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Bassdrive vs Xotic BB vs RC Booster vs Tone Hammer (my long review)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by afroman, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Well I got my Xotic BB Preamp this morning and decided to compare it to my RC Booster, Aguilar TH and to my recollection of my sold Bassdrive.

    Let me state that I have NO way of recording soundclips right now. I have a 1/4" to USB cable i use to record my bass ideas into Garageband, but when try to put a pedal in the signal chain it gets super hissy, so I'm sorry for this and for the long post:meh:

    Let's get started:

    RC Bass Booster:
    I completely adore this pedal. It has become my always ON pedal (along with my compressor). Takes your tone and just makes it hotter, louder, more present, more vibrant. Works perfectly for me since I only have passive basses. It is NOT the same as just turning your amp's volume up. This booster really adds something magical IMO to your sound, w/o changing it. It's still your exact same sound but with more punch and details just jump up. The EQ is very good and cutting is more effective than boosting. Bass knob is very powerful, treble is very clean; better than turning your bass tone knob down. Unity gain is at Volume full and Gain at 0. This is a pedal for CLEAN sounds, it will not give you any grit unless your clipping an all-tube amp's input. I've even used it for recording with great results.

    Fulltone Bassdrive Mosfet:
    Owned this for about 3 months and was very happy with it. Boost section had way too much gain when used in conjunction with the Overdrive section. Very versatile, classic TubeScreamer sound. Lots of options with the Comp-Cut, FM, Vintage modes and the Normal/Mosfet knob. I little bass loss can be noticed, but not while playing live. Great sound but I ended up selling it, looking for that sound in a smaller pedal.

    BB Preamp:
    Looking for the Bassdrive tone in a smaller package, I got one of these. It's exactly the Bassdrive sound, but better. Let me say that the Bassdrive is a great overdrive with lots of sounds and the Boost section gives you more uses from that pedal. But the BB just sounds more transparent and expressive. It looses no low end at all. It can become a little hissy when the Treble is boosted. When boosting Treble a bit, it nails the Bassdrive sound I used (FM/Mosfet mode).
    It does have a LOT of gain. Unity gain was Gain at 0 and Volume at about 3o'clock. In this setting it does have very very little grind compared to the always clean RC. With all knobs at noon, turning Gain between 9o'clock-noon gives you a great sounding overdrive w/o loosing your original bass tone. Turn it up more and it goes to all-out fuzz/distortion territory. Can't really replace the RC even at 0 Gain.

    Aguilar Tone Hammer:
    Like they say jack of all trades, master of none.
    As a preamp, I like the RC and BB pedals more. Setting the Tone Hammer flat preserves your sound, but in comparison, the Xotic pedals feel more transparent. The TH EQ is very powerful and useful specially to EQ your sound to fit a bad-sounding muddy stage/room. As many have already mentioned, the AGS lack of a volume knob is the real downfall of this unit. Because of this I use the TH just as an EQ pedal along with my RC Booster. Then for overdrive, I turn the RC off and the AGS On, to compensate for the volume boost of the AGS. It's a bit of a hassle but this is a very versatile pedal. I think of it more of an overdrive that you can EQ however you want or a good EQ with semi-para mids. Dislikes: Requires 18V, it's pretty big and the recessed jacks on top are hard to access. It does have a DI which is said to be good. It's a super versatile unit, that can work for clean, eq, overdrive and as a studio/live DI.

    So know I get to my never ending dilemma. I can't justify to keep these 3 pedals (RC, BB, TH). The RC is awesome and has become part of my tone. The BB is THE overdrive sound I was looking for in a small enclosure. The TH can do a lot of things well but is not better IMO at the specific task when comparing it to the RCs clean and the BB dirt. The TH can get fairly close to the RC and BB with moderate tweaking, but I just love simple things. So know I ask for some opinions here. I need to get rid of one of them and keep 2 pedals. Comments and questions welcome.

    Oh God, I'm nuts:rolleyes:
  2. scotch

    scotch It's not rocket science! Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2006
    Albany, NY USA
    Please see Profile for Endorsement disclosures
    good reviews & comparisons. Thanks!
  3. thanks for the review!

    I have some questions for the EQ on the RC boost. Are they boost and cut, cut only or boost only?

    Sound like boost and cut from your description.

    If so, are you able to get a mid-boost but cutting bass and treble and turning the vol up?
  4. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Yes, the EQ in both the RC and BB are cut/boost.
    You should get a "mid-boost" by cutting Bass & Treble as most people do with their SansAmp BDDI.
  5. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Did some more testing, altough via headphones. Most of these small details probably wouldn't be noted with my amp/cab.

    I tried to get the exact RC tone via the BB Preamp. Although I can get very close (with the BB gain at 0), the RC works a little magic in the mids that makes the bass sound better. The BB accentuates the high-mids a little bit more.

    I'd be happy with either the RC or the BB. The BB can get close to the RC and then go from grind to distortion. However, the RC's clean sound is unmatched.

    When matching the Tone Hammer's on/bypassed volume (Gain 9o'clock, EQ and Volume at noon,AGS off) to the volume of either the BB or RC I could get really good sounds. A little more attitude with BB+TH, and clean detailed punch with RC+TH. Because I had the TH Gain knob at 9o'clock, when I turned on the AGS the volume boost wasn't as much as before and since the RC or BB was now loading the TH's signal, I went from clean to very very nice overdrive.

    So now I'm thinking of getting rid of either the RC or BB and keeping the TH because of the EQ, DI and added versatility.

