Genz Benz Focus Series Cabs by Jake Wolf… In the last few years, we’ve seen an explosion of lightweight bass cabinets, made possible by the development of drivers, which employ superlight neodymium magnets. Used in conjunction with lightweight plywood, cab makers have been able to achieve speaker cabinet weight specs that were previously unthinkable, and our gig weary bodies have been ever grateful. A recent neodymium shortage/price spike has put a serious monkey wrench in material costs and availability for cab makers, driving up cab prices and affecting production. The new Focus series cabs from Genz Benz utilize ultra lightweight building materials in conjunction with traditional ceramic drivers to achieve weight specs that rival some of the popular neo-loaded cabs our backs have come to expect. Not only that, they are extremely well built, perform beautifully, and clock in at very appealing and competitive price points.
Genz Benz sent over four cabinets from the Focus line; two Focus 1×12 cabs, a 2×10, and a 1×15. Constructed from 13mm plywood for weight reduction, the cabs feel undoubtedly solid and stout. I’m always glad to see heavy-duty metal grilles, and a durable non-carpeted finish. The 1×15 and 2×10 cabs feature heavy-duty side mounted handles, and were surprisingly light and easy to move (46 and 43lbs respectively). Picking up the 32lb FCS-112T (1×12) cab by its sturdy, top mounted luggage-style handle, you would swear you were holding a cab with a neo driver. ‘Light’ and ‘portable’ are modest understatements for the 112T cabs; these things are a breeze to schlep, not to mention a joy to play through. All of the focus cabs features a 3-position rocker switch on the rear panel to control the tweeter level. Choose between “off”, “-6db” and “on” to dial in your preferred level of high frequency presence. Focus cabs all allow for speakon or ¼” connectivity, offering 1 speakon and dual ¼” jacks. (My sole complaint was with the 112’s top mounted handle. While great for carrying, the protruding handle made it impossible for the shuttle amp to sit squarely on top of the cab without replacing the stock rubber feet for taller ones. Genz Benz responds: we have made a production change recently and it is now moved to the right side of the cabinet on current productions.)
Thick and full sounding with plenty of tight focused bass response and a smooth present midrange, the 112T had me grinning. It’s rated at 200 watts RMS, but don’t let that fool you; I pounded the 112T with Shuttle 9.2 at 500 watts (don’t try this at home kids) and it handled it in stride, with great low-end output and minimal compression. All of the cabs perform beautifully, with rock solid deep bass and great tone throughout the spectrum. Stacking the 2×10 on the 1×15 delivered thunderous low end and plenty of articulated presence. Paired with the Shuttle 9.2 at 900 watts, the stack held its own amidst massive stage volumes with great dynamic range and versatility. At $349 for the FCS-112T, $399 for the FCS-115T, and $459 for the FCS-210T, the focus series delivers wicked bang for the buck with great tone, portability, and build quality.
In addition to the Focus cabs, Genz Benz sent along a Shuttle 9.2 amp, from the second generation of their very popular line of Shuttle heads. A 4 pound wonder that cranks out 900 watts at 4 ohms, The 9.2 features a 12ax7 loaded tube preamp stage that can be incrementally added in for extra warmth and tube feel. The “gain” knob controls the amount of signal into the tube circuit, and the adjacent “volume” knob controls the signal level out of the preamp and into the 9.2’s intuitive and simple EQ section. Set the “gain” knob around 9 o’clock and the “volume” knob at 3 o’clock for a clean solid state tone, or bump the gain up to noon (or beyond), and pull the volume back a bit for legit tube warmth, bloom, and a surprising amount of hair and grit. A handy overload indicator LED “input O/L” lets you know when you’re overdriving the input stage.
The 9.2’s EQ section features controls for bass (+/- 15db@80hz), treble (+/- 15db@ 4khz), and a semi parametric midrange control that offers 15db of cut and boost anywhere from 150hz up to 2khz. The shuttle 9.2 also features three “preset” eq buttons on the front panel; an “LF boost” that offers a broad low frequency bump between 38-67hz for added booty, a “mid scoop” that carves out some real estate around 600hz, and an “HF attack” button which adds sparkle and presence in the 2.25-8k range. Pick up the optional 4 button footswitch for hands free access to the amps features. Next to the master volume knob, you’ll find a bank of LED’s labeled “Operate”, “Protect”, “Thermal”, and “Peak” to let you know where the amp is at. The fully featured back panel includes a versatile and comprehensive XLR DI out, ¼” jacks for aux in, tuner out, and headphones, and a post EQ effects loop. Also, there’s a proprietary jack for Genz’s 4 button footswitch. Output is delivered via 2 speakon connectors. I would love to see dual function speakon ¼” jacks, but the 9.2’s outputs are Speakon only. Don’t forget your speakon cable!
Genz Benz’s proprietary 3DPM™ technology (3 dimensional power management) is designed to offer the sonic attributes of traditional tube powered bass amps. Interestingly, in my initial testing of the 9.2, I noted that the amp certainly did exhibit exactly that, a little more “weight and heft” behind each note (even high ones) than I had expected from a micro head. The 9.2 delivers ultra quick, crisp transients, warm and natural midrange with exceptional control via the semi parametric mid control, and major thunder down low.
I was very impressed with the 9.2; it is easy to use, has great tone, is versatile, flexible, and packs a wallop. Rockers, jazzers, and most any other type of low-ender would be able to find a suitable tone from the 9.2. Priced at $829, the 9.2 is sure to please those looking for a versatile and great sounding amp, loaded with features, from a company long known for their quality, service, and value.
For more info on the Shuttle 9.2 and focus cabs, visit Genz Benz on the web at www.genzbenz.com