Ok, I'm sure that everyone is going to go "Ohhh great, here's another person talking about a piece of gear they love"...sorry
I'm going to try and make this semi-organized as I write it, so it's easier to glance through if you're looking for something specific. Preamp:
Audere Pro JZ3 w/ Z-Mode Switch Bass:
Squier Vintage Modified 70's J-Bass Pickups:
Dimarzio Model-J's (wired in series humbucker on each) Amps:
GK MB200 -> Avatar 2x10 Neo/Traynor YBA200-> Kasino 2x15s loaded with Eminence Legend 15's Strings:
Ernie Ball Regular Slinky and D'Addario Chromes Medium Gauge --Installation--
This part really was far easier than I was expecting. I hear a lot about "easy installation" on preamps but this one actually was a drop-in with a few parts needing to be screwed in...NO SOLDERING REQUIRED! I had to rewire one of my pickups so they were both in series humbucking mode, but if that weren't the case I would have never needed to bring out the iron unless I wanted to. I'll give some details....
The pickup leads just go into these little green boxes on the circuit board, the instructions line out where the hot and the common should go. Screw these in and your pickups are connected! All that's left is to ground the preamp to the bridge, which only requires some wire stripping, twisting them together, and using the crimp that is provided with the preamp. Initially I thought I'd need some copper tape to put in there and fight the hiss that would likely come from the preamp, but this was not needed at all. Dead quiet all the way up to maximum treble boost, if there is a hiss I couldn't hear it at all. The plate fit right in (albeit it a LITTLE pushing was needed to get all the wiring from my pickups down in there) without having to redo any screwholes or dremel out the inside of the cavity. --Quality--
All the stuff feels like solid, top-notch switches and pots. Very smooth pots without any fight on them. Very responsive when turning them to adjust the preamp. Output jack is very nice as well, but I may just be feeling giddy and want to praise everything about the preamp --Tone--
Ohhhh where to begin...
I was reading some of the stuff that Jaquo (spl?) posted about his and how much he liked it...gotta say he was spot on with what he said. The z-mode switch (for those unfamiliar with this preamp) doesn't boost certain frequencies, it changes the impedance of your pickups. What this does is give an ORGANIC boost to certain frequencies because of how this interacts with your pickups. Think of this like optical zoom versus digital zoom on a fancy digital camera, it comes off feeling organic and natural...not like it's just a preamp jacking it up a certain way. Because of this the low-Z mode (bass boost type sound) gives you lots of big, thick bottom end without the headroom issues or muddy tone. Another analogy would be like putting stainless rounds on a bass, then putting on broken-in flats...it's changing the tone of the instrument organically, so it sounds very natural and musical.
We all love MOAR BASSS, but there are two OTHER modes on the Z-mode switch and I like them both too! Mid-Z is your bass's natural tone, with the EQ set all flat it IS your passive pickup tone. This is excellent because it gives you a good place to start for shaping and having a sort of "tonal benchmark" if you will. If you want to just manipulate the dry sound of your pickups to suit a room or certain amp you are using, that's a great place to start.
The 3rd mode (hi-z mode) gives more treble response to your sound. This is promulgated for slap players, but I actually like it for aggressive pick tone as well. Camping out here I can a GREAT single coil 50's P type sound with the EQ adjusted right and the neck p-up solo'd. My bandmates couldn't believe this was all coming from ONE BASS. Again, the whole thing sounds very organic and natural, which is why I'm loving this preamp so much. --Response to String Changes--
After I had played, I chalked some of the new-gear romance up to having a fresh set of Slinkies on the bass. I was thinking "Doi...of course new strings will sound amazing", so I took a pair of broken-in Chromes this morning and slapped them on the Jazz...
H-O-L-Y-C-R-A-P....I never knew Chromes could sound like that! lol. I am by NO means talking down the P-bass, its uses, or those who prefer them, but with the right settings I'm thinking of sticking my P's in the closet. I could get that but could also get GREAT pick tones and fingerstyle ones too, all with the comfort of using flatwounds. They don't sound the best
for slap, but I have an Ibanez w/ DR Hi-beams that I use in this band too, and they are great for that. Never knew I could cut this much with a set of flats, all while having that big fundamental as well. Of course, in low-z mode the bottom end going through my 2x15s was MASSIVE. --Value--
For the price of $149 plus shipping...you are a blooming IDIOT if you can afford this but don't get one of these for your jazz lol (unless you prefer V/V/T which is totally OK and your choice). David is doing a bang-up job and I still have no idea how he makes a preamp THIS GOOD and sells it for that price. I almost feel like he should classify his business as a charity --Cons--
I'm really going to have to dig in to find something bad about this, but my ONLY gripe is that the position of the z-mode switch could be better....that's about it.
Sooooo...go out and get one if you're looking for a preamp!!!