Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Another Read Purity review

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Fuzzbass, Jun 6, 2004.


  1. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    The bad news: my #1 band had to cancel our Friday gig due to death in our singer's family. The good news: I got extra quality time A/B-ing my new Read Purity with my trusty old Alembic F2B. I also threw in a quick A/B/C with my Ampeg SVP-Pro... but that's a hairy old coconut compared with two mangoes (I mean that in a good way).

    Anyway, here's my test setup: MTD 535 strung with Hi Beams, onboard EQ kept flat. Stewart World 2.1 for power, and Bergantino HT115 to move air.

    Result: I am very blown away by the Purity... it is aptly named. I'm not saying the Purity blows away the F2B, but it is every bit as clear if not clearer, has much better tone shaping capability (see below), and more features (mute, master volume, tuner out, FX loop, hi/lo impedance switch for the input, and a DI with ground lift and level control).

    When I first started A/Bing (both set flat), the midrange clarity of the Purity jumped out. The Alembic sounded a little blurry. With the Purity, I could tell that the B string on my 535 was starting to go dead, just a leetle. I reduced bass and mids on my F2B and that cleared up the blurriness some, but even so the Read still has a certain extra clarity to it.

    At first I was disappointed in the bright switch of the Purity. It was nice, but had less boost and lacked the presence and "shimmer" of the F2B bright switch, which seems to be voiced higher (at 10k or so?). But then I realized the tweeter on my Berg was rolled way back because I typically use it for extra girth underneath my HT310. I goosed the tweeter a bit (still below flat) and the Read acquired that lovely tube shimmer whereas the Alembic got too bright. I'm sure the bright switch on the Alembic was designed for tweeterless cabinets. I still wish the Read bright switch was voiced a smidge higher but that's a very minor nitpick.

    I don't exactly know how to define clarity (except maybe "flat and not blurry"), but the Read has it. The Read also has an EQ defeat switch (all EQ except Emphasis and Bright is bypassed), and clarity actually does seem to improve when this switch is engaged.

    Note: this is not an "all else being equal" comparison between the F2B and Purity because of one detail: tubes. Jack is incredibly picky about his "standard" selection of tubes, and he also offers upgrades (Telefunken, cryogenically treated varieties, etc). My Purity has two of the "standard" tubes. I don't recall what's in my F2B; I just went with some inexpensive ones my tube amp tech recommended (less than $25 for two). So, it's very possible that a tube upgrade would increase the clarity of my F2B. (Also, I'm using the low impedance input setting on the Read... seems to sound a smidge better with my 535 but I can't explain how or why).

    Even if clarity were equal, I'll still keep my Purity. Reason? The EQ section! Now, I've spent a lot of time using the Read with EQ bypassed and Emphasis off, and it's absolutely marvelous. No guesswork involved about where "flat" is. But this is at home in my basement, sometimes soloed, sometimes playing along with RHCP's "Californication". :bassist: But at gigs, all bets are off: the real test will be dealing with eccentric acoustics. As noted I haven't gig-tested my Purity (got 2 gigs next Saturday, one outdoors and one indoors, and will report back then), but I can already tell that I'm going to be happier with the Purity.

    IMO the one weakness of the F2B is lack of tone shaping in the mids. The interactive tone controls can make wide sweeping changes, but if you need precision, forget about it. Now the Read isn't exactly a 31-band graphic (!) but it's really nice to have two mid controls and the Emphasis knob. The Low Mid knob is perfectly named... my guess is it's around 180 or 200 Hz; it gives really low growl and could be called the Phat knob. The High Mid IMO is more of a Mid Mid (600Hz, maybe?) but it's great for adding or removing chunkiness. Finally: the manual says that the Emphasis knob "allows you to boost a broad band of midrange and upper frequencies in order to cut through a loud mix, or to warm up the tone of a mid-shy instrument". I can't tell exactly how it works, but it does work as advertised! I've usually left it off here at home with my 535 (certainly no lack of mids with this bass) but it does sound cool and I can see how it would be very useful, especially in boomy rooms.

