For many musicians of my generation, the name Tapco elicits feelings of nostalgia. I remember one of my first garage bands laboring away perfecting (or was it mutilating?) some Allman Brothers classic, aided by our trusty Tapco 6100R mixer. To my bandmates and I, the 6100 offered good performance and a modest price compared to other choices of the day. Perhaps to capitalize on these nostalgic sentiments, Mackie has resurrected the Tapco name, and with it, they have unveiled a new line of power amps called the Juice series.
Product PointsApplications: Live sound, installations
Features: Two-channel; level controls; clip limiter; 30 Hz subsonic filter
Price: $ 549
Contact: Tapco at 877-827-2669, Web Site
The J1400 is the middle unit in the series and the one I received for evaluation. The first thing I noticed about the J1400 ($549) was that, at 48.5 pounds, it is nostalgically heavy too. It measures two rack spaces high and extends 15.7 inches in depth. The amp has a claimed power rating of 310W @ 8 ohms and 450W @ 4 ohms. All the amps in the series are rated to operate at 2 ohms with the 1400 yielding 800 watts per side. According to Mackie, the amp, which has a class AB topology, has a THD and SMPTE IMD spec of <0.03% @ 8 ohms (20 Hz-20 kHz), a signal-to-noise ratio of 100 dB below rated power into 4 ohms, and a damping factor of > 300 @ 1 kHz and below. The J1400’s front panel is adorned with a power switch, two attenuators and LEDs (signal present, overload and power). On the back panel, the 1400 has XLR and 1/4-inch balanced inputs on each channel, a selectable clip limiter and 30 Hz subsonic filter, three outputs (Channel A, Channel B and bridged mono on Neutrik Speakon) and an amp mode switch (stereo, mono or bridge). The back panel is also home to the amp’s circuit breaker reset button.
My first use of the J1400 was at a dedication ceremony for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There were a number of notable speakers (including Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson) addressing a crowd of about 200. The room was very narrow and long so I used a set of delayed speakers about halfway back. I put the J1400 into stereo mode and I used one channel to power the main speakers by the stage and the other channel to power the delayed satellites. The amp worked perfectly under these 4 ohm load conditions as it delivered clear intelligible sound throughout the venue.
Admittedly, speech amplification is not the most demanding situation for an amp. So next I took it out on monitor duty. Getting punished on a loud stage with vocals, keys and even kick drum the J1400 held its own. While the amp did get warm, it offered ample headroom and clear sound. When used in active biamp mode, the low-frequency channel would occasionally show signs of limiting when powering a 300W 8 ohm speaker. Nevertheless, the amp did everything that was asked of it (except to deliver itself back to the truck at the end of the night) with flying colors. Seeing as I have some four-conductor cables that fan into binding post connectors at the amp end, it made me yearn for some of them in the amp’s output section. However, the bridge mono jack can send the individual stereo signals through an NL4 when the amp is in stereo mode.
At only $549 the Tapco J1400 would seem to be targeted to the aforementioned garage band. But with ample power and seemingly good durability, it is ripe for the professional sound provider on a budget. Weight would probably keep it off of any touring duty, but it would be at home in worship houses, clubs and other small venues.