Hands-On Review:There's one with your name on it!
By E.A. Tennaway
It has been a decade since Crate introduced their GT80DSP, the first combo incorporating digital effects, to the marketplace in 1993. Building on the enthusiastic reception that combo received from guitarists everywhere, the company has gone from strength to strength in the years that have followed and has emerged as the preeminent amp manufacturer on the scene today.
The development of the company's amp line has been marked with industry awards for innovation and excellence every step of the way. That's not surprising. Surrounded by competitors who are hidebound with tradition and who keep regurgitating the same old amps in slightly redesigned packages, Crate's focus on innovation has captured the attention and loyalty of players who formerly were wedded to the old-school amp makers.
Crate was the first major manufacturer to build chromatic tuners into their amps. They were also the first to offer on-board digital effects in a combo. Years ago the firm developed its own tube simulation pre-amp circuitry designed to simulate the harmonic structure, tone, and compression of a tube-driven circuit. In its fifth and latest incarnation known as Flexwave Evolution Five, it delivers a level of realism that is downright scary.
Perhaps most importantly, the folks at Crate went on a three-year-long quest to discover what electric guitarists really want. They asked guitarists to design the perfect combo that incorporated the tonalities and features they truly wanted. The GLX Series represents the distillation and perfection of that input into a range of combos that deliver phenomenal performance at prices just about anyone can handle.
Ditching retro looks
Unlike the competition who build their cabs with retro cosmetics to look as though it's still 1965, the amps in the GLX Series look like they were designed for the 21st century. And their modernism is more than skin deep. Their advanced DSP effect sections, intuitive controls, and performance-oriented design ensure that the GLX combos will find homes among a wide range of musicians.
Working our way from the bottom of the range to the top, we'll first take a look at the GLX15 and GLX30, the junior members of the family. They both include the same Flexwave Evolution Five pre-amp tube simulation circuitry plus the same 16 digital effects section as their bigger brethren. Effects include convincing reverbs and delays, flanges, choruses, wahs, and more. Both models offer clean and dirty channels, easy-to-see angled control panels, 3-band EQ, plus external speaker and headphone jacks. And as with all the GLX combos, the built-in chromatic tuner with mute switch is active whenever the amp is powered up providing constant, realtime tuning. Weighing in at a svelte 15 pounds and driving an eight-inch speaker with 15 watts, the GLX15 makes an ideal practice amp that's capable of serious tone production while being highly portable. The GLX30 powers its Custom 10" Crate speaker with a solid 30 watts, and adds discrete channel operation with independent level and EQ control plus RCA CD inputs so you can practice with external sources. At just 21 pounds, the GLX30 will serve brilliantly in the home studio, at jams, or even for small rehearsals.
A step up
Still working our way up through the GLX range, we come to the GLX65 which along with its bigger siblings features a mute switch for silent tuning plus a switchable lighted control panel-a godsend when playing on darkened stages. The lights illuminate the functions of each knob as well as the level trim ring around each knob. For maximum visibility in all conditions, knobs have white markings for bright environments as well as fiber-optic clear tubes that produce a red dot for dim settings.
More crucially, all three of the bigger GLXs offer true three-channel layout and operation. Clean, rhythm, and solo channels operate with totally independent gain, EQ, and level settings equipping you with the kind of tonal flexibility and varied drive characteristics only previously found in much more expensive combos.
Crate's channel tracking keeps things simple by letting you store three different effects for each of the three channels. A quick twirl of the Mode knob in the effects section stores effects with their appropriate channels.
Crate's GLX amps also employ Sequential Gain Cascading (SGC) that closely resembles the dynamics of tube circuitry by layering three different gain stages on top of each other. As one stage reaches its threshold, it "cascades" over into the next, generating a whopping total of 100dB of gain in the three different stages. With SCG, gain stage "one" adds output to your pickups while leaving their tone unchanged. Gain stage "two" increases definition and punch by adding high mids and more gain. Stage "three" adds even more gain and upper-end sparkle for greater articulation and definition. Crate's Shape control, boosts or scoops mids and shifts the midpoint as you move the control. In conjunction with the amount of gain and boost you dial in, midpoint shifting adds an exciting variable for dialing in the precise tone you're looking for.
The big boys
With their 12" Custom Crate drivers and outputs ranging between 65 and 120 watts RMS, the GLX65, GLX120, and GLX212 offer the semi-pro player highly affordable and flexible combo solutions. Their rugged cab construction and soft-grip handles make for easy mobility with reliable performance night after night.
Whether you're looking for a capable practice amp or a combo that'll deliver the goods at gigs, the GLX Series deserves your serious consideration.
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Check out our Real Audio Sound Bytes:
Crate GLX30 Combo
Features & Specs
All models feature: