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School me on Gallien Krueger Heads

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by NKBassman, Aug 13, 2012.

  1. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    So I’ve been seeing a lot of tempting For Sale ads in the classifieds lately selling Gallien Krueger heads for seemingly low prices. I’ve never owned any GK heads, but I did recently try out the Fusion 500 and MB200 at the local shop and liked them both. I’ve primarily played Ampeg for the last 10 years, but these days I’m feeling less enamored with my tone, and more open to looking into different options.

    Before I go renting/borrowing heads, maybe the GK fanboys here could fill me in on a few things you like about these amps compared to all the others out there. The bi-amping option looks nice, though it would take a complete rig re-design for me to fully take advantage of that.

    Also, what’s the major difference, besides watts, between the 700, 800, and 1001 RB heads? Do they have different preamps, or are they all more-or-less the same amp in a different package?
  2. stodgers


    Jul 10, 2005
    Columbus, MT
    Well, I went in the opposite direction as you - from GK to Ampeg. I miss some things, and love others since my switch. But to answer your questions:

    The 1001 and 700 are the same amp, different wattage. Looking at the front panel, you'll see no difference whatsoever. I have never owned these amps so I can't speak for them.

    I have had both an 800 and 400RB, and I enjoyed them a great deal (the 400 got stolen, I now have just the 800). What I liked about these, which carried over to the Ampeg, was the switchable contour, boost and cut. the contour is like the mid knob on an SVT but with only two settings, and the boost and cut function similarly to those functions on the Ampeg. Also, the 800 does not have the 4/5 string voicing, but I didn't have a 5- or 6-string when this was my main amp.

    What do I miss? The bi-amp capability. There is nothing better than hearing that low rumble out of your 15" speaker, while your highs sing through 2 10"s. You can get an Ampeg that bi-amps though.

    What I don't miss? The lack of a growl. There's a lot of punch and clarity, but I could never get my GK to sound 'mean'. And don't let them kid you - that valve boost, doesn't cut it.

    Having never played the Fusion or MB series, I can't speak to those.

    Bottom line - if you're curious, they're cheap enough used to give one a try. At worst you'll have a great pristine punch in your line-up of amps. At best, you'll have a new sound that you love.

    Full disclosure: I have a GK head presently listed for sale.
  3. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Nice post! Thanks for sharing experience.
  4. gjbassist

    gjbassist Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2005
    Kansas City, MO
    I have a 1001RB-II, an MB200 and Neo 112 and 212 cabinets. In the past several years I have tried various brands of heads and cabinets from brands such as Ampeg, Carvin, Line 6, Dr. Bass, Peavey and Fender. All of them had things I liked but none gave me the overall tone I wanted. For me GK has the best tone I have heard with a good balance of thumping lows, punchy midrange and clean highs. It is clean without being too sterile or high fi sounding. The biamp feature is nice but not a necessity. You wouldn't have it with the MB series heads anyway. The best thing to do would be to find a music store with several GK heads and some other brands and do some comparisons with your own ears.
  5. I came from Sunn, Fender and two different Ampegs (Old SVT and V4-B).
    The 800RB has the powerful projection of the old SVT with a straight back 810. The 800 RB rolls off at about 80Hz like the old straight back but punchy in the second harmonic with more pronounced high mids and upper end than the SVT. The SVT sings better in the low end.
    700RB II and 1001RB II have the same preamp that has a lower roll-off than the 800RB and a lowend extension (string switch). The boost is a wonderful thing that must be explored fully.
    I now play the Fusion 550 and it satisfies my tube compression needs (sound) but can also be more solid in the low end with articulation I had not experienced before. Kind of like a cross between the Fender Showman mid presence and the sweet lows and signing highs of a V4-B or Sunn 2000S.
    The "G-K" growl is a matter of taste and one I find most tasty indeed, just like the right amount of seasoning in a meal.
    The MB series I have not spent much time with, only bits and pieces so I don't feel qualified to speak to them.
  6. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    As of late, I find myself happy to be dealing with a company that does not take a "hands-off" perspective in regards to the mfg'ing of it's product. This is not a "china" bash....... but I definitely take exception to a company that contracts out the mfg'ing of it's products, and is not fully involved in the process design that will make it's products.

    Kudos to RAG..... Even when building amps in China, it was being done in his own factory. To me, that is a serious commitment to building a quality product. And now he has returned the mfg'ing of his heads to the US.

    I love how fast the GK's feel. The tone is wonderful in the mix, and it will not be lost. Getting the gain staging down, and understanding how it affects your tone is a bit of a learning curve, but nothing big if you experiment a bit...... but you gotta do it in a band setting. The one thing I really dig is that if I can get the growl dialed into a lower mid grunt, then I can sit perfectly in the mix without getting crazy with my volume.

    The 700rbII has been a wonderful head for me. Not micro, but under 20lbs. And it has a "heft" and "girth" to it's tone that I can't find in the micros. I had a rb800 up until a few weeks ago, and it was killer too..... just not as versatile as the 700rbII. I'm considering a replacement...... The 400rbIV or the Fusion 550. I love the tone of the 550 (big lows, but very tight, and the contour setting at 800hz is much more useable for me than the 500hz setting of the rb's), but I'm not too keen on the motorized knobs and the weight. I love the 700, so maybe a lower powered version is the ticket.

