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BBE B-max or Tech 21 Sansamp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Robear22, Oct 8, 2004.

  1. Robear22

    Robear22 Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    Beach Park, Ill
    For those of you TBers that have either one I am considering changing my preamp to get a more solid sound. These two are what I have been looking at. I play a variety of styles including slap, fingerstyle, and every once in a while a pick. Which one in your opinions has the most versatility?
  2. I bought the BMax mostly because of the added adjustable mids. I thought it had more features except for no distortion which the Sansamp has. I have the Sansamp floor model already and never used the drive much to get distorted.

    I am quite satisfied, but from what I read, either one has a great reputation.
  3. i have not played either, but for features in one box, the bmax wins. the sansamp is designed to sound like a sansamp -- there are many reports that it has a scooped sound built in. of course, the bmax uses the fender tone circuit, which means the mids are cut only, whereas bass and treble start boosting somewhere around 3 (on 0-10, not 3 o'clock). so it's generally going to be fairly scooped, too.

    if it were my choice, i'd start with the bmax. you can always check it out at basstasters.

  4. Arranger


    Mar 9, 2003
    Here was my review of the BMax (standard SS model) - compared to the SansAmp Bass RBI:

    These are VERY different pre's. Each with its pros and cons. I started playing one, then was amazed by the other, then again vica versa, back and forth. I guess I'm stuck keeping both! I can now see myself collecting pre's for a variety of applications, but these two can certainly cover the breadth of most electric bass requirements and I don't expect to go shopping for a pre again at any foreseeable time.

    The RBI really impressed me from the start and I can see why it gets so much attention here at TalkBass. The first thing I noticed was how versatile it was. Nothing beats having so many output formats which can be utilized simultaneously. I can run the XLR to the board, the reg out to my rig and still get a pre-out for my tuner. The XLR and 1/4" out have seperate levels which offers a lot of contol and allows meshing of the board/house tone with your rig. The RBI also has a blend that allows unaffected signal to be blended with your unique EQ, for a wide variety of tones. This pre is useful for nearly any style. It has an intuitive layout and I could get to my tones nearly immediately, without the use of the manual.

    The BMax (SS version) also impressed me with its unique capabilities and tonal palate. It has a more pre-determined sound with highly sensitive controls that sweep across a narrower selection of tonal range, offering more deep control of its inherent overall tone. It took more time for me to discover the full variation of its sounds - but I wasn't left hunting for a lack of any. The BBE Sonic Maximizer is quite useful for pushing the presence without the requisite brightening inherent in other pre's. The manual was necessary to prime my understanding of it's controls.

    Other feature variations between the two are that the RBI has no compression, and less mid control, yet the RBI has overdrive. It's a nice overdrive if not pushed too far where it can be somewhat harsh. The RBI is less responsive to effects that are placed before it in the signal chain as pedals. The BMax has fewer outputs, yet the BMax has seperate active and passive inputs and a dedicated para-mid EQ section.

    Tone-wise the RBI is more open and "analog-ish." The tone seems more uncolored and pure. It seems better suited for jazz styles or acoustic accompaniment, but comparatively lacks the deep punch that modern heavy styles might require. It sounds fantastic in the studio. The full breadth of traditional 4-string tone is available for crafting. That tone comes through clearly and precisely and it is super clean. The mids and upper mids possess the majority of overtones. Intervals in the middle C range are exquisite and more sustained. The RBI does not react as quickly to rapid playing. It really does seem to lag just a hair, again in a more analog way, presenting a refined style that is softer and less bearing and easy on the listener. It also does not take effects placed before it and magnify them very much. I feel myself playing more heavily and trying to isolate my notes more when using the RBI on heavier material.

    The Bmax dresses the tone in an incredible way and could easily be labeled as a definative tone in more pop/modern music circles. It is a must-have in my mind for any industrial, grunge, or similarly heavy musical style. There is just gobs of bass control and tons of harmonics in the lower mid and deep bass registers. Intervals on the lowest strings, an octave or two lower than the RBI, are super rich with maximum sustain. I bet this thing really does WOW the crowds and fellow players if you want to stand out in a heavy band. The BMax responds to effects placed before it very strongly, enhancing those effects (pedals) to the max. It also seems to isolate notes faster in rapid playing, as if it processes more digitally. You'd have to lighten up in your playing style considerably to play old Beatles with the BMax.

    If I had to pick one, AHHHH! How do you choose? I wouldn't say the RBI is more musical, but if I was playing along with an orchestra, I'd carry the RBI into the performance. For a night in a bar playing rock, or jammin with a synth guru, or a heavy drummer who is miced up irreverently, the BMax would help the bass stay more up front in the mix. In the studio, these two would be a very complementary pair of pre's to cover the variety of sounds that players would like to have at their fingertips. It is possible with careful tweaking to get these two preamps to sound almost alike, and that seems to be in the flatter settings. I think that's a good thing, leading me to believe that they both have wide capabilities.

