What am I missing about GK?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by JimmyM, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I hear so many upright bassists rave about GK amps. I just started playing upright 3 months ago, but I've played electric for years and years. I do a lot of fly dates, and for some reason backline companies misinterpret where it says in my rider "Ampeg SVT Classic with 8 x 10" cabinet" and bring me a GK amp with a Hartke 4 x 10". And I'm sorry, but I think GK amps sound so cold and sterile. It doesn't help being plugged into a Hartke, but even when they're in a good speaker, they still sound sterile to me.

    My own amp is an SWR SM-500 through an old Tube Works 4 x 10" (I would still use an SVT if I didn't have to move it myself), and it totally blows away any GK amps I've ever played. Yet tons of DB'ers use them for all kinds of music. Why do they work for you folks who use them? What makes them so good for upright yet so cold-sounding for electric?
  2. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Another SWR user for DB! Great amp. I have a Gary Peacock video where he's using one with a Baby Blue extension cab. I use an SM900; used to use a Baby Blue, now I have Bergantino cabs. The SM500 & SM900 are great heads for upright, IMO, but a little too heavy. I'm saving for an Acoustic Image head to go with my Bergies.

    PS: I've never owned the GK, but I know plenty of guys with them and they sound good to me in the audience.
  3. fsanfili


    Feb 5, 2004
    Los Angeles
    1. They're light. It's no problem to cary the combo amp and upright at the same time.

    2. They don't sound too bad if you bypass the preamp. If you do use the built in preamp, don't bother with their little tone-shaping dohickeys and limiter.

    3. They're light.
  4. Jimmy, there probably isn't any "why". This is a very personal thing. My experience and my preferences with GK and SWR amps is exactly the opposite of yours (I'm talking double bass here, not electric bass guitar). The SWR is awfully nasal, way "over-trebly" to the point where my DB sounds like a Ventures surf-guitar record from the 1960s, and the only way I can change it is to turn up the bass control and completely turn down the mid and high. My GK MB150S, on the other hand, has a much more natural and pleasing sound to my ears. This likely varies a lot by the individual bass, as well as varying by the individual bass player's ears.

    For me, it has a nice sound, and is so light and easy to transport, it seems hard to beat except for the loudest gigs, where I need something more powerful. But for anything but the loudest, I like the GK MB150S a lot.
  5. abaguer


    Nov 27, 2001
    Milford, NJ
    I used a GK 800rb for years with hartke cabs for both upright and electric and they sounded fine. I now use WW, Acoustic Image and EA cabs but the other night the backline had a GK and it sounded fine. Easy to dial in a sound and it sounds good on stage and out in front of house.

    Conversely, try as I might, I've never liked SWRs. I find them them voiced too much in the treble end and it is hard for me to dial up a good sound for either upright or electric. Welcome to the wonderfully subjective world of gear. :)
  6. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    From my experience GK is the supplied backline bass amp more times than not. Whether it's popularity or avialabillity I don't know. I do know that when I play somewhere and I see that there is a gk amp for the backline I feel pretty comfortable knowing I can always dial in a decent sound quickly.

    I've had a few swr amps in the past (redhead, studio 220) and I remember getting good sounds out of both those for upright but haveing to work at it. Doing alot of eq tweaking to get a sound I was happy with. I'm a guy who prefers simplicity. I use an a.i. clarus these days and one of the best features for me is the LIMITED eq it has. It doesn't have me turning around half the night fiddeling with knobs trying to adjust this or that. Which free's me up to just play.

  7. larry

    larry Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2004
    Not intending to hijack and make it an SWR thread but,
    Actually, even though I dig the SWR SM900 for my DB, I agree about the high end boost. I just attributed it to my pick up and dialed it out. I think the SM900 and SM500 have more extensive EQ's than other model SWR's. I have a Baby Blue head and the EQ is not nearly as good as the SM900.
  8. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I usually just leave the EQ flat anyway. Now and then I boost upper mids if I'm not cutting thru. The 900 has a super duper double stage EQ. The 500 just has a lowly 4 band. Which suits me fine. The more knobs and switches there are, the more of a chance I'll get knob-happy.

    I can dig what folks say about the treble being pretty aggressive in an SWR. Especially when you pair it with an SWR cab. Then again, they were originally designed for Marcus Miller, so it doesn't surprise me. I just stay away from the transparency knob and I'm usually fine.
  9. Just curious, what speaker(s) do you use with the Clarus?
  10. Nick Ara

    Nick Ara

    Jul 22, 2002
    Long Island, NY
    A couple of months ago, I had a chance to catch a show at the Jazz Standard with Jimmy Heath and Ron Carter. Ron showed up carrying his bass and his GK150. Funny thing was, the Standard already supplied a GK150 as the backline bass amp.

    I guess all amps don't sound alike because Ron immediately had the sound guy remove the house amp and set up his instead!

    Could RC have had a "hot-rodded" GK? I doubt it. My guess is that he trusts his amp more than what could potentially turn out to be a beat-up or abused rig.

