FENDER KXR 100 FULL-RANGE AMPLIFIER
Recommend this product?
As some of you who may be reading this review already know, I come from a very musical family. This affords me the opportunity to be exposed to and to play many different types of musical equipment that I might not otherwise have access to. Recently, one of my sons turned me on to the incredible sonic palate of the Baritone Guitar. After playing it for a while, I just had to have one, and recently purchased one. The Baritone Guitar straddles the fence between a regular 6-string guitar and a Bass Guitar, and sounds best when played through an amp that will permit the low notes to be reproduced as being powerful, deep, and distinct, while at the same time not sacrificing the clarity and brightness of the higher end notes. This presents a player with a problem, as some guitar amps cannot handle the low end of the Baritone Guitar without breaking up, and many bass amps just do not reproduce the clarity and distinctness on the high end. It was with these thoughts in mind that I decided to check out my cousins Fender KXR 100 Full-Range Amplifier.
My cousin is currently playing in a three-piece lounge band. The three members each play acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, and keyboards, as well as sing, and they use three Fender KXR 100 Full-Range Amplifiers for live performances. All of the music, as well as the vocals, are handled by the three Fender KXRs. Believe me, asking an amp to handle this wide range of tonal frequencies and related harmonic overtones is asking an awful lot from an amp. But enough background information, lets get on to a description of the sound and performance of the Fender KXR 100 Full Range Amplifier.
The Fender KXR 100 was originally billed as being a keyboard amplifier, and was made to faithfully reproduce the lowest lows and highest highs that a keyboard could put out. Coincidently, because of this, and because of its unique design characteristics, the Fender KXR 100 is also capable of serving as a bass amp, a P.A system, or a guitar amp that is capable of handling the power and raunchiness of an electric guitar, while also being able to reproduce the delicate overtones of an acoustic guitar. Thus, the name Full-Range Amplifier.
Exactly why would someone need a full-range amp for vocals, acoustic guitar, or for a keyboard instead of just a plain old good guitar amp? This is a very complicated answer. Most electric guitar amps color the sound of the instrument being amplified, and they emphasize the mid-range frequencies, while at the same time cutting off ultra low end or high end frequencies and overtones. As such, most guitar amps are not made to handle the sparkling high and low overtones of a good acoustic guitar, and they can not handle the low and high end notes of a synthesizer or modern keyboard. The result is a muddy, and indistinct sound. However, a full range amplifier is made to handle the full range of sounds of a modern keyboard or synthesizer, as well as being able to reproduce the overtones of an acoustic guitar. Another key component effecting the sound reproduction of a full range amplifier is a lot of power and very little distortion. Finally, in order to get the right sound for the right room, you will need to be able to tweak that sound of the amp with an equalizer to compensate for any differences in the acoustics of the room you are playing in. It is for the above stated reasons that the Fender KXR 100 is a good choice for a keyboard, acoustic guitar, or for vocals, as it fits the bill quite nicely in each of the above cited areas.
How does the KXR 100 go about accomplishing all of this? Quite well actually, but before we get into those specifics, lets discuss the nerve center or brain of the amp. First lets discuss the front panel of the KXR 100. There are three independent Channels on this amp. The first input on Channel 1 is an XLR balanced input designed for use with a microphone. Adjacent to this is a phone jack input that is suitable for any type of musical instrument or device that utilizes a phone jack output to amplify its sound. Next we come to the Volume control for Channel 1. In reality this control actually serves a Gain control for the preamplifier of Channel 1, as by varying the settings, this control will allow this input to accommodate the use of a variety of different instruments or microphones with varying outputs. This Gain feature of this control makes it easy to accommodate anything from a modern keyboard with a hot output, to a low impedance microphone with a weaker output, as well as anything in-between. The actual regulation of the volume on this input is actually adjusted by the Master Volume control located on the right side of the amp. We will discuss the Master Volume control a bit later in the review.
Next in line on the front panel of the KXR 100 we come to Channel 2, followed by Channel 3. Each of these independent channels has its own Input and own Volume control. Both of these channels are muted if you are only using Channel 1, which cuts down on any additional unwanted noise. Next we come to the Equalizer section on the KXR 100. There are 4 bands of EQ, each of which provides a 12dB boost or cut centering about the following four sets of frequencies: 100, 338, 1588, and 4000 Hz. (Thank goodness my cousin kept his owners manual handy, as my ear is not that sensitive). The 4 bands are labeled Low, Low Mid, High Mid, and High respectively. The Equalizer provides a great deal of control over your tone, and works really quite well. Next we come to the Reverb control, which controls the amount of reverb for the amp.
Next in line on the front panel of the KXR 100 is the Effects Loop section. First we have the Effects Send jack. The best way to use this feature is to connect a standard phone jack from the Effects Send jack of the amp to the input of an outboard effects device, such as a stomp box of some type, and then run a line from the output of the stomp box or other effect being used to the Effects Return jack of the KXR 100. Additionally, one can send a signal from the amp to another device by simply running a standard guitar jack from the Effects Send to the input of a recording device of some type, or for hook up to a sound board or PA. Want to use the KXR 100 as the Master amp to control a Slave amp? This is easily accomplished by running a guitar jack out of the Effects Send jack into the Effects Return jack of the Slave amp. The KXR 100 can also serve as a Slave amp to another Master amp by running the Effects Send of the other amp into the Effects Return jack of the KXR 100.