    Overall: the individual EQ controls have moderate but not radical cut and boost, but when used together, radical changes in tone can be achieved.

    Oh... the Read doesn't seem to get very dirty. I cranked gain and lowered master and didn't hear much overdrive. But that's fine, actually! I told Jack that I wanted cleanliness from my Purity (for dirt I'll use a BDDI or RBI) and he selected the tubes accordingly. Even so, I plan to find a higher output bass (or jack up the volume in my 535 pre) and will report back what happens.

    Final notes: construction of the Read is top notch... sturdy jacks and controls. It's deeper and heavier than my other preamps, even the SVP-Pro, but I don't care, I got class H power! The look is basic but functional... very nice logo. I prefer black faceplates on rack gear but so what, the Purity is prettier than my ancient F2B that has black faceplate and big red knobs and light blue rack ears. :eek:

    Whew, I didn't intend to be so wordy but what the heck. In conclusion: I've loved my Alembic for many years, and with the Purity I was, at minimum, hoping for the clarity and booty of the Alembic but with better tone shaping capability. I seem to have gotten that and more. Full disclosure: I have auditioned other nice tube preamps such as Aguilar and Demeter, but have never owned those, or even tried the Kern, so I cannot offer any opinion on how the Purity would compare to them. But the Alembic is a damn good pre so I feel this review is valid.
     
  2. Ericman197

    Ericman197

    Feb 23, 2004
    Iowa
    Sounds great... I just have two questions:

    1. I know the Purity can do hi-fi, but can it get that warm tubey goodness? I need something that'll sound fat, warm, and round. Can the Purity do that? I really liked the sound file of it on basstasters.com, but can it also achieve tones like the Kern?

    2. err I forgot
     
  3. vanselus

    vanselus

    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    None
    Yes, it can. The Purity is Hi-fi only if you're speaking of tight, controlled, and clear sound. It's also incredibly warm and tubey, more so than my DB680, but in a more controlled, less aggressive way. Much more on the order of F1-X and Kern than in the style of Demeter (which most people deem "hi-fi").

    Uhh... does that help?

    Fuzz - nice review, most of that paralleled my own Purity experiences. With the 535 and a Berg 1x15, I bet that sounds absolutely great!
     
  4. Ericman197

    Ericman197

    Feb 23, 2004
    Iowa
    Thanks, very helpful. I think I'll be adding a Purity to my wishlist :bassist:
     
  5. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    Bassist
    Ken,

    Nice review, keep us posted about the live gigs.
    By the way: The center frequencies of the EQ are 38, 150, 400, and 4000 Hz.

    Did yours come with a manual? mine came without papers.

    keep groooovin'
    Fran
     
  6. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Interesting. I did a lot of A/B'ing back and forth between my DB680 and Purity, and I felt the Aguilar was MORE warm and tubey than the Read. It was actually a big education, as I previously had thought the DB680 was a lot more transparent than it is. Of course, I know Jack selects tubes to try and get the sound you're after so that could well have just been a function of the tube in there.

    Ken and I were having some back and forth discussions on the Read a while ago, I described it as 'Kern with clarity'. That's an oversimplifying soundbite, I know, but it was my abiding impression. It has some thick mids, mine did anyway, but they're articulate and not woolly. Obivously the Read is a lot more versatile than the Kern.
     
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Before I forget: thanks VERY much to Fran, Todd, David, and others who have posted detailed reviews and otherwise offered opinions on the Purity. :)

    Fran: thanks for the center freqs of the tone knobs. That data is not listed in the owner's manual (5 pages or so) that now comes with the Purity.

    As for warm and tubey: the Purity is clear but also has that tube magic. Last night I experimented more with boosting gain and EQ and did notice mild overdrive... subtle, though, so I'd still classify it as "warmth". But as mentioned, I told Jack that I wanted clarity from his pre and he selected the tubes accordingly. Also, I have the internal output trim minimized on my 535, so it's not much hotter than my passive Fender RB5. I suspect that if I boost gain on the 535 the Purity will produce more overdrive... when I get around to trying that I'll let y'all know!
     
