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The ODB-3 In Front of the RBI: Extensive Review

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by jufros, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. jufros


    Nov 24, 2008
    Well, I’ve been looking to experiment with adding distortion and overdrive units in front of the RBI and seeing how they react with the RBI’s drive circuit. My clean tone is reliant upon the circuit, and so I want to find a couple of pedals that compliment the RBI when run before the preamp in series. Today, I bit the bullet and picked up a new Sparkle Drive (in the mail) and a used ODB-3. The ODB-3 is largely a one trick pony with the RBI, and it was initially really challenging to get a sound that wasn’t absolutely awful, especially on the G string. However, with the following settings, I officially have A (not necessarily THE) "distortion" sound that, especially for the price I paid, I can appreciate and dig.

    Here is a review of the ODB-3 running through the Sansamp RBI. For the most part, I used the following settings and found them to compliment the RBI when almost no others would. There are tons of ODB-3 reviews but I haven't seen one that relates anything about how the ODB-3 reacts with the RBI and its separate Drive circuit. Given the popularity of the RBI around here, I thought I might share my experiences of the day.

    My RBI Settings:
    Drive: 12:00. Presence: 9:30. Blend: Maxed. All EQ Flat.
    I took the DBX 166A, Rane, and Aphex out of the signal chain initially and then added them back in one by one. I also tried using the GEB-7 after the ODB-3 as a switchable EQ.

    Settings that I found the most useful on the ODB-3:
    Level: 10:30-11:00
    High EQ: 10:30
    Low EQ: 1:30
    Balance: 3:00
    Gain: 9:00

    Oddly enough, even with the balance so heavily favoring the clean and the gain knob rolled down so far, the tone is undeniably distorted and not exactly what I would describe as subtle. It's completely artificial sounding but in a way that is kind of interestingly modern sounding in its compressed one-dimensionality. I will elaborate on what I mean by this after a short rant on the gain knob.

    Gain: 1:30 or higher.

    At higher gain settings, this thing proved completely unusable, screaming profanities through my cabinets, and picking up a downright unacceptable amount of string noise when I attempted to perform anything more technically complicated than a relentless pounding of the E string. It was absolutely awful. I tried to do some tapping as well as run some sixteenth-note scale-based runs. It sounded messy, like I was playing sloppier than I could have dreamed of. Basically, what happened was that any time I would move my left hand around even slightly, the pedal would blast string noise at me.

    Fortunately, I can't see any possible reason to ever crank the gain past 11:00 or 12:00, and I think the strength of this pedal lies in its lower gain settings anyway. In addition, the gain knob is anything but subtle. Nudge it past 0 it to 8:00 and you have instantly noticeable distortion of your sound. So, this is where I tell you that the blend knob is not only essential, but surprisingly really good and basically the heart and soul of this pedal.

    Gain=12:00, Blend=12:00,

    When I set the blend and gain at noon and used the EQ settings listed above, I got a fuzz, but not one that sounds anything at all like my Muff. I like the Bass Muff more, but you can get a fuzz-like sound on the ODB-3 that has more bite than you can dial in on the Muff. Given the difficulty of finding a fuzz that has a lot of attack and definition, this was a definite plus for me and something that I would like to further experiment with. I think the EQ configuration I listed sounds best at these settings as well, but you can get some weird low fi sounds if you hard-cut the treble and boost the bass a little more. I'm going to try out the ODB "fuzz" at practice on Wednesday and see how it sits with our mix A/Bed against the Bass Muff.

    Level=10:30-11:00. High=10:30. Low=1:30. Blend=3:00. Gain=9:00.

    In an hour and a half or so of tinkering this afternoon, the biggest strength/weakness of the ODB-3 that I found is that doesn't "breathe" more life into your playing dynamics at the gain stage that I have listed in any way that an actual "overdrive" would. It sounds compressed and foreign, but the frequency spectrum that I could get from it was very wide. What this means is that you can get a very consistent sound, something that compressors excel at but not something that most are looking for in a distortion or overdrive unit. Accordingly, most OD’s that I’ve used on any instrument dramatize your playing dynamics. But rather than getting turned off by the unresponsiveness of the ODB-3 at lower gain, I was intrigued for several reasons.

    First off, I was able to get it sounding really punchy for a bass distortion, and despite what the settings I used might suggest, I was not getting a compromised clean tone with some obnoxious indistinct fuzz on top of it.

    I ran a DBX 166A in the effects loop of the RBI to see how much more consistent I could get the ODB-3. I set the compression ratio at 4:1 with the threshold at -20db. The 166A doesn’t have attack and release controls but you can switch between “fast” or “slow” compression. I normally use the “fast” compression for my band’s material so I stuck with it to simulate my potential stage sound. I found more dynamic consistency here as would be expected with a compressor and started liking the sound a little more that I had previously.

