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ACG onboard preamp (ACG/John East design)

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by emjazz, Apr 29, 2008.

  1. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    Hey all. For those of you that don't know about this preamp I figured I'd give you my experience. I have less and less time to spend online here but I wanted to write about a great product that I think deserves some more attention. For the record, I have no affiliation with Alan at AC Guitars or with John East who helped design and makes the preamps.

    Almost a year ago I bought a six string bass from my friend Brian Ristola. I needed a six and he had just finished building one. It originally had Bartolini quad coils and an Aguilar 0bp-3 preamp in it. I never heard the Aguilar because I had him install an Audere Classic in it to check out. I picked up the bass and played a gig with it a couple of days later.......I was miserable. I couldn't get a sound that I liked. I immediately took the bass back to him and had Nordstrand dual coils put in. The tone got better for my tastes but I was now having problems with string pull from the Nordstrands and I wasn't completely happy with the bass still. The body wood was swamp ash and I didn’t like the soft attack of the bass. I decided to try some Delano dual coils (wanted to try some pickups with ceramic magnets). The pickups were a definite improvement for me but the soft attack of the bass was still too much. I was on the verge of selling the bass and I was looking around for another builder to build me a new bass. While talking to Brian Ristola he had mentioned to me that he was going to be getting a new filter based preamp from Alan at AC Guitars. I was curious but not entirely interested as I had never considered a filter based pre. I had never really used one and was fairly happy with the standard preamps I'd tried. I had to head up to Brian's place anyway to get some work done on my bass so I checked it out while I was there. Suffice it to say that we were both very impressed by the preamp. We tried the Jazz plate version with a Fender MIM J bass. I was immediately impressed how the preamp could alter the general tone of the bass. It was not like any other preamp I had heard before where the tone of the bass stays as is with simple changes to certain frequencies. This is what piqued my interest as I was wondering if there could be a way to change some characteristics of my own bass. I than realized that through the three different pickup changes to my bass I had never thought to change the preamp…..so, I took the plunge. As a last ditch effort I installed the ACG preamp.

    The night that I installed it I had a gig. At the gig I immediately noticed that my bass reacted more quickly to what ever I would play. This was exactly what I had wanted. I moved around the knobs a bit to find a basic tone that was more akin to my sound. It didn’t take long and I was off. I had never been so happy with my bass. It gave me everything that I had hoped for from the beginning. My sound was now bigger, quicker and more dynamic (the Delano pickups helped as well but certainly were much more so with the new preamp).

    I’ve now had a few months with the ACG preamp. For my initial comments check out this link: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=299738&highlight=john+east+filter+preamp
    My main concern was whether I would be able to find different sounds on the fly and if I could, more importantly, find them again if I wanted. With some time now under my belt I can safely say that I can get any sound I’d want with this pre, and many more, in an instant. It’s not necessarily a one knob turn but I can find what I need very quickly. Bear in mind, I’m not someone who likes to use a lot of sounds live. I make minor changes here and there. I get most of the sounds that I need by using the pan knob and by changing my finger attack and hand position. However, I’ve found that making any changes that I need from the preamp is quick and intuitive.

    One other thing that I had mentioned in the other thread is that I was hesitant because of the price about buying the East knobs. Money well spent. These are a necessity as they have indicators that help you retrieve sounds on the fly.

    Last week I got to use my bass for a week long recording session. This is where I really got to use the preamp. Again, I made minor tweaks here and there but feel that I started to find the best parts of this preamp. I got many usable sounds. I was so happy with the end result. There were many reasons why but I certainly got the best sounds I’ve ever gotten on a recording. The preamp was a big part of the chain for me.

    I would love to see more people get a chance to try this preamp out. We’re all so used to a conventional 2 or 3 band preamp. I know that I personally thought that I’d miss having those known factors to adjust on the fly. I liked being able to boost the mids if I’d need or add some low end girth to the sound of my bass. I thought that I’d lose that with this preamp. I haven’t. While I certainly can’t make a lot of changes eq wise all at once, that’s not what I’ve done in the past anyhow. For me, if I have a great sounding bass to begin with (which I felt that I had when I put the Delano pickups in) than what I need from a preamp is to simply alter that tone slightly from center for different coloration. What I got from the ACG pre was exactly that, as well as a tighter sound, the ability to have more dramatic changes in the inherent tone than I’ve had before, as well as a new way to think about changing the sound of my bass. I consider all of these things to add up to an extremely useful tool that helps to express what ever I’d like at any given moment.

    I’m having a bass built to my specs this year and the one given that will transfer over to my next bass will be this ACG preamp.

    If you’d like more information on the preamp than go to http://www.acguitars.co.uk

    If you’re looking to get them in the States than go to http://www.bestbassgear.com
  2. Wraithwrider


    Nov 8, 2005
    Kendal UK
    I have ACG 02 pre's in both my Warmoth P and my Allparts J.

