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sansamp para driver vs. aguilar tone hammer

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by ba$$player, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. ba$$player


    Dec 8, 2010
    Just looking for opinions on both. I will be using for recording as well as shows where we open for someone else. They look pretty similar, which to go with?
  2. mattfong


    Jan 14, 2008
    Toronto, Canada
    I just typed a bunch of incomprehensible crap about the Para Driver so here's what I think in a simpler answer:

    -It's not my favourite thing ever for electric bass, though I do use it, sometimes.
    -I LOVE it for amplifying double bass (which is probably of no concern here?).
    -The drive control is nice for subtle tubey grit.
    -The mid controls are awesome and super-useful.
    -the EQ is really powerful, in general.

    I've never used it as a DI box yet, so no comment on that. I think the reason I don't love it with electric bass is that I LOVE my amp, so I don't need another preamp/eq. Though it's great having it when I'm at a gig using a house amp that I don't really like.
    PawleeP likes this.
  3. boodakon


    Sep 2, 2009
    San Diego,CA
    I haven't used the Tone Hammer so can't comment on that.

    But have used the SansAmp RBI, which is said to be the rackmount version of the Para driver (how similar/dissimilar these might be I really can't say - didn't play the Para Driver with my current set up). I felt the RBI colored my tone too much, even with blend set at 25%. So with that, I got drowned out easily once my guitarist started raging, plus the unit has some kinda automatic mid-scoop thingy. Loved it when my drummer and I rocked out alone though.

    My advice...buy both, at the same time from GC and A/B them. Return the one that doesn't fit you. If you're gonna record, you wanna' get the right tone. Best of luck to ya!
  4. The RBI has a fixed midrange the para driver has a sweepable midrange. I thought the para driver sounded great when I had one, the only down side for me was the treble range cuts off kind of low.
    PawleeP likes this.
  5. I'd love to hear someone chime in on the non-hairy distortion tone of the TH? All the clips I've ever heard were w/ unusable (to me at least) amounts of distortion. I'm talking a little hair around the edges . . . :D

    fwiw I gig w/ a SABDDI and track w/ a RBI - love 'em to pieces!
  6. ba$$player


    Dec 8, 2010
    Yes I play electic bass, no standup. I also will NEVER use distortion, so that is of no concern. Thanks for all the replies and keep 'em comin!
  7. So you aren't planning to use the Drive at all? I've tried both the Para Driver and the Tone Hammer through my band's PA, so here are some of my thoughts.

    First, the Drive on the Para Driver can get pretty gritty fast, but there is a Blend control to mix in the clean signal of your bass. Unfortunately, I found the EQ to scoop out the Mids and Highs which made the bass sound kinda thin in the mix. It seemed like no matter what we did, we simply couldn't get the sound we wanted out of this pedal.

    We tested the Tone Hammer through the PA, and, without engaging the AGS, we all really liked this pedal. Very clean when not engaging the AGS, and the EQ is pretty versatile. Plus, this pedal almost seems to enhance the Mids rather than scoop them. The AGS affects the EQ a bit, but, again, I wouldn't say it scoops the EQ. If you don't want overdrive, then you may not even need the AGS anyway.
  8. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    There are a lot of threads on both pedals here, so your SEARCH is going to be your friend on this one....

    That being said - I'm a Tone Hammer user, and love this pedal. As a tool for live use - it sits on my pedal board to help give my passive Jazz some oomph and a little bit of fur going into my amp (and also a backup DI in case of emergency). For recording, I find it is a very versatile pedal. With the AGS engaged and dialed in to lower settings, you can add a nice little bit of compression and warmth without going into the full out fur that you spoke of in your original post.

