My Enabler arrived yesterday and I had a chance to spend several hours with it last night!
So this will be Part 1 of my review - headphone use only.
Tomorrow, I'll bring it to a rehearsal and use it to drive a power amp, and will provide a Part 2 review after that.
My main motivator for the purchase was the very cool headphone amp/aux input feature - we recently moved my son into his "big boy" room on the same side of the house as Bass HQ and my wife has been telling me to TURN IT DOWN for a while now. So, in an effort to make her happy, I took the plunge.
My secondary motivator - leaving the big Alembic F-1x rack rig at home and having a portable warm alternative I can bring with me to rehearsals, where I can plug directly into a power amp and backline and still be "me."
I'm definitely a tone fiend - my big rig includes a pair of Fearful 15/6s - and only use my Sansamp BDDI sparingly to add some dirt here and there. But for all intents and purposes, "my" sound is all about warmth and clarity, and gravitate towards stuff that will get me there.
Unfortunately, there aren't very many (if any) detailed reviews available - just specs - and I couldn't find any demo videos, so this was a bit of a leap of faith.
However, as this thing was designed to be all about clean warm tone, I felt pretty comfortable taking the plunge.
And I'm glad I did! The concept pretty much rocks my world. I've tried a number of preamps and currently have a two on my effects board (Eden WTDI = clean and Sansamp BDDI = dirty), all run into the Alembic F-1x for warm tube goodness. However, the added features of the Enabler might be enough to ditch the WTDI completely.
So, onto the first set of tests. I used a handful of my custom basses with active EQs (incl. Sadowsky and Bart preamps) and all the punchy goodness came right through the headphones without any knob twiddling. In fact, it all sounded so good at first, I didn't realize the Enabler wasn't even turned on! Then, when activated, it brought out more of the characteristics and really made every note sound "alive" and full. Like a really good direct box or preamp should.
After some noodling just to get the hang of things, I ran an RCA cable directly from the back of my iMac into the Enabler, and instantly was able to bring up a nice stereo mix of new 70s/80s/90s tunes I had put into a playlist to learn for tomorrow's rehearsal.
With the independent volume/gain and aux controls, I was able to dial in a perfect mix of song track and bass through the headphones - and was in shock at how my den seemingly transformed into a studio tracking session. Yes, it sounded THAT good...approximating in sound quality the Avalon preamps.
Here is a picture of my effects system that ran into the Enabler:
I did some experimenting with the EQ settings but the real test will come tomorrow when I will use it to drive a Crown power amp. However, judging through the headphones in comparison to the WTDI and some of the other preamps I've had or tested, the EQ on the Enabler seems more "musical" and yields more meaningful results without becoming unusuable.
Importantly, the Enabler seems to be the kind of preamp to use if you want to "enhance" the sound of a bass, not really "change" it. There's certainly versatility in there, but I am not under the impression it's going to add that trebly upper zing of the Eden WTDI, and certainly not the dirt of the Sansamp. But, I found the MXR M80 too sterile, and some of the other units just not worth the cash given what I am looking for in terms of functionality.
I'll report back for Part 2 of my review once I've used it in a live rehearsal application.
But for all intents and purposes, this thing appears to be a masterful combination of my needs:
1) an incredible platform for warming up a bass signal,
2) providing a studio-grade headphone mix for silent playing, and,
3) an awesome alternative to hauling my big rack rig to rehearsal when I can simply leave a power amp and cabinet there, and simply plug my Enabler/effects board into it when I arrive.
Lastly, around 10pm last night, I asked my wife if she could hear me practicing. She said no, and then said "whatever you paid for that thing...it was worth it."
Now if I can just decide if the WTDI is worth hanging onto or not.
Bring on the questions...