This Article Was Originally Published On: June 3rd, 2015 #Issue 16.
The Company Line
So many times, the things which fascinate us – sometimes to the point of obsession – are the things which are the least obtainable. This definitely holds true for bass gear, and for some time, one of the best examples of “unobtainium” in the bass world were those mysterious 2x10 cabs from some guy named Wayne Jones. Nobody was really sure just who he was, or if he even existed, but rumor had it that he was some foreign land, like Atlantis, or Australia, or something. Combined with what we didn’t know about Wayne Jones was that what we did know was that everyone who had actually heard them seemed to fall madly in love with them. So, of course, I had to have a pair of these cabs for myself!
I was lucky enough to snag two Wayne Jones 2x10’s on the used market, and sure enough, they lived up to the hype. Yes, they wanted a good bit of power to sound their best, but if you paired them up with an adequate amplification, they provided deep, powerful tone for days. So, mission accomplished; having secured these cabs, the mystery was over, right? But rumors are funny. Just when you think the story is done and over, new wrinkles break the surface. Terry Buddingh first piqued my interest by claiming that he actually knew Wayne Jones. “Really? He’s a real dude, and not just some made up brand name?” Then, Terry goes on to tell me that he’s trying to convince Wayne to start making cabs again. “That’d be great!” Oh, and this time around, he’s going to make them powered cabs.” Uh oh … I’m getting sucked back into the mystery!
Terry did, indeed, put Wayne and I in contact, and before I knew it, Wayne was shipping me two of his WJ 2x10 powered enclosures, plus one each of his Active and Passive WJ 1x10 cabs. All three of these cabs use the same 10″ drivers which made Wayne’s former 2x10’s more formidable. Wayne did make a definite attempt to make the new cabs lighter (those older cabs are quite heavy), but he chose to shave the pounds on the enclosure side of the equation, as opposed to the drivers. He considered using neodymium-based drivers, but as the older drivers were made to his specs and worked so well, he figured, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” He did opt for a new JBL/Selenium tweeter, though, and this new tweeter definitely pairs up well with the “old” drivers.
The 2x10 cabs are equipped with a 2-channel Pascal amplifier that is bridged to put out 1,000 watts into an 8-ohm load. This works great with the two 16-ohm 10″ drivers, which are each rated to handle 600 watts, continuous. For thermal control, there is a heat sink plate mounted into the rear of the enclosure (and protected by its own powder-coated metal grill). The amplifier employs a high-pass filter which rolls off the lows below 30Hz, and the enclosure is tuned to 40Hz. The same amplifier module is used in the 1x10 Active Bass Cabinet, except not in bridged mode. It functions as two separate 500-watt amps. When you are only using a single Active 1x10, only one side of the amp is working. The other 500-watt amp is connected to the Speakon® speaker out, which is intended to drive the Passive WJ 1x10.
The enclosures, themselves, are covered in a really nice, high-grade carpet, and employ larger, stacking-style plastic corners. The handle configuration on the 2x10 is unique. There is a retractable pop-up handle on the rear of the enclosure, which is designed to work in conjunction with the casters built into the bottom rear edge of the cabinet. Just pop up, tilt back, and roll! The handle retracts into the space right behind the heat sink plate, but inside the grill; very neat and tidy. When rolling isn’t an option, the cab has two nicely sized handles built into what would be the top/side edges of the cab when it is laid down horizontally. I found these to be a little awkward to use when carrying the cab, especially while going up/down steps. The 2x10 cab is just light enough to allow for a one-hand carry, but the handles aren’t placed well to allow for this. On the 1x10 cabs, there is no pop-up handle (and no need for one) and two smaller edge-mount handles on the top/side edges of the cab (when viewed in its vertical orientation). These handles certainly look very cool, and are space efficient, but the fit is a little tight for my big(ger) hands. Now, these cabs are definitely light enough to carry in one hand, but the cabs also don’t balance all that well when held by just one handle. They are very easy to carry using both handles, though.
