails to give me this feeling of confidence. We started with the Brubaker, and the amp hooked into the 12-3 Array.

    As lauded as the Streamliner was, people often said "I wish it was a little brighter" or "I find myself boosting treble a bunch". It's not that this amp has something that the SL was missing in this regard, rather I think the design philosophy was different, and this amp was designed from the sheet to cover more bases than the SL. With all controls set flat, clean channel, no contour... the amp sounded VERY even with excellent treble response without being at all brittle (much of this had to do with the cabinet, but more on that later). Throughout all tested basses we did get the sense that there was a subtle "signature" curve built in, but very subtle. We'll call it a very narrow-q, very lo-mid bump, which really revealed itself with the Brubaker J-Bass's bridge pickup solo'd.... there was a bit more "weight" there than you usually find in this configuration without artificially rolling off treble with your tone knob. The "Burp" we so often talk about here sounded like it was coming from a much fatter uncle. Whether this effect is built-in to the MG800, or the reverse is simply a shortcoming with other amps, who knows. However, with this amp, and through all but the BB cabs, transient response was Lightning-Terror fast. Like whoa. Very snappy.

    Shall we fiddle with the knobs some? Yes, let's. The versatility of the EQ here has been covered to excess elsewhere on TB, so I wont spend much time on it here. Suffice to say this... as one can say for this and a very few other amps... if you can't readily find a very usable tone with this little fellow, you may be playing the wrong instrument. What hasn't gotten nearly enough attention is the Contour Knob. You see these on a lot of amps. The Standard (for me anyway) has always been the GK version of this control. It's the most musical and, even at the extremes of its range, still usable. Many of these sort of controls are jumpy across the range (speaks to poor quality components) and even more often, totally unusable at less judicious settings (speaks to poor design). This control is very even and very modest. It seems to have both variable-Q and variable center points across it's range. Starting with a very wide dip centered somewhere between 500 and 800hz (to my ears) and narrowing in bandwidth and moving slightly south on the freq range as you continue through the knob's range. At max setting you still have enough lo-mid strength and enough hi-mid clank to be heard in a mix. Personally, I find I'd be happiest with the dial set somewhere below noon. Introducing Contour B is a JOY. Imagine the very finest Master Tone control you've ever heard. To my ears, it had an identical effect to the Sadowsky Vintage Tone Control, and middle of the road settings turned the Musicman into a real thumper. Overall, a somewhat over-used circuit feature done impeccably well, with the added bonus of Contour B, done better than Markbass ever did it with their VLE.

    The second feature I wanted to dally with was the DRIVE channel. Generally, I hate these. Really. Many "Tube-Armed" amps have this feature; either separately or as part of the gain knob's range. And 95% of all amp makers do it wrong. In the case of the "Tube-Armed" heads... the token single tube is usually just thrown in there more for marketing purposes than anything.....and often the design disallows sufficient plate voltage for the tube to do all the things we love tubes for in the first place. Most of these controls go straight from clean to distorted mess with very little breakup between, and sound awful. Most of the solid-state versions, even some of the good ones, also fail to do justice in the field between clean and moderate drive, as well as possessing a certain unpleasant "fizz" that just sets my teeth on edge. The Streamliner amps, along with the Ampeg SVP-Pro and CL preamps are my champions in this area. No doubt because they have multi-stage tube circuits. The Aguilar AG500 has won more than a few converts from the tube camp, myself included. The MG800 will win even more. The Drive Channel was very responsive to transients and right-hand technique.... a big plus, and had a very smooth, usable range... reaching breakup and then saturation predictably, and further through the control's range than many similar circuits. , Comparing it to the AG500's circuit, I'll call the MG800's drive circuit to have a similar RANGE (where it starts and where it ends up), but it's definitely a shade brighter, while sacrificing nothing down low. What impressed me most about this feature... is how nicely it interacted with the Contour knob in both A and B settings. With the Drive Gain set at noon, and Contour B engaged at anything between 9 and 3'oclock, there was a whole buffet of goodness on hand, and I got a reasonable B-15 tone going at 3 and 3. Overall a very usable circuit which starts being REALLY fun when used in conjunction with the Contours.

    Through the Bass Array this amp really sang. My first impression is that the Bass Array would be overly bright, and lack that true 12khz "snap" so many modern players seek... but these fears were unfounded, as the little guy definitely sounded even and controlled, with treble response being VERY good, especially at volumes which normally causes tweeters to start screeching and fizzing. Uggh. Speaking of volumes... it was time to see if we could shake the walls. In the Clean channel, Contour A at 3o'clock and a touch of bass boost and mids cut a bit around 1.5khz, we started thumping. The Bass Array reaches quite deep at high volumes for it's size, and here begins to really show how awesome the little 3" drivers can be at handling everything above a certain freq range. If you slap, check this little guy out.

    Through the Boom Bass cab, we really see why Doublists love these cabs. These things are an upright players dream, although sounded a bit muffled to my ears with both the Warwick and the Musicman, and disallowed much use of Contour B. We didn't spend much time with this cab, but it left us with the impression that it was definitely a great solution for uprighters and players who need a lot of boom and bloom at small to medium club volumes.