    I then tried shaping the tone with various EQ’s. The ODB does not have a mid knob. You might find that this is a problem depending on your preferences. I hate the mid knob setting on the RBI. It’s probably the only thing that I don’t like about it and my reasoning for investing in outboard EQ. I'm also really an employer of scooped bass tones, so I tried a couple different methods to get a thicker and more prominent midrange out of the ODB and RBI.

    I started on the RBI for the sake of shedding some more light on the ODB's interaction with it. The RBI mids are set at 1k and I find that they do not contribute much to the punch of your sound at all. The 1k boost will offer some control of the growl that is so easily achieved with the RBI’s drive, however. I found a slight boost on the RBI mids to produce a pretty substantial difference with the ODB. I played around with the gain and the blend after setting the RBI mids to about 2:00. Again, the same ODB settings generated the most effective "ODB tone," but with 1k boosted a touch, I got a lot more cut and definition, definitely more than I would have if the ODB and RBI gains had not been working in series. I turned the gain all the way down on the RBI as well to confirm that the interaction of the drive circuits was amplifying this.

    I then moved on to testing the GEB-7 with the ODB. You can get ridiculous scooped sounds like this if you want. Think nu metal scoopage. It's lifeless but pissed off sounding. With the RBI flat, I boosted at 50 and 120 on the GEB, cut at 400, 500, and 800, boosted at 4.5k and left 10k flat. I'm not into this tone and it's way too abrasive for my tastes, but if you’re trying to make music that calls for scooped bass with some really absurdly gritty overtones thrown into the mix, you might find something useful here. Not my style though.

    I had the most success with the GEB-7 with comparably less dramatic cutting and boosting. I cut 50, left 120 flat, boosted 400, cut 500, boosted 800, cut 4.5k, and finally cut 10k for the most dramatic margin by about 5-6db. I found myself cutting the highs with ODB/RBI combination on an extremely consistent basis. I didn’t find the higher frequencies useful, and the sound was just too harsh for me otherwise. I’ll add that I used to play keyboard for a prog/death metal band and am no stranger to what some might consider harsh sounds. Maybe sludgier material could do better with less treble roll off, but I’m skeptical.

    On the Rane, I followed a similar pattern, gradually rolling up to 120 from the bottom, cutting at 500, cutting highs, and giving myself small boosts at 400, 800, and 1k. The biggest advantage the Rane had to offer was that I had considerably more control over the problem frequencies in the highs and could just keep everything up to them before I started cutting. I found usable settings that were very reminiscent of my normal RBI EQing but with the high roll off starting a little earlier. That was nice to see. It seems like if I set the ODB-3 correctly, I can dial in my clean settings with my gear, and then just drop the ODB-3 in before the RBI and have usable results.

    Using my normal Rane EQ settings and then using the GEB-7 before it to cut the highs a little more got the best result by far. 10k is shelved on the GEB-7, and if I switched the GEB to do nothing else but cut 10k and 4.5k, I actually really liked the sound. Like I’ve said, the ODB seems to get a totally one-dimensional sound, but in a really gritty, hollow, and modern sounding way when used before the RBI’s drive circuit.

    I tried utilizing the ODB's lack of dynamic responsiveness at lower gain settings with my Micro POG. Very robotic sounding, especially with both octaves engaged on the POG. When I tried running the ODB into the POG as opposed to vice versa, I found the POG to track noticeably better with the ODB set up the way I have it than it does with the Bass Muff in the same position in the signal chain. I'm going to try this out with the Micro Q-Tron as well when it arrives and probably update this. I don't really have any idea what to expect.

    I should reiterate that the purpose of this experiment was to see how the ODB-3 manipulated the RBI's drive circuit. Basically, as I expected from reviews and testimonials on TB, I found the ODB-3 to be utterly useless as an overdrive with the RBI, but as an external distortion unit, I think it's fairly unique sounding in front of it and I'm eager to try out some other units under similar conditions and perhaps try to throw together a collection of sound clips of overdrive and distortion driving the RBI with its own drive dialed in at a various levels. I think given the RBI’s popularity around here this would probably be useful information for a lot of people and I’d like to give something back to the forums here for being such a wealth of information about effects and being so helpful with my ceaseless questions about them.

    You can get OD on the RBI, but it's a single channel preamp, and I don't want or need my "clean" tone to utilize more "overdrive" than is necessary to accentuate mid frequency growl in an appealing and natural way. I'm also not exactly a bass effects junkie, and formerly a strictly bass->amp kind of guy, my experimenting with them at all is a recent development in my bass-playing career.