The powered 2x10’s have a control plate mounted on the top of the cab (when stood up vertically) which contains a single balanced XLR input, LEDs showing status for power on, clipping on channel 1, clipping on channel 2, and bridge mode. In addition to the IEC power receptacle, fuse and on/off switch, the control plate also has the Mid and High attenuators. The Mid attenuator cuts up to 12dB in the 300Hz to 600Hz range. The High attenuator also cuts up to 12dB before it heads to the tweeter. Wayne Jones suggests a starting point of 3 o’clock on the Mid attenuator and “noon” on the High attenuator. I am a bit concerned about the fact that the knobs for the attenuators stick up above the side of the enclosure. If possible, I would like to see them recessed, or otherwise protected. Wayne does tell me that the cabs will ship with a padded cover, which will help to protect the attenuators during transport. I would have also liked to have seen an unbalanced 1/4″ input and a pass-through connection for daisy chaining multiple cabs. Wayne did solve this latter issue by supplying a Y-cable, which allowed me to plug the balanced output of one preamp into both powered 2x10’s. The control plate on the powered 1x10 has two balanced XLR inputs, for Input 1 and Input 2. These can be used as independent, or stereo, inputs, or you can employ the “Input Link” button to – what else? – link the inputs. On the passive WJ 1x10, the control plate features just a Speakon input jack and the Mid/High attenuators.
Wayne Jones History 101: The Man, Himself
While he is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, Wayne is originally from Wales. When he was 11 years old, his family immigrated to Australia. He started playing drums when he was 13, but at age 17, he suffered an industrial accident, which caused the loss of the use of his left thumb. At this point, he took up the electric bass, and he has never looked back. In addition to designing and producing some fantastic bass cabs, Wayne is primarily a solo bass player, writer and producer, and has his own record label. He explains, “I have CD’s out and on radio in the smooth/contemporary Jazz markets in USA, Europe & more. They feature top USA players Rick Braun, Philippe Saisse and Mike MacArthur. The Australian contingent is myself, Fallon Williams and Ron Peers. Prior to this, for over forty years, I was a sideman in the Australian music scene, touring, sessions, etc. I did master classes and taught at various colleges.”
Okay, but how did he get started producing his own line of bass enclosures? Again, Wayne explains, “I was also a product advisor and clinician for major bass amp bass guitar import companies in Australia. One of them was Music Link, who at the time Imported Trace Elliot. I did a lot of bass clinics and demonstrations promoting Trace Elliott and Status Basses. I got to know Clive Roberts and Mark Gooday from Trace Elliott. One day, I asked, ‘Why don’t you split your 4x10 cab in half,’ as they were so heavy. They said they had already done something like that, but when I saw the result, it was a small extension cabinet. That’s when I decided to go off and design my own cabs.”
Wayne Jones History 201: Wayne Jones Audio [As told by Wayne Jones]
“In 1996, my first cabs were WJ 2Paks (2x10’s) and a single 15”cab, with two piezo tweeters in a separate box. I asked the people that made the cabinets for me to ask the speaker manufacturer for my specific speaker requirements in a custom-made speaker. I found out later that they just used off-the-shelf speakers. For off-the-shelf speakers, they still were far better than most others available. They came from the same speaker manufacture that makes my current drivers, Lorantz Audio. The cabinets were successful and fairly inexpensive. In my search for the best bass sound to cater for all my needs as a pro player, I decided to redesign the cabs to the highest quality with no compromise. I went to see Michail Barabasz of Lorantz Audio and asked him if he could design the drivers that I initially asked my first cabinet manufacturer for. He did. Thus came the next Wayne Jones speaker cabinets; the ones that Bass Player magazine gave me that excellent review of in June 2001.
Things looked really good with the cabs going all over the world. Then September 11 happened. My orders virtually stopped. The economy was severely affected, and people were not spending on such high-end expensive products. So, I stopped making them and kept on being a pro bass player. In 2012, Terry Buddingh (the person that gave me that review in Bass Player magazine) inspired me to get back into it, and so after two years of development, here I am with my new range of high-end, high-powered cabs.
Regarding future designs, I will always try to better what I design with creative vision and new technology. Then again, I won’t be changing what works. I plan to add to my range as I progress. The Wayne Jones Stereo Bass Pre-Amp is in its final stages and is ready for production.”
Put to the Test
I was able to try the powered cabs with a variety of instruments and preamps. One of the things I have found when dealing with powered enclosures is that matching up an appropriate input signal is not always as intuitive as you might like. Attention must be paid to both the output of the preamp and the input trim on the powered enclosure in order to create a good match with the best headroom. Drive one or the other too hard, and you can introduce unwanted distortion. Set the levels too low, and you might not be getting all of the headroom that would otherwise be on tap. But get it right, and boy howdy! Some of my favorite units to place in front of the Active WJ cabs was the Demeter HBP-1, Millennia TD-1 and Sonic Farm 2di4.