    I'm presently looking for an excuse to replace the Aguilar OBP-3 in my Lane Poor Modulus Flea with one :)

    I'd like to +1 with everything said so far and add that I find choosing my tone actually easier in practice.

    It's like the low pass filter control gives the tonal area I want, the resonant boost enhances it/fine tunes it and the treble controls fill in there if and exactly where I want it. Blend is a plus on top.

    More intuitive by far than cut/boost on bass, mid and treble imo.

  3. ErikP.Bass

    ErikP.Bass Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Thanks for the update. I am glad to hear the preamp is working out for you. It would have been a shame if you had to trade the comfort of the Ristola! :D
  4. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY

    Yes and yes, especially to the last comment. Now that I've had plenty of time with the preamp I'd have to agree.
  5. Hmm, if I don't like the tone of my new bass as much as I hope to then I'll probably make one of these my priority. I think I like the filter mentality much more than the usual EQ, esp this particular pre-amp. Rather than just boost x frequency, it retains all the lower frequencies but then you can still boost whichever frequency you want to "stop" at. So I can add lots of attack and growl with the high mids, but the awesome bottom end is retained. It just seems perfect for the tone I'm interested in.
  6. idler


    Oct 12, 2007
    I'm really interested in the ACG circuit - if I decide to build another Warmoth, it will probably have and ACG pre plus Q-Tuner pickups.....

    :help: trying not to get GAS again... :ninja:
  7. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    Just to clarify something that I had mentioned.....I had said that the East knobs were expensive. They normally come with the purchase of the preamp (you can choose the color). I had gotten the preamp from Brian to put into a bass that he had built for me. I had knobs from a previous preamp already so he sold me the preamp without them. I later realized that I needed the East knobs for the indicators so I bought them from Brian after the fact, which is when I realized that they're not cheap (inexpensive) knobs. I did find out that John East has them made for him and you just can't get them anywhere, which is why they are more expensive than your average knob. I wouldn't have known the difference if I had bought the preamp with the knobs originally, which seems to be the only way that you can buy the preamp anyhow.
  8. jgroh

    jgroh Supporting Member

    Sep 14, 2007
    I heard the soundclips Alan provided links to on another thread and I was blown away. I thought the preamp sounded awesome and I am definitely going to purchase one soon. :bassist:
  9. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    Nice. To any one who gets one, after spending some time with it be sure to add your thoughts. I'd love to get more people's impressions of this preamp.
  10. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
  11. I'm talking up the ACG preamps to anyone who'll listen, and that's only after the briefest of fumbles with Peter (wraithwriders)'s Warmoth P.

    Brilliant and innovative bit of technology from which you can squeeze out just about every bass sound you can imagine.

    I can't wait to have the disposable income free to start retro-fitting some of my stable.
  12. McSpunckle


    Feb 15, 2008
    I've read the info on these preamps, and it looks like exactly what I need. I've always stuck to passive systems because I didn't like 1) the basses they came in and 2) the fact that it was such a limited option.

  13. iloveloosey

    iloveloosey Guest

    Sep 9, 2000
    Just curious, do you think that since this is a filter-based preamp (ie, without boost) that the whole question of 9 volt vs. 18 volt power is irrelevant?

    Also, do you think that using the version of this preamp without the passive tone control and/or with single coil pickups would cause an appreciable problem with noise?
  14. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    I can't answer the first question, but as to the second...passive tone or no passive tone, you won't hear a noise difference. As far as single coil pickups, you'll only hear what those pickups will give you naturally. The preamp won't add more noise.
  15. iloveloosey

    iloveloosey Guest

    Sep 9, 2000
    Do you still think the passive tone control is a must-have?
  16. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    Honestly, I've been using my pickups in parallel mode (which is a first for me) and I wired something wrong where the tone doesn't work right in parallel. I've been too lazy to figure out what I did wrong. I'll just have Brian Ristola wire it more neatly than I did and have him fix it. With that said, I haven't found that I've been missing the tone knob at all. I did notice it to be very useful when I tried the preamp with a J bass. It did things that I'm just used to hearing with single coil pickups.
  17. rusty


    Mar 29, 2004
    Hey emjazz, would you happen to have clips of the recordings you did with the ACG preamp? :)
  18. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Bronx, NY
    I don't. They won't be available until next year.
  19. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    I can't say as far as 9 v. 18 volts in regards to this preamp (works fine for me as-is, that is the -01 which I still have). However, it is an active filter, and capable of boost -- it's a low-pass filter, meaning it cuts high frequencies as you turn it down. However, the Q control is capable of adding boost at the cutoff frequency - eg, making a higher "knee". I don't know how much boost - 6dB? maybe 9dB I think. So, that takes juice to do. But like I said, 9v is working fine for me.

    I just wish I had more time to play the dang thing! Unfortunately, bass-playing time has fallen by the wayside in recent months. :bawl: