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Review: EBS MicroBass II

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by uglybassplayer, Jun 9, 2006.

  1. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey

    As promised, here is my review of the EBS Microbass II. I’ve had it now for a couple of months so I’m finally comfortable giving my opinions on it.

    First off, this was an impulse purchase for me. I really didn’t need it as I already own a SansAmp BDDI, but have been lusting after one since I read a review about it in BP a few years back, I just couldn’t justify the price. Luckily another TB’er, Timothy was able to get one for me from a dealer in HK for an incredible price.

    The construction is on par with what you’d expect for a good stomp box. Heavy, solid, with high quality footswitches and input/output jacks, and smooth knobs with center detents where applicable. One very nice touch is that it has a door for easy access to the 9v battery. The door is also of pretty high quality, better than those on most basses I’ve seen. It’s about 1/4 larger than my SABDDI, and noticeably heavier too (it weighs in at about 2lbs). My only concern is that it has several “chicklet” style buttons both on top (sandwiched between the knobs) and on the sides between the ¼” jacks. I’m not so worried about the ones between the knobs, but the ones on the side stick out and could possibly be damaged with rough handling. As far as battery life goes, all I can say is that I've been using it quite regularily (particulary as a headphone amp) since I've purchased it in March, and I haven't needed to replace the battery yet :)

    This is the “swiss army knife” of pedals. It’s a footswitchable full featured two channel preamp with separate inputs and LEDs for each channel (you can even sum the two channels in series if you’d like)… It’s a DI box with speaker simulation… It’s a hi-fi headphone amp… It’s got distortion and tube simulation… It’s got a send/return section with full wet/dry mix… Mute footswitch… All this and it can run off of a single 9volt battery, what’s not to love! The only things missing that I would have like to seen is a pre/post EQ switch for the XLR out and a separate volume control for both the XLR and the instrument out.

    It should be obvious from the list of features that it’s extremely versatile, but how can one use it?

    My main setup is: Peavey Cirri (I have both a fiver and a sixer) --> GK-1001 II --> Schroeder 1210. Under normal circumstances, between the Cirrus' & GK's flexible preamps/DI, I don't feel the need to use the Microbass for additional tone shaping with this setup. However, here's how I’ve been using mine:

    I’ve been keeping it in my gigbag as a backup tool so I can run directly into the PA should I have a problem with my amp.

    If I bring my Lightwave fretless, I'll run the GK flat and use it as a dual channel preamp so I have both basses plugged in. A step of a footswitch is all I need to do to switch between the two basses. It's especially nice to be able to have each channel's EQ controls setup specific to the bass that's going through it.

    I use it with headphones for silent practice while watching TV with the wife, and sometime play along with the television music scores and commercial jingles. I'll also connect my MP3 player via the effects return to jam along with tunes.

    During practice and coffee house gigs, I’ve been using it to beef up the bottom end and give some "oomph" to my little Fender Bassman 25.

    Here’s where it gets subjective, but I’ll do my best to describe what I’m hearing.

    Channel A: There are three knobs (Treble, Bass, Boost) and two switches (Bright, Enhance Filter) that apply to this channel. With everything set flat and the tube sim & bright switches disabled, it sounds pretty transparent to me. The bass control is adds/subtracts up to 15db at 100hz. By itself, 100hz would be a little high for my tastes, but with the GK’s bass control at 60Hz, the Bassman 25 at 80hz, and the Cirrus at 120hz, it works out pretty well. The treble control (+/- 12db @ 10kHz) is kind of interesting… with the “Enhance Filter” switch enabled, it functions similarly to the SansAmp. Turning up the treble scoops the mids, while backing off on it raises the mids. With the enhance filter disabled, it functions as normal. There’s also a “Bright” switch that when enabled, gives an additional 12db of boost at 10kHz, adding some sheen and sparkle to your tone. Finally, there’s a “Boost” knob that serves as a preamp gain for this channel. This control is also how you set your channel A level to match that of channel B (depending on how high you set the “Drive” level on that channel). My impression of this channel is that it has a “Hi Fi” sound… Clean, crisp, and studio quiet.