    Then we REALLY started Grinning after we plugged in the Magellan 212T. My first impression was how much it reminded me of the UB212 in a much smaller package. Which is to say... this thing is BRUTAL. That's the only word I have. BRUTAL. Viciously fast and loud, with a sweeter crossover point than most cabs. With the Master at anything above noon this little cabinet produced duodenum-destroying bass, and goes even lower than the Bass Array. Only at really crazy volumes do we start to notice some rolloff in the lowest lows, and we could not get the tweeter to fizzle or protest even with some treble boost and plucking the Brubaker's G string with a right-hand style more akin to firing a bow and arrow. Many cabinets begin to display unpleasant artifacts or chuffing at the ports at these volumes when bass is boosted... not so here, although again the lowest of the lows began to compress some at the highest volumes. Be reminded this was at the extremes of the cabinet's operating range, and at SPL's most other 212's only dream of. The major difference between this and the UB212, agree or disagree, is that I found the Uber series to have a marked upper midrange spike . The Magellan sounded bright, but not that bright, and reaches just as deep, with a smaller overall footprint. It's no surprise this cabinet is not offered in 8ohm.... you could never really need 2 of them.

    Back to the amp for more fiddling... where this amp REALLY shone was with the Warwick. The Musicman seemed more "itself" with this amp than say an Ampeg. The gut-punch these things are known for was pleasantly augmented by the very clear effect this amp gives... but the Warwick sounded much nicer than it had any right to. The midrange on this amp lends itself very well to basses that are naturally less articulate. I'd imaging this amp paired with any of the sealed Bergantino offerings would be heavenly. In terms of overall volume.... all other things being equal.... its as loud as the SL900, the MB800 and other micro amps with the same output board as these two, possibly a bit louder before you start to notice a change in tone. I wouldn't be surprised to find B&O's newest ICepower 700 module in here, which many feel is an improvement, especially at higher settings, over the 250ASX. Bear in mind, the 250ASX board powers a LOT of different amps.... who's Namesakes rate them at anywhere from 500 to 900 watts....I don't know what's powering the MG800... but it's loud. REALLY loud. Still doesn't have as much slam as a DB750/751, but it's louder than most people will ever need. But I'm not most people. The addition of this amp to my arsenal will not retire my Carvin DCM2000.

    Again, the rest of the feature set has been covered elsewhere in detail, so I'll skip it. Suffice to say that I'm very glad this amp has a Headphone out and an AUX in, since that's often how I practice, and write or learn new tracks for clients.

    Overall, I think the buzz is well justified, and this amp beats out much more expensive offerings in terms of feature set and performance as far as I'm concerned. If you've enjoyed this review, you may show your gratitude by purchasing this amp and immediately posting lots of GUTS pics. Because I'm one of THOSE guys....


    EDIT: Almost as soon as this post went up I started getting messages from folks regarding my experience with the BoomBass cabinets. Most of these messages were some variety of "what's wrong witchoo ears bud?" One of them was messaging from his mobile device at the store in question. As it turns out there WAS something wrong. But not with my ears (usually the problem is my face, according to every girl ever....). As you can probably glean, we did not try every possible combination of bass and cab, and several other basses were played as well. We've verified that one of the test basses at Chucks is sick with some sort of serious electrical problem in the preamp. One of the effects of this problem is, if you fiddle the right knob in the right way, the treble control jumps around it's range even tho the pot is centered. This is what happened during my brief test of the BB Cab. We'll be heading back this weekend to give her a proper demo, and we'll edit this review accordingly. Also, it should be here stated that my opinion doesn't mean squat ;-)
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  2. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Excellent review! You've listed characteristics and aspects of both playing technique and sound reproduction that I've not considered before.
  3. SBrown


    Dec 5, 2008
    Auburn, CA
    Thanks, as always, an enjoyable read. I was playing the SL900 for a while, then the 7pro came along and kicked it right off the stage. It had "that" tone and feel, with much tighter bottom end than the SL900, and you gotta love that. Of course I moved the Streamliner on, just in time for the 7pro to shut down and never turn back on. I've been gigging my backup (PF500) ever since, and its "OK", but doesn't take my breath away. Looking for a suitable replacement. Considering the Magellan, Mesa D800, GK fusion 800, or possibly a brand new updated 7pro. Looking forward to more feedback on the MG800.
    murphy likes this.
  4. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Sounds like we've had a similar experience, although I kept my SL900 and used both. A lot of people unjustifiably compared these two amps.... they were just too different IMHO. The Ampeg 7-Pro is hands down the best amp that company has come out with in forever. Amazing little amp, and a very usable onboard compressor as well. However, the new MG800 has moved to the top of my list...
    SWRnut likes this.
  5. SBrown


    Dec 5, 2008
    Auburn, CA
    I REALLY loved the Streamliner. It saved me from post-back surgery schlepping of the big iron. But it was hard for me to control the lows in a boomy room/stage. It was wonderful outside. If the MG800 has the same "feel", but with a tighter booty and more mids control, its a no-brainer. Thanks for the input!
  6. Jim C

    Jim C Is that what you meant to play or is this jazz? Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Bethesda, MD
    Funny how we all hear it differently.
    My 7 Pro was not nearly as clear as my SVT-CL.
    I swapped the tube with a few others but always felt it had the sound of a blanket over the speakers regardless of EQ.
    Not so bad that I didn’t use it for my main amp for well over a year though!
    I ended up liking the MB800 and SM9.2 more even though I really like the true SVT tone and neither of these amps are naturally voiced that way (IME/IMO).

