Ok so I have been sitting on my review of this pre-amp for a bit. I got it about a week ago and wanted to have enough time playing through it so I’m not just tossing out first impressions. I have spent a bit of time with each of my basses: MIA Fender Jazz deluxe, Squire P-Bass, EBMM Stingray HS 5. I have been using ART (via XLR out) and a Peavey IPR 1600 to drive my fEARful cabs: 15/6 and 1515/66/1. So to keep short attention spans from getting board I am going to start my review at the end and give you my over all impressions, and then break down the particulars.
This pre-amp is fantastic, tons of control without feeling cumbersome. I think this is because all the components are grouped into smaller sections. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend for anyone who is looking for a lot of bang for their buck. I would love to have some of the really boutique pre amps in my line up, but for $250 bucks brand new this is hard to beat. I urge anyone who is even thinking about a Pre/power set up to try one of these.
On to the specifics.
“Pre amp section”
The first thing to note is that there is a Mic pre-amp section that won’t be used for EB. This gain section is pretty simple which is a good thing. For my tastes I like the tube voltage set to high, and I have the gain pushed to where I can keep a mostly clean sound when playing with an even touch, but I get some break up with a more aggressive playing style. The “Low cut” aka High Pass Filter was initially a disappointment, but through playing with the settings I have really come to like it. The HPF has a 6 db/oct slope, this isn’t really enough for what I wanted out of a HPF. Set it low and let it kill everything that I don’t want the system to try and reproduce. What it is really good for is tightening up the bottom end with out killing it. The best way I can describe it is that it is kind of like a mid point between a ported and sealed cab. You can really control “boomyness” while not losing the low end, or having such a big roll off like you would with a sealed cab. The last thing in this section which I have not played with is the effects loop. The preamp out put knob lets you adjust the signal that comes out of this section before it goes through the loop.
The compressor is as simple or complex as you want it to be. It is bypassable for those that don’t care to fool with it. What turns this section into a more complex tool is the fact that the attack and release can be set to manual or auto. You can tailor these if you wish, I just leave it on auto. Other that this the other knobs are pretty simple, threshold sets the level at which compression kicks in, ratio is how much it squashes the spikes, and the output controls the level sent from this section before it goes into the second effects loop. I leave the threshold at noon, the ratio at 3:1, the output at noon, and the lower controls at auto.
Here is a big strength to this pre amp. If all that was included in the preamp was the EQ it would be worth the price new. The high and low knobs are shelving set in their standard modes. The low can be switched to 120Hz which helps dial in some punch. Both the low and high mid knobs are sweep able with a a “10X” button. As an example Low-Mid normally scales from 20-200 Hz. With the 10x button engaged it now controls a region from 200-2000Hz. High-Mid is from 200-2kHz normally or 2kHz-20kHz. Another very useful option here is the “wide/narrow” buttons on both the mid controls. These do pretty much what you expect, change how much of the signal around the selected frequency is bumped or decreased. A really good example of how this is useful is when I’m using the humbucker on my stingray with all the knobs dimed. I set the “high-mid” knob to 200Hz, engage the 10x and the narrow buttons. Now I have a narrow boost/cut at 2KHz. I pull this frequency range down to eliminate a bit of finger clack when smacking around the Ray. This leaves the low know set at 120Hz to boost some low mid punch, and the Low-mid knob to control how I sit in the mix. Additionally there is an “EQ-defeat” button in case you wanted to use an external EQ section.
The master output does just what you would expect, control the output of the whole unit. The meters are pretty cool here as well. There is a preamp meter showing how much break up is in the signal chain. There is also a meter showing how much compression is going on. The VU meter initially shows the output of the whole preamp, but can be switched to show the signal lever after the compressor, or after the EQ. Its flashy, not necessary, and ridiculously cool! With all this said I have not had a chance to consult the tube guru’s and roll the pre amp tube. I will get around to all that, but right now I am just enjoying the tonal control this unit is giving me. Combined with the IPR 1600 and my 1515/66 it is a fricken monster.