    Channel B: There are four knobs that control this channel (Drive, Edge, Middle, Mid Freq). The “Drive” knob is how you add some grit to your sound (it also raises the volume of this channel as it's increased). the grit starts getting noticible around 9 o’clock and starts getting nasty (which can be taken as good or bad) once you get past 12 o’clock. I prefer somewhere around 10 – 11 o’clock, which gives a nice subtle tube overdriven sound. This is a good time to mention the “Tube Sim” switch which supposedly adds some “tubey goodness” to the mix. In most cases I seem to prefer it disabled. It makes a subtle difference (unlike the blend knob on the SansAmp) by rolling off the highs a bit.
    Next is the “Edge” control, which adds/subtracts up to 12db at 7kHz. This control seems to work hand in hand with the drive knob to let you go from creamy overdrive to buzz saw distortion. I find myself leaving it flat in most cases. Last but not least, there’s the semi-para mid control. +/- 12db sweepable from 50Hz through 2kHz (fixed Q at .80). This is the channel for achieving that overdriven SVT sound. I think I prefer the SansAmp for this use as the tube sim & overdrive on the SABDDI seems smoother to my ears, but honestily, I don’t go for that sound often and I haven’t played around with all of the controls on this channel to get a real good feel for how they interact with each other.

    Overall Impression:
    Personally, I think this is an amazing piece of equipment. To stuff all of this functionality into a battery powered stompbox is simply incredible. Add to that the ruggedness and studio quality sound, it makes for a killer package… Plus it can function as a headphone amp!!! Would I have paid full price for it? Probably not, but now that I have it I’d be hard pressed to give it up. BTW, I’m still keeping my SansAmp (it’s too good of a tool to get rid of), but it’s been moved to my other gigbag (at least for now) :smug:


    - Ugly.
    Gdeak and Driven Crane like this.
  2. CaptainWally

    CaptainWally Supporting Member

    Oct 21, 2000
    Sandy Eggo, CA
    Very cool - thanks.

    Can you blend in a CD or mp3 player so you can jam out with the headphone amp to tunes?
  3. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    Thanks. I have just recently picked up one and am still in the experimentation phase.

    On the topic of Pre/Post EQ, the model I have does have that option in the form of a little push button on the side next to the Speaker Sim and Ground Lift, it is labeled "Pre EQ".

    I think this might be a new addition for this pedal as it still shows the old picture and manual on the EBS website.

    According to the date sticker on the underside, the version I own was made in 2006, so perhaps EBS listened to the users commentary and added the Pre/Post for 2006.

    If you would like I can post a picture.
  4. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    According to the manual, this can be achieved by running the CD Player into the Effects return input of the effects loop.

    I have only been playing around with this pre-amp for a few hours and so far am very satisfied. I wasa little hesitant at first as to whether I had made the right choice but it is definitely proving its worth.

    Just need to pick up some shorter cables and a really decent set of in ear headphones then I am good to go for practice at work. ;)
  5. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Yes you can, by plugging the player into the effects return jack. You can adjust the mix via the effects blend knob anywhere from 0% wet/100% dry all the way to 100% wet/0% dry.

    Cool :cool: It's a shame mine doesn't have that option :(

    - Frank.
  6. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Yes, please! I'd love to see how they were able to cram another switch on that side.

    - Frank.
  7. ebe9


    Feb 26, 2006
    South Africa
    The batteries on my camera just died as I was taking the pics, so hopefully I wil be able to post them a bit later.

    On another note, would it be possible for you to post some of the settings you use with you MicroBass for different styles of music.

    I am having a little dificulty dialing in some tones and would like some of your input if possible.

    EDIT: Pictures



    Attached Files:

  8. ric stave

    ric stave

    May 6, 2006
    Buffalo, NY
    Nice review!

    Now I must have one.

    Damn You! ;)
  9. SoComSurfing

    SoComSurfing Mercedes Benz Superdome. S 127. R 22. S 12-13.