    I recorded this clips for another thread, so check them out. First one goes like this:

    1. Clean Jazz (Tone Hammer bypassed)
    2. Tone Hammer engaged
    3. Tone Hammer engaged AGS on, low gain
    4. Tone Hammer engaged, AGS on, medium gain
    5. Tone Hammer engaged, AGS on, high gain

    SoundClick artist: Thunderbeard - page with MP3 music downloads

    Second is just me fiddling with the dials quickly to show some tones available:
    SoundClick artist: Thunderbeard - page with MP3 music downloads

    If you have any specific questions, let me know and I'll try to help.
    dupseb and T.Dias like this.
  9. Swift713


    Dec 4, 2006
    Florence, Ma
    I like that low gain sound.
  10. Britbonic

    Britbonic Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    Great sounding clips. Like the low gain setting. FWIW, I had an original Sansamp for years and while it was a useful tool never became part of my regular set up or was used for recording. Recently got a tonehammer and am really enjoying it. I bought it originally as an alternative for getting a built in pre amp for one of my basses but am finding I use it all the time. Especially useful as I play in 3 bands and only have my own amp at one rehearsal space so I use it to dial in the sound I want on other 2 amps. I like the fact that I can add a little more bass when playing the bridge pu on jazz and also the extent of midrange control. Also expecting at some point to use for DI live. Very solid pedal. Only wish was a little smaller.
  11. Vlad5

    Vlad5 Chronic Knob Twiddling Tone Chaser

    Feb 17, 2011
    New England
    The Para Driver is the floor peddle version of the RPM.

    I own the Para Drive, and have tried out the Tone Hammer. Both are close to equally good for bass, but a bit different. I still own the Para, but am using it to warm up a hot EMG 81 bridge pickup on a guitar, which it does really well. I returned the Tone Hammer because I found out my bass doesn't like pre-eq. :rolleyes:, but I really liked the boost option on it, and it was clean sounding through both XLR and 1/4".

    It is a tough choice between the two. IMHO, if you like the tone of your bass, and want to simply eq and boost it, then the Tone Hammer is a great choice. If you must have a tube sym, or some kind of warm tone to add a mellow character, and don't care about a separate boost switch, than the Para Drive would be the choice.

    This may make for good reading to. ;)
  12. I have owned both of them and I agree with the consensus. If you like your bass tone out of the box, then the Tone Hammer will give you the option of reproducing that tone without much color. The ParaDriver sounds colored immediately. Both can add a lot of color to the tone, it is only a matter of which color you like.

    I prefer and still own the Tone Hammer :bassist:
    PawleeP and bass nitro like this.
  13. Britbonic

    Britbonic Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    I'll add one more comment from my experience last night. At the space I rehearse is a GK 800RB and Mesa 15 cab. The band is alt rock type material and I feel like the very 80s sound of the GK is wrong for this band. Last night I ran in the TH and then into the Return of the amp so just using the power amp. Sounded fantastic. I ran just about everything that 12:00 and played my Squier CV 60s PBass. Got lots of complements for the other guys on my sound. The liked the fact that there was just a touch of overdrive. Tonight I'll play with my cover band where the material is much broader where I like to use a Jbass. I'll use the TH with my LMII and tweak the mids to so the bass is a little more distinct. So far loving the box.
  14. tech21nyc

    tech21nyc Commercial User

    Aug 17, 2010
    Manufacturer: Tech 21
    Just to respond to a few comments. The Para DI when set flat will be just that. FLAT. This means the blend knob is set counterclockwise and the SansAmp circuitry is bypassed and the mid control is at it's null point. This means the mid shift will have no effect when you sweep the control.

    Obviously our Para DI and the Tone Hammer are similar products. As far as EQ goes. There should be very little difference between any type of EQ when the EQ ranges are set to the same parameters. On a semi-parametric the width or Q of the control will make a difference. In general a wider Q will be more musical . A narrow EQ is usually used for a very specific purpose like squelching feedback or dealing with a problematic frequency node.

    When you go on as many forums as I do you start to realize that many players come from different worlds in terms of gear and music. For the most part it seems to me that the style of music you play pretty much dictates your gear choices to a certain degree. I'm not sure if Billy Sheehan and Nathan East would have the same gear requirements.

