Over 50 years have passed since Bob Gallien strode into a local music store to show off a powerful amp he had constructed in his garage (the GMT 266A), to see if the owner might be interested in selling it for him. That very amp would be bought the next day by a local guitarist, Carlos Santana, who would then take it with him to use at Woodstock. (You can see the amp in some original footage here.) Not a bad beginning. Since that time, GK has produced a variety of innovative, powerful amps and cabinets, becoming a celebrated brand among electric and upright players. (The MB 150 combo has long been a favorite among upright bassists.) With the Legacy series, GK continues its innovative and aggressive approach to making sure bassists around the world have reliable and inspiring amplification.
GK sent us its Legacy 1200 head, paired with a CX 410 cabinet. I set it up in my rehearsal space here in Nashville, which allowed me to test it with a variety of musical genres and situations. Over the course of a month, I held rehearsals for country, pop, rock, and singer–songwriter acts. I played a wide range of basses, including a 1976 Fender Jazz Bass, an Alleva-Coppolo LM5 Deluxe, an Xotic XJPro5, and a Kala U-bass. I also had the pleasure of having another bassist play through it in a rehearsal I hosted at my house. In each case, the amp and cab delivered well: They offered up clear, punchy tones that cut through without sacrificing any of the mids or bottom tones we all love. The amp and cab served well in each rehearsal, no matter the genre or volume.
Delivering good, meaty tones in a variety of musical genres is what a good amp does. It’s really that simple. But GK wouldn’t be a household name in the bass world if it stuck to just the basics. So, let’s look at some of the attributes this model offers that go beyond the normal.
The top row of knobs is pretty straightforward, offering trim, gain, and master controls, along with a 4-band EQ. The trim control is a nice addition — it’s a more precise tool for controlling input levels than gain or master options alone. As such, you have a nice trinity of controls with which to shape your levels. The knobs themselves felt good, rotated smoothly, and were properly spaced and clear in their markings. I know that might seem like a small thing, but when I’m on a dark stage and need to make a mid-gig adjustment, I don’t want to struggle for any reason, including not being able to see where my settings are.
On the bottom row of controls, we get into more modern offerings. The overdrive control and its corresponding tone control serve each other well; GK provides a footswitch that turns the overdrive on and off. I’m not sure how often I would use the footswitch, but it’s still nice to have. Further down the line, you’ll find three voicing filters: bump, contour, and presence. With amps I’m a “set it and let it” kind of guy, so I am not typically impressed with these kinds of features, but I get that some guys love them, especially for switching between different instruments. That being said, I enjoyed playing around with different voicings, especially with my passive Jazz Basses. The bump control enhances the low frequencies, providing more “meat” on the bottom. contour gives you the mid-scoop sound, boosting lows and highs while dropping the mid frequencies a bit. presence enhances the high frequencies. I found that each of these controls provided meaningful changes in tone — although, practically speaking, I’m more likely to make these alterations on the instrument itself if the option is there. Still, if you’re playing a passive bass with a single tone control, these features could come in handy.
If you’re already a fan of GK amps, you’ll dig this new iteration, both because it offers the tried-and-true tone and power that put GK on the map in the late ’60s, and because it embraces the modern trend of class D amplification and our desires as players for variable level and tone controls. If you haven’t ever checked out a GK amp, then this is a good one to start with for the same reasons. With this series, GK stays true to its heritage as a company that provides powerful, reliable, and versatile bass amps and cabs that serve players in a variety of settings. As players, we expect our gear to serve us well both at home and onstage, and GK gets that.
GK Legacy 1200
Pros Tons of flexible power, lots of meaningful tone control, sturdy and rugged housing, super quiet operation
Bottom Line GK built its reputation on providing reliable, power-packed amps that help bass players punch through the mix. The Legacy 1200 does that and more.
Power output Two channels, 1,200 watts via various configurations
Preamp section Solid state
Power section Class D
EQ 4-band active EQ
Controls overdrive, edge, bump, contour, presence
Effect loop Series operation; adds 6dB of gain, making it useful for a broad range of effect units
Inputs Aux [this needs to be completed]
Impedance 2Ω, 2.7Ω, 4Ω, and 8Ω load capacity
Speaker outputs Headphone [this needs to be completed]
Balanced output XLR with pre-/post-EQ switch
Footswitch Footswitchable overdrive with tone control (included)
Dimensions 11.5" x 11" x 2.3"
Weight 6.5 lbs
Warranty Two years, limited