    Feb 15, 2002
    Mobile, Al
    Nice review indeed! You've definitely caught my attention. I'll have to keep an eye on one of these little boxes.
  10. Excellent review. Much appreciated! Try to make some recordings if you like.
  11. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Nice review! Thanks for sharing.

    I have one of these as too, and I like it pretty well. One frustration that I have, though, is my inability to dial in a great clean tone AND a great overdriven tone that I can switch between (and maintain volume/tonal balance). I can get my overdrive to sound nice, full, and loud, but I can't setup the knobs so that I can switch between the two on the fly. :(

    Any suggestions?

  12. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Hi Tom,

    I've been using the Boost control to raise the volume of channel A in an attempt to match the volume of channel B when I dial in some overdrive with the drive knob. Since I've been keeping the drive below 12 o'clock, it hasn't been too difficult for me to match levels from both channels. I've noticed on the Cirrus, if I have the volume on my bass all the way up and I crank the boost on the EBS that the signal is too hot... When that happens I kick in the -10db pad to deal with it.

    - Frank.
  13. Arwai


    Sep 4, 2005
    Hong Kong
    I also got one, but it's an old version as well... no pre EQ switch. and how's the new "-10 db" switch? useful?

    tombowlus, if you want to compensate the Channel A/B, you can use the boost on Channel A to do so.

    IMO, I like this preamp, but I found the drive is not very good when it turn up over 10 o'clock. atleast compare to fulltone, bass drive is more "drive" sound that I like~ :)
  14. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I have tried this, but for some reason, I still cannot get the type of overdrive that I want. As I recall, I had to use the A + B setting to get the best full-sounding overdrive. Hmmm... I'll play with it somemore and take notes this time. :smug:
  15. The Funk

    The Funk

    Jul 7, 2006
    London, UK
    I've got one of these and I think it's superb. It's a great headphone amp for warming up before gigs and during the gig, it's great for matching the output levels of my active and passive basses before they go into my Aguilar DB680, and of course, it's a back-up DI in case everything else dies on me without explanation.

    Also, I'm planning on getting a decent (but cheap) set of in-ear monitor heaphones and sticking one ear in for monitoring during shows.

    I haven't tried running my effects through the loop and I've got a dedicated overdrive unit but those two functions seem pretty handy to have in reserve in case my setup changes.

    All in all, a great piece of kit. How much does it go for in the US? I got mine for around £230 which I think is about $400.
  16. Rickter

    Rickter Supporting Member

    Nov 30, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I have been looking around recently for a preamp to use with a crown power amp and an avatar 2x12 cab. Currently using a bass pod xt in this capacity, but it sounds terribly thin as a preamp IMHO. This ebs pedal/pre is a frontrunner in my search, but I was wondering if anyone here has used it in this context.

    Thanks in advance.
  17. Basseroni

    Basseroni Supporting Member

    Oct 17, 2006
    Southern California
    Endorsing Artist: Aguilar Amplification, Dunlop/MXR
    Other than the price how does the EBS Microbass compare to the Radial Bassbone DI?
  18. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I have them both, and when I get the chance, I'll do a little A/B comparison.
  19. Radial vs EBS: I found the radial to be particularly weak-wristed in the EQ section, nowhere near as flexible EQ, and comparatively lacking in other features. The only real benefit to the Radial is the boost button.

    Regarding using the EBS for overdrive: this is one design oversight that is difficult to overcome. By the time you've gotten the overdrive tone you want, the volume is virtually impossible to balance between the two channels.

    Fortunately, the exact same overdrive circuitry is in the EBS MultiDrive which is my current favourite pedal.
  20. tombowlus

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

    Apr 3, 2003
    Fremont, Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I totally agree. I love the clean tone, and I love the overdrive tone, but I have to tweak both channels to get the overdriven tone to be the same volume and fullness of the clean tone - meaning, I cannot set it up to that I can switch between my preferred clean tone and my preferred overdriven tone, and have the volumes match. :mad:

    You know, that statement makes a compelling argument. :smug: :p :D