    These two pre's are superb values for what I paid. I'm keeping both. For the time being, I'll use the RBI in my studio to keep my recordings free of coloration, and as a stage backup. The BMax will go out the door with me to the local pub to play with my rock/blues troupe and offer a refreshing change of palate in specific recording circumstances.
  5. ster


    Oct 18, 2003
    New Jersey
    The RBI is WAY more versatile. There is a much broader array of sounds you can get. I felt the Bmax sounded great but the tones didn't vary that much (to me). Don't forget that you can blend in the Sansamp sound(tube emulation) to as much or as little as you want or bypass it all together. From total SS sound to warm tubish sounds with very controllable distortion. Plus the connection possiblities are amazing. The Bmax connections features don't even come close. The RBI(or RPM) can be used as a preamp, an effects unit,or an eq. You could also add another RBI or RPM for channel switching. Another cool feature is that you can control the volume of the XLR out independantly from your main volume. Maybe you should also check out the RPM!
  6. cgworkman


    May 14, 2004
    I've used them both. Right now I'm using the RBI. I returned the BBE after about a month. The BBE has a (in MHO) certain artifical "tone". My basses just didn't sound natural. Plus the input is so sensitive that the slightest bump in gain and it goes through the roof.

    Both are very clean. Both are built well. I think the RBI has a more natural sound - but I also believe it can sound like the BBE also if you want it. Of course, that's probably true about the BBE... or maybe not.

    Order one of each from Musician's Friend and demo them both for 45 days. Keep the one you like.

  7. not to hijack your thread but....

    i play blues/rock and i have heard that the bbe sounds absolutly great for stuff like that, but hearing all these things about teh gain and stuff on the bbe, im not sure.

    i do know that geddy lee uses teh rbi and i absolutly hate his tone..... and i have heard that the bass player in the band terror uses it and i hate his tone to....
    could i get the rbi to sound clean have good controlable mids and be good for blues?
  8. cgworkman


    May 14, 2004
    Yes, of course. The RBI can be very dirty or extremely clean. It's up to you.

    You mentioned Geddy Lee - Most of his sound comes from his fingers anyway...
  9. I'm pretty fond of my BMax. I've got a Sansamp BDDI as well. The two preamps sound pretty different from each other. I would put the BMax in the "Gallien Krueger" school of tone... very quick response (noticeably faster than the Sansamp... it is warmer than a GK, though. Fast passages that would blend together on the Sansamp have more individual note definition on the BMax). The BMax has huge, thick lows, and I think it is better suited to extended-range bass player looking for a modern tone than the Sansamp, which, to my ears, doesn't deliver as well as the BMax below low E.
  10. ster


    Oct 18, 2003
    New Jersey
    The Bmax would be great for blues. I have had that same "problem" with the gain, in fact I let someone borrow my rig for an open mic at the local pub and they put the gain at 12:00 and they creased my speakers in my Acme low B2 which are known for handling great amounts of power. You just need to be careful with that gain knob at higher volumes. The RBI would be great too and you can get a nice Jack Bruce sound to boot.
  11. Robear22

    Robear22 Supporting Member

    Sep 28, 2004
    Beach Park, Ill
    So from what you guys are telling me, the BBE seems to be more of a modern thing while the RBI is smoother and more analog feeling. But does not having the compression make a difference?
  12. orskard


    Mar 17, 2004

    i thought the BBE was more of a bass tone, like old tube amps. not the other way around.

    am i right...too??

  13. Arranger


    Mar 9, 2003
    You got it. BBE modern, RBI classic/vintage/analog/however you want to say it. Not that the RBI can't do modern, just that the BBE is built for it and has gobs of low down sound. Remember, though, that the BBE can't do everything that the RBI can. The RBI is craftier in the mid-ranges.

    The BBE has compression and BBE's sonic maximizer to add to the fun and they both work very well. I think the compression makes a big difference. This is the first built-in compressor that I didn't need circumvent and just put my Carl Martin compressor in its place.

    You really need to check it out. Even if it does not suit your every need, it is very versatile and economical ($225 from http://northernsound.net/Sales/processing/micpres/bbe/micpre.html ), and even if you go on to another pre later, you will continue to enjoy and get great use from the BBE over time and as a spare or backup.
  14. PolkaHero

    PolkaHero Supporting Member

    Jan 5, 2002

    You're probably thinking of the tube version, the BMAX-T.
  15. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Yeah, yeah. So let's hear how he does with just his fingers and no amp to an arena filled with 10,000 people.
  16. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    i can't say i've heard either but............
    from what i understand the bbe uses the fender interactive tone circuit found on the alembic f-1x, (and supposedly sounds similar), and the sans amp sounds quite similar to the di version of the sans amp.
    Having an alembic and a BDDI i can say that the bbe should have more clean tonal variety once you get used to the unique function of the eq. The sans amp should be "softer" sounding with a certain sound that's hard to get rid of, but that you might like, and of course it is capable of an OD sound. Because i run my BDDI in front of my alembic i'm able to get a bit of both. I'd agree with previous posts that you'll probably find that you like both equally well, but for different reasons.
  17. cgworkman


    May 14, 2004
    Please stop, you're hurting my feelings here... :bawl: ;)

    Plus, what you just said has nothing to do with my original comment.
  18. This is my experience exactly. I also returned the BBE. My RBI gets many compliments from players and especially soundmen. But what really matters is I love it. The BBE was not transparent enough for me and I dig the OD on the RBI for a little grind.

  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    On that note: doesn't the SS BMAX have boost-cut EQ across the board (as opposed to cut-only mid) or am I mistaken?
  20. Both of them have a parametric mid control that offers boost and cut between 250 and 1000hz. So there are two mid controls.. the one that is cut-only, and the para mid control as well.