    All that said, there seem to be two basic camps I see here on Talk Bass. The modern guys that use more hi-fi kind of bass direct to board type of sounds. This means the bass amp is being used more for a tonal change and there is very little analog coloring or distortion. Then you have the more traditional guys that come from the Ampeg, Hi Watt, Orange school where the bass sound is tone shaping with some degree of tube or analog distortion. No right or wrong. Just different needs for different types of players and musical styles. Once you decide which camp you're in it makes it a little easier to narrow down what you're looking for.
  15. I have yet to try the Para Driver, but the Tone Hammer is currently the primary unit in my setup. I don't use the preamp section of my amp anymore as the TH does it better, gotta love that. I hardly even miss my rig at gigs anymore.

    The AGS is quite aggressive and I rarely use it. Nice to have the metal distortion option though. I think the problem is that it's connected to both the gain and the mid knob, so if I want just a little bit of hair I sometimes need to scoop my mids, which was not my plan. Nevertheless, the gain knob is generous and can give you nice, subtle, transparent distortion even with AGS off. Just my experience.
  16. Eublet


    Jul 28, 2006
    I've enjoyed the BDDI over the years a good bit, but the Para DI, not so much. I really wanted to like it but just couldn't. I love the BDDI for some tones.

    The Tone Hammer to me is quite simply an oustanding piece of gear. I've used it often, as well as the BDDI, in a variety of settings, both as a preamp/DI, as a recording unit, and as a preamp for a poweramp. I can answer a lot of questions about this if you ask. I'll give some highlights on each though.

    The Blend on the Para does work, but in the end, I never cared for how it worked in the end. The wet signal you blend is has a default scooped tone, which you can try to alter with the mid control, but in the end it seems to be blending the mid-boosted natural tone of your bass with the scooped tube emulated tone. Not to my liking at all. This issue isn't as dramatic sounding with the BDDI because there is no mid boost, so it feels more natural. The tube emulation on the Sansamp is VERY fat, and hard to get away from also. Running lower blend settings help control that, but again the catch is that you wind up hearing a lot of your basses tone mixed in with a completely different tone. Doesn't always wind up getting you were you want to be.

    The Tone Hammer is a totally different animal. With the AGS off, it's just an uber clean EQ with gain boost. Very high quality, and the sweepable mids are fantastic. You know how everyone raves about the Sadowsky outboard preamp/DI pedal. I had one, until I got my Tone Hammer. The TH covered the Sadowsky thing VERY well. The low control has the same 40 hz setting with the AGS off, as does the 4k treble setting. The sweepable mids on the TH are just wonderful, though I do wish it would go up to about 2k. No big deal.

    The EQ on the TH is flat when it is engaged. When you also turn on the AGS, at the lowest setting, there is no hair on the notes at all. Again, NO hair at all unless your bass is just SUPER hot in terms of output. What does happen when you engage the AGS is that highs are immediately rolled off in a way that simulates a vintage tweeterless cabinet. So the tone gets warmer sounding off the bat, even though the lows and mids are still the same. The Treble control now acts more like a Presence knob does on the Sansamp stuff. It dials in grindy mids in the 2.5k region. Very slick. The lows are tightened up a bit as you boost them, so instead of getting really deep and boomy, they get fat and vintage. Again, still no hair on the notes because the AGS gain is fully counter clockwise. The mid control still allows you to cut/boost mids where you want them. Very slick. Vintage tones with no hair.

    As you add more AGS gain, the tone gets warmer until you get some hair, and then it starts overdriving. With the EQ flat, the overdrive tone is VERY mid-oriented such that it can sound a bit nasally and harsh. But remember, this is with the EQ flat, and most folks who are used to hearing a classic tube amp (think SVT for example) should note that an SVT is no where near flat. There's a mid scoop. So to get rid of that nasally midrange in the TH, you have to cut mids as you boost the gain. Setting the knob around 2-3 o'clock puts the mid control around the 750 hz mark, where you'll get some classic SVT'ish mid scoop going. Start cutting the mids there to get the tone you want. Cut to anywhere from 10 to 8 o'clock, and you can pretty much close your eyes and thing your running through the BDDI and not the Tone Hammer. The cool thing is that you aren't having to use a Blend knob at all to control that mid scoop. Just scoop the mids as deep as you like to get the tone you're after, and then adjust the Treble (which now more like a Presence, remember?) to get the amount of cut you want. Then, dial up the bass if you want it fat and deep, or cut it back to keep a thinner tone. Very slick, and way cool.

