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Most Clear/3D bass tube direct box/preamp

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Samuel Segarra, Jan 11, 2021.

  1. Samuel Segarra

    Samuel Segarra

    Jan 8, 2021
    Dear fellow bassists,

    I am looking for a way to record my passive bass direct. Here is my situation:

    I have a passive bass with flatwound strings. Since flatwounds are pretty light on high-mids, I want a DI/pre that has a very high amount of clarity so one can really hear the dimensionality of the string. I assume this would mean a high input impedance of the DI/pre. I also want a tube DI/pre, since I often find solid state DIs harsh and brittle-sounding and love an extra touch of second harmonic.

    I say DI/pre because I do have a Fearn VT-1 preamp, but would like to keep that free for my vocals when recording if possible, therefore it would have to be a DI/pre combo(so I can get a line level signal without having to plug it into a mic pre).

    The options I am currently considering are the Useful Arts BF-S(I have only heard samples with active basses - totally different thing), Noble Pre/DI(though I am skeptical of the passive DI part), Groove Tubes Brick, and Demeter VTBP-201(skeptical of the B+ power supply).

    Options that are pretty much off the table in this case are REDDI(much too colored), Evil Twin(don't like the midrange).

    I am open for absolutely anything. If it would in fact be better to just plug a DI without a preamp section into a mic pre, let me know why!

    Thanks so much,

  2. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Your descriptors seem a bit at odds with each other (clear, which I would take as transparent, adding upper mids and 2nd order harmonics, yet later you say something is too colored, which is precisely what adding upper mids and 2nd order harmonics provides, i.e. color...). That said, the Noble is a quality piece of equipment, as is the Groove Tubes Brick albeit a discontinued one that you'd have to find used. Don't sweat the Demeter's power supply. James doesn't build anything that's not high quality and clarity is definitely one of the adjectives you hear about when people describe his preamps. I also wouldn't write-off anything specifically because it's solid state, as not all solid state is harsh, and not all tube is free from harshness. A 1073 (solid state) is likely to sound smoother and less harsh than something like an ART TubeOpto8 (tube).

    Have you looked at the offerings from Sebatron? They make a line of tube preamps (they call them valve preamps since they're an Australian company) that sound very nice. I've not tried them in person, but they get reviewed well and on paper a VMP or AXIS seems to fit the bill for what you're after given the price point of some of the things you've listed.
  3. Samuel Segarra

    Samuel Segarra

    Jan 8, 2021
    Thanks for your reply!

    Yeah, I can understand what you mean by my descriptors being potentially confusing. Some clarification:

    What I mean by "clean" is a perfectly flat frequency response(within 1-2 db) and the most low level detail possible. A super high-fidelity sound. I don't mean a boosted upper midrange, though that is what many people think of when they read that. Transparency is a good synonym. I find 2nd order harmonics actually helpful in this, since they just boost the fundamental and give a pretty sober representation of the sound, even helping with hearing the more fine details of the instrument(or voice). But, of course, some purists don't want any
    added harmonics, so fair enough.

    When I say I find solid states circuits often harsh, I mean that when comparing the upper echelons of both tube and solid state gear, respectively(e.g. Neve 1073 vs Fearn VT-1, SSL console vs Universal Audio console, Avalon U5 vs Noble DI, etc.). I mean single ended tube devices vs solid state devices, really. It's mostly in the transients, which can barely be heard on many playback systems anyway(since the response time isn't quick enough). So the difference is negligible, really, it's just my personal taste here.

    Really I want a bell-like clarity in the attack of the bass without harshness, if anybody can picture that.

    Last edited: Jan 12, 2021
  4. Frank Tuesday

    Frank Tuesday

    Jul 11, 2008
    Austin, TX
    Look at the Restrospec Juice Box. It's a Class A, tube DI without an output transformer. I've got it (and it's cousin the Squeeze Box, which has an optical compressor) and it's great.

    Somewhere, there is a video of Tony Levin trying out a bunch of DIs, and the Juice Box was one of his favorites that day. I can't find the full video, but here is a teaser with links to clips.
    DarnellBass likes this.
  5. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    I sure love my REDDI but it is colored - but I like it.
    An oldie but a goodie - Avalon U5. Almost sounds like a tube to many, and is a tried and true DI for the studio and on the road.
    Samuel Segarra likes this.
  6. Samuel Segarra

    Samuel Segarra

    Jan 8, 2021
    Cool, seems like an interesting candidate, I'll check that out!

