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Is the DEMETER VTBP-201S Tube Bass Preamp a good buy?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by odins_bass, Mar 29, 2006.

  1. odins_bass


    Mar 29, 2006
    Santa Clarita
    Has anyone used or played through a VTBP-201S Tube Bass Preamp I am testing one out next week but wondered what people were thinking about it. Also wondering if it's a good choice for Rock and Roll...
  2. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    The Demeter is a wonderfuly clean, clean, sparkly pre-amp with almost no tone controls at all... So if your bass sounds good enough to rock through a direct box, you'll like the Demter.

    I had two, the old 1.5 ru style and the newer 1 ru style. They were both great but did not offer the tone shaping potential that I want in my rig.

    I prefer the Alembic F2B personally. If I were playing i a rock band and needed a rack pre my short lis would include the

    1. Ampeg SVT - CL pre (not 100% sure what the model number is but someone here will)

    2. Alembic F1X or F2B

    3. Ashdown RPM-1 although Ashdown reliability seems to be an open question. They sure do sound nice though ...

    There are probably other options out there but the Demeter would not be on my list.
  3. The Dem is a great preamp. I have been playing it for the past 3 weeks and at this point really like its tone with passive basses.

    First the button are not that intutive and strangely located (I mean strange like different). Then some flat eq settings are 12oclock some other are full counter cock wise and the push buttons don't really say clearly what is what (pushed vs not).
    The eq is minimal and kinda weird. I am having trouble to get use to that eq system.
    The description of passive eq but with boost, as well as the range specified isn't very clear to me. The manual is a one pager and it does not explains a lots of things anyway.
    Again, some time needed to get used to the whole thing.

    However the tone is excellent and very clean for what I am doing, and that's probably what your inquiring about.

    Don't play RnR so don't know if it's the tone you're looking for.
    The SVP-CL might suit you better. I own it as well and also really dig it. It is very different than the Dem though.
  4. Yes I have played through it....I've owned one for almost a year now.

    Yes - it's great for Rock and Roll...it gets gigged out for good 'ole Rock and Roll twice a month.
  5. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    The issue you're having with the EQ might be because the affect of the EQ on the 201 is so minimal. It is a fine sounding pre but tone shaping is so limited that you're forced to run either an active bass (L2K for instance) or external EQ if you want to do any real tone sculpting at all.

    To get some tone shaping ability I took that beautiful crystalline output through an external EQ. I tried Symetrix, Rane and DBX parametric's from my PA / Recording racks. The overall signal degraded to the point where I felt that something special that the Demeter offer's was lost. Try better EQ's? maybe but then we're getting spendy... those EQ's aren't all that bad.

    Maybe more color from my cabinets. I was running a Music Man 2x12, JBL 1x15 non tweeterd (which sounded the best overall to my ear), and a Bag End 2x10 with tweeter. Maybe a Bergie HT-322 would have sounded better but that isn't cheap either. I can get all of those cab's to sound good with some EQ, and I couldn't get enough out of the Demeter to find my sound there ... The Music Man in particular needed EQ work in the 1.8 to 2.4 k range (with my basses) that was not an option for me with the 201.

    When I went through my Demeter I kept thinking about the folks who buy Avalon U-5's and thinking, why not a 201 instead ? It's that good as a DI, recording interface IMO. It's just as a pre in my live rack where I was less than satisfied.

    If you really dig that crystal clear thing but want the EQ you can also consider - don't laugh - GK. I moved from the Demeter driving a Crown CE-1000 to the GK 1001 RB II. I figured that I would be giving up the clarity but also a whole lot of weight and for clarity's sake - I would go Radial DI and then look for a pre to add to my recording rack. I've done a bunch of tracks using the DI from the GK in my project studio and it is shockingly good. As a head in a live rack, the GK is light, powerful, flexible and in general really easy to live with. There has been a whole lot of rock played through GK heads. I do not miss the 60 lb rack, even for a moment... As a reference, that GK head was approx $100 more than I sold the last Demeter for...

    I emailed with Mr Demeter about the EQ thing and he basically said - you want EQ - buy my other model. The 201 is what it is... a very forthright reply. Having said all that, I will likely add a 201 into my recording rack at some point. It will essentially function as an active DI and it will do that in a stellar fashion.