    Here's another trick about the TH that I use a good bit. I'll scoop the mids ALL the way out around 750 hz for a rock tone. With the Bass/Treble boosted to around 2 o'clock, this is very similar to the "Fat Tube" setting from the BDDI manual. But the cool trick is instead to cut treble and bass back. I'll set bass to 11 or maybe 10 o'clock, and cut treble all the way back to 8 or 9 o'clock. The result is a very warm, lower-mid dominant tone (because the upper mids and lows are cut back so far), with a subtle, understated top end. It's very B15'ish and sounds awesome with a P bass or jazz with flats. At this point, if you want more depth, rather than boosting the bass, you move the mid frequency knob clockwise, which pools out upper mids and articulation. If you want more of that, then you move the knob counter clockwise to bring those upper mids back into the tone. The highs and lows stay the same, so it's an easy way to adjust your tone on the gig to get more/less articulation in the mix.

    These are just a few examples of what the Tone Hammer can do. I'm a huge fan of it obviously, but I came from being a BDDI user for quite a while, and I just never could bond with the new VT pedal. I still love and have a deep respect for the BDDI, and while I don't use one myself much anymore, I know I can always make it work. The Para Driver I wouldn't bother with myself.

    A lot of folks around here have slammed the Tone Hammer because you can't use the AGS like a second channel, where you can engage/disengage overdrive at will without causing volume differences. I guess I can understand that, but really that's not the Aguilar'sdesign intent. Instead, think of it more as a single channel tone shaper, that will "hammer" (pardon the pun) your tone into a wide variety of directions. It just takes a little time playing with the controls to figure out what does what. I still learn new things about it all the time. It's not that it's complicated, but rather that the AGS circuit ties in very closely to the mid control, so changing the mids affects the overdrive tone, and the more gain you add, the more the low end tightens up to prevent things from getting muddy.

    I'll stop now unless someone has specific questions about any of these units.
    Squint, Ba55Man1ac, scottic2 and 29 others like this.
  17. ba$$player


    Dec 8, 2010
    I very pleased at your review, thanks for going so in depth. I ended up getting a BDDI instead (I found a great deal in the TB classifieds). Therefore I am very glad to hear it is a cheaper alternative to the tone hammer, and a good place to start. Thanks everyone for the opinions!
  18. KevtheRev


    Feb 3, 2008
    Eublet, thanks so much for that primer on the TH - I finally understand this box now - the AGS (not being a second channel) was a mystery to me before. I very much respect your gear reviews - one of the reasons I felt confident ordering a Shuttle 6.0 unheard. And I was not dissappointed w/ that. I'm going to give the TH a shot as well.
  19. P-oddz

    P-oddz Supporting Member

    Apr 7, 2009
    Milwaukee, WI
    Awesome review and breakdown of the Tone Hammer's capabilities. If I was not already a completely satisfied owner of one - I would probably be inclined to go check one out right now!

    You've put in to words what I have found out, but just didn't know how to describe. The AGS circuitry allows for very expansive adjustments in tone, and like you I am still finding new things that are cool about this pedal.

    Including yesterday: My band is finishing up tracking some new tunes for a summer release. We decided to futz around with some different techniques. We ended up re-amping a couple of guitars through a series of pedals. On the end of the chain I used the Tone Hammer. The AGS engaged and at low settings smoothed everything out. Nice bit of compression, and just overall warmth added. Also did a version with high gain and mids dialed in differently (as you mentioned how the mids really affect what the gain is capable of) and got some really awesome usable tones.

    So happy I purchased this pedal.
  20. greenbass5


    Sep 16, 2007
    Oklahoma City
    I'm looking for something to use as a pre with a power amp. Would something besides the TH work better with my active basses? Or would it be reduntant to use it with active basses? Thanks.

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