  8. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    Bassist
    you're welcome Ken,

    regarding the overdrive, my main basses are Lakland 4-94s. They have a slightly different version of the Bart pre that the MTDs use. I keep the internal trim pot at 50% (the Duncan alnico pickups in my Lakies are hotter than the standard Lakland barts) and I can overdrive the pre pretty hard. I never use it, but I can get it. In fact, the overdrive with the Read is much more controlable than the one I got out of the Aguilar DB659.

    I'll ask Jack about a copy of the manual. thanks.

    keep groooovin'
    Fran
     
  9. boogiebass

    boogiebass

    Aug 16, 2000
    Nice review, Ken. Thanx! :D
     
  10. inazone

    inazone

    Apr 20, 2003
    Colorado
    ditto!
     
  11. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    You're welcome, and thanks back at'cha both for your own gear reviews! [​IMG]



    Update: had a garage rehearsal tonight with a loud-ass drummer. I played my Fender RB5 through the Purity again into a Stewart World 2.1, but speaker cab this time was a Bergantino HT310. At first I got some noticeable distortion, but that was simply because I had the input switch set to low impedance. Once that was flipped to high, it was fun time! I started out with EQ bypassed and bright switch on, but eventually turned up the Emphasis knob for more midrange punch... the Bergie 3x10 was pushing some strong lows in that room. Then I started tweaking EQ to familiarize myself with it.

    Immediately apparent was the fact that I was getting a lot more wool. I suppose this was partly because I was using tens instead of the fifteen, but IMO it's mostly because the Fender RB5 happens to be a very wooly bass, especially in series mode. It was definitely a good kind of wool... mainly in the mids! The treble was very clean unless I cranked Gain and Emphasis way up.

    I'm still delighted with this pre. The EQ is incredible, exactly what I was looking for: two midrange knobs (low low mids and mid mids), and the Emphasis knob which boosts higher mids and some treble. I got the perfect 'pop' for RHCP's "Aeroplane". But it's easy to get huge lows out of this pre by flipping the Deep switch or boosting Bass.

    I'm dying to use the Purity with my Bergie NV610, but that cab is overkill for both gigs this Saturday so I'll just have to wait a couple more weeks. :( :p
     
  12. Ericman197

    Ericman197

    Feb 23, 2004
    Iowa
    Hmmm... overdrive? Perhaps I'm a bit confused with tone terms. When I say warm, I mean a very fat sounding clean tone like the Kern:

    http://www.basstasters.com/shootout2files/04_kern_sad_eq_finger.mp3

    That's what I'd define as warm, but perhaps I'm describing... wooly? I really like that tone, my only problem with it is the clarity... the mids are just a BIT too scooped... it sounds like the perfect tone for me, but with a thin blanket over the speakers :meh:
     
  13. vanselus

    vanselus

    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    None
    Then you'd like the Purity. Think of it as a shorn Kern.
     
  14. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Ok, three tests this weekend. All of them are the Purity going into a Stewart 2.1.

    Saturday afternoon: dock bar gig with my Fender RB5 strung with TI flats. Unfortunately the sound system was set up poorly (all kinds of bleed-through into the vocal mics) and acoustics at this gig are not good. Also, I could barely hear my bass because of the low-volume requirement. Not a valid test.

    Saturday evening: restaurant gig with my other Fender RB5 strung with LaBella Hard Rockin' Steels. I used Bergantino HT210/HT310 stack. The first set is low volume so I used the HT210 alone, then for the dance sets I brought in the HT310. In all cases the Purity really shone. I got the same kind of tube warmth that I get when running through a genuine all-tube rig. EQ remained very close to flat. I was digging it so much I played better. Turned out to be an excellent gig all around, but even if other things didn't go well I would've been pleased with my tone!

    Sunday afternoon: informal back-porch jam session at a friend's house party. I wanted to try the flatwound RB5 again. Cabinet was Bergantino HT210. This time the results were beautiful. I experimented with different settings, but cranking up the Emphasis control helped me blend best with the boomy drum kit. It also got me that groovy round 70's funky flatwound tone!