    Your Mileage May Vary of course and it seems like a lot if us have to do the rack thing at least once. The GK isn't perfect. It doesn't go to 2 ohms for instance and that would be helpful for me. I may very well end up back in rack land at some point but I'll be ponying up big bux for a light weight power amp thing time ...
    cfsporn likes this.
  6. Joelc73

    Joelc73 Supporting Member

    Nov 13, 2000
    New York
    I've always thought the VTBP was an amazing value. If you like the sound of your bass you will love the VTBP. It yields a very accurate representation of what you put into it. It also includes a very high-quality DI that really add to the value proposition of that amp.

    If you need more tonal flexiblity you should check out the HBP. It has a similar voicing but with a very powerful fully parametric EQ.

    I hope that helps.
  7. Hank Stone

    Hank Stone

    Dec 17, 2010
    I used one in the studio once... I'm still on the fence... as for clean... yes.. adding grit to it we found not as good. One track with clean did impress me though.... I would use it again, although I wish it had more out-puts on the back. Reason why.. I like to run the signal through at the first stage,, split one to desk one to amp and one to another amp... all with the xlr outs...
  8. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    I've used both the 201 and the 201s for rock and roll for many years, though I don't have either one now. In my experience, they both added a wonderful bit of liveliness and sparkle to the sound. I was also able to get some growl out of them that worked great for rock, but I tend to be a fairly aggressive player so that probably makes a difference.

    As others have said, the EQ is fairly subtle. I did tend to make use of the 60/120Hz frequency switch on the bass control to go from cleaner/deeper (60Hz) to growlier (120Hz), but you're not going to do major tone-shaping with it.
  9. RS


    Aug 27, 2000
    Cleveland, OH
    Probably the best bass pre-amp, imo. I really, really like the tone of my basses so I don't need extreme EQ adjustments.
  10. Matt R

    Matt R Supporting Member

    Jun 5, 2007
    Newbury Park, Ca.
    If you like tone control that comes from your hands and not the knobs on the front of an amp, the DEMETER VTBP-201 is for you.

    If you are a player that relies on your playing technique for your sounds from soft to overdriven, the 201 will deliver whatever you give to it. Remember it's only the preamp section of the equation, if you are going to use it with a power amp the kind of power amp that you choose is crucial to your over all sound. If someone tells you that "power is power" they are being neglectful to many considerations. I bought 3 power amps before I found the amp that worked best for me. The current powered heads offered by Demeter are the best sounding IMHO. They have a ton of overhead and are extremely responsive.

    I used to use the DEMETER VTBP-201 with a Crest CA 6 then a CA 9 but the weight began to be ans issue.

    I bought the Demeter HB 600 in 2005. it performed beautifully and I used it exclusively until James modded my old DEMETER VTBP-201 with an 800D power mod. I LOVE IT!
    bassbooty likes this.
  11. The review above is spot-on. If your tone & sound comes from your HANDS, your FEEL...from YOU, it's ideal. The adjustments are subtle yet profound. If you rely on a lot of effects for your sound it may be too hi-fi for you, however. Try it first. I have the VTBP 201s in my rack. I'm a hard rock bassist and I LOVE it! I use it in conjunction with the power amp sections of 2 older Hartke HA5000 & HA7000 heads and it works beautiously for me. I say buy it, you'll love it!
    Big String likes this.
  12. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    One of the most memorable rigs I ever encountered as a back-line was the VTBP-201 paired with a Crest CA-6. The cabinet was a goliath II, and the instrument was a fretless '71 P-bass strung with TI flats. The band was "The High Rollers," a very fine blues band from the Bay Area I worked with in 2001-2004. The rig was the house amp at a blues bar in Mountain View, CA.

    As many have said, if you like the sound of your instrument, and likewise the coloration of your cabinet, you will dig the VTBP-201. After using it for an evening, I soon built a rig that got me the same sound with more features by finding a goliath II, a CA-6 power amp, and an ART tube channel—all used, and costing a total of about $875, not counting the rack.

