Let the Games Begin! I love to tinker, and I'm always looking for that elusive "perfect" tone. Of course, we all know that tone needs to change to support the song and type of music you play, and one man's "perfect" is another man's "completely f'ed up beyond all recognition". That said, I've been experimenting with DI boxes and pedals for several years. Here's what I've used so far: Countryman 85 - my first ever DI back in the day. It was a simpler time back then. Radial JDI - Similar to above...just a great DI. Nothing fancy. Zoom B3 - Ah...so many good things in this inexpensive unit. Probably should have kept it. SansAmp BDDI - I just never liked this pedal from day one. Not my bag. VT Bass - See above. Didn't light my fire. No offense to Tech21 fans...just not for me. The Current Champ - Tone Hammer Here's what's on my board now: Aguilar Tone Hammer - DI...and some added AGS for a little character. Sweet! Eventide H9 - Anything you can freakin' imagine. A million pedals in one box and very, very high quality audio. MXR Bass Compressor - basic, simple, effective....and the little meter shows you it's working Turbo Tuner - If you are using any othter tuner, throw it in the garbage...get one of these. You'll thank me later. Cioks DC5 - Isolated power that fits UNDER a Pedaltrain Mini So, the experiment begins in a few days as the players are currently in transit. On deck to win the coveted spot currently occupied by my Tone Hammer are: Two Notes Le Bass Darkglass Vintage Ultra V2 I love the Tone Hammer, so why look elsewhere? The Tone Hammer has one flaw....one damn flaw. The AGS circuit has no provision for any sort of unity gain. You get your Tone Hammer EQ set JUST right. Input and output levels are perfect. Sound man loves you. Band loves you. Now...it's time for that song in your set where you need to kick in that drive.....AND YOU'RE NOW THIS FREAKIN LOUD AND EVERYONE HATES YOU AS YOU SCRAMBLE TO TURN YOUR BASS VOLUME DOWN....WHAT??? I CAN'T HEAR YOU?? DID YOU SAY SOMETHING? So yeah...I'm over reacting. The Tone Hammer is a great DI and a great preamp. But you really can't use it as an overdrive effect. The way I'm using it now is with the AGS circuit engaged, gain set low to give me a little "tubey" sound. And it's really wonderful. Really really wonderful. The other positives of the Tone Hammer are the fact that I'm almost 100% sure you could toss it off the Empire State Building, pick it up, plug it in, and it would work. It's a big pedal, but made of heavy metal (pardon the pun) and will run off phantom power if you wish. It's fairly basic, doesn't require a computer or mobile device to configure, and it just works. When you're on a gig, that's what you want...something that just works. In 20 years, it will still work. No software required. No USB to hook up. No Bluetooth. There is a lot to be said for that sort of dependability and predictability. I don't like surprises on a gig. But being a tinker, and having played with the Darkglass and LeBass at Sweetwater GearFest (which was amazing...better than Summer NAMM which I'll be at this weekend), I'm intrigued with both those pedals. I also messed with the API Tranzformer. I was expecting to be really blown away by it...but I wasn't. It was nice..solid...easy to use...but didn't make me say "DAMN!". The Contenders The two pedals being considered have many great reviews. They are highly regarded by many, but since it's my money I'm playing with, I'm dismissing their reviews for now and I'm going to form my own opinion. Two Notes Le Bass The Le Bass has one thing the rest of the contenders don't have...an actual tube. And with that tube comes tube problems. The pedal is power hungry. The Cioks DC5 powering my board would have to sacrifice two high current ports to power the Le Bass. My H9 is already consuming one of those high current ports, so that will leave the H9 to run on a different power supply...two power cords. Yuck! And then there is the fact that tubes wear out and eventually need to be replaced. Not a big job...just extra work at some point. Really moot if you ask me. The thing that intrigues me most about the Le Bass is the ability to blend the clean and dirty channels in either parallel or series mode. That, combined with a MIDI interface could make quick setting changes a breeze, and the H9 is also MIDI, so they could play very nicely together with a small MIDI controller. The possibilities are staggering. The Le Bass also has a single cab sim which can be engaged even if the clean or dirty channel aren't. From tinkering with my B3, I really love cab sims. I almost always go direct when I play, and a good cab sim will roll off some top end and give the bass a nice round sound like a good cab would. Darkglass Vintage Ultra V2 Every single review I've seen of this pedal, or any Darkglass pedal, has been positive. In fact, one reviewer basically said "throw away all your other bass pedals you don't need them". That's an awfully bold statement. The special bit about the Vintage Ultra is the "V2" part. The V2 adds in cab simulation. But it one ups the Le Bass by letting you load in different sims. Sadly, unlike Two Notes own Torpedo C.A.B., you can't load multiple cab sims and switch on the fly via MIDI or knobs on the pedal. But the C.A.B. is a different piece of kit and not in the scope of this comparison. Darkglass manages all this, and it runs on a standard old 9v 100ma power. Not 18v like the Tone Hammer. Not 12v like the Le Bass. So how will that effect the mystical "headroom" people always talk about when comparing 9v to higher voltages? The audio doesn't lie, so we'll soon see. What's Next Big shout out to my Sweetwater Rep, Joe Shafer, for hooking me up with the demo Darkglass pedal and for telling me about GearFest. Ya'll really should go. I procured the Le Bass from Reverb. Once the comparison is complete, two pedals will be for sale. Which ones to be determined. Once I receive the pedals, I'll take time to tinker with them and get the tone out of them I like the most. Will this be the tone you like? Maybe...maybe not. I'll be recording all the sound samples using the following: 2016 Fender American Standard Jazz Bass V, passive, both pickups, with Nordstrand humcanceling pickups. Allen & Heath ZED-10 fed from the balanced DI out on the pedals GarageBand with no effects or EQ other than the pedal itself. Exported to MP3 and loaded to SoundCloud See ya'll in a few days.