Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gallien Krueger Fusion 550 Amplifier Review


It seems like every bass amplifier manufacturer out there is making a hybrid amplifier, which would be a unit with a tube pre-amplifier and a solid state power amplifier. Gallien Krueger is no exception, and I recently had the opportunity to try out their Fusion 550 bass head, and I thought I would pass along my thoughts.

Gallien Krueger is one of the biggest bass amplifiers manufacturers out there. The company was started by a couple of HP engineers back in the early 1970s and became one of the most popular bass amplifier manufacturers in the world. They were pioneers in lightweight high-power solid state amplification. Their products and customer service are very well regarded in the music industry.

With their solid-state background, I guess it is not too surprising that the Fusion 550 is the first bass amplifier that GK ever built with an all-tube preamplifier. The engineers did not skimp on the six-stage pre-amp that includes three 12AX7 tubes, which accounts for why this amp is so much bigger than its competitors. This is a full-sized head, measuring 19 x 5.25 x 9.75 inches (3 rack spaces tall), and it weighs in at a stout 27.5 pounds. This a bit less than the monstrous GK 2001RB, and is nothing compared to an SVT, but it is significantly more than a Genz Shuttle.

The solid-state (class G) power amp section is lifted from the Gallien Krueger 1001RB-II, and it is rated for a total output of 550 watts (500 watts at 4 at ohms for the main amp and 50 watts at 8 ohms for the horn amp).

The Fusion 550 is a fairly simple amplifier, as far as the controls on the front go. There is a single input with an active/passive switch, a channel switch and a gain potentiometer. Tone controls include a four-band equalizer, an adjustable mid contour control, as well as bright and deep filter switches. The output controls both parts of the bi-amp system. After setting the horn level, when the master volume control is changed the, the ratio between the woofer and horn stays the same. Oh yes, and there is a mute switch too.

The back of the amplifier is where you will find the Neutrik Speakon and 1/4" speaker output jacks as well as an adjustable direct out with a pre/post switch. There is also plenty of other good stuff, including a ground lift, an effects loop, a tuner out, and the footswitch input jack.

As I said earlier, this appears to be a fairly simple amplifier, and there are certainly not enough knobs for a two-channel amplifier. That is because GK has equipped this amplifier with footswitch-actuated motorized gain, master, and horn level controls. Yes, that means that when you hit the footswitch for the second channel the knobs move by themselves. Spooky, and I do not think I have seen this feature on a bass amp before.

I have played the Fusion 550 with my Stingray 4, Stingray 5 and a passive P bass through my Ampeg 810 cabinet and also though a pair of GK 410 cabinets. I do not use a separate horn, so I left that control at zero. The volume is impressive, but not in the same league at the 2001RB, and it did not seem any louder than my SVT. Then again, how much do you really need? If you are going that huge you will probably end up going through the PA anyway…

I am able to get a lot of different tones, foremost of which is the usual clean GK tone, which is a good thing. But there is a lot more to than that on tap. Such as a truly gnarly overdrive tone that is punchy and rich and rivals what I can get out of my Ampegs (almost). But I must note that I had trouble getting much of any overdrive with the active switch ON, which is not too surprising, I guess.

Getting a good tone is not hard, as the folks over at GK put a lot of through into the EQ section. This amp may have the best sounding mids I have run into. The contour knob is switchable to be centered at either 500Hz or 800Hz and it works very well for fine-tuning my tone. Also, the Deep and Bright switches are well-positioned and actually have a positive effect on the tone, unlike similar switches on almost every other amplifier out there.

The motorized channel-switching turns out to be a non-event. The knobs move pretty quickly, and I did not have any problems with them. I am a Luddite at heart, so they scare me a little, but Gallien Krueger has been around the block a few times so I am sure they put some miles on these amps before they started up the assembly line.

So the Fusion 550 is a winner in my book. Although it is heavier than its hybrid competition, it sounds great, has simple controls, and is loud enough for most gigging situations. It is also reasonably price compared to its competition, with a list price of $1356 and a street price of $949. BTW, I saw them on a few weeks ago for $700, so keep your eyes peeled for deals before you buy.


1 comment:

  1. Hi Rex,

    I was curious if you are still rocking both the 550 and the svt-cl? These both seem like great options for any gigging bass player!