The best way to get a feel for what these new cabs could do was to compare them to my older Wayne Jones 2x10’s. The older cabs always stood out for being very deep, but unlike many cabs that have a deeper powerful low end, the Wayne Jones cabs are also very balanced from top to bottom, with a sweet, clear top end. To try and minimize the impact of the ancillary gear, when I compared the older cabs to the new powered enclosures, I used the same preamp each time, and powered the older cabs with my Demeter Minnie 800D power amp. The newer cabs sounded a bit more crisp and clear, while the older cabs were a tad more warm/round. The newer cabs had more dynamics in the lows, and seemed to move more air when pushed hard. In contrast, the older cabs seemed a bit more solid in the upper low end, up through the mids. Some of this could have been the difference between the Pascal amp modules in the new cabs and the ICEpower module used in the Minnie. However, I did notice that as I spent more time playing the newer cabs (and breaking them in), they started to sound more and more like the older cabs. At the end of the day, I slightly preferred the tone of the newer cabs to that of my older ones, and that is saying a lot! I was a little disappointed, though, that the newer WJ 2x10’s cannot be stacked vertically. This is my preferred way to stack my older WJ cabs, and it makes for a “line array” style setup, with drivers/tweeters up closer to your ears, great horizontal dispersion, and all with a minimal footprint on stage. The positioning of the control panel and attenuator knobs on the new cabs just don’t allow for this. However, Wayne explains that most of his players – of both the older and newer cabs – prefer to stack their cabs horizontally.
The combination of the Active and Passive WJ 1x10’s packs a lot of punch in a compact package. Of course, the pair ends up sounding an awful lot like a single WJ 2x10, but with a tad more “air” and clarity up top. In addition to having two tweeters with the double 1x10 stack, the crossover points are a tad different, as well. The WJ 2x10’s are crossed over at 4kHz, whereas the 1x10’s (both Active and Passive) are crossed over at 3.5kHz. With the two 1x10’s, you also have the option of placing the cabs in different locations on stage (one monitor for you, and one for the drummer, perhaps?). As a comparison tool for the Active WJ 1x10, I first turned to the powered Bergantino IP112, which of course, is a 1x12 enclosure, so it’s not exactly apples to apples. The enclosures are of similar size and power, though. In comparison, the WJ is more clear, open and airy up top, and was more detailed, overall. The IP112 is more full and meaty, bigger down low, and definitely sounded warmer. The tweeter on the Bergantino was not as apparent; or maybe it was that the WJ’s tweeter drew so much attention to itself – but in a very good way. My notes read, “The tweeter in the Wayne Jones is amazing!” It is super clear and detailed, but still smooth, and not remotely harsh. And of course, if you so desire, you dial it back by 12dB.
Moving on to the Passive WJ 1x10, I also looked to a Bergantino cab for comparison – in this case, the HT110. Once again, the Berg was more warm/round down low, whereas the WJ proved itself to be amazingly articulate in the lows, while still sounding full. Overall, the midrange balance and focus is quite similar between the two. The WJ is a tad more aggressive, and the HT110 is a bit more laid back and smooth. Similar to the Active cab comparison, the WJ’s high end stands out a bit more, whereas the Bergantino’s highs have some extra “meat” behind them. All told, I would rate this as a dead heat between the Passive WJ 1x10 and my previous top dog of the 1x10 world, the HT110. I spent a good bit of time listening to the Passive WJ 1x10 in both horizontal and vertical orientation, and there is a very noticeable difference between the two. Laid down horizontally, the tone is more balanced from top to bottom and more full (more like the HT110, in fact). Stood up vertically, the tone is more clear and articulate, and the tweeter really gets your attention.
The Bottom Line
I was very excited when I first heard that Wayne Jones might be producing bass cabs again, and I have to say, after spending some time with these cabs, I am even more excited. Yes, I do wish that they would accommodate vertical stacking, and yes, I do worry about those attenuator knobs sticking out there, but other than these minor nits to pick, I am extremely impressed. In terms of tone, volume and dynamics, these cabs are second to none. If you missed out on the fun with Wayne’s prior 2x10’s, or if you found them to be a bit on the heavy side, then these new cabs are just what the doctor ordered.
Whether you choose the “stereo pair” with the Active and Passive WJ 1x10’s, a single Active WJ 2x10, or the 2,000-watt double-stack of WJ 2x10’s, these new cabs from Wayne Jones are no mystery. They are simply some of the best-sounding cabs on the planet.