    But you had to be there. It was pretty funny seeing the expression on the sound guys face just the same.
  11. Kevinlee


    May 15, 2001
    Phx, AZ..USA
    Just curious, what speaker(s) do you use with the Clarus?

    I use 1x12 4ohm cabs. Avatar cabs (the original smaller rear ported ones) with eminence 4ohm deltas in them. Either one, or two together Or other times just an ampeg portabass 1x12.

  12. svenflood


    Mar 19, 2005
    I agree with you, I had a GK and I had the same feeling when I played it with my DB, in fact I was happy when it was stolen!
  13. mister_k


    Jul 27, 2004
    Los Angeles
    i abandoned my GK for an SVT head months ago after i played through an SVT backline at a fancy radio station gig. I LOVE the sound. In fact I have board recordings from two shows at the same club (mixed by the same sound guy) within a week of each other where I played my bass through a SWR combo one night and my rig (SVT pro 4 with ampeg 1970s 4X10). the difference is like night and day. The SWR is clear but very thin with a decent punch, but a floppy foundation. the SVT is THICK as hell, and very focused. I liked the portability of the SWR and the sound wasn't terrible by any means (it was better than my old GK head), but I would need to put a pre in front of it to counter act that nasal sound.

    just my cents.

  14. Reefer

    Reefer Guest

    Mar 9, 2003
    Has anyone tried or thought of trying a MBX112(or possibly 2) with an AI Focus? I tried those cabs with a WW and it wasn't bad. Seems like the voicing of the Focus may get them to speak a little better. A MBX112 with the Focus would be 16 lbs and 2- MBX112's with the Focus would be 28 lbs!
  15. Jeremy Allen

    Jeremy Allen Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2002
    Bloomington, IN
    I detested my little GK combo amp and sold it. Later I wished I had it back when I was schlepping around--there's something to be said for an amp that you can carry with one hand, your bass over your shoulder, and just walk into a room, plug in, and get a decent sound.

    After I was playing through a WW for awhile, I would go to gigs were the backline rig was a GK 400 or 800RB, plug in, push the little button with the mid-cut shape, and be perfectly pleased with my sound. Why spend three times the money, I would ask myself, when you can get such a usable sound with GK? I guess the grass is always greener...
  16. pjleo


    May 27, 2003
    del valley
    A lot of amps have come and gone.
    But for some reason my mb 150 is still hanging around after 12 years.
  17. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Firstly... we're really talking about Jazz vs Rock aren't we?

    So - at 99% of small Jazz gigs, the DB player will be using a GK 150 amp - whereas I've never seen one used at a rock gig!

    So - the aim of the bass in rock is to fill out the sound - so, the bass fills out an area of the sound spectrum and makes it all sound "heavier"..

    In Jazz though, the aim is to leave space for the soloist and other musicians...

    Secondly - two different appoaches - sound shaped by the amp or sound shaped by the way you play and the acoustic properties of the instrument..?

    So - you may call it "cold and sterile", but I would view it as "faithfully reproducing" what is put in.

    I think the point is that in most passive bass guitars, there is a lot missing in the sound which is made up for, by the amp - whereas DB players have "their sound", there in the instrument unplugged and they are trying to reproduce that as faithfully as possible.

    So if you take a BG and play it unplugged, you are not simply trying to reproduce that same sound - but louder !! You are looking for the amp to make up for what is missing and add "warmth" or whatever you want to call it, as well as taking away or "de-emphasing" the clickiness/brittleness of the unplugged instrument.

    But a DB player has all the warmth or whatever, in the unplugged instrument - they don't want anything added or taken away - just to reproduce what's there already!
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I didn't really intend this to be a jazz vs rock thing. I just wanted to know why so many DBers liked GK's. I can dig what you're saying about faithfully reproducing the sound you get out of the DB. But after playing my DB through my SWR and my ancient Ampeg B-15N and having it sound so great, I just didn't know why more DBers don't use them. I sort of understand not using the B-15 since a 15" speaker isn't the best for upright, but the positive reviews of GK equipment freaked me out since I have the diametrically opposite opinion of every GK product I've ever tried. I guess I need to try the MB150 with my DB one day.
  19. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - tone is subjective - what sounds "great" to you, may sound : "coloured, muffled, muddy etc. " to me !! ;)

    It may be a great "rock" sound, but totally inappropriate for a Jazz trio playing gentle, quiet music.. etc etc.

    I think generally, Jazz DB players, want, as much as possible, to hear the sound of their DB "unplugged" - with a little support, if necessary, whereas rock bass players are used to and love, the sound of their amps!! ;)

    Basically,what I'm saying is - what you are hearing, may be very different to what others are hearing, based on different histories, experiences etc.
  20. I hate GKs for EB, always have. Funny enough though when I started playing my DB through a GK MB150 (which are the amp of choice at my school) I really found it easy to get a sound that supports the sound of my DB. Recently the school purchased a couple of SWR WM12s which I dig for electric but hate for the DB. For my own use I have an old polytone teenybrute, but the GK seems like a good choice for upgrade.