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USEFUL ARTS BF-1 DI/Inst. Pre

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Bassist30, Aug 18, 2018.


  1. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    USEFUL ARTS.jpg A new DI/Instrument Pre on the block. The BF-1 By Useful Arts. I recently received it this week and really enjoying it. Still working with it on my own and will after a few weeks use it live. It has 2 Tubes But uses them as quoted:

    "The BF-1 uses the input tube the same way as a tube microphone - to convert impedances without the high gain."...…………..

    "...……... What if instead of a few hundred thousand ohms we created an interface with 20 million ohms input impedance? Well, we did. And the results are astounding. Now we can observe even the tiniest details in the signal without ruining it, and pump the results out to an amp or console with the full detail in useable form."

    ………..."Instead of stopping at massive impedance conversion, the BF-1 also offers a Class A tube preamp, a two-band EQ and dual outputs that can be used simultaneously for your amp and console. But we didn't stop there. Bypass the EQ, and you have a choice of low gain (much like a traditional DI) or high gain, which gives you the ability to go straight to the converters for pure high-fidelity line level recording with no other amplification needed. "

    It sounds great and I feel its a new DI on the block that gives us some choices especially those seeking a clean open and a very tube like response. Although I have not tried the Noble but I think its a similar yet not the same idea if that makes sense. Its at a great price of 799 dollars, and I think its going to catch on. Something this good has to. https://www.usefulartsaudio.com/bf-1
     
    GilWave likes this.
  2. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Except that a tube mic preamp does not use the tube(s) to create a high impedance input... the input of a tube mic preamp's mic input is intentionally low (between 600 and 10k ohms). This is for good reason too, the lower impedance loads the microphone better, for more accurate response.

    I don't know anything about the product itself, but this part of the marketing is factually wrong and misleading.
     
    therhodeo and Old Garage-Bander like this.
  3. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK

    Electronics is a field I am not experienced with. But you can ask these questions to the company and they respond extremely fast. I do think it sounds great. To be honest for much of my home recording and live I use the Radial JDI or the J48. I like them a lot and are easy, durable and never failed me. But using it at home I feel the Radials have a blanket over them. The BF-1 is truly a great one. But again I suggest you contact them as they are very good people.

    Maybe go here and read it. Maybe I didn't clipped something that would verify what I am trying to show. https://www.usefulartsaudio.com/bf-1
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2018
  4. Peter Swann

    Peter Swann Commercial User

    Aug 19, 2018
    Useful Arts
    Hi Agedhorse. The BF-1 is not a mic pre - it's an instrument pre. And yes, it uses a tube to create a very high input impedance. Nothing misleading about it. (And if you know nothing about the product, as you acknowledge, it might be a good idea to refrain from attacks on our integrity).

    Because you are a development engineer for an amp company, you know that tubes can be implemented as impedance convertors, rather like FETs. Low input impedances in mic pres are desirable, but the simple truth is that tubes have high enough impedance in nearly any configuration that a transformer is required to achieve that. Our SFP-60 (mic pre) uses a transformer from the good people at Cinemag to create that low impedance.

    But an instrument pre is not a mic pre, and the BF-1 (which is an instrument pre) intentionally has no input transformer. Whether tubes or solid state, the only way to get a really high input impedance with a practical bandwidth is from an active device, and that's what the BF-1 does.
     
    superpanget2, GilWave and HolmeBass like this.
  5. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Hey, Bassist30, this looks like a cool little D.I./instrument pre. Glad you're enjoying yours and thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    I took a look at the product page you linked-to in your second post. Reading the description in its entirety gave me a different impression than the excerpts you quoted -- as they are laid out, the transition between the first and second quotes seems to imply (though doesn't actually state) that a mic pre might have an impedance of a few hundred thousand Ohms (while, in the full description, it's clear that this refers to instrument amplifier inputs).

    The other details of the description and of Agedhorse's and Mr. Swann's comments -- including how a tube microphone works and the effects of ultra-high impedance on magnetic pickup signals -- I'm not qualified to comment on, though I find them intriguing. I can't speak for either of them obviously, but wonder if the quote-thing led to a misunderstanding.

    Thanks again for sharing. Please keep us updated as you get more time and experience with the pre.

    Peter, welcome to Talkbass. Interesting looking device and, as far as I understand the product description, it seems like a good idea -- or at least one born of worthy goals. Like Bassist30, I am no engineer so I can't comment much on the technical aspects, but I wish you luck with your product.

