Preamp advice: Ashdown vs Demeter vs...?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by KB, Feb 7, 2004.

  1. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    Ok here is my situation: I currently own a SWR SM500 and I play through two Aguilar GS112 cabinets with my Wal bass. I have been craving a tone that is a little warmer than the SWR while maintaining punch. I find the highs on the SWR to be kind of bright as well, plus my funk band is loud and I really run out of headroom.

    For background, I play in 2 does 70s and modern funk covers and originals and the other is eccletic original rock where I carry melodies sometimes and has been compared to Zappa, Ween, They Might Be Giants and Primus.
    I play rock, jazz, funk, tapping, and only minimal slap, but I would like that option.

    I got got a QSC PLX 1602 power amp and an Aguilar DB659 preamp in hopes of finding "my tone". I hooked them up (and even tried different configurations and tubes) and wasn't really happy as it wasn't "my tone". I found the Aggie to be a nice amp, but EQ is too limited for my tastes and I found the lows to be a little too wooly/grindy (especially from low E to about C). Thus it is now up for sale in the classifieds section.

    I am now considering the Ashdown RPM1, the Demeter 201s, the Demeter HBP-1, and may be open to others. I have listened to the samples on basstasters, but they are limited.

    So I would like some advice on these pre amps (and others). I want to make sure the pre amps can drive the QSC PLX fully as well. The Ashdown RPM1 seems interesting because of the more involved EQ. The Demeters seem nice, but I wonder if they would be too sterile for me (kind of like my SWR).

    I want an aggressive tone with some growl, but I also want clean and round when needed. I like to articulate fast lines, but be vintage and tubey when required. I also want to be able to dial in tone for various room situations with both PA and no PA support. The Aggie DB680 could be better suited, but it is too much $$ and I wonder about its wooliness as well.

    I thought about the Alembic F-1X as well, but I think it would be too limited for my needs in my various live situations and miss some articulation.

    I could be open to other suggestions, but the Ashdown and Demeter are at the top of the list (especially the Ashdown).

    I know there isn't as much info out there on the Ashdown (maybe due to being a little more obscure??). Does it have articulation (especially in the lows). I know it has a lot of lows, but I want to make sure they aren't muffled and wooly.

    Please give me your thoughts and advice :help:

  2. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    I too found the Db659 to be a bit woolly. Over the last year or so I've owned/tried out at some point:

    Warwick Quadruplet
    Ashdown RPM-1
    Ampeg SVP-PRO
    Aggy DB659
    Aggy DB680
    EBS Classic
    Demeter HBP-1
    Alembic F-1X
    SWR Grand Prix
    Trace Elliot V-Type

    I think there's more, but I forget. Anyway, the point was not to boast but to sympathise with your tone quest!

    Of that list, my favorite is the DB680. Yes, it's more $$$ but to my ears it's worth it. The Ashdown gets close to the DB680 sound, with some fat lows, but it wasn't quite defined enough in the low-high mid range for me. That's where the DB680 shines for me. Add in the fully parametric EQ, and you're got a 'swiss army preamp'

    The Alembic is a great preamp, but it's limited in EQ. You really need to pair it with a parametric eq to get a more flexible sound. The Kern is a more versatile version of the Alembic, the tonal balance knob let's you dial in midrange emphasis for cutting through. But again it's the same passive interactive eq system for bass/mid/treble.

    I think the Demeter's are great preamps, but it's not the sound for me. It's a very articulate sound, full of hifi clarity. I'm not sure I'd say it's a growly sound though.

    So, to sum up. From what you're saying, if the DB680 is too much $$$ then the Ashdown could well be your closest bet. Have you considered the Eden Navigator? I've never tried it myself, but it has a very powerful EQ setup. Also, what about the Ampeg SVP-PRO? That has a very flexible eq as well.
  3. KB


    Jan 13, 2000
    Chapel Hill, NC
    I thought about the ampeg SVP-Pro, but everything I have read about it says it is noisey, plus I tend to lean towards not being in the norm when it comes to gear (everyone local has an ampeg rig).

    In terms of growly Wal barks like a dog so no problems there.

    My concern with the Demeters is that they may be too Hifi and lack some vintageness...even the clips on Basstasters are almost too "clean" of the 201s.

    I have played eden gear before and find it to be OK (a warmer version of SWR) but I also found it to be a little loose (almost wooly)

    so maybe that takes me to the Ashdown RPM1 and the Aguilar DB680. I would just want to make sure the lows in the DB680 are a little clearer than the DB659.

    Also is the Ashdown still articulate from lows to highs? and could it be aggressive enough?

    I like tone that spans from the punch of Flea, to the weird grind of Les Claypool, to warm vintage of something like Portishead and Sly & Family Stone (Larry Graham)


  4. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Yes, the Ampeg can be noisy. I had that experience. I threw it out there as it's going to get you that chewy ampeg sound and it has a flexible eq.

    I definitely wouldn't call the Demeters vintage. so I don't think that's the direction you want to take.

