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Quandary: Preamp pedal for '80s rock & two basses

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by VifferMike, Mar 17, 2013.

  1. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    I'm in rehearsals with a cover band that will primarily play 1980s rock and pop and am adjusting my gear to help emulate the different bass tones I'll need, which will range from bass-heavy passive songs (Hall & Oates, Billy Idol, David Bowie) to active-ish, mids-present stuff like Duran Duran, Genesis, Asia, etc. In the interest of portability, my cab (4-ohm Schroeder 1210R) and amp (G-B Shuttle 6.2) need to stay for now, and I'm planning on running both a passive J-bass (Modulus Genesis VJ) and an active something-or-other (hopefully a Spector or similar) on stage.

    What I'm looking for is a preamp pedal that will help warm the Shuttle up when activated (I definitely do not need modern, scooped, treble-heavy tones, and generally don't like them), but won't cut mids -- even when off -- like the SansAmp pedals do. I'm running a PBDDI right now and like it OK, but I do believe that it's cutting the mids that the Schroeder -- not to mention a ton of the music I'm playing -- feeds on.

    Ideally the preamp should be dual-channel and dual-input (if I decide to run both basses on stage) but doesn't absolutely have to be: my main concerns are tonal control, neutrality when off (to let the Shuttle's tone through as one tone), and some sort of mid control. (and unity gain control, if dual input.)

    Thing is, the options are making my head swim: EBS MicroBass II, Radial Bassbone, Aguilar Tone Hammer DI, Sadowsky Preamp, SansAmp Para Driver (again: a natural mids cut, though less pronounced than in the Bass Driver), etc. If I have to go with an A/B box and/or boost pedal to accommodate the second bass, I will -- but I'd rather not since I'm trying to keep my pedalboard footprint fairly small as well.

    I'm turning to you guys to steer me in the best direction for my needs. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
  2. Before I decided on the Darkglass B7K(def not for you, as it has a modern sound), I was considering the Sans Amp Para-drive. It is very versatile and from what you describe, will prob do the job well. Also, I was very close to ordering the EBS micro. What stopped me was it lack of overdrive, but it seems you won't be needing that. I would give that a try, but order from Prymaxevintage or any other dealer that will give you a month to try it out. 4 bills is alot to drop on something that "might" work for you.
    I would also cross out the Sadowsky. It sounds great, but again, it's pretty modern/active sounding. So it will nail the Genesis/Asia, but not so much the others.
    Good luck to you, let us know what you decide.
  3. oldcatfish


    Jan 8, 2011
    VT bass deluxe would be my first choice.
  4. pfschim

    pfschim Just a Skeleton with a Jazz bass Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2006
    SF Bay Area
    I'll second that option too.

    VT Bass Deluxe, pretty much "Ampeg-izes" any amp front end you plug it into.

    2 inputs gives you 3 separate presets for 2 basses, or 6 presets for one bass.

    Pretty much nails the Ampeg tone range (clean to totally distorted), B15 to SVT. Has that Ampeg, deep lows and well placed mid cut nailed.

    Takes a bit of playing with the so-called "lazy controls" to get the hang of it, but its pretty intuitive after about 20 min of knob twiddling.

    good integrated fx loop, although you need to work with it a bit to get the flow right.

    very clean DI, as well as a uneffected parallel out.

    give it a shot

    good luck
  5. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Yeah, I've thought about one of the VT pedals (regular or Deluxe). But what I don't want is for the pedal to color my tone when not on, and from what I've read about all of Tech 21's gear is that even when disengaged, it colors everything after it (I run my pedal board in line between the bass and input).

    Essentially I want to rely on the Shuttle's eq for my basic tone, but run my basses through a second preamp in-line for more warmth and/or extra mids (and mild overdrive, perhaps, though I wouldn't need that much - and I've got an Iron Ether Oxide for fuzz already) that does NOT color the tone when off like the Tech 21 products seem to do. Because of that, I don't think the VT (and the Bass Driver series) are options for me ... ?
  6. Ron Now

    Ron Now

    Sep 3, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    Endorsing Artist: Fuzzrocious Pedals
    Tech 21 products don't color your tone when they're off. I've owned a bunch of them over the years and have never once experienced any "tone loss" when they were bypassed.
  7. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    That's not the majority TB opinion, Ron Now, nor is it my ears' opinion (and my ears, I think, are pretty good).

    OK, for the sake of not turning this thread into another SansAmp-yea-or-nay flameout (I dig SansAmps, just not for this application): I'd prefer not to have to bump up mids at the amp to offset a pedal preamp that lacks them (or lacks relative control/contour-ability). That said, it makes sense to me that considering my rig, the pedal preamp should be what supplies the extra warmth, mids, and mild overdrive that many of the songs' bass lines need. Is there a solution other than something Tech 21 produces?
  8. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    The bypass is buffered on the Tech 21 stuff, but it shouldn't be shaping your tone in any way, especially not scooping mids.

    Here's their write up on the benefits/costs of true bypass:

  9. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    There are a plethora of warmer-upper boxes out there. I've recently enjoyed the SFT, it does a nice Ampeg emulation and I liked it better than the VT Bass.
  10. Granny1089


    Oct 15, 2012
    Saskatoon, SK
    I just recently purchased an Xotic BB Bass preamp. It is only a single input, but it can provide a nice front end boost with a fair bit of grit.
  11. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Is the catalinbread SFT a preamp? Doesn't seem to me like it is ...

