Now this is a beautiful bit of kit. As you may have noticed already, I’m a sucker for innovative, compact design and miniaturization, especially if it means I have less gear to carry to a gig (still waiting for that gamechanging inflatable bass cab, though, guys - anybody?). For the last few years, I’ve been using a Genz Benz Shuttle 9.2 as my bass head - you can read all about that further down the page in my blog. I’ve no complaints about that at all, but, you know, technology keeps moving and it’s good to keep an eye on what’s happening out there. And I was painfully aware that Genz Benz no longer exists and the Shuttles are no longer being made, and servicing and replacement parts may therefore become an issue, so I wanted to see what alternatives were currently around. And GR, an Italian company owned and run by Gianfranco Rizzi, caught my attention with their GR One 800. At 800 watts, and packed full of features, the GR One would basically be a direct replacement for my Shuttles. But how to try one out? There are currently no GR dealers here in Ireland (hopefully that will change soon). Well, I had a couple of overseas gigs coming up, where it wasn’t feasible to ship out or hire a big rig, so the plan was for me to take just a head and DI that into the venue’s PA. So I needed something small and light, that I could just throw into the pocket of my gigbag. And another of GR’s products looked perfect - the GR Mini One. Essentially a scaled-down and stripped back version of the GR One 800, it is tiny - you can see in the photo above, it’s barely bigger than my outstretched palm. And it would give me an easily affordable way to find out if the basic GR tone suits my purposes.
Well, the Mini One performed admirably on the gigs. As a class D head, it’s fine to run it without a cab, so as planned, I simply plugged it directly into the PA. Since then, I’ve used it on a number of local gigs, driving my Epifani UL 410, and the 350 watts it puts out are plenty for most gigs - anything where you need more than 350 watts, you would tend to be putting the bass through the PA in any case. The sound of the Mini Pne is beautifully transparent - it doesn’t appear to colour the inherent tone of my basses at all, which is exactly how I like my amps to work! In comparison with the Genz Benz Shuttles, the bottom end of the Mini One feels more focused, and the mids are very punchy, so slap and more percussive fingerstyle cut through the mix very well. And the top end is nice and airy, and you really have to dial it way up before it starts to get harsh and brittle.
Regarding the features, it has a single instrument input jack, as well as a mini jack aux input for a phone or iPod or drum machine or anything else you may want to put through it as you’re practising or performing. The controls are simple but effective: gain, three band eq - centre-detented bass, mid and treble - and a master volume. There are also a number of push-button controls beneath the knobs: a pre/post button, a ‘deep’ switch which adds lovely depth and warmth if needed, a button beneath the mid control to switch the mid frequency centering from 400hz to 800hz, a ‘bright’ switch which adds more air and shimmer at the top end, and a mute button. Finally, there’s also a headphone mini jack output. The controls are all very smooth and responsive, with eq frequency poo yes clearly very carefully chosen to guvevyoh the most useful flexibility with the minimum number of controls, but the small size of the unit as a whole, and therefore the front panel, means the controls are somewhat tightly packed, a little difficult to make out under low light conditions, and reaching the tiny little push buttons can be awkward under pressure - once or twice, I’ve hit the pre/post button rather than the deep switch and wondered why my sound onstage didn’t change as I expected it to!
On the back panel, you have the AC input (the amp will work on all regular voltages, so no problem using it for international touring), a single speakon output for your cab, and a high-quality xlr DI output. I would have liked to see a ‘tuner out’ here, since I don’t like having anything except a single cable between my bass and the amp, but again, I guess the diminutive size of the amp meant there wasn’t space for this. For something this tiny and compact, it’s a small price to pay.
All in all, it’s a fantastic little amp, and the tight, focused bottom end and distinctively punchy mids make it sound much, much bigger than its tiny size and 350 watts. As an added bonus, GR amps are available in a number of stock colours, including white, red and blue, and the company can even put custom prints on the top panel for you! For me, the Mini One was a great way to get an idea of the basic tone and feel of GR amps, and as a result I shall certainly be considering the GR One 800 as a replacement for my Shuttle over the coming few months.