     
    GilWave likes this.
  6. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    Thanks Mark. Yea I guess sometimes when you explain a DI related to a pre you think mic pre and not instrument pre (But I did say Instrument Pre). Myself not being electronic savvy can get confused. In fact I could not define a mic pre vrs a instrument pre on paper. But the thing is really an amazing piece. Like I said it really outshined my radials. But like I said before the radial DI are a good go to at a great price. But this BF-1 will probably be pretty popular soon as it competes with the more expensive DI's. Not that its cheap. Also me being nosey I love my audiokinesis as I have the older TCw15af . I think its the first version but bought a backup speaker for those particular version cause I love it so. I saw you use audiokinesis too. Thanks for the post.
     
  7. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Peter - if you read my comment, I did not in any way attack your product. Let's make this perfectly clear, ok?

    I was addressing this topic because I got a message from a forum member who was puzzled by how this works and the premise of why a mic preamp would have a high impedance input to begin with.

    Going to your site, it appears that you are describing an impedance translator (or converter) commonly used within a vintage tube condenser mic rather than an "outboard" mic preamp (similar to the product your preamp resembles in form, not function). THIS is where the confusion came from. If a potential customer was confused, and an engineer was also confused by the same description, perhaps the way it's presented is not as clear as you intended it to be?
     
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  8. Peter Swann

    Peter Swann Commercial User

    Aug 19, 2018
    Useful Arts
    Agedhorse - thanks for the clarification.

    The important thing here is that the BF-1 is in no way a mic preamp. It is a DI/instrument preamp. It combines the following elements: (1) Impedance convertor, (2) bypassable tube EQ (or) gain and (3) a tube preamp, coupled to the balanced and unbalanced outputs with a large transformer. Nothing about the design of a mic preamp has any relevance to the BF-1.

    There are myriad ways to implement a triode, and the cool thing about the BF-1 is that we were able to achieve an extremely high input impedance without the noise and ugly artifacts that often go along with that. Many tube DIs simply replicate the front end of a guitar or bass amp. But the input impedance of such products is still too low to really capture the full content of a delicate signal. Hence the design employed in the BF-1.

    I'm certainly not criticizing tube guitar and bass amps -- they have their own key role in the creation of great tone, and the BF-1 is meant in part to give those amps the chance to do what they were born to do. But better.

    I think the text on our website explains it pretty clearly, and is in no way "factually wrong and misleading." Tube mics (as opposed to mic preamps) do use tubes for impedance conversion, but the circuit is still different. Most tube mics use a triode-connected pentode arrangement with a multi-gigohm resistor in the circuit. That would not be ideal for an instrument, and that's not how we do it. But the analogy isn't without merit.

    Suffice to say that the impedance conversion of the BF-1 is very important to the design, but it is in no way the whole design. The entire circuit is optimized for clear reproduction of signals from instrument pickups (and with a frequency response flat down to 15 Hz, it's unusually good for bass).

    Ultimately, all this engineering-nerd stuff is fun for a few of us, but what really counts is that bass players love the sound.

    Cheers.

    -Peter
     
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  9. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    I agree with you, it wasn't intentionally misleading or wrong. It was misread that way by a couple of knowledgeable folks, probably because of your reference to the microphone. No worries.

    I like your packaging, has a sexy modern look to it.

    Oh, welcome to TB!
     
    Peter Swann and GilWave like this.
  10. Peter Swann

    Peter Swann Commercial User

    Aug 19, 2018
    Useful Arts
    Thanks!
     
    agedhorse likes this.
  11. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    Im glad its all straightened out. A lot was said that I'm not familiar with. I know what a volume and tone control knobs do. Weird had an early gig and came home to write and realized I know so little about electronics and should not make an attempt to explain it. . Hope I didn't confuse anybody. It was not my intension. The product is really amazingly good. That's all I know. Its sounds great and I look forward to bringing it out this week. It does look sexy too. Its something new to the market and by what I read much thought was put into it before it was created. At least worth checking out cause to me it was worth it. I like good equipment. As far as DI's Either it was always supplied to me or I use something good that works, Radials, Countrymen, even the back of my amp. A really good friend of mine loves the Reddi and brings it everywhere. A few others also have DI's that are considered, great. A few studios love the Avalon U5 as I did. I thought maybe something to it and watching this on YouTube and a few comparisons I wanted to get one. Very Glad I did. For the short time I have been using it, it just seem to open up the bass.
    Yes Pete welcome to Talkbass. Glad to have you.
     
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  12. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Yeah, you did call the BF-1 an instrument pre/DI -- I don't think that's where the confusion was (rather about something that seemed to be implied about mic pres in general -- at least the way I read the quotes initially) but, as you said, it all seems to have been straightened out now -- and easily enough -- so no worries.

    I do have an Audiokinesis Hathor 1203. It's a great little cab. I've been using it for small-to-medium stuff and my Arnopol MAS 112 for medium-to-large stuff, though there is some overlap in the middle where either would work well. Unlike your Thunderchild, they both have some bass cab voicing/coloration (most noticeably a bit of rise in the upper mids) that works well live, but each is still clear, balanced, and full-range enough that I can send a post-EQ signal to FOH with confidence. I've also run each off a tube DI (with line-level output) straight into a poweramp and gotten compliments on the sound -- they both work well with little/no EQ, so I think they could sound good with something like the BF-1 (which your experience so far would seem to suggest).

    The suggestion to put the BF-1 in front of the amp as a sort of "signal optimizer" (I hope that I'm not misusing that term) is an interesting one, as well.

    @Peter Swann, the website looks nice and there is some good info in the product descriptions, but I didn't see weight/dimensions, etc. listed (apologies if I missed that information or if there's a link to manual that I missed). If you could include that and maybe a rear-panel shot of some of the products, that'd be cool.

    I did see that the BF-1 uses a universal, switching power supply while the BF-S uses a linear supply. Is the latter voltage-switchable? Are the supplies for both internal, or do they use an external "brick" (seems like the former, but thought I'd verify)?

    Thanks.
     
    Peter Swann likes this.
  13. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    BF1 front.png BF1 Back.png
    Output Impedance 600 Ohms (XLR and TRS can be used simultaneously to drive an amp and a console)
    Gain Lo Gain: ∞ to ±6 dB
    Hi Gain: ∞ to ±18 dB Switchable

    Tube Compliment 2 x 12AU7 pure tube audio path
    50/50 nickel/iron transformer balanced output

    S / N Ratio Better than 55 dB

    Input Impedance 20 MOhms

    Dimensions 9.5 x 4.0 x 2.1" / 24.1 x 10.2 x 5.3 cm

    As far as weight, its not heavy at all. A few pounds the most.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
    GilWave likes this.
  14. Peter Swann

    Peter Swann Commercial User

    Aug 19, 2018
    Useful Arts
    Hi Mark. Yes, the BF-S is voltage-switchable at the rear fuse block. Both the BF-1 and BF-S use internal supplies with IEC connectors. No external bricks, wall warts or line lumps. And I will post some rear panel shots too.

    The BF-1 (either BF, actually) works great as a signal optimizer, and that's a pretty good term for it. It was designed to serve that role on stage while still allowing a simultaneous DI signal for FOH or recording. We have some bass players who don't even bring an amp to perform any more - they just take the BF-1 out straight into the house system.

    As far as coloration, I'd say that the unit is fairly uncolored (but with a "clarifying" effect) when the EQ is out. And THD is comprised of just second harmonics. With the EQ in, coloration can be light to extreme. The EQ is unusual, with both bands beginning their slope at about 1K and offering at least +12dB boost in their respective directions. I'll admit I've always been philosophically suspect of EQ, but this one can be used to create some very powerful tones without sounding "EQed."

    For live work, the BF-1 often makes more sense - it weighs about 3 pounds and can fit into the strap compartment of most bass cases. The BF-S is a tank, weighing in at 8 pounds.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
    GilWave likes this.
  15. GilWave

    GilWave Commercial User

    Aug 20, 2018
    Exit 55, New Jersey
    President, Wave Distro - global distributor of professional audio products
    Billy Sheehan has a BF-1, as does guitarist Paul Pesco (Hall & Oates, Robert Randolf Family Band) and producer Vance Powell (Chris Stapleton, Jack White, Dead Weather, Seasick Steve). The BF-S is a larger, table-top studio model currently among the favorite DIs of Jerry Barnes (Power Station, Nile Rogers) and Neil Citron (Steve Vai).

    My very good friend Bobby De Niro told me it's not cool to drop names, so forgive me - but I thought some of the good folkes at Talk Bass might like to know who is using Useful Arts products.
     
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  16. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Thanks for taking the trouble to post that. Appreciate it.
     
  17. fast slapper

    fast slapper

    Dec 11, 2001
    Fresno, CA
    Looks good. Kind of like a tube alternative to the A-Designs box. Better physical form in the BF-1 though.
     
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  18. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    A lot lighter too. I'll never say one is better than the other. The Reddi is a great piece. But I am very happy with the BF-1. It has that tube Character and in many ways more versatile than many DI's.
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2018
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  19. fast slapper

    fast slapper

    Dec 11, 2001
    Fresno, CA
    Forgot about the Reddi for a second there. I was actually thinking of the KGB(keys,guitar,bass) instrument preamps.
     
  20. Bassist30

    Bassist30 Supporting Member

    Mar 19, 2004
    NEW YORK
    Used it last night and it sounded great. Did not use the eq, but it still gave a great signal that the soundman wanted to open it up to check it out. That didn't happen. The vocals had monitors only (vocals only to) so I didn't want to fight the front end. But the DI is really a great piece and well worth the money. Very Happy I got it.
     
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