    ... though I'm intrigued: I could replace the Oxide with an SFT and run a preamp with mids and A/B control without worrying about it having an overdrive circuit on one of the channels. Hmmm ...

    (BTW: I've read that Tech 21 writeup before, and it makes sense. I'm just not sold on having a preamp in my chain that is plainly scooped for this application, whether on or off.)
  12. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    Preamp, emulation, overdrive, it's kind of semantic isn't it?
  13. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    Which is an absolutely reasonable concern. There is a consensus around here that the BDDI can easily get scooped if not used tactfully when engaged.

    I haven't heard that comment about their entire line, however, and I know it's not true when bypassed. No sense throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

    You're using an amp with enough preamp gain to drive the power amp already, anything you purchase will serve as coloration and tone shaping regardless of whether it's called a preamp, overdrive, or distortion.

    Personally, I love my Fulltone Bass Drive for an "always on" mid boost with a touch of hair that will help give a little more vintage voicing, but there are tons of alternatives.
  14. depalm

    depalm Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2004
    I wouldn't run a speaker simul in front of an amp+cab. I'd rather get the VS with the no Speaker simul option.
  15. Take the money you would use for a pedal, and then sell the Shuttle. After that, go pick yourself up a nice used (or new!) Shuttlemax. Set up the tube channel for the grittier tones, the Fet channel for your uber-clean tones, and just switch between preamps as needed. It's about as easy as you can get. The Shuttlemaxes are nice amps too, can't go wrong with picking one up.

    If you aren't up for that, once upon a time I used to run a Aguilar Tone Hammer pedal into my Shuttle 6.0 head, and it sounded amazing. You'd still need some sort of A/B boxer looper to flip back and forth though.

    I personally don't like the VT stuff and wouldn't suggest it.

    Think about the Shuttlemax though. It's the solution that gives you EXACTLY what you need, and I bet in the end it's the same cost, or cheaper.
  16. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Blindrabbit: I've had a ShuttleMax 9.2, and I was flatly overwhelmed with the EQ on it -- but more importantly, the footswitch is freaking huge and largely unusable since three of the four switches are for the low/mid/high boost buttons. I'm trying to keep my floor footprint fairly small and, well, usable ... but your point is well taken. I just can't do it now (and won't do it unless I can find a one-channel switch to A/B the ShuttleMax's two channels).

    And yeah, this is all somewhat semantic. I'm willing to give up the Oxide for a good OD if I can find a suitable two-channel tone box with mids control. I guess my options are:

    - A relatively neutral two-channel preamp with mids control (Radial BassBone/EBS MicroBass II) paired with an SFT or equivalent, or
    - A warmer one-channel preamp with mids control (Paradriver DI/Aguilar Tone Hammer) paired with an A/B box (are there any with adjustable gain to unify output levels?) and an SFT or equivalent

    Am I missing anything here?
  17. Unrepresented

    Unrepresented Something Borderline Offensive

    Jul 1, 2006
    San Diego, CA
    How many tones are you looking for? Your amp should give you one, the pedal gives you the other. It sounded like you were only looking for two in your original post. Maybe I am missing something but it sounds like you're trying to complicate things more than they need to be...
  18. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    Unrepresented: three tones, actually. One fairly even, clean, workhorse base tone at the amp; another, warmer tone with thickened bass and organic/mellow treble (sort of an Ampeg-ish P-bass tone, for the Hall & Oates/Idol/Bowie stuff); and another with bumped-up mids and a touch of overdrive for the Duran Duran/Genesis/Asia tunes.

    I figure the active bass (whatever it ends up being) will inherently lend itself to the third tone, but it certainly won't completely produce it. The passive GVJ, however, will need help beyond the base tone - and both basses should provide enough difference in sound character to provide even more options with within those three tone types.

    I admit that I'm starting to like the idea of a separate OD pedal. I love the Oxide, but it can be sacrificed ...
  19. gillento


    Oct 15, 2005
    Luxembourg, Europe
    Nordstrand pickups
  20. VifferMike

    VifferMike Registered Four Banger Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2004
    Dallas, Texas
    1). I'll replace my PBDDI with an Aguilar Tone Hammer preamp/DI. That will be the source of the mids control and some of the warmth - and I'm curious what kind of vintage-y, treble-reduced alternative tone the AGS function can supply with the drive turned down, particularly with the passive Modulus.

    2). I'll replace my Iron Ether Oxide with a catalinbread SFT for more warmth and grind for the mids-happy rock. I think this pedal could work really well with the Tone Hammer to provide a third tone with dynamics at the fingers. I really like the idea of being able to turn the OD on and off independent of the Tone Hammer as well, depending on the bass I'm using.

    3). I'll add either a boost or an eq pedal (likely one of [sfx]'s micros) to even out line levels if necessary. I'm moving away form the A/B box idea since I run a tuner pedal; I can just mute, unplug, change, re-plug, un-mute, and go (and save the active bass' battery).

    Question about the boost/EQ pedal quandary, though: Is there a benefit to running a boost over an EQ here? Is it line impedance? Headroom? Clarity?

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