Preamps for a good clean tone

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by pgurns, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. pgurns


    Dec 26, 2003
    Northern, IL
    As a relatively new player I am in the never ending quest for tone. After much trial and error I seem to like a clean bass tone. I currently use a BBE BMax-t preamp and it seems to get into overdrive really quick, even with my passive basses. I find that I always have the gain knob turned down to like 1 or 2. Any thoughts on a preamp that would give me a nice clean tone? Something that can handle the higher output that G&L basses seem to dish out but not distort. I was hoping to find something that I could buy with the proceeds from selling the BBE, 350.00 ish I guess. I would also be up for selling/trading the pre and power setup for a all in one deal if that seems to be the route I need to go.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions.

  2. remo


    Jan 15, 2005
    try a Demeter VTBP-201S can be had S/H for approx. $400

    it has a passive and active input so try yr G&L in the active input.. Nice clean and articulate tone, tube.
  3. afroman


    Aug 31, 2000
    Brooklyn, NY
    I second the Demeter preamps and the BBE BMAX too. It's as good as the BMAX-T but less warm, brighter and cleaner sounding.
  4. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    +1 all around. My L2500 sounds great through a 201S.
  5. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Lacey, WA
    Yeppers. I thought my bass sounded nice and clean through an Avalon U5 also.

  6. I dunno if there is a pad on the BBE MAX-t, but that might help you get a little more gain from it before distorting...

    Otherwise look at the EBS preamps, they are pretty clean too, but may be quite expensive?
  7. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Any quality studio microphone pre. You won't get any cleaner than that. Although more often not they lack tone controls, so you may need to complement this with a quality EQ. And depending on how clean you want to be, and what you think is "quality", we could be talking serious money here.
  8. so by clean, you actually mean uncolored or without distortion/dirt?
  9. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Well, what other meaning is there?
  10. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    The demeters are great. Finding one for $400 can be a challenge. Used you might try to find a GK preamp or SWR which are clean. Depends what you are looking for...
    Are you wanting something Hifi or something clean with "attitude".

    Clean and undistorted can mean alot of things depending on what you are trying to do sonically
  11. Jason Carota

    Jason Carota Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2002
    Lowell, MA
    I use the Raven Labs PHA-1 as my pre. It is very clean. Raven Labs is out of business now (owner retired.) The PHA-1 can be found on the used market, though.
  12. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    These preamps all offer great clean tone, IMHO, though of course they all have their own sound.

    Aguilar DB 659
    Aguilar DB 680
    Alembic F-1X
    Alembic SF-2
    Ashdown EVOII RPM-1
    Avalon U5
    Demeter HBP-1
    Demeter VTBP-201s
    Eden Navigator
    Epifani Quest II
    Fender TBP-1 (needs some tweaking)
    Hughes & Kettner Fortress
    Kern IP-777
    Peavey TMP-1 (simple tube "mic" preamp, but sounds great)
    PreSonus Eureka
    Read Purity
    Stewart UDP-1a
    The Low End True Voice
    Trace Elliot GP12 SMX
    Trace Elliot GP12 XV
  13. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    If you're looking for something really clean, you might want to consider solid state from the recording world. If that's the case I'd look for an older Focusrite TrakMaster (not the newer Pro version with less sophisticated EQ). This is your basic 1U rackmount mic / instrument preamp for recording.

    It has a platinum series Class-A mic preamp, an instrument input, -10db and +4db 1/4" outputs, built-in compressor, semi-parametric two-band EQ with 2 different ranges, and a "tube-sound" control that (I guess) increases 2nd order harmonics to thicken the sound if desired. All these can be switched in or out.

    I have one and have used it for bass tracking in my home studio and it does a better job than you'd think.

    Sound on Sound did a review on one a couple of years ago and suggested that it would make a good dedicated front-end to a bass rig.

    The good thing, is that they can be had used for $200-$300.

    Another TB'er was using a PreSonus Eureka preamp, this would be the same type of thing but at a higher price point than the Trak Master.
  14. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    I can't recommend this particular pre enough. I absolutely adore mine.
  15. pgurns


    Dec 26, 2003
    Northern, IL
    Excuse my ignorance. By clean I guess I mean undistorted, I had thought the 2 were interchangeable. The main problem I have is that th eBBE Bmax-T goes into "overdrive" with the gain higher than 2 or so. I like the sound of my bass. period. If I want distortion or overdrive I figure I'll get a pedal for that. I had a GK 400rb about 2 years ago and from what I remember I liked it more than the BMax. however it was too long ago to be for sure. How would describe the differenc ebetween clean and/or HiFi? I just want to be sure I use the correct wording.
  16. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    That really sounds to me like you're looking for something with a very high level of transparency. Once again... my brain goes right back to the Avalon U5. :D
  17. Hawkeye

    Hawkeye Canuck Amateur

    My understanding would be like this:

    "Clean" = undistorted, no significant overdrive, fuzz, distortion, or breakup. Sound can still be colored though. Could be bottom-heavy, a mid emphasis, zingy, etc. but would still be clean. Could also use EFX and still be clean.

    "Hi-Fi" = Clean AND Uncolored. No obvious bumps or dips in the frequency spectrum. no signficant emphasis or de-emphasis of one frequency band vs. another. Top to bottom balanced and clean presentation. You could probably say uncompressed as well, letting the dynamics come through. It goes without saying that a "hi-fi" type of tone does not use EFX either, just a straight gain flow from the bass through the preamp / amp and then through to the speakers. Also your cab needs to have no obvious emphasis in any frequency region and must not breakup at the volumes you will be playing.

    My $.02