I looked at a number of similar combo amps, including Ampegs, Fenders, and Crates, new and used, and in the price range, this GK Backline absolutely blew them all away in sound quality. You can hear the difference between this amp and the higher end GK combos, but those are significantly more expensive. This is my first amp (other than a crappy 15watt), and I would recommend it as a starter amp for practicing, small to medium shows, and some recording. I really love the sound, but don't push the amp too far -- after talking with the repair guys, this one seems likely to blow. Maybe get just the Backline head with a different cab.
Model Year: 2003
Price: $400.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Guitar Center
125W 1x15" solid state combo amp. 1 input, switchable from active to passive. clip control. 2 channels - one regular with level control, 1 distortion with level and gain control. can switch between them manually, or with a footswitch (i just use a Roland FS-1). 4 knob equalizer. "contour" control ramps up the bass and treble. Master volume, and a "boost" knob which adds some volume and grind. FX in/out. tuner in/mute. direct out for a mixing board or PA - nice for recording. Unfortunately no headphone jack, although maybe you could rig something up with the direct out. Tilts back or stands upright. You can use the amp head with another cabinet (you can actually unscrew and pull the whole head out), but not concurrently with the built-in.
The sound is very beautiful and crisp. I play on a basic Ibanez GSR200, and even so, the amp gives me a very clear tone at all volumes. Sounds great playing funk and pop/rock - slap/pop, picking, and fingering. Between the two channels, the contour, EQ, and boost knobs, this amp gives a variety of sounds. The upper end sometimes seems a little weak. I've had no trouble being heard at gigs, although i'm approaching the upper end of the volume at loud bar shows. I wouldn't recommend it for any bigger gigs than that. The distortion channel is OK - nice to have, since i don't have a pedal. Sounds kind of unique. You'll have to turn the level on the distortion channel higher than the other to regain the watts. I sometimes use a synth wah pedal, and get great sounds, although I may have blown the speaker with the sub-octave (see below).
The variety of sound controls is a little confusing. It takes a little fiddling to figure out what things like the contour and boost knobs do. Each of the EQ knobs has a somewhat specific function - read the instructions. But easy to work at a basic level - sounds great with all the knobs at 12 o'clock.
NOTE: I had to update this review because both the electronics and speaker blew after about 10 months. I'm not sure which came first, and the repair guys aren't either. I could pull the amp out and replace the fuse, but it kept blowing. I got both the main circuit board, and the speaker replaced under warranty. Apparently it has a cheap Chinese speaker. Another warning: Gallien is notoriously slow at shipping replacement parts.
The speaker blew a second time, and I replaced it with an Eminence Legend 300watt 15" speaker. It now sounds 5x better than before, 5x louder (I can keep up with my drummer and guitarist now, with plenty of headroom), and I'm not scared of it blowing again.
Good for practice or light gigging. typical GK solid metal screen over speaker, recessed controls on the head, carpet-coated. It's about 55 lbs (about 80 lbs with the Eminence speaker), but sturdy flip out handles on side make it easy to carry. Also a handle on top. Plastic corners - i worry about these cracking, but they have held strong.
I looked at Ampeg, Hartke, Peavey, SWR, Fender, and Mesa (but WAY out of my price range). I bought this amp because it was loud for its size and price, it had great features, and I thought it would be convenient to move around. I know Gallien-Krueger makes great high end products, but the Backline line amps are intro-level products and won't hold up to the company reputation. If you are looking for an amp that will last, then don't buy the Backline. Save your money and go with something else in that price range. I quickly exchanged my Backline for an Ampeg B-100R (the best sub $500 decision I ever made...). If reliability wasn't an issue with the Backline and the sound quality was a little better, I really think this could be a world-class combo.
Model Year: 2003
Price: $450.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Guitar Center
-Contour, Bass, Low/High Mids, Treble, Gain, Boost, Master, 0 dB and -10 dB padded input, 16 gage metal grille
-Clean and Overdrive channels, FX Loop, Tuner out, Ft. Switch In (switch between clean/overdrive)
-125W Head, Solid State, XLR out with gnd lift and post/pre eq. For an amp this size and this price, it's got features out the wazoo (except a headphone jack and CD line in). It's got a kickback design and nice handles on the side, although it's odd shape and weight makes it difficult to carry (sucker weighs in at 55 lbs, I believe). It also has some worthless plastic "GK custom tooled" corners for stacking it with other GK equipment. Carpet covering. Detachable power cord (handy).
At GC, I played my Fender Deluxe 5 String (active) through the -10 dB pad on the Backline and got decent sound. The amp at the store was very loud and the sound was pretty good all the way up. The contour control did a good job of scooping the mids and raising the lower and higher frequencies. The 4-band eq. knobs allowed a good amount of tonal range to play with. The overdrive channel was neat, but it lost its fun after about 2 minutes (I'd probably never end up using it). The overall sound was a little sterile (compared to the Ampeg BA-115, Workingman's 15) but I thought it handled the bottom and high ends well. It's probably best suited in a metal/rock situation.
Not too difficult to use, lots of knobs and switches. I was never able to get a really good tone out of it even after fiddling with the knobs. I finally said forget it and left the eq. on the amp flat and used my bass onboard eq. to handle the tone. I'm not one to fiddle with knobs forever, so if you are like me, this amp probably isn't for you.
Here's where it goes south... The amp I played at GC sounded good, no scary noises coming from it. I brought a new one home, turned the volume up to a moderate level (emphasis on moderate) and got an annoying buzz from the speaker. If you were stading 10 ft. away from the amp, you'd probably never notice it. But a defect like that isn't something you should have to deal with right out of the box. Maybe the screws in the speaker housing just needed to be tightened, I don't know. But I didn't want to deal with a lemon, so I took it back to GC. Also, I noticed that the power switch was a little loose on the floor model, but I thought that was part of the design. Nope, the one I bought new had a power switch that worked well, but if the switch on the floor model was broken can I really trust it? The input jacks and switches were all made of cheap plastic. The enclosure construction seemed pretty decent. Even so, I was afraid that one loud fart might crack something inside. I definitely would not trust this amp on-stage.
I compared the Backline 115 to an Ampeg BA115 and a Crate BFX100 before making my choice. The Backline sounded best by far. I find the distortion circuit totally useless, but it might fit into your playing style. Noticably missing is a headphone jack and mix input for injecting CD audio. These two features are included on the less powerful Backline combos. I'm not sure why they are not on the 115. I would buy this amp again.
Model Year: 2002
Price: $449.00 (new)
Where Obtained: Guitar Center
Intuative "control panel". Everything is up front except the power connection and external speaker connection. Single input with -10db switch for active electronics. 4 band active EQ with variable contour. Has tuner input and tuner mute switch, effects in and out, and balanced out for connection to PA or recording.
My priamry bass is a Fender Jazz, with occasional use of a Samick Fretless. The amp sounds great playing jazz, blues, and rock. The distortion circuit would work great for a tube grunge sound. I compared the G-K to an Ampeg BA115 and Crate BFX100. The G-K sounded better without a doubt. It produces little noise, even at high levels.
The Backline 115 is easy to use right out of the box. The owner's manual is a good guide if you're not familiar with the advanced features of this amp. It's well written and easy to follow.
This thing is built like a tank. It weighs about 60 lbs but is easy to carry using the side recessed handles and top strap. It has a durable carpet covering and sturdy metal grill over the speaker.