After a few years in the doldrums, rack-mounted pre and power amps are starting to make a comeback - especially with players using rack-mounted effects and processing systems. UK-based Matrix are one of the brightest stars in the guitar-friendly power amp market. But can a solid state power amp really sound like a guitar amp? We asked Tom Quayle to test drive at GT1000FX.
Made by Matrix Amplification in the UK, the GT1000FX is a stereo, 1u rack mountable solid-state power amp offering up to 500 Watts per channel. The GT1000FX is designed to work with a wide range of guitar products, from digital modellers to valve pre-amps, pre-amp pedals, 'slaving' traditional amplifiers and newer mini-amps with line outputs and can power either full-range or guitar cab speaker systems. Matrix has designed a flat-response amplifier that essentially responds like a valve amp in terms of its 'loose, open feel' and I have to say that I was extremely impressed with both the sound and performance of their design.
As soon as you see the GT1000FX you appreciate the rugged construction and high quality components both internally and externally. The unit is housed in a rock-solid metal chassis and features high-spec combi-Neutrik ins and outs for XLR, Speakon and jack cables. This flexibility allows you to connect to all manner of pre-amps and speakers, giving you peace of mind that you'll always be able to sound great in any situation. Power options are also flexible, allowing for stereo, mono/parallel or bridged mode at 4 Ohms or above. You can also run mismatched loads for even greater flexibility, giving you options such as an 2x12 cab with 8 Ohm and 16 Ohm speakers in mono mode, or a 4 Ohm cab and 16 Ohm cab in stereo mode.
In bridged mode, a total of 1,000 Watts is available using 8 Ohms and 650 Watts at 16 Ohms. That amount of power should suffice for even the loudest gig and it remains pristine, with very low noise levels all the way up. Two internal fans keep things cool and run quietly in the background. If you're going to be using the unit in a studio it's worth considering that Matrix also make a 2u version that runs so quietly that the fans are barely audible at all and sells for the same price. The GT1000FX also features power-on protection circuitry ensuring that there are no deafening pops or thuds as you switch on, even at full power, and ensures the amplifier is protected from loudspeaker short circuits and mis-wiring.
Independent level controls are included for each channel and a four row LED panel ensures that you can see which mode you're in, from the front of the unit. At only 3.7kg the weight to power ratio is fantastic, giving you an eminently portable package that will fit in a small rack case or hand luggage if flying. Paired with the Axe FX II preamp that we used for our video review, you could house both units in a 3u rack, which is easily transportable by one person.
To test the GT1000FX we paired it with a Fractal Audio Axe FX II modelling pre-amp and used it in stereo 325 Watt mode with a pair of passive, full-range 8 Ohm wedges. The Axe FX II is a very high spec pre-amp with professional ins and outs and superb modelled tones so would prove a good test for the Matrix technology.
I must admit I was blown away by both the tone on offer and the feel and response of this combination. The GT1000FX matched the Axe FX II perfectly and in a blindfold test I'd never have known I was using a digital and solid-state pairing. Matrix has managed to achieve a very impressive level of dynamic response and clarity in the GT1000FX whilst retaining a valve-like warmth of character and punch that never reveals the downsides that many feel exist in solid-state circuitry. To have such superb amplification available that doesn't over-colour or diminish the tone of your preamp at this weight and price point is fantastic for guitarists at all levels. Those not requiring quite so much power can opt for the lower powered and even more budget friendly GT800FX, which features the same high specs but at a lower power rating.
If you're after a power amp that is built like a tank and will give you a true representation of your beloved pre-amp set-up, without the hassle and cost of valve based systems, you'd be unwise to ignore the Matrix GT1000FX. The only hassle (if you can call it that) is that you have to buy them direct from the manufacturer at www.matrixguitaramplification.com . There are two upsides to this, however. The first is that somehow Matrix seems to have found a magic carpet shipping service because their prices for international delivery are very reasonable and the second is that the amps themselves don't incur extra margins for retailers and distributors, so they seem very well priced for the high quality on offer.
The Matrix GT1000FX was a real find for us - a great product at a great price - and we are looking forward to trying more Matrix products in the future.