    I love my series 1 112 cab (excellent mids!). In fact, I love it so much that I just recently found another! I haven't gigged them together yet, but I expect big things! I'm not loving my 212 as a stand-alone as of late, but with one of the 112's on top, it's a monster! Outdoor gigs/big stages?..... no problem.
  7. NKBassman

    NKBassman Lvl 10 Nerd Supporting Member

    Jun 16, 2009
    Winnipeg, MB, Canada
    Thanks everyone for the replies so far!

    So if the 700 and 1001 are essentially the same amp, what's the difference between them and the 800rb?
  8. dougjwray


    Jul 20, 2005
    Use the drop-down menu to select an amp, then read the manual. The specs are all there.
    (Just trying to be helpful.)
  9. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    As a player who used to do a lot of doubling, I owned both flavors of the GK 200MB micro amps (series I and II) and recently, bought a 200RCB (head only). I just love the sound of that pre amp. The voicing on the 800RB is virtually identical to the 200MB/RCB. The voicing filters are slightly different. With it's additional power and bi amp capability, I don't think it can be beat at what it was designed for. Simply put, it's a workhorse amp that has things in common with the SVT. It's been in production since the mid 80's and apparently still sells well enough, to justify manufacturing them. It has legs and longevity.

  10. Nedmundo

    Nedmundo Supporting Member

    Jan 7, 2005
    Agreed on all counts. I have 700RB-II and MB-500 heads, and two Neo 112 first series cabs. I loved the first one so much that I bought a second a couple years later, and with the monstrous 700RB-II this rig could cover a larger gig than its size would indicate.

    Also, while I agree the MB-500 doesn't quite achieve the massive "heft" of the 700RB-II, it can get pretty close. The key, IMO, is to cut the treble and high mids on the MB-500 to about 9:00, and then cut the bass to about 11:00. This gets it close to the 700RB-II set flat, as I found when I set them up side-by-side, one through each of my Neo112 cabs. Then, adjust boost to taste, which is footswitchable on the MB-500. I definitely hear the difference between the heads, but I was surprised how closely the MB-500 could emulate the 700RB-II with tweaking, and in a band mix I've been fine with the MB-500. It's still G-K tone, with lots of headroom and punch.

    I do prefer the Horn Management System on the RB series heads, but that's just another tradeoff for the convenience of the micros, and unless you have G-K cabs wired for it, it's not much of an issue.
  11. What might be helpful is the 800RB and 2000RB have a selectable crossover and higher power "high" amp the the other equipped RB heads(Fusion 550 included) which have a set crossover of 5Khz and 50 watts @8 ohms, 75 watts @ 4 ohm designed to drive the tweeter horns ONLY.
  12. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    In other words, the 800 biamp can power two separate speaker cabs
    the 700/1001 biamp is for the horn only...

    I think.
  13. nostatic

    nostatic Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2004
    lost angeles, CA
    Endorsing Artist: FEA Labs
    The MB Fusion will get plenty mean ime/imho.
  14. Chef

    Chef Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    May 23, 2004
    Columbia MO
    Staff Reviewer; Bass Gear Magazine
    Well...one man's mean is another man's milque-toast...
    The boost on the RB series heads does indeed do stuff.

    However, if you're expecting SVT/Msa 400+ tube feel, well, it sure isn't that stuff.

  15. You are correct Sir ;)
  16. clayfiske

    clayfiske Supporting Member

    Jun 5, 2010
    Austin, TX
    I have a pristine Fusion 550 for sale in the classifieds and am open to offers. I use a walkabout now (smaller amp for older guy) but have an mid 80's 400rb that I will never part with and has never failed me in over 20 years of gigging.
  17. I have only owned a 1001RBII so I can't speak to the others.

    It gives you loads and loads of quick, punchy, power. You can blow the walls off with it. I tried some of the competitors and I felt like they had a big wooly rug between me and the sound - GK got rid of that.

    If you want it to be completely clean, you can get it. You can get a nice growling dirt from it, but it took me a while to figure it out. You need a hot signal going in the front of the amp. If it is low level, the boost circuit doesn't have much to work with. So I just boost the output of my compressor and problem solved.

    The biamping is really more correctly a horn management system. It is a separate crossover and small amp that send 5k and above to the tweeter, provided you have a cab wired for it and the right kind of cable (easy to do.) I was initially thrilled to try it out, but after a while I realized I have no need for tweeters in my sound. If you use a tweeter it it a good system for getting it set just how you like it but I would not say it is a really big deal.

    Overall it is a great solid amp. There may be better amps, but I really doubt they are better value than this one. It may take a while to get the sounds you want but they are in there.
  18. ljazz


    Dec 10, 2002
    Cookeville, TN
    Very true......

    One thing to remember is that these heads do not have a variable input gain.... the "input volume" is post input. Beefing up your signal going in makes the growl much easier to attain (and control). I do like you do, and boost a bit with my comp ....... I bump up the gain on my comp until the clip light comes on at the front of the head, and then back it down a touch.

    And really, you can't beat the value of a good rb series head.
  19. AdamR

    AdamR Supporting Member

    Sep 24, 2007
    Bethel CT
    Love my 800rb, crank the mids and boost.
  20. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Love my 700rb-II...that's one amp I'll probably never part with...

    - georgestrings

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