If you’ve been following the boutique bass world since the 90’s like I have, the name Wayne Jones Audio might ring a bell.
I first heard about Wayne’s cabs a couple decades back, and although I never had the chance to hear one in person, I was very intrigued by their interesting specs and their relative rarity in the market at that time. Wayne was selling cabs here in the US until shortly after 9/11, at which time, Wayne says, “everything changed”. Cab sales in the US dropped sharply, and Wayne went back to his busy career gigging as a top call bassist. So when I saw Wayne’s gear resurface in the last couple years, I was again intrigued. His current offerings include powered 1×10 and 2×10 cabs, as well as his own stereo tube preamplifier (At NAMM 2017, Wayne introduced a good old passive 210 as well as a 2 channel version of his pre. More below). I reached out to Wayne and he couldn’t have been more gracious or generous with his time and gear. He promptly sent me an array of cabs and his preamp to check out, and I’ve been having a blast with all of it.
Endorser David Dyson at NAMM 2017
Before we get to how the gear works, let’s look at the equipment itself.
At 24” tall, 16” wide, and 22” deep, the 210 dimensions are fairly unique for bass cabs. I asked Wayne about the extra depth of the cabs (both the 210 and 110), and he responded that the depth allows him to not only achieve a desired cubic volume, but also the distance between the driver and the back wall is very intentional, in order to achieve certain performance goals. As a result, the 210 is a somewhat odd form factor. Luckily, it has a built in telescoping handle and tilt back wheels, making the schlep pretty easy. All the gear is covered in a very high quality black carpet, which seems better than a lot of the cab covering I see (Wayne responds: future cabs will use High end automotive leather look Vinyl covering). The preamp had a very nice build quality: all the knobs and switches felt solid and had nice resistance to the pots, thus reducing the risk of bumping controls mid-gig, and boding well for the gears overall lifespan. From a fit and finish perspective, the Wayne Jones gear is simply top notch.
The cabs are powered by a 1000w Pascal power module, which dishes out an incredible amount of tone, fidelity and raw power. The 210 cab gets the full bridged signal of the amp, while the 110 cab can either be run bridged or stereo (allowing for true stereo operation at 500w per side with a pair of the 110 cabs). This is especially hip for users wishing to get the full impact of their stereo reverb, delay or chorus-type effects.
WJBP Stereo valve preamp
The WJBP was as impressive as the cabs, and performed flawlessly for me. Wayne is a fan of the Avalon preamps and the venerable Avalon 737 as a reference point when designing his own preamp. Not only does it borrow from the Avalon’s elegant aesthetics, and superior build quality, it does indeed have that high end tube feel that I remember about the Avalon 737: Tubey, rich and 3D, but super quick, and incredibly clear with ample warmth and fidelity.
The WJBP has a built in defeatable compressor, a 5 band EQ, a low boost, a pan knob (for stereo use) and both an input gain and master volume control, enabling excellent integration with Wayne’s powered cabs. It also features an input pad and built in tuner.
The back panel is fully featured, including a studio grade DI with level control, 2 XLR and 1/4″ outputs, headphone jack and aux input, and a jack for the included footswitch. The 8 stage LED indicators help dial in your preferred gain staging. Generally speaking, I found the WJBP to be super clear and warm, with loads of presence and articulation, and it has that high fidelity depth and weight to each note that I love. It doesn’t do gritty or heavily colored tones, although the powerful 5 band EQ does allow for some serious tone shaping. I really like the broad bass boost, which adds some heft and weight to your overall sound, without muddying things up. Also the onboard compressor, while limited in its parameters, is quite nice. I don’t hear it squashing or pumping, it actually does what it should, which is rarer than one would think, regarding onboard compressor circuits.
It should be noted that Wayne just released at NAMM 2017 a 2 channel version of the preamp, the WJBP11. With a second channel that has a phantom powered XLR input, as well as an additional high treble control (above the existing treble control) the 2 channel preamp is a dream for doublers, or for people who require a 2 channel amp for any number of reasons.
WJ 2×10 powered 210 cabinet
It’s hard to accurately convey the performance of the WJ210. I could say things like “It is the fastest cab I’ve ever heard”, or “sounds like a cab 3 times its size”, or “effortlessly quick and muscular”, but what does all that hyperbole that actually mean? Let me just say: the WJ210 is simply breathtaking in its performance. I’m not saying every single player will find this to be the ultimate sounding bass cab, BUT, you’d be very hard pressed to find one that is more capable at dishing out tone and volume of this caliber. The 210 excels at that wonderfully elusive characteristic I like to call “slam”. For lack of a better definition, (to me) slam is: effortless low end delivery, that is both taut and massive, and a seemingly endless power reserve to dish out transient peaks. It’s one of those cabs that makes you want to play slap lines just for the fun of it. Compared to some other 210 cabs that I really like the slap tone of, the WJ was a clear standout. When playing percussive palm-muted thumb lines, the WJ sounded insanely thick with a super articulate top end that doesn’t have a trace of harshness. The integration of the woofers and tweeter result in a seamlessly tight and clear sound that is aggressive without being brash or harsh in the slightest. All of this results in a powered cab that can handle the demands of a much larger cab, with exquisite tone and composure, in a meticulously constructed box. I seriously can’t imagine opening up a pair of these on a gig, as they put out SO much oomph. Wayne also released passive versions of the 210 cab at NAMM this year, allowing users to stick with their own amplifiers.
WJ 1X10 powered and passive 1X10 cabs
In addition to the amazing 2X10 cab, Wayne sent a pair of his 1X10 cabs for me to check out. I was particularly interested in these not only because I love small modular rigs, but also because of the ability to run TRUE stereo effects without some kind of modified rig. The preamps stereo FX return can be configured to send L/R signals to the pair of cabs, while using just the WJBP, a couple XLR cables and an additional speakon cable. As a reverb and delay junkie, I have to say, I was in hog heaven. I never bother to run my effects in stereo as it always requires some extra gear and produces finicky results. The 1X10 pair on the other hand sounded clear and spacious, with tons of definition. On the gig with the cabs spaced 3-4 feet apart behind me, I was enveloped in 3 dimensional reverb and delay sounds which made chordal and melodic playing seem to jump out in a highly satisfying way. With the pair of 1X10 cabs stacked on their sides (the only way they can stack, with the input jacks and attenuators on the tops of the cabs), the rig sounded similar to the 210, but perhaps a little smoother and less huge in its delivery. I detected a somewhat leaner and less mid-forward tonality out of the 110 pair. The same power module is at play, the 1000w Pascal, but is configured in stereo (500w x 2) which allows one to run true stereo efx or to be run in dual mono, thus maximizing the configurability of the cabs. Like the 2X10, the 1X10’s have attenuators for the mid and high control, which is a nice added level of adjustability and helped me fine tune my sound.
About Wayne Jones custom 10” drivers
OK…. What are my list of gripes (you know I have to complain about something)?
Well for starters, the top mounted jack plates mean that you can’t vertically stack the cabs, and you can’t easily put a rack on top of the cabs. I have heard from users who bought 90 degree IEC, XLR and Speakon jacks and use large rubber feet to create enough clearance, but for my money, I’d like to see amp plates elsewhere on the cabs, to maximize stacking options and not relegate one to custom cables. (Wayne responds: Future cabs will include recessed control plates on all models) I should be mentioned that the WJBP fits squarely on top without any modification needed, so this gripe only applies to those using other preamps or racks. I really prefer to stack 210’s vertically, for a “line array” effect, and the cab layout doesn’t currently allow for that. Also, the powered cabs are XLR connect only, so make sure you bring your XLR/mic cable. Similarly, the WJBP has an external power supply, with a proprietary (non-IEC) connector to the preamp. Don’t leave that power supply at home, or you’re in trouble. (Wayne responds: This was done purposely to Isolate the power supply for complete studio noiseless operation) My only other issue was the limited handle placement. The 210 is not impossible to pick up, but would really benefit from a couple more strategically placed handles, in order to increase its maneuverability in and out of the car and onto the stage.
So what is was my lasting impression of the Wayne Jones gear?
Well. Let’s put it this way: Can you find a simple rig? Yes. Can you find a cheaper rig? Definitely. Can you find a rig that is quicker sounding with more slam and definition? I’m not aware of one! The Wayne Jones gear exceeded my expectations for a truly high performance bass rig, that stands out amongst the crowd of others touting similar results. There is something so compelling about the lightning fast quickness and the massive low end delivery of the WJ rig that remains clear and coherent when other cabs literally start to crumble. The overall tone is extremely clear and linear, but leans toward a forward voicing character that has plenty of teeth to cut through a mix and give your sound some serious weight. I should mention that Wayne has been getting a lot of buzz from guitar and keyboard players as well, which speaks to the gears overall sonic neutrality and flexibility. I would wholeheartedly recommend the WJ gear to anyone looking for unparalleled performance from a bass rig, and specifically for funk, modern R&B and gospel players, seeking a balanced modern tone with lots of edge and, well, slam. All the WJ gear performed beautifully for me on jazz, Latin, fusion, and solo bass gigs, and I’m holding back tears as I prepare to return it! It should be mentioned, that Wayne Jones Audio is based in Australia, but these cabs are proudly “Made in the USA” and shipped from Wayne’s Kentucky based distribution center.
For more information about Wayne Jones Audio, visit them on the web. All of the Wayne Jones gear is sold direct via his website in addition to his dealer network. The powered 210 sells for $2,270, the powered 110 is $1500, the passive 110 is $1200, and the WJBP is $999.