Hands-On Review:Crate GT1200H Half Stack
Crate GT1200H Half Stack
Intense amplification for today's musician
By Dustin Underwood
Making believers out of everyone who plugs into their input jacks, Crate's GT Series amps are known for their true three-channel versatility, intuitive operation, compact design, and affordability. They are capable of sparkling clean tones and highly versatile, hard-edged distortion sounds with gain to die for. The top-of-the-line GT amp, the GT212, was especially popular, but soon players were screaming for a head-only version of the 120W giant killer to create a monster stack. They were seeking the menacing stage presence and formidable volume only 4 x 12" cabs can deliver.
Not surprisingly, Crate delivered. Perhaps one of the most important things the people at Crate have ever done is listen to their customers. The most visible signs of this are the custom adaptations of standard gear they create for full-on rock stars like Kid Rock (white Tolex-covered cabinets with American flag grilles), Soulfly's Max Cavalera (custom cabinet grilles featuring the Soulfly logo and Brazilian and American flags), and perhaps the most famous customized Crate player of all, Sammy Hagar and his Red Rocker Voodoo amps and cabinets. Crate has also customized cabinets for performers as diverse as Marcos Curiel and Flogging Molly. Crate spent three years asking guitarists what they wanted in a quest to design what eventually became the GLX Series, and amazing series of amps with awesome tone, built-in chromatic tuner, and back-lit control panels.
Forward into the future
Now Crate has delivered the GT1200H, a 120W tone machine that offers phenomenal performance and stage presence at a price just about anyone can handle. Continuing Crate's design decision to ditch the overused, vintage look with their affordable amps and cabinets, the GT1200H looks like it was designed today, not before you were born. As a nice touch, Crate made the head and cab precisely the same width, so when you plunk the GT1200H down on its matching 4x12 G412SL (slant) or ST (straight) cab, it's all one compact package. An aux input is a nice addition for those of us who sometimes play along live to prerecorded material from a CD player, laptop, or iPod. The sleek black styling and simple, yet effective control panel looks killer. The clearly labeled knobs let you dive into a deep sonic ocean of tone tweaking, with separate controls for each channel (Solo, Overdrive, and Clean). Don't let the glossy, smooth looks of this stack distract you, though. It delivers the sonic goods with intense, rugged and powerful tone combinations.
The voice of the GT is the venerable Flexwave Evolution 5 preamp. Years ago, Crate developed their own tube simulation preamp circuitry with a killer harmonic structure, tone, and compression. One of its unique and highly desirable features is its ability to serve up distorted lower frequencies and harmonics while keeping the highs clean and cutting. The Flexwave inherits its name from its ability to flex the waveform in response to your picking, giving you phenomenally tactile control of your dynamics. More than a model of a tube-driven circuit, the Flexwave is a special grouping of circuits that deliver every amp sound a guitarist could want without the expense of a tube preamp. The low-damped power amp exerts just the right mix of control and woof to the bottom end for full, tube-simulating damping over the 12" speakers.
Into the lab
Testing the stack with both single-coil and humbucker-equipped guitars yielded surprising results. One of the sure signs this amp is no joke is that you could tell which axe I was using by the way it interacted with the GT's various gain stages. No matter which six-string I picked the response and feel were excellent. Every note played is heard instantaneously with a muscular, sinewy feel most often associated with high-gain tube amps. The Flexwave's tube-like compression provides a balanced and tight feel at the string with a dynamic sound from the speakers. The reverb is good and springy without overpowering your playing. The EQ section for each channel is very interactive and provides a wide range of usable sounds with each sweep of the knob.
The clean channel is just that: CLEAN. It really seems to optimize the signal from the guitar without adding too much color. With changes in playing position and attack as well as EQ adjustments, it can deliver sparkling tones that are edgy and tight or darker, more fluid sounds that are still precise and clear. Pickup selection was also very responsive through this channel, as it would prove to be through the other two channels as well.
Looking for classic midrange overdrive tones? Got full on recto-thrash on the brain? No matter what your distortion jones is, chances are pretty good you can dial it in with the GT1200H. Lively and responsive across all settings, its overdrive can be finely tuned to dial up a low-end heavy whomp or singing midrange and high. By just barely edging on the gain, I could pull out some unique and creative sounds. With the pickup selector on the bridge, light picking over the neck produced round, clean tones with very rich harmonic characteristics. Jumping on the strings hard over the pickups drove up the volume and gain in a hurry, without changing the settings. The mid-to-high balance is really great, and the bass impact can growl authoritatively when going into super distortion territory.
Simply put, the Lead channel transforms your fingers, picks, and strings into a high-powered laser with extreme gain capabilities and a smooth overdriven shimmer with gobs of clarity and definition. With a handful of humbucker-fitted guitar in my hands, there wasn't anyplace I couldn't take this tone, and it thickened up the single-coils without overdoing the bass. If you're looking for the spotlight at your local club, this (and your chops, of course) will put you there.
With fantastic lead tone, input-receptive crunch, and a flexible clean channel, the GT1200H is a monstrous amount of amp, especially when you consider its affordable price tag. It's a smart, bare-bones slice of Crate sound that'll help you clear out some room on the stage so you can Crate Your Own Sound!
Features & Specs
G412 Cabinet Specs: