Tell me how you use your bass preamp pedal

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by squeally dan, Jan 30, 2023.

  1. squeally dan

    squeally dan Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    So, I started out on guitar but now on bass. I see lots of people with bass preamps on their pedal boards and I’m not understanding the purpose. I once used a sans amp di in place of an amp but why is it needed if you already have an amp? Do you leave it on all the time for additional tone coloration?

    while we are at it, I see lots of compression pedals as well. Leave on all the time as a way to kinda dull the rough edges or spikes in certain frequencies?

    JRA and BlueTalon like this.
  2. I use preamps to add a polish, refinement or certain character and consistency to my sound whether I am going into headphones, iem, monitor, stage amp or for recording. My favorite tones are out of older large heavy amps pushed to just saturating that modern amps don't have so a vintage voiced preamp helps me get that sound no matter the playing situation. Having a preamp means I can get my sound wherever and whenever even with a borrowed or backline amp. YMMV.

    My current favorite is the @Sushi Box FX Underground Accelerator tube preamp.
  3. BEADist


    Mar 24, 2022
    The Netherlands
    I use a preamp with a cabsim to send my bass signal DI to FOH. My heavy distorted bass signal does not sound good without it (some high end needs to be removed that would otherwise be 'removed' by a bass cab). I have a separate signal without preamp/cabsim that I sent to a stage amp. FOH can mix this DI sound with the miced cab (if they do mic the cab).
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  4. Jeff Hughes

    Jeff Hughes

    May 3, 2020
    Sometimes a sound person will take your signal from your bass before it gets to the amp. Having a preamp ahead of that direct box gives you some more control over your signal and tone.
    jhfishn, BlueTalon, Ewo and 3 others like this.
  5. I keep my BOSS BC-1x and Tech 21 Bass Driver v2 on all the time. I use the BC-1x as a tone optimizer. It adds some highs, tightens the bass, and keeps everything even. I use the Bass Driver because I find it easier to dial in than my amp, which I now run flat. I can take the DI from the pedal or the amp.

    You may find that you want much lighter compression on bass than you do on guitar. The clean platform amp with pedal preamp works just as well on bass as on guitar. It's all about what works best for you.
  6. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    Bass is a very dynamic instrument. And music needs consistency in the low end (the vast majority of the time). Compressors help keep things consistent. They also do a few other things with various settings. As in, having no attack, and higher compression actually creates an additional punch thump. They also add sustain. Infinite sustain with some.

    And yes, pre amps into amps add additional eq options, features, and coloration.
  7. Riff Ranger

    Riff Ranger Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2018
    Bigfoot Country
    In my cases, it’s a matter of adding a particular color at all times, and basic tone shaping when going direct.
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  8. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Shaker Heights, OH
    In guitar world the amp is part of the instrument; the whole stage could be IEM but guitar will still have an amp mic’d off stage. The main frequencies are in the midrange spectrum 200 to 4K due to the speaker response and the mic used (like an SM57). Guitarists don’t ever go direct unless there’s some amp/cab simulator.

    bass is completely different. The biggest hits of all time (Motown) were recorded direct to the mixing console via a Tube Preamp/Direct Box. Bass is about the low frequencies which are hard to reproduce through an amp, going direct negates that issue and ensures full low end reproduction.

    the preamp in most people’s case is simply a color box before their DI or it has a DI built in. Since there is no amp (studio or IEM live rig), the DI/Preamp gives the color/tone shaping if needed.

    you will notice most forums are dissecting recordings and it’s so many variables for guitar, amp guitar pedals microphone speaker cab. For bass it’s usually just the bass and strings and DI since most studio stuff is direct. There are some recordings/studio that do amps and want that sound; but I’ve found in my experience in studios it’s 95% direct.

    Hope that helps
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2023
  9. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I use mine to simulate a dimed amp at not dimed volume. A little natural tube edge of breakup. And honestly when I’m out with full rig at rock volume I don’t always need it.

    Just like with your guitar, your amp at 9:00 is where the devil lives.
    Isaac_James and Riff Ranger like this.
  10. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    As noted above: Many bassists go into the PA system or recording console direct. The preamp adds a flavor that you don't get with DI.

    In many cases, a bass player's amp is really used as a monitor with an adjustable EQ.
    SoCal80s, instrumentlevel and Levent like this.
  11. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I use a Tech 21 VT Deluxe (which I wish they never discontinued so I can get a new one) because it’s got an XLR that makes the DI line have the frequency response of an Ampeg 810, 2 channels with 3 presets each (great for doubling gigs), plus it will do anything from super clean to fuzz. It’s not so much for my rig but the house, because I don’t like super low lows or tweeter highs.
  12. InkCow


    Aug 9, 2022
    Chattanooga, TN
    For me, it’s the unpredictability of what the situation will be at gigs: is there a house back line? Do they make you play through the PA and the amp is a stage monitor? Does your amp need to supply the bass for the room? Do they want you ampless? Etc.

    Using a preamp gives me a modicum of control over my sound with all of those variables. It won’t be perfect from place to place, but you can at least start in the right ballpark.

    Another option, with small, light, high power class d amps is to simply use your bass head for the preamp, since it’s possibly about the same size as a pedal. It all depends on what you think works best for your needs.
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  13. DoctorZee

    DoctorZee Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2018
    New York / New Jersey
    I use mine (VT Bass DI) any time I’m sending a signal to FOH or using a venue-provided backline, to let me quickly dial in a tone I know will be great.

    It’s always switched off when I’m using my own amp… because I liked the tone so much I picked up a VT Bass 500 head. Now I have essentially the same tone no matter what rig I’m using on any given gig. I think this is a great benefit for pedals that have a corresponding amp (VT, Tonehammer, Orange, Mesa, etc.)

    In the past I owned an MXR M80+ and used that one more like a stompbox because I thought the distortion channel was very useable when dialed in just so.

    And I once had an Eden WTDI that I used in a piano-bass-drums trio where we often played tiny clubs and went ampless.

    I guess what I’m saying is, it depends entirely on what you need and how it can best serve you.
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  14. InkCow


    Aug 9, 2022
    Chattanooga, TN
    Oh, and it also lets you go with wildly different tone options without having to spring for entirely new amps.
    reynhart likes this.
  15. 57pbass

    57pbass Supporting Member

    Aug 1, 2004
    Bayside, New York
    I use my preamps with a powered cabinet. Never use them with my amps. The preamp in my bass head and the preamp on the bass is plenty.
    SoCal80s and bassandboy like this.
  16. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive

    Apr 23, 2014

    Mine's the hub, intrinsic. Microbass II. I don't mess with it all that much, except to rein in the output level, depending where its signal's headed off to. Unquestionably my favorite 'pedal.' I like compression, drive; and fuzz, reverb, trem, delay, etc. in the mix, sometimes. Kicks it, all in all. Just the way it worked out. I'm a happy chappie.
  17. REV

    REV Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2006
    I use a VT bass pedal to quickly change the character of my sound for certain songs. I usually play with a fair bit of treble but with the VT bass I can quickly shift to a fatter sound.
  18. In my subjective preferences;
    • A preamp at the beginning of the chain is typically a transparent EQ pedal which is used to make a passive bass sound a little different when needed - like the preamp of an active bass.
    • A preamp at the end of the chain is typically an amp+cab sim to shape the sound correspondingly before sending to the mixing desk.
    cymbop, King Harvest, AndyLES and 4 others like this.
  19. jdjk7

    jdjk7 Supporting Member

    May 12, 2016
    Bloomington, IN, USA
    The way I use preamp pedals is to get flavors of amp that aren't quite what my actual amp can do. It's variety that I can get easily and relatively inexpensively, without having to either heavily modify the settings of my amp or buy much more expensive and cumbersome preamps or amp heads. One could run this type of setup straight into a power amp, but I much prefer the peace of mind that if there were to be a pedalboard issue, I do have a fully functioning amplifier to fall back on.

    Compression can be used as an "effect" for certain passages, but I find it much more useful to leave on all the time. I use a wide variety of techniques and effects in my playing, including slap and fuzz, which can become pretty loud. Compression and/or limiting just keeps me from having to be as concerned about blowing any speakers or eardrums.

    Running my overdrive pedal into a compressor actually allows me to get a convincing tube amp overdrive sound; I can dial in the overdriven sound that I want, then pull back the volume to clean it up for the quiet bits. My bass has a switch that lets me bypass the volume and tone controls, so I can go straight from a "clean" channel to a "bright and dirty" channel without any unnatural jumps in volume or EQ. And since the overdrive colors the "clean" tone, it really does give the appearance of a 2 channel amp, as opposed to going from a totally clean bass tone to a totally overdriven one.
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2023
  20. Ewo

    Ewo a/k/a Steve Cooper Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2008
    Huntington WV
    Yeah, IME most of the time they'll just trim the gain and put the fader up, maybe run a little compression or a high pass on the signal--but it's only the signal from the bass. I'm not faulting the engineers for that, but it's just the sound of the bass's pickups with none of the pleasing character a good preamp stage can impart.

    Along that line, I've been sending the FOH my amp's _post_ DI out rather than pre. I really like the way my Mesa TT-800 sounds, and by sending it post EQ the house receives the signal the way I've sculpted it, with the nice tube flavor of the TT's preamp. No complaints from any engineers, yet; in fact, a good number of compliments!

    If I was using an amp with a solid state pre, I think I'd run a good-sounding tube pre in front of the amp to get that flavor.

    As for compression, I put a small pedalboard including a good compressor in front of the amp's input, set it for light compression (slow attack, relatively fast release, modest ratio, and the threshold high enough that it's just grabbing the louder notes), and leave it on. My goal is to constrain the signal level a bit for some polish, but not lose the dynamics of my touch on the strings. I've gone through a lot of compressors trying to achieve that goal, and my fave is the Broughton Omnicomp (optical) with the Empress Bass Comp (think that one's an FET) a close second. One thing I've learned along the way is that I gotta have the full set of compression parameters available on the pedal; the minimalist pedals (one or two knobs) just don't offer enough control to get the job done. IMHO, YMMV, of course.
    Chris Wilke likes this.