Next we come to the Master Volume control that I briefly discussed earlier in the review. The Master Volume control is used to set the overall level or volume of the amp, and it is a great feature. Lets say the small club or lounge you are playing in is relatively empty at the start of the night and requires a lower overall volume setting. Later in the evening, when the place is packed, and you are needing to play at a higher volume level, you will not need to re-adjust each individual volume setting and have to re-balance the sound of each input. All you will need to do is simply raise the level on the Master Volume, and the volume of all the Channels is raised. An important point to also keep in mind is that the Master Volume should be set as high as possible for the maximum effect of the Deltacomp compressor range. This is very useful, as the built in Deltacomp effect serves to even out the sounds emanating from the amp. For example, if you are playing a soft passage in the musical piece on the higher notes of an instrument like a keyboard, and then must go to a louder or more aggressive section at the mid to lower end of the keyboard, the overall sound of the quieter and higher pitched passages is boosted, and the louder lower pitched ones are cut, so as to even out the overall sound level of the piece. This is also quite effective with vocals as well.
Finally we come to the Record Out jack and the Headphone jack. The Record Out jack consists of two RCA output jacks that provide an unbalanced output signal that can be used for recording purposes. The signal is taken directly from the preamp, and is a line level signal. The Headphone jack provides for a private listening experience. By plugging a set of stereo headphones into this jack, the internal speaker is disengaged, but the rest of the electronics are not, so the amp can be used for either quiet recording or practice sessions late at night.
How does the Fender KXR 100 go about the task of handling a full-range of frequencies? The answer lies in part to the fact that the KXR 100 uses a 15-inch Fender Special Design Speaker to handle the lows, and a Dual Piezo Horn for the high end, and this allows it to reproduce the full range of possible sounds of the instrument or voice being amplified. Another part of the secret is that the Deltacomp circuit and the 80-watts RMS of power team up to produce a sound output that has a remarkably low level of distortion, which yields a very clean, crisp sound. This makes the KXR 100 ideal as a small PA system, an acoustic guitar amp, and/or a keyboard amp. It also serves well as a bass amp and a clean sounding electric guitar amp. Notice I said clean sounding guitar amp. This is not the type of amp that sounds great for a distorted bluesy sound. That is not what it was designed for. This is also a relatively powerful amp for an amp that is relatively small in size. The KXR 100 puts out 80-watts RMS of power into a 4-ohm load, and the sound at 80 watts has a remarkably low distortion level, with a very clean, and distinctly sharp sound. The KXR-100 packs all of this sound capability into a compact and solid cabinet that can easily fit into the trunk of a compact car. The weight of the KXR 100 is a mere 55 pounds, and it is 27 ˝ inches high, 20 ˝ inches wide, and 12 inches deep, and it has a tough black Tolex covering with metal corner protectors.
And now on to the sound test. For the acoustic guitar trial I used my cousins Gibson John Lennon J-160E Peace Guitar. Wow, what a guitar, but Ill have to save my comments on that instrument for another review. Right off, the guitar sounded very good. After some tweaking of the built-in EQ on the KXR 100, I was very impressed with how well both the high end and low end overtones sounded, especially when finger picking. For the keyboard trial, I played an old 88-key Fender Rhodes Electric Piano, and a Roland Juno-D synthesizer. The sound was great. All 88 keys of the Rhodes sounded clear and distinct, and the string and percussion sounds on the Roland were also terrific. I was very impressed. Vocals were next, and again the amp delivered like a good small PA should.
However, now we came to trying out a Bass Guitar, specifically a Fender 1964 Precision Bass. Here is where the first signs of weakness began to show themselves, that is at least to my ear. I found that the Bass sounded good, but that was it. I was looking for a tight, percussive, domineering sound, and I just could not get it. My cousin, on the other hand, who uses this amp in a lounge type setting, found the KXR 100 to handle Bass Guitar chores without a problem, and he is very content with the sound that the KXR 100 puts out when he plays a Gibson SG Reissue Bass with it. I may have been looking for perfection. The amp did do an adequate job as a bass amp, but I was hoping for a tighter more percussive sound, and it did not deliver. However, it still did sound quite good.
Finally, I got to try my Danelectro Innuendo Baritone guitar through the KXR. I was impressed with the capability of this amp in being able to reproduce the low end frequencies as well as the higher end frequencies of the Baritone guitar, and it did so very cleanly and without much noticeable distortion. This was both a good thing, and a bad thing for obvious reasons. The good thing was that I was able to get a really clean, and crisp sound, that was not muddy at all on the low end for the Baritone Guitar. However, the amp was also so clean and distortion free that I was not able to get a growl or snarl out of the amp, even when it was cranked up fairly high.
The bottom line for me, is that this is a very good amp for reproducing the sound of an acoustic guitar, vocals, and/or keyboards. It is fair for Bass Guitar, and possibly a very clean electric guitar sound, and possibly even for jazz. It is not very good at all for blues or for a heavy rock guitar sound. To sum it all up, I found that the Fender KXR 100 is a good as a Full-Range amp that sounded especially good with an acoustic guitar or a keyboard. That being said, it is not reasonable to consider that this is an amp that is suitable for every musician or for a full range of musical styles, such as heavy metal guitar, or powerful deep pounding bass guitar.
Well thank you for taking the time to read my review. But now if you will excuse me, I really must get back to my practicing.
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