    RC is quieter and the BB is just a tad noisier. Keep in mind I'm actually boosting my bass signal with them, not using then at unity gain. So some noise should be expected, but it is very minimal. TH is dead quiet.
  6. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Thanks for that!
  7. Geh. If only the BB did total RC cleanness, then it would be THE pedal.
  8. dannybuoy


    Aug 3, 2005
    I think you should sell the BB... to me! But seriously, it sounds like you want to move on the Tone Hammer from your descriptions above.
  9. Rycebag

    Rycebag Supporting Member

    Feb 22, 2008
    ive been looking at this pedal because i use passive basses too. do you think it would be good for reggae? im lookling for it to just make the signal hotter as if i had an active bass.
  10. meekee73_2008


    Feb 20, 2009
    thanks man, you really made my day: i'm going to buy a BB preamp as soon as i can (not so easy find'em here in italy), i'm also an enthusiastic RC Booster owner so...

    but back again to the BB Preamp, in your review you say that, cranking the gain all the way up you're in fuzz territory and that's a really welcomed surprise for me since i've always thought that this pedal was a plain and simple not-so-hard overdrive

    thanks again

  11. Nikoubis


    May 3, 2007
    Athens, Greece
    Good thread. Many thanks.
  12. It's perfect for that. I've owned it for about 6 months, and I have to confirm everything he said. Super clean, great usability, almost perfectly transparent.

    The one clean boost I like better in terms of purity is the Barber Launch Pad because of its increased headroom (due to 24v internal consumption). But I also like the RC because of its size economy, and its EQ, which is incredibly usable, both for boost and cut.

    It's a super versatile pedal, I highly recommend it.
  13. I'll put up some RC Booster clips. :)
    zapped777 likes this.
  14. Nikoubis


    May 3, 2007
    Athens, Greece
    Maybe someone would be nice enough to add clips of the RC and BB to the wiki?
    zapped777 likes this.
  15. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    The BB goes from almost clean at 0 gain to heavy distortion at full, and everything in between.
  16. +1
  17. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Ok guys, this is the CLEAN sound comparo:

    Spent a couple of more hours with these 3 pedals, now via AG500 and DB112 cab (no headphones this time).

    I tried and was able to get the exact detailed and crisp sound that i love from the RC Bass Booster using both the BB and the TH solo.
    Here's how:

    My RC settings are: Volume full, Gain, Treble & Bass flat.

    BB: Volume 3o'clock, Gain 0, Treble 11o'clock, Bass flat.

    TH: everything flat and AGS on.

    With these settings the 3 pedals sound almost exactly the same and get a great clean, detailed articulate sound.

    Since the BB is a little brighter, cutting the Treble a bit helped in getting the RC's clean sound. The TH was very clean but only when I engaged the AGS with the mentioned settings I got the crispness of the RC.

    My heart is really into the Xotic pedals, small versatile and great quality. I have to give credit to the TH, it is bigger, needs 18V but if it had an AGS volume, it could probably replace both RC and BB in my pedalboard while also having a great EQ and DI capability.

    Overdrive comparo to come...:bassist:
    Crappy photos...
  18. Ryan Mohr

    Ryan Mohr

    Oct 23, 2007
    Interesting, thanks for taking the time for this review. This is how I think of these pedals.

    Xotic RC Booster: more of an EQ/tone shaper or a boost for passive basses, more akin
    to something like the Barber Linden EQ (interested in a comparison between the two) or an amp's EQ. These pedals are usually more transparent and vintage sounding.

    Tone Hammer: more of a preamp that you would have in your bass, like the OBP-3 it is based on or the Sadowsky preamp. These pedals are usually more "colored" and vintage sounding.

    I am interested in a comparison between the overdrive, or AGS circuit, on the Tone Hammer, the BB Preamp, and the Bass-Drive.

    Here's what I didn't get, why did you have to engage the AGS on the Tone Hammer to simulate the RC sound? I thought the RC was clean, wouldn't engaging the AGS make the Tone Hammer sound dirty, and thus more saturated and less crisp?
  19. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Austin, TX
    Let me add some more...
    While the AGS does at some saturation, with Gain flat or less, there's no apparent dirt or overdrive, unless you dig in really hard with your fingers. The RC just has a magical "sparkle" that I could only obtain by setting the TH all flat (w. AGS); even better with Gain 11o'clock and volume at 1o'clock on the TH.

    With some tweaking all of these 3 pedals can sound exactly the same in clean mode.


    Comparing the BB and TH w. AGS, i found that the TH is super versatile and by boosting high-mids and treble a bit, I could get very close to the BBs overdrive sound. The BB, however sounds more transparent and pure and is easier to get a great sound. While the Bassdrive is a great pedal, I'd recommend the BB or TH as a better option.

    I live in an old house with bad electricity, and the BB had a little hiss compared to the TH very quiet nature.

    Even when I can get super close to the RC clean sound and the BB overdrive with the TH, I'm still trying to decide which to keep and which to sell. The Xotic pedals just have a place in my heart. The TH can do it all with some tweaking and even when I don't use the DI or use it with a poweramp, I know that as soon as I get rid of it, I'm gonna find myself needing something along those uses.:rolleyes:

    I keep deciding over and over, keep the Xotics, sell the TH. Keep the TH and BB, sell the RC. Keep the TH and RC, sell the BB.

    I'm going nuts right now. With that said, it goes to show how great these pedals are. I'd be very happy with either of them, but now that I have all 3, I can't choose!!!
    Help me choose guys and keep asking any questions you may have.

    Again I apologize for not being able to post soundclips.
  20. seacouch


    Apr 21, 2005
    Seattle, WA
    FWIW, I'd recommend checking out the Radial Bassbone for comparison with the TH. It doesn't have the AGS, but it does have a lot of other useful features that make it much more useful for me. I love Aguilar gear, and I think the TH has some nice ideas, but for me it misses the mark.

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