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Aguilar DB659 vs. DB680

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jnprather, Sep 27, 2005.

  1. Hey guys,

    I'm looking shortly to switch from my SWR rig to a pre/power setup with one of the Aguilar preamps and i'm looking for any input regarding tone differences between the two. I haven't been able to get ahold of either one to try them but I have played through the DB 750 and absolutely loved it. I got a great deal on a used Poweramp though so either the DB 659 or 680 will have to fit the bill. There is tons of feedback on them here on TB but very little directly comparing the two.

    It looks like the DB680 has a ton of cool features that the DB659 doesn't, however I have little or no use for them. Alot of those features are on my current head (SM-900) but don't get any use.

    Basically, to me it boils down to whether or not the DB659 has the same quality basic tone as the DB680. I suspect that it does, and the extra $$$/rackspace are for the all of the neat features it has (not related to the basic tone). At any rate, i'd like to hear any advice/feedback from those who have played with/owned both whether they feel that is the case as well. Thanks in advance,

  2. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    search is your friend.
  3. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Actually, each has its own tonal character. With everything set "flat", you can easily tell them apart, so it's not like the 680 is just a 659 with more features. They layout of the preamp itself is quite different. Here are some shots of the interiors of my 659 and 680.

    DB 659:

    DB 680:


    As for their tonal differences, the 680 sounds more pure and sweet - like your instrument, but with some tube sheen/polish. It isn't necessarily transparent, in that I feel it does add some pleasing "tube" coloration (slightly warmer, more harmonically rich, somewhat "3D" sounding). But it does let the individual characteristics of your instrument shine through. But I, for one, have not been able to dial in a truly overdriven (or even a useable gritty/growly) tone with my 680.

    As for the 659, it does the grit/growl thing quite well (though it doesn't do an over the top overdrive), and in general, it has a more throaty, thick tone than the 680. With some tubes (Sovteks), I find the mids to be a tad too wooly for my liking. But, the 659 really responds to tube changes (moreso than the 680, IME), and with a pair of NOS Telefunkens (ribbed plate), the midrange really became much more tight, open, and just more musical. You can certainly dial in some good clean tones (though perhaps not as wide a range of killer clean tones as the 680), but I find that the 659 really excels at that slightly gritty/growly, full throaty tone BUT with exceptional articulation and clarity. The mids are where these two preamps vary the most.

    I'm actually a fan of both of them. But in my eyes, they're different horses for different courses, not just "Aguilar Tube Preamp" and "Aguilar Tube Preamp Lite." Yes, the 680 has some very useful features (the two full parametric EQ's are really nice), but the 659 packs some nice features, too. I especially like how its effects loop was implemented.

    I wish I could give you a more useful A/B/C between these two preamps and the 750, but my experience with the 750 is rather limited, so I don't feel comfortable doing so. What tone are you after?

    Hope this helps, Tom.
    Snaxster likes this.
  4. kjones


    Dec 4, 2004
    Just as Tom can help you with experience in two of the three, so can I, except my experience is with the 680 and the 750.

    Tom has nailed the 680, classy, refined, and tubey, but in a smooth way. More of a roundness than anything else. If you liked the 750, I can tell you it's completely different. The 750 is rougher, more aggressive, but still round and full. There's a hugeness and an explosiveness with the 750, not to mention its headroom. I can't say for sure, because I don't think you've mentioned what you intend to use for power, but even with, say, a 728, you're unlikely to get to a 750 sound using the 680. I loved mine in the studio, but I got rid of my 680, because it was just a little to polite for my live sound. I got a 750 and haven't looked back. I've used the pre DI (which is a Jensen transformer, apparently) and just let the engineer EQ my direct sound.
  5. Hence:

  6. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    The DB659 (with the right tubes and the right power amp) will get you closer to the DB750 sound than the DB680 will.

    Won't sound exactly the same, but not too far off.
  7. Thanks for the replies guys, much appreciated...

    FYI, the power amp i'm getting is barely-used QSC RMX 1450. If I stick with the pre/power setup it's likely i'll upgrade the power amp sometime down the road but i'm getting it from a friend for peanuts so buying a higher-end power amp or combo-head doesn't seem too practical right now. Other than the heavy weight people seem to be pretty happy with their RMX-series amps so i'm sure it will be fine.

    As for the tone I am looking for, let me say that i've been using SWR gear for years and have always liked the relatively clean/crisp sound of my Warwick Thumb through SWR gear. I almost never liked tube crunch/dirt/grit whatever you like to call it and felt that I got plenty of that straight from my bass. That is *until* I started hearing clips of Aguilar gear, which was the first time I ever fell in love with a dirtier sound of any kind.

    The few times I have been to the Aguilar dealer near me the only thing they had that I could play through was the DB750, which I absolutely loved. I was worried that the sound of a Warwick through an Aggie might almost be too cluttered but it wasn't, it was great. Of course, with me getting ahold of the above power amp at a good deal, getting a DB750 doesn't really seem practical so i've been looking at the 658 and 680.

