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Sadowsky preamp/DI (outboard) vs. J Retro preamp (onboard)

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by DinnerWithAGypsy, Feb 14, 2014.

  1. I'll try to keep this brief:

    I currently have a J Retro preamp in my Lakland DJ5. In short, I love it. I am considering, however, taking out the J Retro since, when I do want to run the DJ5 passive, the J Retro's controls severely inhibit the options you have when using the bass in passive mode (you can't solo the neck pickup, for example).

    If I got the Sadowsky preamp/DI, I would effectively bypass this issue. Plus, I would have an active, albeit outboard, preamp to use with all my passive basses, eliminating the need for an active, onboard preamp in any of them.

    My main question is this: How does the Sadowsky preamp/DI (outboard) compare to the J Retro preamp (onboard) sonically? Do they sound similar?

    (I would describe the J Retro as sounding really big and modern, yet still cutting and possessing definition.)

    What are your thoughts/opinions? Thanks! :D
  2. ex-tension


    Jun 11, 2009
    I don't know how do they compare. But if you like your J Retro you would think about putting it inside an enclosure and use it as external preamp.

    See these threads:

    If you insist on a ready made unit, there are many options, Sadowsky isn't the only one. You would find much more info in the effects forum about the external preamp boxes.
  3. Thanks for the info. I'm over in the Effects forum a lot, so I'm definitely hip to a lot of the other popular external preamp options. I'm more interested in a direct sonic comparison between the J Retro and the Sadowsky outboard pre. Maybe I should ask to have the thread moved. (?)

    EDIT: Thread moved to the Effects forum. :)
  4. depalm


    Apr 22, 2004
    East Uk used to make a Stompbox J-Retro preamp. But I think it was discontinued.

    I've used a Sadowsky outboard preamp for many years but its been a while since I plugged my bass in one.
    I had a J-Retro in one of my basses for quite some time (about 2 years) but I reverted it to passive.

    Sonically they are pretty different in my opinion. Sadowsky is a bit less aggressive and doesn't have the mid sweep feature neither the 'pre-shape' EQ that makes J-Retro sounds unique.

    With the sad pre, I used it mostly just to add a bit of low end to my J tone, while the J-retro I used to work more on fine tune mid freqs.

    Not very accurate but this is what a remember from both.
  5. See, this makes me think that perhaps I ought to pursue the Sadowsky outboard preamp as the option best suited to my wants/needs.

    I rarely utilize the sweepable mid control on my onboard J Retro preamp, except to boost the high mids every so often, but that could easily be done on my B7K, or my actual head for that matter.

    The thing I would really miss (I think) if I did dump my J Retro would be the overall "hugeness"/widening factor, which it sounds like the Sadowsky pre could definitely generally replicate?
  6. depalm


    Apr 22, 2004
    I really don't know but onboard preamps apparently have a different impact on the way pickups behave…
  7. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion Gold Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I use the Sadowsky preamp to add old school warmness that's what it excels at it has a fat bottom now if you want the ultimate outboard pre you need a Fodera it's the first thing I would grab if I had a fire even before my Hofner :).
    TonyP- likes this.
  8. Interesting... I'll look into the outboard Fodera preamp more.

    I'm pretty set on switching my DJ5's onboard preamp to an Audere now. I'd like to retain the flexibility of having an active preamp at my fingertips on the bass itself, plus it sounds like the Audere is a very transparent-sounding preamp with less of a baked-in EQ curve.
  9. Aaron_D


    May 9, 2010
    Tallahassee, FL
    My Sadowsky pre/di is my sound man's favorite DI period. Better than my SVT's di, better than my countryman 85, better than his 100's of DIs. I use it bypassed because I have a Sadowsky bass.
  10. smeet

    smeet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2006
    Woodland Hills, CA
    My impression from memory (didn't have both at the same time) is that although both tend toward the hifi/scooped end of the spectrum, the Sadowsky is more pristine and clean, while the J-retro is more extreme and obviously "active" sounding. I like having the mid control, but I didn't like the J-retro's baked-in scooped tone when the controls are centered.
  11. depalm


    Apr 22, 2004
    Mr East once told me that can make a custom preamp without the "pre-shape" EQ.
  12. That's kind of how I feel, overall. I think the Sadowsky outboard pre might be a better fit for me, with an Audere preamp onboard the DJ5.

    Hmm. Not sure I would want to go down that route. The Sadowsky seems to have a good reputation around TalkBass. I feel like having that on my board for tonal variety purposes, coupled with an Audere pre onboard my DJ5, would be a great combo.
  13. BassistForJesus


    Sep 28, 2010
    I have used the Sadowsky/DJ combo for 6 months. I had the J Retro was too flexible and was awful in passive mode. When the Sadowsky is engaged you'll get a big scooped modern sound that cuts perfect in a mix
  14. Mm, sounds good! I also feel the J Retro in passive mode sounds pretty terrible. So thin, and not just in comparison to the thickness of the J Retro when engaged.
  15. ricknote


    Aug 3, 2006
    That's exactly how I use my Sadowsky DI. Passive basses and either the Sadowsky for clean or the MXR for dirt. ImageUploadedByTalkBass1393089750.885493.jpg
  16. Nice! I'm digging all the feedback, guys! I really appreciate it. :) Keep it coming!
  17. diglo

    diglo Supporting Member

    May 21, 2007
    Get up! Get Get Get Down!
    I owned a Marcus 5 with a J retro. I really didn't dig it. Just didn't have the bite I was looking for. Seem to thin to me. I've owned my Sadowsky stomp for years. It's a lifesaver for all my passive basses. I'll upgrade pickup and use with the stomp. Beefed up low end and it keeps that jazz bass growl!