Gallien-Krueger has done something unexpected in recent years; they’ve brought the humble combo amp back into consideration for the semi-pro and professional tiers of players. No longer relegated only to bedroom or practice space use – more a convenience than a choice, and something expected to be grown out of – GK’s Fusion line of combos pack 800 watts in configurations ranging from a teaching space-ready 1×12, all the way to concert-ready 4×10 and 2×12 formats. Using a switch-mode power supply and featuring universal voltage selection for operation from 100 to 240 volts, they’re light and portable enough to be toured with – even internationally. GK sent me their well-equipped Fusion 210 (two 10” drivers plus a tweeter, 38 lbs., $1,349 USD) to check out, and it went a little something like this…
The primary quality I took away after just briefly examining the top-mounted control panel and owner’s manual is that this is one surprisingly adjustable and versatile amp. In no particular order of importance, the Fusion series combos provide two preamp channels – one clean, one overdriven (via 6 real tube stages from three 12AX7s) – both with their own separate voicing filters; a 4-band active EQ; double push-to-engage functions for nearly every knob on the panel, plenty of I/O on the back, along with tweeter control and impedance switches that optimize for usage running loads from 2 to 8 Ohms; and even more. In a departure from current bass amp norms, Fusion combos even tell you when they’re receiving power while in a switched-off state, via a very bright white LED. I found the LED to be a little brighter and more distracting than I’d like, but there will certainly be no question as to whether or not power is being supplied (without requiring the amp to be turned on and tested in a potentially noise-sensitive environment).
The presentation of the Fusion 210 upon arrival was second to none. The packaging is customized to the cabinet’s dimensions and included accessories (which in this case comprised a power cord and single button footswitch to toggle the preamp channel), and gives an air of gravitas to the product, itself. Removed from its foam shipping exoskeleton, the 210 combo is immediately visually striking. The type of exterior finish used on these – very hard, black, and lightly textured – is gorgeous and classy. The grille and updated GK emblem that emblazons it are immaculate, and in a touch I really enjoyed, bolt to the cabinet via screws set into the sides of the cab, rather than going directly through the front of the grille into the baffle. The unique carry handle instills confidence and reinforces the overall high quality of the fit-and-finish all around. At 38 pounds and being somewhat diminutive without being a micro cab (24.60” x 19.12” x 14.70”), I found the Fusion 210 to be relatively easy to carry short distances via the top-mounted handle. For greater distances, I’d be likely to two-hand it or put it on a dolly to make life just a little easier.
Internally, there’s some cool engineering going on, too. The Fusion series uses an innovative interconnection system between the top control panel and bottom connectivity portion of the amps, which is best described as a “solid bridge of multilayer circuit boards with gold connection terminals,” rather than having more traditionally connected elements with individual wires using tin solder that can fail over the years, due to excessive vibration or heat. The gold connectors will never corrode, and the multilayer circuit board provides “complete shielding from outside interference,” says the manufacturer. The result is a dependable, long-lasting, noise-free connection that should require no maintenance at all.
There aren’t an abundance of US speaker cabinet or amplifier manufacturers that engineer, let alone manufacture, their own drivers – and even fewer that do so completely in-country. So it’s all the more impressive that GK engineers their own neodymium drivers to work perfectly in concert with their cabinets and amplifier designs, and manufactures them to their rigorous standards; all in house at their California factory, as well.
Everything about the Fusion 210 is class act, save for one conspicuous item – the importance of which is not at all highly significant, yet stands out in contrast to the attention to detail of all other aspects. The included owner’s manual appeared to have been photocopied from a terribly deteriorated original onto a mis-sized paper stock. I imagine this may have been a stop-gap measure in some way and may have been a temporary fix, perhaps. But hey, if that’s the worst thing a gear-specific publication has to say about your product, you’re still sitting very pretty!
Loud and Low
Upon powering up the Fusion for the first time, all of the optional voicing filters were turned on (which is indicated by the blue versus white color of each knob’s indicator), but wanting a flatter, more neutral place to start from, I set each one back to its non-modified (white) state. To begin with, the clean preamp channel has a push-function optional voicing that provides more of an upper-mid presence and bass boost. If using this channel primarily, you’ll want to audition both modes with the EQ and filters otherwise flat to see which you prefer. I preferred the neutral setting here with my MTD 535 and 635, but a darker/more vintage-sounding instrument may benefit more from the presence-raising modified voicing. The other channel that can be employed, it turns out, is not necessarily only meant to be a foot-switchable overdrive channel, but optionally a full-time use channel with its own voicing filters to really dial in the character of the overdrive response, angled particularly at those fond of the unique voicing and breakup of some of GK’s classic solid state amps – namely the 800, 1001, and 2001 RBs. I did like using the amp this way, but tend to prefer clean tones as a starting point.
