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Genz Benz Shenandoah Compak 300 Combo Acoustic Amp Review


Video Review:

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Long has been the quest for more power in a smaller, lighter package. And, let’s be honest, musicians are generally... well, let’s say frugal. For many this may be the end of the search. Genz Benz has produced a two-channel acoustic combo amp that weighs in at 16.5 lbs and is one of the most feature-loaded little powerhouses we’ve seen. We received the 8" version for our review, but the Compak is available with a 10" speaker as well.

The Scoop
You would be hard pressed to pack more features in to this small size: an 8" Neodymium speaker and a tweeter that can be turned off; 15 preset digital effects, including some nice sounding reverbs, chorus, rotary, flange and delay; Channel 2 has an XLR (with phantom power) as well as a 1/4" input—and both channels have phase switching, as well as high, low and a sweepable parametric midrange tone controls. There are also master volume and effects controls. The Compak has one effects loop and separate direct outs for each channel, as well as a main direct out. The Compak also has LEDs for Operate, Standby, Limit, and Signal. And yes, it has a universal power supply, so you can go around the world with no worries. Combine all that with 175 watts RMS (into 8 ohms; 300 watts into 4 ohms) of class D power and you’re cookin’ with gas.

One of my big gripes in life has always been that I just don’t like particle board cabinets. They’re heavy, and if you drop them… crunch. I have found plywood cabs to be lighter and stronger, and a nice, light plywood cabinet is what we have here. Outfitted with metal corners, good looking, dark brown tolex and a sturdy leather handle, it’s a little tank. Both the amp and the extension cab feature sturdy tilt back legs, which are essential if it’s going to sit on the floor. You would think all these features would be enough for anyone, but there is one more way-cool thing they threw in for good measure: the head can be unscrewed (via two chrome knobs) and removed for use with other cabs—and the head is so small (3 1/2" x 10" x 10 1/4") it will probably fit in your gig bag.

How Does it Sound?
I first heard the Genz Benz Compak used at a gig by Premier Guitar’s own Gayla Drake Paul. She used it with the extension cab and her Gallagher A-70 with a K&K Mini Western pickup. She had her Audix OM6 vocal mic plugged in as well. The sound was very smooth with no trace of quack—big and natural. The bass was full and rich. Many acoustic amps have what I’d call a crunchy high end that you can particularly hear with transducer-equipped guitars. That was not the case with this amp, and it is quite transparent through its whole range. The vocal sounded good too, and I was very impressed that this tiny package could deliver such a big sound.

Since then, I have tried it out myself with several guitars, including a Kirk Sand classical with RMC pickup, a Gibson ES-330 strung with flatwounds, two Lowdens (an O32c and a Baritone), both with K&K Sound Mini Western pickup, and last but not least, a Ribbecke Halfling strung with flats.

First up was the Sand, a great guitar. The Compak gave a very natural sound, with no quack or crunch. I am thrilled by the clarity and fullness of the bass; it is just perfect. Next up, the Gibson 330, my main jazz axe. I usually play it through a tube amp, and I know its sound well. For me, electric guitars are where many acoustic amps just don’t cut it. They give you way too much high end, and they end up sounding brittle or honky. Through the Genz Benz my 330 delivered a nice full sound, and again, the low end is so good. The electric sound may appeal more to jazz folks than to players who want grit; the sound is very clean, so it depends on what you like.

Next came the Halfling, an unusual guitar and not really like anything else out there. It looks like an archtop, but has the low end of a flat top. It’s equipped with a custom Kent Armstrong neck pickup. I got a pure and transparent sound. With the Compak’s tone controls you can pretty much dial up the flavor you want, and it was extremely clear and clean.

The last guitar I tried was my Lowden Baritone. This guitar I tune in standard tuning (but B to B). It is as close to a pipe organ as an acoustic guitar can be, and through the Compak 300 with a nice dose of hall reverb, it sounds simply amazing. This amp can give that full bottom end in a beautiful way, and the Baritone sounded so full and wonderful I couldn’t stop noodling for quite a while.

The Final Mojo
I imagine that Genz Benz will sell a whole lot of these amps. They sound great, weigh practically nothing, look good, and are packed with all the features you’d want. If I had to nitpick, I would wish for separate effects for each channel, so you could have nice reverb on your voice and maybe a bit of chorus on your guitar, but of course you can always add an outboard effect if you really need it. All in all, this is a great little amp.
Buy if...
you like an amp that gives you a clean, transparent sound and loads of features with a small footprint.
Skip if...
you want an amp that mounts on a speaker stand, and you're really addicted to big, heavy stuff.
Rating...
4.5 

Combo and Tweeter List $1149 Extension Cab List $499  - Genz Benz - genzbenz.com