Thursday, February 13, 2014

Genz Benz Contour CTR500-210T Bass Combo Amplifier Review


Over the past few months I reviewed two entry level bass combo amplifiers and found both of them lacking in a number of areas. You would think that with all of the new technology and research into sound equipment that this would be the heyday of amps and we would have a herd of fine products to choose from, but this does not seem to be the case. Fortunately, there is the Genz Benz Contour CTR500-210T, which is a pretty good package for not a lot of cash.

The Contour 500 combo not terribly huge, measuring 28” tall by 19” wide by 17” deep. It is covered in nubbly black vinyl with a metal grille, and it weighs in at around 52 pounds – which is pretty lightweight for a plywood combo amp. There is a single rubber carry handle on top and there are no casters, so it might be a struggle for smaller players to lug it around.

As you probably guessed from the name, this is a 500-watt amp at 4 Ohms (300-watts at 8 Ohms). This is a solid-state unit, with a FET preamp and a class D power amp (the usual B&O ICE module that everybody seems to use) with a fan to keep everything cooler. The power is output through two 10-inch speakers and a 3-level adjustable tweeter.

The front control panel is where all of the magic happens, and I will list go through the features from left to right. First up is an XLR direct out with a ground lift switch, and then comes the pre-amplifier section with a tuner out, a single instrument input with a mute switch, gain and volume. Right in the center is the contour control (to be explained later). To the right of this is the3-band EQ with sweepable parametric mids. And finally on the far end is the master volume, a ¼-inch headphone out, a ¼-inch input and the power switch. Thank god somebody still puts the power switch on the front of an amplifier.

There is not much going on with the back of the unit, just an IEC power cable socket and two parallel Neutrik Speak-On outputs for the speakers. One of these goes to the internal speakers, and the other is suitable for an extension cabinet.

That’s it, making this a very simple amplifier to use so it would certainly be good for players just getting into the instrument. Don’t take that the wrong way, this is a gig-able amp that a pro would probably not mind using.

I put the Contour 500 through its paces with a few different basses to see how it worked, including a passive Precision Bass, a Sadowsky vintage P, and a Musicman Bongo 4H. At normal levels the amp did not color the tone of the instruments, so I have no complaints. Cranking the gain and volume resulted in a nice furry tone, and it did not fart out even with the higher output instruments. Its overall sound is similar to my Genz Shuttle 9.0 thanks to its tube emulation circuit, even if it does lose some of the character since it does not have a real tube pre-amplifier. Also, you will find the same type of ICE modules in the Shuttle amps so you are not giving up anything in that department. Anyway, this would be an appropriate bass amp for most any genre of modern music.

This combo will not short change you in volume department either. When using just the internal speakers it is loud enough for practices and small gigs, and when adding an extension cabinet it would still work for bars and clubs. Anything bigger than this would probably be a situation where you would want to use the direct out and run the bass through the PA anyway.

The extras that Genz Benz threw in are pretty handy, though over the years these items have become standard features on most amps. I love having a mute switch and tuner out, and having the ability to plug an MP3 player into the auxiliary input and listen to the output through headphones is a boon for practice time.

I do miss the signal shaping switches of the Shuttle series, but the Contour knob makes up for most of this. This control changes the pre-amplifier’s inherent sound by decreasing the mids and boosting bass and treble as the knob is turned clockwise. The control is turned OFF (or is flat) when the knob is all turned all the way counter-clockwise. I like this feature and when combining this with the EQ I can dial in most any tone that I need.

By the way, if this is not quite your cup of tea there is also a Contour 500 in the CTR500-115T configuration, and with this you get a 15-inch speaker instead of the two 10-inch speakers. Also, there are matching 1x15 and 2x10 extension cabinets in case you want to get the full volume out of this unit. I highly recommend them.

To sum all of this up, the Genz Benz Contour CTR500-210T combo is plenty loud for small to medium gigs, especially if you pony up for one of their extension cabinets. Its tone is good and it will certainly get the job done for most musicians. These amps are a pretty good deal with a list price of $1129 and a street price of around $700 (plus if you check around there are some great clearance prices on these). Check one out if you get the chance!


No comments:

Post a Comment