    Really looking forward to testing the Magellan especially after your excellent review.
    Thanks for that.
  7. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    You're not the first person to say that. In this case I don't think it's a difference in ear so much as a difference in the revisions and inconsistency seen in the production of these amps throughout their history. The first one of these I tried I HATED. Just like you described... very muffled and not at all SVT-like when compared to my buddy's SVT-VR. Then I went to a local gig where the bassist had this amp and a rented 810 and it sounded KILLER. I ended up befriending the guy and gave the amp a second chance... and one ordered direct from the factory was a whole different story. Loved that amp. Between that and my Streamliner 900 I had all bases covered.

    The Magellan is not like either of these.... but closer to the SVT-7 than the SL in overall tone and usability.
  8. Ryan L.

    Ryan L. Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2000
    West Fargo, ND
    Great read!

    And now I'm even more excited to get my MG800/MG212T rig on Friday!
    svtb15, ExaltBass and kayak_mark like this.
  9. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Hate you.

    So jelly....
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2016
    B-string and Ryan L. like this.
  10. Hotblack

    Hotblack Pay the cost to be the boss. Supporting Member

    May 20, 2002
    Provided content for Genzler Amplification
    Nice review. I think the point that you nailed best is how well the MG-800 plays with a wide variety of basses.
  11. Jeb


    Jul 22, 2001
    Is this a Made in USA product?
  12. Jeff Genzler

    Jeff Genzler Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2007
    Brooklyn NY
    The Magellan 800 is made in Taiwan by a family owned electronics manufacturer that I have a 20 year history with. The cabs are built in the US.
  13. RBASS930

    RBASS930 Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 26, 2005
    New York
    Fantastic review! Very well thought out.
    I felt your findings on the MG212T were pretty spot on with my feelings on it. Out of curiosity, regarding the BA12-3's, did you play through one, or two of them? Although I find 1 of them is very nice, I've found a pair of them to be the way to go, and in my mind reminded me very much of a smooth Uber212.
    I feel that two Bass Arrays is not just doubling what a single one can do, but it turns into a whole other experience.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
    godley69 and MichaelOz like this.
  14. NICE! You were able to keep the same high quality builder!
    kobass, blindrabbit and Jeff Genzler like this.
  15. svtb15

    svtb15 Banned

    Mar 22, 2004
    Austin,TX - McKinney,TX - NY,NY, - Nashville,TN
    I play it all. Whatever works for the gig. Q+
    Great review /
    The Magellan 212T is on my #1 list of cabs for my spring and summer events and beyond. Looks real promising .
    I love my Uber 115s but I want a (One Cab 4 ohm) that can do it all from large to small rooms.
    Right now i'm doing a theater tour with a hit songwriter so i'm using my mesa walkabout and REDDI. It's all low Vol stuff for about 2 more months. They may toss in some Euro dates.. i hope.

    When i am home or larger gigs i use my Ubers. And one its not enough at times , and i hate to carry 2 Ubeer115s . So the Magellan 212T may be just right..
    Ryan L. likes this.
  16. Jeff Genzler

    Jeff Genzler Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2007
    Brooklyn NY
    Your last comment about stacking 2 BA12-3's is very accurate. With most cabs you do get coupling when stacking, but with the Bass Array you get the added benefit of the Array's coupling which increases the benefits of this design. That is one reason for the low and tight physical size of these cabinets. It is critical that when stacking 2 or more that the array columns are as close as possible to each other.
    godley69 likes this.
  17. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Thanks for dropping in Jeff! PM me when you get the chance!

    I played only one Bass Array. I was SUPER impressed with it. Two of them would be amazing, and that's said knowing nothing about how the two array's would compliment each other to improve on what I heard with just one!
  18. pablomigraine

    pablomigraine Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2005
    New York
    VP & Managing Director - Willcox Basses
    Stay tuned for a more In-Depth review of the Boom Bass Cabinets... Three Basses, Three Amps!!
    ExaltBass, Jim C and svtb15 like this.
  19. Any thoughts on what looks to be floppy straps on the 12 cabs? I kind of like the hard grips on some of the other 12 cabs out there, e.g. Berg. Plus feet on both bottom and sides are nice.

    I'm sure the Genzler team considered and there was a specific reason for the form factor, of course.
  20. Jeff Genzler

    Jeff Genzler Commercial User

    Feb 9, 2007
    Brooklyn NY
    Just for the record the strap handle used on the Bass Array12-3 is the strongest and most comfortable on the market. I would certainly not consider it "floppy".
    It is a very thick grip and unlike spring handles will never rattle.
    lo-freq and godley69 like this.

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