    I should have figured that the 'basic' tone would be quite a bit different between the two, so thanks for your feedback. As I said, the tone I got from the 750 was spectacular, I really don't think I would *miss* having the versatility of the DB680, so the 659 might do me just fine.

    At any rate, I won't really know that until i've had a chance to play with both preamps and go through the different tones of the 680 to see if they're really needed by me. So, again, thanks for the replies, they were very useful.

  8. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    Tom is dead on (of course). If you are lookin for more grit and growl the 659 is definitely the way to go. If you are using the 728 or the demeter, I would get the 680 if not I would get the 659
  9. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL

    considering how ubiqutious the word "aguilar" and those two pre's are around here, i'm sorta surprised by that, hence my comment. but, i'd hope that www.basstasters.com would have showed up somewhere in your "research". ;)
  10. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I was going to mention that, too, but apparently Todd's having some issues with the site right now. :meh:

  11. Same here. I actually wrote something in my original post about basstasters but removed it when I noticed it was no longer working. What I would have said was that I checked all of those clips (it was working several days ago) but that the results re: comparison between the two were kind of ambiguous. Alot of the time they would have an almost identical tone, sometimes there would be a huge difference. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it.

    And I searched this forum extensively for a couple days (and BGRA.net) but like I said there was almost nothing directly comparing the two. There was tons of feedback regarding one or the other (usually, I own/tried one or the two and I love it!), but nothing really speaking of the differences in tone between the two. So, I thought it was worth its own thread..

  12. jsbarber


    Jun 7, 2005
    San Diego
    After reading this thread, and your comments - why don't you just get a DB750? It sounds like you really like it. The cost of a 750 is not THAT much more than the 680 you're considering, and you won't need the power amp you're getting from your friend. If you really dig it, why look to replicate it through another setup?


  13. Poon


    May 20, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I think he expressed that he didn't want to deal with the weight, but I'll mention this as I've A/B/C'd all of them. I've owned the 659 and still use the 680 in my big touring rig. If you really love the tone of the 750, it doesn't weigh too much more than a 680 and a good power amp. I think my DB680 and my Crest CA9 actually weigh more than what a DB750 would weigh...
    I think tone is subjective, and I really love the 680. I didn't like the sound of the 659 as much as the 680, although the 659 is no slouche. To me, the 680 and the CA9 together are worth the 16 space ATA road case (around 300 lbs i bet)
  14. Big String

    Big String Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2000
    Northwest Indiana
    I've been using DB750 (thanks Joel) for a short while now and I'm really loving it. Stationed in the right case it's very managable, more so that my wonderful CA9/Demeter201s rig. The weight isn't that much less but in the Gator Shallow Rack case it's weight is distributed quite nicely and it's worth having to take ALL the cords off and stow them each time you pack it up. That used to bug me alot but it's worth it. Some here like the rack bag but I think the amps too heavy for a cloth/wood case. I much prefer the heavier stuff in a SKB or in my case the not as durable Gator. But I'm not touring and handle my own gear so it's perfect. I've not tried a 680 and only tried a 659 in a shop one time. I'm a clean hear your bass kinda guy too (ala my WWU and Demeter) but the 750 even with it's appereant character is clean enough for me especially live. My Sadowskys sound great through any of my amps or cabs - Accugroove or Bergantino. Good Luck.
  15. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    IMHO, the 750 is a whole other beast to the preamps, and at least w/ my findings, i have yet to find a preamp / poweramp setup even within the Aguilar family that can replicate the 750 sound.

    has sooooooooo much to do w/ that fantastically engineered power section, which adds a level of voicing no other combo can touch.
  16. Yep. I love my DB680 especially when paired with the DB728, but the massive headroom of the DB750 is exactly as jokerjkny describes.

    On the weight issue I found a final solution... racking the DB750 in an SKB roto-rack (I hate those friggin' things with a passion). Actually it distributes the weight very nicely and is a convenient and well-balanced two-handed load-in or out. That made a enough of a difference that I don't sweat the weight any longer. Recommended.
  17. Great stuff guys, thanks for the replies.

    Regarding the DB750 Weight/Cost, weight is not an issue, cost certainly is. Like I said, after coming by a decent power amp for a great price I decided to take a look at the 659 and 680 preamps instead of the 750. If the 659 does give me what i'm looking for then it would be significantly less expensive than a 750 or 680.

    At any rate, I appreciate the responses. I have a feeling that the 659 may still suit my needs, but I will definately need to find one, play through it, and make sure it does. If not, I can look at the 680 (or other manufacturers) or revamp my plans and go after the 750. Thanks again,

  18. Sorry John... I do seem to have this tendency to wander slightly off-topic. To respond directly to your original question, one of the reasons that I chose the DB680 over the DB659 was it's clarity and versatility. Personally I found that the DB659 mids had a tendency to get just a little bit "wooly" (here we go with the descriptive adjectives again), but if you're looking for a bit more grit/growl as Tom suggests then it might be the way to go.
  19. Poon


    May 20, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    +100 agreed. :)
  20. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    Re-tubing can help with that quite a bit.

    Here's a tombowlus post regarding just this issue.