The Fusion 210 is capable of being shockingly loud, and not only loud, but perplexingly low, as well. I’d be curious to know what, if any, power management finesse or parallel compression wizardry may be happening within that sleek, back-mounted amp, but whatever it is, it’s working. Being a 5 and 6-string player, the depth and low frequency response overall was very impressive, yet I felt like I could detect some noticeable limiting or more severe compression (without having engaged any) on my open B string; not too much of a shock considering the cab’s size and speaker complement. The low mids – perhaps my favorite zone – were plentiful and warm, and the wide midrange spectrum in general can be voiced six ways to Tuesday with the optional “Bump,” “Contour,” and “Hi Cut” EQ presets provided as push functions on the “Bass,” “Lo-Mid,” and “Hi-Mid” controls, respectively. The “Treble” control allows for an optional push function of “Pres,” or Presence, although terminology regarding that term is far from standardized; here, it works out to a higher-than-treble frequency boost (while other amp and pedal manufacturers sometimes utilize that term more for a high-mid function).
The Hi-Mid and Treble controls are voiced particularly well. These filters can all too often end up sounding harsh or clanky if the frequency centers and slope of the controls are poorly conceived. I tend to like to cut high mids to remove a little nasality and excess articulation noise in most cases, so I was pleased to find the Fusion’s Hi-Mid control much more musically pleasing than most, adding a nice dose of what I think of as presence, as well as some extra perceived volume and liveliness. Additionally, the Treble control is voiced high enough to avoid affecting (negatively or positively) much of the high mid content, affecting only glassy highs for the most part; my own preferred treble control operational style. Excessive, higher-centered treble is available and made possible by pushing down on the Treble knob to activate its alternative filter setting, with enough ultra-high end on tap to turn even the darkest of basses into a seemingly modern machine.
With all of these thoughtful tonal options, the Fusion series amps should be able to accommodate essentially any bass or tone desired. That said, there are two differing core value systems in the consumer bass amp world that can be paraphrased as such:
- Be totally flat and transparent, let the instrument do the speaking.
- Give the player the tone they know and expect from our company, the sound that sets us apart.
For all its variability, I found the Fusion 210 to be more in line with the latter concept, imparting a bit of the classic, rock-biased, baked-in tone that GK is famous for – which, of course, fans will be happy to hear.
When the Music’s Over
It’s hard to find something not to like about the Fusion 210, and by extension, I’d expect any of the Fusion combos. They’re made extremely well, are super durable, offer enough options to satisfy the most particular of pluckers, they sound fantastic, and some are even capable of concert-level volumes without the use of extension cabinets (which are indeed an option, via the extension jack on the rear panel and adjustable impedance switch). Speaking of the option for using extension cabs, it is worth noting that the Fusion 210 combo can drive an additional 2.67-ohm load, meaning that the internal 8-0hm drivers can be combined with either three more 8-Ohm cabs, or a 4-Ohm and 8-Ohm extension cab (or of course, just a single 4-Ohm or 8-Ohm cab). That allows for some serious flexibility and the possibility of moving some serious air!
My only qualms would be that the On/Off switch, located toward the bottom of the amp panel on the rear of the combo, is not in the most easily accessible of places, along with the Phones and Aux In (both ⅛”, which I support) jacks. Being placed on the top of the amp would obviously be more convenient, however it’s clear when looking at the layout of the amp section that there simply wouldn’t be room to keep everything up top, and in truth it’s a minor inconvenience, at worst. All in all, the Fusion 210 is an absolute winner of an amplification solution, even breaching the realm of the medium-scale live show in this driver configuration (those needing a little more air movement would do better to check out the Fusion 212 or 410). It certainly shouldn’t be misconstrued as an entry level or mid-market marvel simply because of its combo classification. If your budget allows, your needs will certainly be met by the Fusion 210 and its siblings.
|Model:||Fusion 210 Combo|
|Warranty:||Electronics: 2 years, Speakers: 1 year to the original purchaser|
|Dimensions:||24.60” x 19.12” x 14.70”|
|Drivers:||2 x 10” neodymium (GK), 1 x 1” tweeter|
|Preamp Topology:||Six-Stage Tube Preamp with (3) 12ax7s|
|Controls:||Trim/Voice, Normal/On, Overdrive/On, Edge/Cut, Level/Body, Bass/Bump, Lo-Mid/Cont, Hi-Mid/Hicut, Treble/Pres, Master/Mute|
|I/O:||¼” in, unbalanced ¼” Send and Return, ⅛” Aux Input and Headphones output, Balanced XLR output with selectable Pre and Post EQ selection, Twist Lock speaker output|
|Wattage:||800 watts RMS|
|Impedance:||2, 2.7, 4 and 8-Ohm load capacity|
|Accessories:||IEC power cable, channel footswitch|