BY steve cook
Whether you realize it or not, we are in the middle of a revolution. Over
the past few years, bass amplification companies have been using new technologies to
bring more compact bass amplifiers to the
market. These “micro amps” are outfitted
with relevant, useful controls, as well as efficient designs, and they pack a punch with
wattage output similar to their bulkier old-school cousins. Today’s smaller, more load-in
friendly amps have carved a deep niche for
themselves in a very short period of time.
Gallien-Krueger has been building bass
amps for more than four decades now, and
it’s already solidified its place in history
with the legendary RB series. Further, in
many ways, G-K is arguably one of the
companies that’s been downsizing heft
while increasing quality and practicality for
the longest. Always moving forward, G-K
has now augmented its line with the MB
series and its flagship MB800. Featuring a
discreet, FET-driven preamp and a back-saving weight of just under 5 pounds, this
little beast delivers 800 watts at 4 Ω—
pretty incredible for something no bigger than
a history textbook.
The Lighter Side
We’ll get to the impressive output of this
amp in a moment, but for now let’s talk
construction: The MB800 is housed in a
metal, fan-cooled chassis that’s the height of a
single-space rack unit, and about half as wide.
Though the slenderness of the amp allows
you to carry it in a laptop bag or the like,
there are screw holes for optional rack ears.
Because the knobs are made of a lighter plas-
tic and the housing isn’t super heavy-duty in
order to keep the MB800’s weight down, the
option to rack the amp for protection against
road wear is a welcome and wise option.
Even with its small footprint, the sub-
way-friendly MB800 possesses many of the
same features generally found on larger (and
heavier) amps. There are two available gain
modes, a -10dB pad, mute switch, contour
control, and a 4-band EQ. Other features
include a level control for gain B, as well as
a master volume and a push-button limiter.
The back panel boasts a balanced DI, dedi-
cated tuner output, effects-loop jacks, and a
switchable line out/headphone jack.
Front-panel controls are illuminated, a
boon to any player stuck on a dark stage.
Not only that, the knobs’ lights actually
change color to indicate operation status,
as well as whether the amp is clipping or
overloaded. This isn’t just something that
makes life a lot easier—it’s something every
amp manufacturer should look into. Big
thumbs-up to G-K for this smart touch.
to hear audio clips of the amp at
When powering up the MB800, the first
thing you’ll notice is that it’s a powerful,
powerful amplifier. The skeptical side of me
wondered if such a little amp could move
air. Not only did I quickly find that it could
move air, but that it could get the dust out of
the rafters as well! The MB800 generated the
kind of dBs that make your neighbors call.
One person shouldn’t have this much power,
but it is nice to have. But how does it sound?
Hopping between a Warwick 411 Pro
4x10 and a Warwick 115 Pro, I put the amp
through its paces with both passive and active
basses. Starting with the 4x10 cab, I used a
’ 78 Fender P and a ’ 75 Jazz reissue to test
the MB800 with passive electronics. I set all
When I dug in, the
signal would break
up just enough to get
gritty and mean with-
out fully distorting.
4-band EQ with variable contour control
Weighs just 4. 9 pounds