Hands-On Review:Behringer GMX212 Amp
The perfect fusion of digital, analog, and affordability
By "Raunchy" Ralph Wechter
By combining analog modeling with digital effects, independent channels, and independent stereo power amps, Behringer has created a monster of tonal versatility. With a broader, more useful range of options than effects amps costing five times as much, the Behringer GMX212 proves that intelligent design is not necessarily expensive design.
I could have been KILLED!
The parking lot behind Elmo's Clam House and Bar is treacherous, to say the least. I was standing in the alley by the back door trying to guide Stella, the drummer's girlfriend, as she backed his pickup down a steep hill toward me. Her foot slipped off the brake and the whole rig rushed down and slammed to a halt at a tall curb, dumping most of the truck's contents into the alley, and almost onto me! Lying among the wreckage, my amp head was obviously terminal.
Fortunately, my buddy Brad at Musician's Friend had just sent me a Behringer GMX212 for review. Ducking Stella's tearful apologies, I flew over to my place and yanked it out of the box. Even though I was in a rush, I couldn't help noticing the smooth and sculpted cab design, highlighted by cool chrome corner protectors. The extensive front panel bespoke deep control and looked very straightforward. For a 100W combo with two twelves it was surprisingly easy to schlep into the back of my Honda.
Plug and rage
Everybody was set up and ready to start when I got back to the bar, so I had to just plug in and go for broke. The front panel has two independent channels, each featuring three - three-position switches for amp, mode, and speaker models. These make up the analog modeling part of the amp. I just selected British, Hot, and U.K. on channel 2--hoping that would emulate my recently deceased stack--cranked the drive knob, and set the three-band EQ knobs straight up. For channel 1 I selected Tweed, Clean, and Flat on the switches and put the drive at about 4 for a little chunk on my rhythm parts.
I was completely floored by the responsiveness, richness of sound, and punchy volume of the amp. Behringer has always provided a lot of bang for the buck, but this was a lot of bang for any bucks. When my first solo came up, the GMX212 screamed with such heart I forgot about the evening's brutal losses and really tore it up (even if I do say so myself). Behringer's patented Dynamizer circuitry compressed the tone for extended sustain just the way real tubes would. The Jenson Special Design 12" drivers delivered amazing clarity and presence.
Astounding stereo effects
I waited until the break to check out the GMX212's onboard digital effects, and they proved to be so simple I was able to employ them in the second set. A jog wheel let me dial up a range of 99 presets, some of which involve several effects. A little card that came attached to the handle familiarized me with the basic nature of the presets. And within a couple of minutes I found four stereo presets that really sounded great and let me spice up the rest of the show with no heavy brain activity. I quickly realized that when you select a preset in a particular channel, it stays assigned to the channel and comes back up automatically when you go back to the channel. Is that cool or what? Plus, you can change any of the presets on the GMX212 and wind up with 99 totally customized sounds.
31 groups of effects include reverb, chorus, flanger, delay, pitch shifter, compressor, expander, wah variations, plus digital tube and speaker simulations that are very convincing and add a new dimension to the sound. These digital models are like having a whole other rig. By assigning one of them to each channel, I was able to effectively have four channels available through the included footswitch, which lets you switch channels and turn the effects on or off.
I also greatly enjoyed the pitch shifter, which is extremely easy to control and really fattens up the sound. Since it's one of the coolest, most sophisticated effects ever invented, I've been mystified as to why so many multi-effects units these days leave it out. Bravo to Behringer for including it and for the impressively high quality of all these digital effects. The onboard auto-chromatic tuner was a very good idea as well.
A totally professional I/O array gives you MIDI in, left and right extension speaker outs with the ability to turn the internal speakers on or off, left and right slave ins, left and right tape I/O with phono jacks, left and right line out, left and right aux in, insert send and return, and a footswitch jack. That's all the I/O I could think of a use for and it makes this unit especially effective in the studio. The 24-bit stereo effects are definitely of high-enough quality to hold their own in any recording situation.
And of course the most stunning feature of the GMX212 is the price. For a player looking for his or her first performance amp, there's no reason to look further! But even seasoned professionals will find it more than satisfactory as a road unit or backup amp. I recommend this amp with no buts about it; it helped me out of a serious pinch and won my heart.
Features & Specs
Musician's Friend offers the entire Behringer GMX line-perhaps the finest guitar amplifiers ever in this price range. And you won't find any of these amps anywhere else for less, we guarantee it.