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BBE-Max-T Review

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CaptainWally, Apr 2, 2004.

  1. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    Background: I've been checking out preamps lately. I played through an Aggie 659 for a couple years, and recently switched to the Alembic F-1X (which I still own). I have been having trouble hearing myself at rehearsal due to the scooped, buttery sounds of the Alembic not cutting through (shy mids). I posted asking for input on the issue, and DJNylonpants (product mgr. of BBE-Max-T) popped up promoting the BBE. I bought one.

    Here is my short review:

    * fit and finish: 8 - Looks sharp, solid casing, no wall-wart, logical layout, minor quibble: knobs are kind of sticky - from glue of red things?

    * featues: 9 - EQ + para mids + mid boost + compressor + bright + BBE maximizer = lots of features! I'd give it a 10 if it had a mute switch.

    * sound: ? - Ok, so this is what really matters. I've only had a chance to check it out in the living room, so that's why I rate it a ?. My new mantra is that what sounds good in the living room doesn't always translate to the gig. That being said, the BBE-Max-T does sound good in the living room. Compared to the Aguilar 659 and Alembic, it's more transparent sounding. The Aggie had very distinctive heavy mids, and the Alembic is very tubey, buttery, and scooped while the BBE sounds more neutral. It's also "faster" - I heard DJ say that, but I didn't know what he meant until I heard it. The transient attack is just "faster" - a more immediate response from plucking a note. The BBE does seem quiet - no unwanted noise/hiss. One thing I noted is that while this thing has solid lows, I was expecting *crazy* lows, but I actually think the Alembic has the slight edge here. I played with the features: compressor, mid/para boost, and the maximizer, and they all do a good job at their respective functions. I can definitely see the potential for real use. But again, it all comes down to the gig. To be honest, I think the Alembic is the better sounding preamp in the living room, but what good is that if you can't hear yourself at the gig? I can already tell the BBE will be easier to hear (stronger mids), but we'll see how's it's other characteristics translate to supporting loud guitar and drums.

    Overall, I say --- well done! Seems like a really solid piece of gear. I'll post the final verdict after a rehearsal.
  2. Adam Barkley

    Adam Barkley Mayday!

    Aug 26, 2003
    Jackson, MS
    Good Review

    P.S. Anybody want to review the regular BBE MAx (no tube preamp)?
  3. 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.
  4. judd levison

    judd levison

    Jun 2, 2003
    thanks guys.

    captain, please let me know your thoughts after your rehearsals and gigs.

    the solid-state BMAX is even "faster".

  5. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I'm thinking of picking one of these up to run my EUB thru...any comments regarding that ?
  6. judd levison

    judd levison

    Jun 2, 2003
    jazz or rockabilly?
  7. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    jazz and other improv stuff. arco and pizz
  8. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    If you can find one, the ART Tube Channel is a somewhat less colored pre than either the RBI or the BBE. Compressor is very smooth and the EQ is way more flexible with 2 overlapping, fully parametric bands of mid and high and lo shelving controls with selectable freq's. Very flexible signal routing and outputs as well. A really good sounding pre. My only bitch? rear panel i/o, so I'll have to fabricate a 1 space rack panel for the input. I think you'd be knocked out with your EUB through the ART. Used from the Bay in the $175 to $200 range.

    If you are anywhere nearby we should arrange a demo.
  9. White_Knight


    Mar 19, 2000
    I have a review of mine (BBE BMax) in the reviews section (with reference to the above request).

    Here's a question: does anyone know if plugging an XLR cable running phantom power into the BMax (or BMax-T for that matter) is a problem?
  10. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    I use the ART Tube Channel. It's everything 4Mal says it is and I really do like it, but I still want to try a Bmax, mostly because I also run a BBE 362 and I'd like to lighten my rack as much as possible so combining the enhancer and pre into 1 unit appeals to me. I run the ART eq flat, so while 2 fully parametric bands are very cool, flat is flat. To get around the rear panel I/O, I just leave the cables plugged in and coil them up and store them in the extra space in my rack.

  11. judd levison

    judd levison

    Jun 2, 2003
    Howdy Knight,

    The answer to your phantom power question is that it is not a problem. The DI outputs don't care if there is phantom power there.

    good luck!
  12. judd levison

    judd levison

    Jun 2, 2003
    Hi Don,

    The reason I asked about your style of playing is because the warmth of the BMAX really doesn't lend itself very well to harder edged, more percussive styles of upright playing, like rock or rockabilly.

    But for jazz I think the BMAX, and the BMAX-T, would be a really nice choice. I think the low-end of your arco playing will warm the socks off of you and your pizz playing will have a very mellow edge.

    That's my two-cents. If you check one out, please let me know your results and thoughts.

    Good luck!

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