By Barry Cleveland
The Crate GLX212 ($729 retail/$499 street), a three-channel,120-watt solid-state amplifier with two 12" speakers, is designed for “semi-pro” players. This very affordable combo provides all of the essential features you’d expect in an amp of its type, along with some useful extras.
The American-made GLX212 is sufficiently powerful to hold its own in clubs and other small venues, while still being portable enough to fit on the rear seat of most cars. Its rugged semi-open-back cabinet is covered in Tolex and fitted with high-impact plastic corners. A large recessed metal handle on top makes the amp considerably easier to carry than those fitted with conventional strap handles—which is a good thing given that the GLX212 weighs a hefty 50 lbs.
One of the coolest things about the GLX212 is its backlit front panel. Combined with individual LEDs on each knob, the backlighting enables you to easily see the amp’s control settings on even the most dimly-lit stage. An on/off switch conveniently located on the front of the amp lets you lose the illumination when it isn’t needed. Another gig-friendly feature is the digital tuner embedded in the top of the amp. The simple yet functional tuner is always active, and a mute switch located above the input jack makes silent tuning a breeze.
The GLX212’s three channels (Clean, Rhythm, and Solo) employ Crate’s proprietary Flexwave Evolution 5 tube-simulating technology. Channel switching is accomplished via two pushbuttons on the front panel, or by using the included three-button footswitch (though the latter produces a noticeable pop). The Clean channel has a volume control—inexplicably labeled “level” on the other two channels—and low, mid, and high tone knobs. The Rhythm channel is similarly arranged, but it also includes a gain knob. The Solo channel has only a Shape control for EQ, which boosts the mids when turned counter-clockwise, and scoops them out when turned clockwise.
To hear what it sounded like with humbucker and single-coil pickups, I put the GLX212 through its paces using a ’93 PRS Custom-24 and a mid-’70s Fender Stratocaster. The results were similar with both guitars, though I had to back off some of the amp’s highs when playing the Strat to compensate for a touch of glassiness on the clean settings.
The amp’s Clean channel produces solid sounds that are crisp and clear with a good balance of frequencies. The tone is not particularly warm or harmonically rich, however, and when you push the volume much past two o’clock the sound breaks up in an unmusical way. The Clean channel’s three tone controls (which are centered at 80Hz, 800Hz, and 10kHz) are nicely voiced and very effective.
The GLX212’s Rhythm channel is best suited to producing overdriven sounds. The gain knob lets you dial in varying amounts of grind, from gutsy crunch to full-on roar, and the mid control is positioned in the 1kHz “action” area, making it handy for adjusting the bite factor. With a bit of finessing, I got good classic blues and rock sounds, and cranking the gain yielded better solo tones than any I obtained through the designated Solo channel. In fact, the Solo channel’s mid-scooping Shape knob proved more suitable for churning out metaloid rhythm tones than shaping fat lead sounds. One outstanding quality of both the Rhythm and Solo channels, however, is their capacity to produce great feedback effects at relatively low volumes.
The DSP section has two knobs. Mode determines which of the 16 effects modes (or presets) are active for the selected amp channel, and Level controls how much of the effect is blended with the dry sound. The audio quality of the effects is generally quite good, and the processor is fairly quiet, so you get little hiss even with the level control cranked. None of the parameters in the effects presets are adjustable, however, which means that if, say, the medium delay setting is a tad too long or short for the song, you’ll have to change the song’s tempo if you want it to match the delay time.
The first four presets are reverbs. The small, medium, and large rooms are surprisingly convincing, and the large concert hall is even better. (A spring-reverb preset is conspicuously absent.) Next are three nice-sounding delay/reverb combinations, followed by flanger/reverb, flanger/reverb/delay, chorus/reverb, and chorus /reverb/delay combos. The flangers are a bit over-the-top for my taste, with a weird bump at the low-end of the sweep cycle, but the chorus presets are sweet and rich. The remaining modes—rotary speaker, octave-divider, touch-wah, inverse-wah, and doubler—are listed as individual effects, though all but the latter are actually combined with reverbs. The rotary speaker and octave-divider are particularly impressive.
Crate’s Channel Tracking feature memorizes which effect you’ve selected for each of the three channels, so whatever effect you assign to one channel will still be there after you switch to another channel and back again. The effects level setting, however, is not memorized, which can be problematic if you have an effect that sounds best at a 50/50 setting (such as a reverb) on one channel, and one that sounds best at 100 percent (such as a wah or rotary speaker) on another channel.
There are lots of players out there who would like to have a good mid-sized amplifier with adequate power and features for home use and basic gigging, but who don’t want to shell out the big bucks for a truly professional amp. Crate designed the GLX series—which includes two 1x12 models, the GLX120 ($640 retail/$449 street), and the 65-watt GLX65 ($570 retail/$399 street)—to meet this need. While the GLX212 may not satisfy the requirements of serious tone freaks, it is a good value, and it delivers exactly what the manufacturer claims it will.