    I've owned both the 659 and 680, like I said the 659 felt kind of woolly to me. But the 680 is much tighter in the bottom end. Plus the para eq lets you push any low mids you want if you need to cut through, or remove any boomy frequencies in weird rooms.

    The Ashdown is definitely a great preamp, and great value for the money. Given the choice, with money no object, I'd take the 680 any time. The Ashdown didn't have the same overall articulate sound (not sterile clarity) as the 680, but the 680 is almost double the cost of the Ashdown, even used.
  5. I think the Demeter might be right for you, unless you need a lot of bass boost. They add a great solid punch to a bass that already has good texture. They have a crispness that's unmatched.

    I have an old and a new 201, and they are both excellent, and I had an HBP-1 which I didn't think sounded as nice, though it had a lot of controls. The 201s will get a sweet grind if you push them. As will the Kern and the Alembic, which are my favorites for their deep voicing, but they lack the clarity and top end of the Demeters, which makes the Demeters the best for slapping & tapping & harmonics.

    The Ashdown RPM adds gruffness, and I tend to be a bit disturbed by a bit of disharmonic roughness to the tone even when the tube and subharmonizer are turned down. I think that helps make it a great thick rock preamp, and it comes into it's own with a loud drummer and guitars.

    I've had all of them except the Aguilars, and I'm sure I'll give the 659 or 680 a try when opportunity comes my way.

    I don't usually use more than a touch of eq for the roomon the preamp. I can generally make whatever I need for tone on my MTD or Zon.


  6. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA
    IMHO, the VTBP is gonna be just as limiting to you, just as the Aggie was.

    i think the HBP would be a killer match. the EQ is super tweakable, and the more hifi sound will be a better match to the low, deep, warm, dark sound of the Aggie cabs.

    the Ashdown could be nice, but i think it'd be too dark sounding for you, too.
  7. I've found the DB680 to be the perfect compliment to my Wal. It is very different from the DB659 and my favourite by far, especially given that I'm running Acmes. I have personally found the RPM-1 to be a bit dark sounding. I don't know Demeter, but wouldn't discount Joker's suggestion of the HPB as an alternative.

    My primary reason for loving the DB680 so much is for it's command of the mids and for the tight clean bottom end, just as David mentioned. The Wal is a different beast, and the DB680 easily zeroes in on any area that you want or need to control.
  8. inazone


    Apr 20, 2003
    I currently have the ashdown rpm-1 evo II, aguilar db60 and the eden pre. When I first started to read the thred I was going to sugest the eden, but once you said that you didnt like the eden, I guess thats out. The ashdown can get as low as you want it, you can dial in good overdrive (or not) and can get clean. The 680 has great lows but not quite as deep as the ashdown, and is crisp and fast. Its a great pre. I played a 4 night stay at a large bar with the demeter 201 and just couldnt get the lows that I wanted and still keep a strong mid range growl. I had now problem with the highs, alot better and more natural than swr. Between the aguilar and the ashdown, You really should try them out, there both a little different. BTW, for my tastes, I like the aguilar and eden and am selling the ashdown rpm-1, if your interested pm me. Good luck, all 4 are great preamps.
  9. DB5


    Jul 3, 2001
    Austin Texas
    If you have an opportunity check out the Demeter HBP-1
    IMHO it has allot more versatility with it’s parametric eq.
    This has proven invaluable in difficult rooms.
    I use mine with a 1602 with excellent results. :bassist:
  10. Wally Malone

    Wally Malone

    Mar 9, 2001
    Boulder Creek, CA
    AFM International Representative Endorsing Artist: Accugroove Cabinets & MJC Ironworks Strings
    Had the opportunity to try the Read Purity Preamp at NAMM. To be honest, this is the first preamp that spoke to me. I would suggest that anyone looking for a preamp give this a try before making up your mind. The main trouble with trying preamps is actually finding them in music stores. When I played the Read Purity it was hooked up to a Stewart 1.2 and an Accugroove Tri-112.

  11. snailplow

    snailplow Leon Phelps Wanna Be

    An Eden Navigator,or Trace Elliot's top of the line tube,click on this link.
  12. Hollow Man

    Hollow Man Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2003
    Springfield, VA
    Sorry to hijack the thread, but I'm curious to hear more about the Kerns. I've read a lot of previous posts here on TB and I've listened to the samples on BassTasters, but I can't seem to get my hands on one to try for myself. Based on what I've heard about Kerns, I thought of them immediately when I saw KB's post. But then again, I've been jonesing for one so long that I probably would have thought of it anyway.
  13. The road to Henry Kern passes through Talkbass's own Brian Barrett. My experience in buying one through Brian was quite pleasant, with the unit costing less than expected and arriving very quicly direct from Henry.

    Contact Brian Barrett @ for info.

    The Kern is a great unit.


  14. Try a BBE BMAX-T. Great tube warmth, tons of bottom, built in enhancer, and clean. Very tweakable tone. I'm in love with mine. And the customer service at BBE is second to none. Good luck with your search.