    All this rich tubeyness without excess distortion and no hum/noise... yeah, I guess you could say I'm still happy with the Read. :)
     
  15. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    P.S. As noted, the above tests were passive Fender. The next gigs I'll use MTD 535 and Modulus Q5!
     
  16. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    Bassist
    Ken, thanks and keep us posted about the following tests.


    By the way, I just got a copy of the manual from Jack and a couple of things confused me:
    1 - regarding the EQ: It says that the low mid and high mid eqs are flat with the knobs at 3 o'clock but then the boost would be minimal since the knobs go from 7 to 5. IMO this has to be a mistake, and it should read 12 o'clock. At least they sound flat to me at these point.

    2 - according to the manual, unless the Bright switch, the deep Switch is bypassed with the eq controls when the bypass switch is used and I think to remember that the deep switch can be used with the eq bypassed (I´ll check when I get home).

    keep groooovin'
    Fran
     
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Fran, I agree about the midrange flat settings... at least, seemed to me that with the mid knobs closer to 12 the EQ'd tone was closer to the non-EQ'd tone.

    On mine, the deep switch is bypassed along with the EQ. It's funny: I had the Purity set up before I found the manual. I remember a point where I thought there was a problem because I could hear the bright switch but not the deep switch... but that was because EQ was bypassed, and I had incorrectly assumed that if the bright switch was not bypassed then the deep switch would not be either. Anyway, the Purity has undergone at least one revision; I wonder if yours functions differently than mine.
     
  18. Fran Diaz

    Fran Diaz

    Mar 28, 2002
    Santander, Spain
    Bassist
    Ken, I've checked mine and it works as yours. I hadn't noticed it because I usually bypass the eq and don't use the deep or bright switches. It sounds so good that that way... :bassist:

    keep groooovin'
    Fran
     
  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Over the past week I've had chances with all three bands to give the Purity a workout: a fairly loud garage rehearsal and two gigs. I used my Fender RB5 strung with rounds, my RB5 strung with flats, and my MTD 535, respectively. I used a Bergantino HT310 cab, once with an HT210 on top.

    I experimented with EQ on and bypassed. I almost always left the Emphasis knob off... I figure that's my ace in the hole for boomy/muddy conditions. Also, I kept Gain down and Master up. I may experiment with more gain (and resulting overdrive, if any) later, but that's not why I got the Purity.

    I'm still totally happy. Response from the Purity is amazing. My basses sound natural and clean, but with that special harmonic richness that comes from tubes: this works beautifully with slap or fingerstyle, roundwounds or flatwounds, and with country, blues, funk/R&B, and classic and modern rock. At the Saturday night gig with my #1 band (R&B/blues/classic rock), I received compliments on my playing from bandmates and non-musicians. I don't think I played any better than usual... but if I did maybe it was because I was digging my tone. :bassist:

    Again, the MTD sounded slightly better with the input switched to low impedance. My passive Fenders definitely sound better on the high impedance setting (as expected). Clearly the impedance switch is useful. I also love the mute switch: very handy because I unplug my active basses between sets (before, I would unplug from the preamp before unplugging the bass). As noted before, EQ is just right. Sure, a sweep mid would be nice but that would involve adding ss components and I'd rather have an all-tube signal path.

    I still haven't used the Purity with my Berg NV610, but now that I'm well acquainted with the Purity I have no doubt the two will sound great together.

    Conclusion: as noted previously, I have limited experience with similarly-priced tube preamps... most of my experience is with the Alembic F2B... and of course tone is always subjective (and often dependent on other components in the signal chain). However I'm confident in my observation that the Read Purity is an extremely well-made preamp that offers warm, clear response and extremely low noise. Anyone shopping for a high-quality tube preamp for bass should definitely check one out if possible.
     
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Hey buddy, I know what you got (Alembic, Stew, Berg) and you're not hurting for tone one bit! But if you have the slightest doubt, contact Jack and talk tubes with him. As noted, Jack is incredibly selective about the tubes he will use in his Purity pre, and I'm sure he'll have some good recommendations for your F1X.