I WAS 23 WHEN I STARTED AT BASS player in 2002, so no matter how precocious I thought I was, to say I learned on the job is an understatement. Fortunately, I had the bass journo All Star team on hand to whip me quickly into shape. I leaned hard on each of my more experienced colleagues, but early on there was no one I needed more than Terry Buddingh, whose knowledge and abundant patience I frequently put to the test as a nascent technical editor. Terry is genuinely passionate about audio gear and has the wizened aspect of a guy who’s played, taken apart, and repaired thousands of basses and amps. When Terry really liked something, I took it seriously; nobody sliced through marketing hype better. I can recall long discussions about innumerable pieces of gear that came through the office, but few stick out as much as his deep and abiding love for an esoteric 2x10 made by a bass player in Australia, Wayne Jones. BP glowingly reviewed the Wayne Jones 2x10 in 2001, just before I arrived, so for me the cab was the stuff of legend. Plus, its extreme scarcity meant I couldn’t pop down to the local Guitar Center and give one a spin. Regardless, the cabs went out of production in the mid 2000s.
Now that I’m a slightly more grizzled old hand, my nostalgia kicked in when I got an email from Wayne Jones saying he was manufacturing an upgraded line of cabinets featuring his original drivers, but in totally redesigned cabinets that included Class D power amps. I was further pleased to hear that his inspiration for getting back in the cab biz was Buddingh himself, who over the years had pestered Jones for an update. Soon after a trio of boxes arrived, containing a powered 2x10 and powered and passive 1x10s. Finally I’d get to hear for myself what Terry’s seldom-wasted adoration was about.
When Wayne Jones, a first-call bass player and solo artist on the Australian scene, decided to reintroduce a line of cabinets, he knew he wanted to make them lightweight and powered. His design philosophy is a mixture of no-compromise fidelity and real-world utility, and to him, weight and transparency are the key variables. To shed pounds, Jones initially experimented with neodymium drivers, but was unable to find a design he liked as much as the Lorantz Audio 10s he used in his original 2001 model. I can see (and hear) why he didn’t fix what wasn’t broken. The Lorantz speakers were beautifully constructed, blessed with huge ferrite magnets, a large voice coil capable of extreme excursion, and frequency response and distortion specs that elevate them above the off-the-shelf pack. Given that the speakers were going to stay relatively heavy, Jones directed his attention to the cabinet. The new cabinets are a total redesign, using lightweight poplar ply as opposed to the more typical (and heavier) baltic birch ply.
Being the sort of player most attracted to hi-fi rigs that minimize coloration, Wayne Jones designed a powered rig that allows players to use studio-grade preamps and DIs or, in the case of an active bass, no preamp at all. The 1,000-watt Pascal Class D stereo amp is a well-regarded favorite, and it has impressive bandwidth and distortion specs. The 2x10’s xlr input jack is ideal for interfacing with the balanced output of a pro-level preamp, but a parallel unbalanced q" jack would have made the cab more flexible, as the near line-level output of many active basses would be sufficient to drive the amp’s input. The top panel includes two L-Pad attenuators governing the high and midrange frequencies. It’s interesting to have midrange attenuation, and I found it a cool means of coaxing new sonic color.
The cabinets’ assembly was generally excellent. The deep and durable black carpet covering felt tougher than average, and the hardware, including the quick-lock corners, telescoping handle, tilt-back casters, and side-mounted handles were all high quality. The WJ 2x10 is unusually deep, which—combined with the telescoping tilt-back handle and dolly-style casters—makes wheeled transport slightly awkward (the cabinet is a little too narrow to feel planted in transit). I almost regret mentioning this, because the mere inclusion of the handle and casters is an unexpected blessing. I also wished that Jones had recessed the top-panel attenuator knob, as its protrusion makes it difficult to stack anything on top of the cabinet in transit or when used in a vertical playing position. The 1x10s are a great deal more portable, although the handle position at the cabs’ corners makes them a touch more awkward than a top-mounted handle might have been.
The powered 1x10 offers an interesting additional feature that the 2x10 lacks. Both cabs use the same stereo amp module, but in the 2x10 it’s bridged to send 1,000 watts to the internal speakers. The 1x10 uses only one side of the 2x500-watt amp for its internal speaker, but the jack panel includes an additional input and a speaker output jack, allowing one side of a stereo input to come through the powered cab and the other to be separately powered and sent to the passive 1x10. Even without a stereo input, I could link the two inputs on the 1x10 and still use the other side of the amp to power an external cab separately.
THUNDER DOWN UNDER
One of the most fun things about powered speaker cabinets is the ability to use a wide variety of preamps, some of which aren’t purpose-built for bass, but sound great nonetheless. Among the esoteric preamps I tested with the Wayne Jones cabinets were a Neve Portico 5017, Tube Tech MEC-1A, a Noble, and a Vintech VA573, as well as bass-specific models like a Kern IP-777, Ampeg SVP-CL, and a Demeter HBP-1. I also made use of the preamp in an F Bass BN5, a Fodera Standard Classic, and a Citron AE5-Swallow to connect directly to the Wayne Jones’ input (with the help of a q"-to-xlr adapter, of course).
First, I tested the 2x10, the cabinet most similar to the model that made Terry Buddingh gaga. Having spent a good deal of time with it, using both bass guitar and synth, I can clearly see why Terry was such a fan. It’s one of the best 2x10s I’ve heard. Its overall sonic impression conveys depth and strength, but also beautifully balanced presentation through the whole frequency spectrum. It is capable of extraordinary volume and transient response, and it has the palpable force of a high-headroom amp, but it doesn’t lose any of its natural and beguiling clarity. The facility to use no-less beautiful-sounding preamps like the Neve and Tube Tech make it an excellent platform for coaxing luscious and authoritative sound that transcends the abilities of many integrated bass heads. The Wayne Jones was loud enough for any stage, and it never seemed to break a sweat. I also dug the smooth high-frequency response, which didn’t have the clacky bite of some lesser tweeters. The 1x10 is similar to the 2x10 in its strong-but-sweet personality, but it obviously moves less air. Coupled with the passive 1x10, it’s an excellent solution for stereo players or those seeking to send a monitor feed to a drummer. Both cabs also benefited from some break-in time, warming up and getting a touch more plush as I put in some hours.
It was a long time coming, but thanks to my old mentor Terry, I finally got my hands on a Wayne Jones. While his distribution is insignificant in the States, perhaps a lot of demand will make his special cabs more widely available. Take it from two generations of BP tech editors—you have to try one of these.
WAYNE JONES AUDIO
WJ 2x10 & 1x10s
Street 2x10, $2,700; stereo 1x10 system, $3,000
Pros Remarkable strength and authority that doesn’t sacrifice clarity and smoothness.
Cons Shape and design can make transport a little awkward.
Bottom line The best powered cabs I’ve heard.
WJ 2x10 & 1x10 (passive 1x10 eliminates amplifier)
Woofer(s) Custom-designed Lorantz Audio w/cast-frame ferrite magnet, 70mm voice coil, and Kevlar-impregnated eucalyptus-pulp cones
Tweeter JBL Selenium ST200 Super Tweeter horn-loaded bullet tweeter
Amplifier Pascal S-PRO2 Class D w/integrated switchmode power supply
Cabinet Internally braced poplar ply Output power 2x12: 1,000 watts @ 8Ω; 1x10: 500 watts @ 16Ω
Made in USA & Australia