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My New Pre/Power Amps (Includes A Thorough A/B of Bmax SS and Sansamp RBI)

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bryan R. Tyler, Feb 24, 2005.

  1. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Some of you may recall my "Which Preamp Is Right For Me?" thread. Well, after not being able to go with IvanMike to try out some amps due to one hell of a flu that got me and everyone I'm related to in my town, I decided to go ahead and order a BBE Bmax solid state preamp and a QSC PLX1602 power amp (I should mention that I had a great offer for one from Joelc73 of TalkBass and The Groove Shop, who's a really great guy. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and ended up buying one from another dealer who had a brand new one for $519 shipped that came with a $25 mail-in rebate, so it totaled out at $494). The same day, TB's WillPlay4Food generously offered to bring down his Sansamp RBI and said I could borrow it for a couple weeks to try it out. The Bmax actually arrived while WillPlay4Food was dropping it off, so he got the chance to play through it for a while, and my QSC arrived the next day.

    I spent several hours the next night doing a thorough A/B of the two preamps-regularly switching back and forth between the two preamps and running them through the QSC. Here's my take on the two of them. I should mention that the amp I'm replacing was a Carvin R1000 head that has seen better days (if you hold it front panel-side down, the fan, which has broken from its chasis, slides forward and makes sparks come out :meh:), and my cabinet is an Avatar B4x10.

    It's been stated before, but I'll say it again-these are two VERY different preamps. I'll start with the

    BBE Bmax
    Pros: Beautiful look with center detented knobs (not that looks are relevant to a preamp, but I'm going over every angle here). Comes with a (to my ears) very good compressor, and has the Sonic Maximizer effect. I didn't delve too far into the Maximizer-it's effects at lower volume were pretty subtle; I imagine in a live band situation it could be very useful. Fantastically quick response-fast runs sound impeccably clean and precise. Its clean tone is great for chordal work, as well as slapping, particularly if you like the modern scooped slap tone. It was very punchy as well, even at low volumes, where punch has a tendancy to disappear. Great dark low/low-mid tone. Also has a quasi-parametric midrange EQ which contains up to 12dB of boost (I had the previous misconception that the EQ had no mid boost option at all, as the mid in the regular EQ section is cut-only).

    Cons: Limited amount of tones. The Bmax seems to have one or two almost built-in tones that you can tweak and massage to countless subtle variations, but I couldn't get drastically different tones out of the box. I also couldn't thicken up the top end to what I like-this is inherent to its more modern sound, but I like my top end thicker-to the point of being able to get "farty," if you will. Takes quite a bit of tweaking to get the tones I was looking for as well.

    Tech 21 Sansamp RBI
    Pros: TONS of great, usable tones. The blend and presence knobs offer a huge array of tones from warm and fuzzy to modern cleanliness. My Elricks are pretty hi-fi basses, and I think because of this I was able to blend in enough of their own tone to basically get most of the tones I could get out of the Bmax. I imagine if someone was using a more traditional-sounding instrument, they wouldn't be able to pull that clean Bmax-specific tone out of it (I couldn't when I tried it with my Essex Jazz), but my Elricks could, although it was a little less punchy. The preamp seems to work very well with my basses, and adjusting the blend allowed my to find many new tones I didn't even know I could get out of my bass. It had the top end thickness I need, and I could get several of the kinds of thicker slap tones I prefer out of it (I'm not a fan of the Miller or Mark King tones, so this isn't always easy). I could also get achieve these tones quickly and easily. Comes with an overdrive, although I don't use that effect much at all. Lots of different hookup and line-out options (an XLR level control is on the front as well; this amp looks like it will work great when playing through an amp and a PA). It also surprised me that the RBI is so small-it's about half the depth of the Bmax, although both are nice and light.

    Cons: Center detented knobs would be an appreciated improvement, as the dials don't have easy to read numbers, and the difference in tone between Drive at 12:00 and 1:00 is quite noticeable. No passive imput. Lacked some of the punch I heard in the Bmax. Although it's still quite fast, the response is a little slower to my ears-the Bmax was just immediate. It also has no compressor (I'll have to start using the one on my Boss GT-6B). The front panel is very user-friendly, but a little lack-luster in the looks department (again, not that looks are relevant to a preamp, but I'm going over every angle).

    I decided to sell the Bmax and order my own RBI, which I now have in my possession. These are both great preamps, and each offer things the other does not. I A/Bed them pretty thoroughly, so if anyone has anymore questions about them, feel free to ask.

    BTW, I'm very, very happy with my new amp setup :)
  2. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Here's a pic of the setup. I also got a nice SKB case for them-its so nice to feel I can travel with my amps safely now.
  3. WillPlay4Food

    WillPlay4Food Now With More Metal! Staff Member Supporting Member

    Apr 9, 2002
    Orbiting HQ
    Thanks for the review! :) I'm always up for reading these kinds of taste tests. :)
  4. Dave Siff

    Dave Siff Supporting Member

    Great review, Bryan! Very interesting to read your impressions of the two preamps. I love the sound of the RBI through my Stewart World 1.6. BTW, there is a -20db input on the back of the RBI. Not sure if that's a "passive" input, I haven't tried it. Plugging into the front-panel input automatically defeats the rear-panel input.
    You got a great deal on that QSC, too!
  5. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Killer setup all around!! Nice reviews, too. I already own an RBI, but it was cool to read your impression of the BMax.

    FWIW I alternate between the RBI and the Read Purity: use one at rehearsal and the other at gigs, then swap after awhile. My "faux SVT" rig is RBI --> Bergantino NV610.
  6. Good review.

    I have been giving some thought into making a more portable rig for myself, with my PLX(2402), possible a new pre, and a schroeder 1012. And it sounds like I need to check out the Bmax, and the RBI. It also reminds me I need a rack case for my PLX and SVP.

    Granted at the moment, I have a half broken crappy cab, so once I have a good one I may not have the desire to get another pre, because I have played my SVP through IvanMike's bagends, and it sang. So it may be something I don't need to buy, but I will still keep my eyes open in music stores.