Hands-On Review:Behringer Blue Devil GX112.
by Emile Menasché
Guitarists have a strange relationship with tech- nology: We want advanced features, but we also want familiar sounds. The Behringer Blue Devil GX112 straddles the line between high-tech and traditional designs by combining convincing tube-type tone with some decidedly modern twists.
This compact combo dishes out 60 watts into one custom-designed 100-watt 12-inch speaker. It’s housed in a closed-back cabinet, an unusual design for a combo, but one that provides more powerful bass response. Even more unusual is the Blue Devil’s rather full complement of modern features: digital stereo effects with 24-bit processing, MIDI, flexible input and output routing and a headphone jack for silent practicing.
The heart of the Blue Devil’s tone derives from Behringer’s analog “Virtube” circuitry, which mimics the behavior of tubes. The amp’s two channels, appropriately dubbed “Heaven” and “Hell,” make good use of the Virtube’s virtues. Heaven provides clean and slightly overdriven tones, while Hell takes you from warm overdrive to full tube-like saturation. The controls are simple and easy to grasp. Heaven’s Volume knob governs both level and drive, while Hell offers both Heat (Gain) and a Volume control that allows you to set Hell’s output relative to that of Heaven. A global Master Volume sets the output for both channels.
The two channels share a three-band eq. Billed in the manual as a “traditional” eq, it proved to be, in fact, more flexible than the eq found on a typical vintage amp. Each band offers boost and cut, and cutting the band off completely made the sound disappear, just as happens on many tube amps. The Mid control is especially powerful at adding girth or taking it away, for a funky, biting sound. Interestingly, the eq knobs are arranged in diagonal, with the Bass control on the lower left and the Yreble on the upper right. This saves space on the front panel while making the knobs easy to identify and operate. A similar arrangement is used with the effects knobs.
Lots of tube amp emulators do a convincing job of mimicking overdrive and distortion, but stick you with anemic (or worse, harsh-sounding) clean sounds. With a name like Blue Devil (and channels like Heaven and Hell), you’d expect this amp to emphasize distortion tones at the expense of clean sounds. Surprisingly, it offers one of the better clean sounds I’ve heard in a while. Deep and rich, with plenty of overtones, it works equally well for rhythm work and soloing.
The overdrive is no slouch either, and again, the eq makes the difference between a good sound and the right sound. Where some “tube” emulators provide a super-compressed Rockman-like tone, the Blue Devil stays dynamic and harmonically complex all the way. Plus, the Devil is sensitive to the guitar that’s feeding it. A humbucker-equipped semi-hollow drove the amp much harder than a Strat with vintage-style pickups. If you do opt for high-gain pickups, the Clean channel offers enough headroom to handle them.
The Effect section gets raves for sound quality. The Spring Reverb was quite convincing, and there is a nice complement of delays, modulation, pitch, filter and even speaker emulation effects. You can use the onboard effects processor two ways. The standard configuration lets you set a different preset for each of the two channels—say Spring Reverb on the Heaven channels and Mono Delay on the Hell channel. Alternately, if you have a MIDI controller, you can bypass this arrangement and let the controller recall individual programs per your requirements. Editing is limited to one parameter per effect preset—basic, but serviceable. The two Mix controls can operate as left-and right-channel controls for stereo effects and as individual level controllers for each effect in a multi-effect preset (e.g., Chorus Reverb).
Flexible routing adds to the Blue Devil’s appeal. There’s an Insert Send and Return for connecting a mono outboard processor, as well as a stereo Line Out (with speaker emulation) and stereo Aux Inputs that can be used to introduce an outboard source (like a drum machine). You can also use the Aux Ins as parallel effects returns for an outboard processor. A front panel Aux Volume lets you set the effects mix. Another cool feature: the effects section can be updated via EPROMs—memory chips that can be reprogrammed with new effects. Try that with your traditional spring reverb.
THE BOTTOM LINE With a name Blue Devil, you might expect nothing more than a glorified fuzz box, but hey, what’s in a name. If you’re looking for a tasteful and flexible amp that offers distinct and rich tube-type tone, you’ll consider the Blue Devil a gift from heaven.