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JGT REVIEW: Henriksen JazzAmp TEN Combo Amplifier

Sean McGowan

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For several years now, Henriksen Amplifiers has set a modern standard for jazz guitar amplification…

…with its immensely popular “Jazz Amp” series, notably in 10” and 12” combo formats.   Based in Colorado, Henriksen has distinguished itself with a solid reputation in the marketplace by designing and building amplifiers that are reliable, portable, easy to use, and sound great in a variety of musical settings. Recently, the company introduced its powerful yet diminutive universal two-channel “Bud” combo amplifier (named after the company’s founder Bud Henriksen), which, weighing in at seventeen pounds, has become a go-to favorite of working jazz and acoustic guitarists, and even singer-songwriters and multi-instrumentalists. Last year, Henriksen released a single channel version called the “Blu”, which features Bluetooth technology and weighs in at a mere twelve pounds.

The latest addition to their product line is the JazzAmp Ten (MSRP $1465).  This amp incorporates a number of new features and tonal improvements while retaining the core foundation and features of the originals. With its full, clear tone and volume capabilities, combined with its size, weight, and practical features, the new JazzAmp Ten is a strong contender for that elusive ‘the one that you take to every gig’ amp rig.

Tone is arguably the most important and defining characteristic of any amplifier…

…that guitarists are concerned with – and subsequently, spend lots of time and money in search of. Yet, tone is inherently subjective, and describing good tone in words is elusive at best. Suffice to say, what I think of as good clean amplifier tone, is a ‘natural tone’, meaning one that doesn’t cloud or obfuscate the natural and organic sound of the guitar and/or the player’s technique. Nothing is worse than spending a lot of time and energy on your technique (or lots of money on a great guitar) only to have the tone quality literally smothered by the inferior circuitry, components, or build quality of an amp. I experienced this frustration for many years, and would envy classical guitarists who could just sit down with the guitar in front of a microphone and sound great.

The Henriksen Jazz Amp Ten features very high quality components and engineering that ensures solid, natural tone right from the ‘get go’.

Each amp features an Eminence Beta driver, tuned port, plus a new custom tweeter, which adds a three-dimensional character to the sound without sounding tinny or harsh. The amp also features Henriksen’s signature EQ section – a powerful feature especially popular among archtop and acoustic guitarists. This is what I feel is the recipe for success: the amp already sounds good flat, but the 5-band EQ section and tweeter defeat switch provide an enormous amount of tonal flexibility if necessary. For example, many factors can influence your guitar tone including the size, shape, and sound of the room you’re playing in, the instrumentation of your band (i.e. drummer or not!), carpeting vs. wood floors vs. concrete, etc. In these situations, it’s easy to cut or boost particular frequencies without compromising the fundamental tone quality and clarity. Years of frustration have, thankfully, come to an end.

With regard to live stage sound, the XLR line out is an excellent feature. Rather than worrying about miking the amp, you can easily send a direct line to the house board from the amp, which eliminates a lot of hassle and potential problems. The line out is easy to access and sounds fantastic and warm, essentially like a high end preamp/DI box. You can also augment the sound by adding an extension cabinet from the jack in the back.

The on board reverb is very subtle and user friendly, and if you choose to use your own reverb plus other effects, there’s an FX loop jack. However, it’s a TRS jack, which means you’ll have to use a Y cable to connect to your pedalboard.

For most gigging guitarists, portability is a close second to tone in terms of an amp’s desirable qualities.

The amps in Henriksen’s product line – especially the Bud and Blu combos – are notable in this area, which is another reason they are so popular among guitarists who live in urban areas and need to have a portable, and easy to maneuver rig. The Ten is no exception. Weighing in at just over 20 lbs. with dimensions of 14” (tall) x 14” (wide) x 10” (deep), the Ten is easy to carry anywhere. Each amp features a rugged yet comfortable leather handle, firmly bolted to the top. The amp also has four solid rubber feet and the corners are reinforced. In other words, this amp is solidly built and can easily handle road gigs. To that end, Henriksen Amplifiers boasts an astonishingly low return rate for amps that have malfunctioned or stopped working on the gig. Bottom line: they won’t ever let you down. This I know firsthand as I have played Henriksen amps since 2007 without ever encountering a single issue, and I have checked them in the airport as baggage in the gig bag and played many mountain gigs in the snow accessible only by chairlift or gondola!

New to the Jazz Amp Ten is the addition of Bluetooth. 

This technology provides numerous benefits for practicing, teaching, and performing. Essentially anything you have in your phone is accessible, from set break music, play along apps, metronomes and clicks, etc. There’s also a switch to turn off the Bluetooth to ensure your phone doesn’t come through the amp if you get a call or text during the gig!

A 1/4” headphone jack is located on the back panel of the amp for private practice. At a rating of 120 watts, the Ten will provide plenty of volume and clean headroom for just about any gig. In fact, most players probably won’t even need to turn it up past five, especially with the XLR and extension speaker out jacks.

As a player, I also really appreciate the LED logo on the front that lights up when powered on. There are plenty of times on a dark stage when this feature comes in handy, particularly when the whole band is plugged in to one power strip and the electrical wiring in the club is already sketchy. If you’re in a situation where you can’t actually play anything to check if the amp is powered on, it’s nice to see the lights on and know you are good to go!

Jazz Amp Ten technical specs:

• 120 watts

• 5 band graphic EQ

• Reverb

• Bluetooth Aux In

• Phantom powered XLR/1/4″ combination input

• Balanced XLR line out (post EQ and reverb)

Eminence Beta 10” speaker with custom neodymium tweeter

• TRS send/return FX loop

• Ext. Speaker and Headphone out jacks

www.henriksenamplifiers.com

OK, it has Bluetooth…but you still need an instrument cable!  For that, you might try the Henriksen Gossimer Guitar Cable

Henriksen Amplifiers recently collaborated with an engineer in Colorado who builds audiophile home theater systems, on the design and production of a brand new instrument cable, the “Gossimer”. The cable is housed in a unique looking black jacket that is extremely light weight, durable, and resistant to kinking and tangling. Each cable is terminated with gold-plated copper connectors – currently offered in a straight to right angle format.

The technical specs are as follows: tensile strength = 200 lbs; capacitance = leads main signal path 4.36pF (picofarads); average = 8.61pF; shield minimized path = 14.57pF; dielectric constant = 1.4 with low-D fiber insulation.

So, this is obviously a very low capacitance cable. But how does it sound? To my ears, simply amazing and immediately satisfying. As someone who plays a lot of solo jazz and acoustic guitar without a lot of effects (basically just reverb), I have noticed the palpable difference among various cables, both in sound and usability. Some high end – and ridiculously expensive – cables boast a low pF rating, but just don’t sound very good. They have a tendency to sound harsh or brittle. This could perhaps be attributed to too much high frequencies passing through the signal, however, the Gossimer sounds warm, full, and ultra clear. After several A/B tests with other medium to high end cables, the Gossimer seemed to sparkle and even seem louder than others. You could really discern individual notes in a complex chord voicing with tight cluster intervals for example. Low notes were full and clear without sounding boomy or unbalanced. Single notes on the high E and B strings also sounded full, clear, and thick. These attributes were apparent regardless of the guitar  (we tested with custom archtops, a steel-string acoustic, a Strat, and an electric nylon string)

The Gossimer cable is currently offered in a twelve foot length direct from the Henriksen Amplifiers web store ($129.00).

MAKE SURE YOU CHECK OUT OUR VIDEO REVIEW OF THE JAZZ AMP TEN

 

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