    I eventually sold the cabinet but kept the racked pre- and power amp. Thus, I guess I must recommend trying the new iteration of the ART tube channel, the 2 RU model with 2 12-AX7s. If you find a used 1 RU version of the ART model 259, try it. I think they were made from 1998 to 2008, and are a good value pre that can sound like the Demeter, but also offer more EQ and compression.
  13. jdwhitak


    Mar 20, 2012
    Greenwood, IN
    I know the OP is asking about the Demeter, but I just bought two of the rack mount Tech 21 preamps. I think they are excellent. The OP can do what I did and still have money left over compared to the Demeter.
  14. Indeed, Tech 21 makes a fabulous preamp as well. I've heard the Avalon U5 is amazing also. I have not tried it myself, but I'd LOVE to hear it.
  15. superiorpine

    superiorpine Superiorpine Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2007
    Milwaukee WI
    I am using one (Demeter 201S) now with a Carvin power amp. It surpassed all three of my previous MarkBass heads, my Genz and my Eden 405. I don't find the tone controls lacking. I am able to get more texture and more detail from my playing with this rig. It simply feels more responsive and quick than the other amps I have tried, including the rock famous SVT.

    That said, it may not be for you. It doesn't have its own sound so much as it recognizes yours. If you have a sound in your head that is not from your bass, avoid this pre. Like the others above, if you want a rich representation of what you put in, this is the cats meow.
  16. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    My first a/b of the Dems was through a Berg IP which is known to expose preamp strengths and weaknesses. The VTB sounded like Motown in a box. Very colored. I loved it. Ended up with the HPB-1. My error. Because my live needs needed more of what the VTB had. The HPB-1 was too sterile and the eq could sound synthetic. I ended up with the Kern and HPB-1 in one rack. During my tone quest I'd switch between songs. I still chuckle years later that Tom B. called that excessive. :):) The mistake I'd made was to think that clean tone in a boutique shop was perfect. It was. Just not musical. The Kern won that round.

    So to the point the VTB can sound rich. Great for RnR.

    Everything I've written is only, only, my opinion, my hands, touch, ears, in my groups in front of my audiences. I do agree that there is a difference between a heavily eq'd pre and an open palate that allows your touch to make the tone. Different ways to make good music.
    woodyng2 likes this.
  17. mothra2

    mothra2 Supporting Member

    Dec 23, 2006
    Gotta say... GREAT mix of thorough responses here. Short of playing it yourself, excellent feedback.

    One thing to add, I believe the 201S is considered to be a bit mid shy by comparison to the 201 or VTBP.
  18. I had the thought today about mentioning the importance of your choice of tubes. The VTBP 201s takes 2. When I bought mine (used) it still had the original RCA tubes which went microphonic on me after a while. So, I re-tubed at first with JJ Tesla 12AX7's. They are excellent, but my ears found them to tend to sound kinda harsh in the high-register. So I got some PS-7025/Preferred Series 7025's from The Tube Store and I love 'em. I'm really into a hi-fi sound and total tonal control so I can have a growl when I need it and these 7025's deliver.
  19. bassballs27

    bassballs27 Supporting Member

    Aug 12, 2002
    Ontario, CANADA
    After playing a Demeter HBP-1 for about 3 months now, I can definitely say that this is one of the finest preamps I've ever used. So, I definitely second Joel's comment……the HBP might be worth a look for you too. The VTBP I'm sure is about as wicked…..just has an extra tube…..but the HBP-1 is more my thing. Extra fully parametric two band EQ (Low and Mid range…..what bass players need)

    In any event, if you can summon Mr. Tom Bowlus on here…..he had both the Aguilar DB680 and the Demeter HBP-1 at the same time. He no longer owns the DB680.
    The Aguilar has 4 extra tubes…..and basically does the same thing……and is out of production. The Demeter is still around and being produced today.
    You won't regret getting a Demeter if you like the sound of your bass!
  20. jreynolds2159


    Oct 10, 2012
    Burlington, NC
    Endorsing Artist: Schroeder Cabinets, GK Endorser.
    I have used almost every Preamp/ Power amp combo over the years looking for MY sound (the one I hear in my head). The VTBP-201 with a Stewart World 2.1 has really been impressing me for the last 3 months. My bass is a Sadowsky NYC Will Lee so I do have access to on-board eq which I do bump the bass a tick but I run the pre straight up at 12:00 on all controls.
    I have a question, the 201 I have now has micro switches under the tone controls used for shaping the EQ. I just bought a second pre as a spare because I tour a lot but it has rocker switches, not micros! Which pre is newer, or better?

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