    But my new band is becoming progressively more serious and the band wanted and needed variety out of the bass, so I've put a lot of time into scheming together my rig. I'm starting to appreciate the potential that they have to offer some tonal variety where the common listener expects little to none.

    While I can't see myself using the ODB-3 all that extensively in my current band due to the nature of our material, I'm definitely keeping it around and have already opted to use it for a couple of passages after my first afternoon with it. As far as I know, there is not really another pedal that sounds like the ODB-3 simply due to the features that the ODB has and the "sterile," predictable, and digitally distorted tone that it delivers along with a very usable blend. Why on earth would someone build on ODB-3 clone? Of course such a thing would never happen, and that's part of the reason that I'm happy to own this pedal.

    I imagine the Electronix unit can pull off some very similar stunts with the RBI as it has some similar features, a lot of interesting additional ones, and I'm sure that it has much more efficiently thought out gain as well as better EQ controls. On the distortion side of the spectrum, I’m interested in trying out the Tech 21 XXL Bass, Tech 21 GT2, Boss HM-2, Boss Metal Zone, and the Proco Rat (I tragically gave this to my brother about two years ago, figuring that I wasn’t using it for guitar and wasn’t really interested in bass effects at the same).

    I ordered a Voodoo Sparkle Drive today and am thinking that this will yield considerably more favorable overdrive results. I’ve read that it doesn’t do distortion, but then again the ODB-3 sounds much different through the RBI than it seems to sound in samples and clips that I’ve heard, so I’m not really sure what I’ll wind up with. I will definitely try to do a similar write up for this though as I know not as many people have the Sparkle Drive due to it’s a) costing considerably more than the ODB-3 or comparably priced (but of much less interest to me personally) Ibanez PD7 and b) it is marketed as a guitar effect.

    In the overdrive camp, there are a good number that I would like to try before the RBI. I would really like to try a VT Bass, and have learned that setting it’s own EQ flat is pretty easily accomplished. It also offers a mid control and as I understand it, the “character” knob is essentially a high mids control. This sounds very promising and I will probably pick one up as soon as I can and A/B it against the Sparkle Drive.

    The EBS Valve Drive will definitely be out of my price range, but I might try to get my hands on the Multi Drive. The Fulltone looks interesting but the boost function is just a little too egotistical of a function for my taste and I seriously doubt I would ever use it. So, next project will be running the Sparkle Drive with the RBI, and then I will likely try to find a VT Bass used while keeping an eye out for the boss pedals and XXL Bass at steal ‘em prices.

    In summary: The ODB has way too much gain that I found totally unusable, offers no low-end loss whatsoever at the settings I provided. Furthermore, it’s pretty unique sounding in my opinion despite offering a very limited array of usable tones. Whether you find this “uniqueness” aesthetically pleasing is of course entirely subjective. Still, the blend and EQ can offer some tonal variety where the gain fails to. I will say that if you’re going to put the ODB in front of the RBI with the drive rolled up a fair amount, you will benefit immensely from external EQ regardless of what your intended sound is. At the price point of the ODB, I would not advocate going out and buying an EQ pedal or a rack EQ for it. If you are already have one or both of these things, you can get a really cool distorted sound running the ODB into the RBI.

    Maybe it’s my keyboardist background, but I have a tendency to keep anything different sounding around because I never know when I might feel inspired to use it. I relish those satisfying moments when I know that I got the “right” sound for the part, and that it came from an unlikely source. I’m hedging my bets in favor of variety and keeping the ODB-3. It can work with my setup and so I assume that it can work with any sansamp out there.

    If you have a sansamp and some external EQ of some kind and find yourself wanting a distortion, this can be pretty interesting and if you set it right, it’s a good little pedal. I have no personal experience with using it front of any other amp, but to fellow sansamp owners, I would recommend the ODB-3 as being a good used value that will offer some compelling sounds out of the sansamp that are otherwise unachievable. Worth $40 bucks to me.
  2. lowbass68


    Feb 3, 2008

    The sound you describe is the only reason I keep my ODB-3. I use this sound for a few things.
  3. idoru


    Dec 18, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nice post, a lot of effort just to gets some dirt though! I can't really talk though - for grit, I used to strap a Boss NS-2 Noise Gate & an 80's Ibanez FC-10 Fat Cat (Rat clone) into the effects loop of an Alesis Quadraverb GT, with the EQ set to restore the lost low end and give a little low-mid bump. That whole mess was run through the RBI in parallel, and kicked in with the QVGT's bypass switch. Seriously some of my favourite bass distortion ever, second only to the second Para Driver style channel on my old Landmark 300.

  4. jufros


    Nov 24, 2008
    That sounds like it would really well. I miss my rat I totally blew it giving it to my brother haha.
  5. I know you Idoru

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