Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Memory Lane: Gallien-Krueger 800RB Amplifier


Last month we looked at my first bass amplifier, the Peavey TNT 150. The Peavey satisfied my wants for awhile, but eventually had to have something prettier and louder. Inspired by what I saw on late night TV, I decided on the Gallien-Krueger 800RB.

Gallien-Krueger was started by a couple of HP engineers back in the early 1970s and has become one of the most popular bass amplifier manufacturers in the world. They were pioneers in lightweight high-power solid state amplification.

The 800RB was introduced in the 1982, and delivers on both the lightweight and high-power fronts.

This amplifier weighs in around 23 pounds, and measures approximately 17.5" wide by 5.25" high by 9.5" deep. So yes, you can mount this amplifier in a standard size rack if you replace remove the little rubber feet and replace the amplifier end caps with rack ears.

The power output is impressive, with two amplifier outputs: 300 watts at 4 ohms for the low side and 100 watts at 8 ohms for the high side. Compared to GK’s newer designs (not to mention Genz Benz or Markbass) this might not seem super-bitchin’ , but 25 years ago it sure was.

The 800RB is a clean-looking amp, with a crinkly-finished metal case. This is common today, but was unusual in the 1970s when amplifiers were made of plywood and fabric. There is a handle mounted to one end of the case in case you decide not to go with a rack case.

I popped mine open when I had it (curiosity, I guess) to see what was in there. The wiring was tidy and nicely routed, and there was a huge transformer. And no cooling fan. Gallien-Krueger went with a great big heat sink on the back of the case instead. If you really crank the amp you could grill hot dogs on the cooling fins.

The front is uncluttered, with a neat line of controls. There is one ¼” input jack (a 10db cut switch is included) and a master volume knob. Tone controls include 3 filter switches (low cut, mid cut and high boost), and a 4-band equalizer. There is also an adjustable footswitch-controllable boost circuit, and lastly there are the crossover and level controls for the two amplifier circuits.

The back of the 800RB is very simple with a direct out, and effects loop and ¼” speaker outs – 1 for the high circuit and two for the low circuit.

I used this amplifier for years and never had any trouble with it. The rest of my rig was a Hartke 115XL and either a 201XL or 410 XL, and I always had more volume available if I needed it. The tone was even, although it never was the warmest bass sound I ever heard.

I eventually downsized my rig and went to a SWR Super Redhead combo. The 800RB and Hartke cabinets were sold off in the aftermath.

When writing this, I did a little looking around on the internet and was shocked to find that GK is still selling this exact same amplifier. That means that you can buy the dream amplifier of your youth, and still get a 2-year warranty.

The list price for the Gallien-Krueger 800RB is $1142, with a street price of $790. If I remember correctly, this is just a little more than what I paid for this amplifier over 20 years ago.


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