    Do you ever get the feeling your Juice Box sounds somewhat distant, not as up-close in detail? I get that feeling from a lot of transformerless gear.
  7. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I've owned two and I would not say that they sound tube'y (tube'like? tube'ish?), but I would say that they sound REALLY nice and manage to bring out a lot of detail in what's plugging into them. I wouldn't mind having one again if I had space in the studio rack for more stuff.
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    Eastern North Dakota
    Tubey might be the wrong word. Warm. Not solid state. I know a lot of people thought there was a tube in there. I sometime kick around getting one again but I’ve got my REDDI that I like now so...
  9. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    Definitely warm, but the sparkly detail is what always made me love the U5. Something about that thing is absolutely magical in how smoothly it presents upper midrange and higher frequencies without being harsh at all. Even when the tone selector is bypassed it just makes things sound better (different would be more accurate). I suspect people thought it had a tube or multiple tubes based entirely on the size of the box :p
    SteveC likes this.
  10. Ken Morgan

    Ken Morgan

    Jun 14, 2014
    Midland, TX
    It’s an old unit, but the Mindprint Envoice is a really versatile pre...has a 3 band EQ, compression, and front panel 1/4” input. I’ve used mine for bass guitar, di electric, even DI piezos from acoustic guitars all sound petty dang good.
  11. Geri O

    Geri O

    Sep 6, 2013
    Florence, MS
    “Flatwound strings” and “sparkly detail” isn’t something I expected to see in the same sentence. But that’s fine, I imagine it’s possible.

    I go for a bright, round wound Marcus Miller-style tone. I have my bass set up for that style and I found that for me, a REDDI is perfect for me. Bright, clear, defined, with the warmth that is, yes I’ll say it, baked in.

    I understand if you’ve tried the REDDI and didn’t like it.

    You might like a good ol’ Neve RNDI DI for your needs. I played through one once at church when my REDDI was inadvertently left in a case on the gear truck. I did like it. Very clean, very neutral. But I was glad to get my REDDI back.
  12. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I’ll throw in a thumbs up vote for the Noble. Very clean and clear. With the EQ flat there is just a taste of the tubes in the sound. Then there is such a nice range of EQ available if desired.

    I know many use their Noble flat with great results. I tend to push a bit of the EQ myself and really enjoy what that box does for tracking as well as live work (when there is live work )
    Lovep likes this.
  13. Samuel Segarra

    Samuel Segarra

    Jan 8, 2021
    Cool! What kind of bass do you play(passive or active)? Do you ever get the feeling that you're missing a bit of high frequency clarity with passive basses? That's the one thing that I'm worried about with the Noble, since the DI part is passive. Have you compared to active DIs?

    When compared to the Demeter VTBP-201 in YouTube comparison videos I feel the Noble sounds more finished in a mix(which is something I need, since I don't have the possibility to also record an amp currently), but I like the high end of the Demeter, though I feel it feels a bit lacking in a full mix on it's own. Have you by chance ever compared the two?

    Thanks so much in advance!
  14. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I have several basses, but I typically play either a Lull M4V in passive mode or a Fender Roscoe Beck IV which is also passive (but the Bill Lawrence pup's are pretty hot). I don't feel the lack of high freq clarity with with either bass with or without the Noble. I have used both a Countryman 85 and a Tech21 VT DI with these (and other) basses so I do have some experience comparing active DI's to the Noble. I found the Countryman 85 to be very neutral sounding (not bad in any way, just very transparent) compared to the Noble, which even set flat, really has something very nice going on ... you used the word "finished" which is a great way to put it .... it just works.

    I have not used the Demeter VTBP-201 stand alone pre, but I have owned/gigged the VTBP-M-800D amp that was based on the 201 pre and loaded with the Jensen transformer. The Demeter was very present ... too present for me actually, it's one of the reasons I did not keep that particular amp. I have a lot of respect for James Demeter and the boxes he has built over the years, but I could never bond with the EQ section of the VTBP-D-800.
  15. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    @Samuel Segarra ... just curious on which way you decided to go on your DI/pre decision. Always interesting to know what people choose and why.
  16. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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