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Which preamp? Basstasters, help!

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by CaptainWally, Dec 20, 2003.

  1. Ok, in addition to upgrading my cabs for the new year, I'm consider changing out my preamp. I'm quite certain once I have this completed, I'll be 100% GAS-free for several years to come.
    Anyway, I'm currently using a QSC1602 with the Aguilar 659. There is nothing wrong with the 659, but I think I might be better suited to something a little different. I find the 659 a little mid-centered and slightly wooly, though it would be perfect for someone after an old school tone, while retaining definition.

    Here's what I'm after in a preamp:

    * Exceptional lows
    * Clean, clear, yet thick
    * Hi-fi, but not brittle
    * Something that will drive my QSC to full power

    Nice, but not must haves:

    * Mute/Power On/Off on FRONT of unit :rolleyes:
    * Versatility

    Here's what I want to avoid:

    * Wooliness
    * Brightness
    * Noise
    * Mid-centered
    * Nothing dark enough that all brilliance to highs are gone

    Thanks to the kick-butt Basstasters site, I think I've got it narrowed down:

    * Alembic F1-X and BBE Max-T

    I'm leaning more toward the Alembic because the BBE sounds more on the bright side. The Alembic sounded a little fuller with stronger lows. But then again, as cool as Basstasters is, it's still an mp3.

    Any comments from the most excellent dudes who did those recordings? Anyone else?
  2. Is it clear, i.e. not muddy?
  3. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    I love the F-1X also, but like Josh I'm not sure it's 'hi fi'. It's not muddy, but not as clear as an SWR or Demeter. The bottom end is nice and fat.

    My main pre is an Aguilar DB680, it's a swiss army preamp - very flexible, but with a good solid fundamental tone and great lows. Did you listen to the 680 sound clips?
  4. Yes, the 680 sounds tres nice. I think I like it better than the 659, though it may be a bit mid-tubey-round for me.

    So here's the thing - I want clarity, but not brightness. Both the SWR and Demeter sound pretty bright on the clips (as does the BBE stuff).

    I think what I really want it a scooped sound with clarity and no harsh brights - hold the chewy mids please.

    Thanks for the help so far!
  5. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    hmmm, not sure I'd describe the 680 (or Alembic for that matter) as having chewy mids. Now the Kern, that's got mids you'll be chewing on for ever.

    Both the Aguilar and Alembic are articulate without being overly bright. You can make them be bright if you want, but their flat sound isn't.

    The Demeters are great preamps, they're definitely a hi fi sound. A bit too clean for me, but they're excellent at what they do.
    Personally, I've never heard an SWR I've liked - I couldn't get enough low end on the IOD and the Grand Prix sounded scooped to me. YMMV.
  6. Thanks for that...

    I really don't know what the heck I'm talking about here, as you probably guessed. At least in terms of the right nomenclature to sound aspect.

    Let me throw this out:

    I like the sound of the F1-X on BT, it's clear, has deep lows, not-wooly, it's got a relatively low price (esp. compared to Aggie).

    And I think it will fully drive my QSC, right?

    I think I'll just order one up and see if it's my bag.

    Only question is the BBE-MaxT. It sounds brighter on BT, but am I missing the right one with that unit?
  7. vanselus

    vanselus Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    Aye aye Cap'n!

    I'm going to be forced to reccommend the Alembic F-1X. Why? I'll tell you why.

    You're after "exceptional lows". I'm going to assume you mean more of the pillowy lows and less of the grunty aggressive ones - the DB680 isn't very bloomy in the lows dept, at least not like the F1-X. The DB680 is tight and aggressive, much like a 70's SVT. The Alembic on the other hand is mellower and rounder, more like the venerable bassman.

    You also mentioned "clean, clear, yet thick". Again, this describes the F1-X to a T. Always tight, but always clear. It can get overly bright, but the key for you: it can be punchy and crisp WITHOUT being bright. That's quite rare. The F1-X can get brittle, but only if you want it to. The real downside of the F1-X is that you can't really get an agressive midrangey sound out of it - it's not all that flexible in the midrange. Sure, people will disagree - but compared to the DB680, it's very smooth.

    The only apprehension I have is that you're looking for deep lows, but not wooly. Quite often the difference is in the cabs... you're going to want to match your cabs to the preamp to get the lowest, tightest possible sound. What are you running in the cab dept? Also, what bass(es)?

    Every piece has to potential to make quite a difference, and it all depends on what sound you're going for. Take Josh Walsh for example - the F1-X is thickening up the sound of his Zon fretless, which is inherantly midrangey, without losing the beautiful mwah and texture of a Zon. He's also got a incredibly articulate and accurate cab that isn't going to be overly bassy and has a lot of punch. Give him a couple Aguilar GS112's and the story would change dramatically.

    Compared to the Bmax-T, the alembic is much smoother, but nowhere near as bassy. The bmax literally turned my eyeballs into goo. The Alembic however, is much tighter and articulate, and should give you less brightness problems.

    I'd stay away from the Demeter for SURE. The Kern is far from scooped, and has bass for days. I can't think of anything closer to your desires.

    Question - what do you mean by hi-fi?
  8. I swear, you guys should charge money for expertise like this.

    I'm using a Modulus Q5, SWR gol jr.s (soon to change to either Accugroove Tri112's or Eden XST's probably), and a QSC1602.

    I'm becoming more convinced Alembic is the ticket. So BBE has even more lows than Alembic, but it's not as smooth and is more bright?

    I'm talking about of my hat here, man. By Hi-Fi I meant clear and clean. High-definition between notes.

    Thanks soooooooo much everyone.
  9. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    Considering the cabs you're looking at, especially if your Q5 has EMG pups, the Alembic F-1X would probably be a very good match based on your preferences. The F-1X is fairly flexible tone-wise, which will help you find the sound you're after.
    [I find the Q5 w/EMGs to be very much on the "BRIGHT" side of things.]

    Bass systems are very much about synergy and finding complementary components (as vanselus was saying above).

    [i.e. With a Jack Casady Epiphone bass and a Mesa 2x15 cab you would need a totally different amp to get close to what you want.]
  10. Sufenta

    Sufenta Trudging The Happy Road of Destiny

    Mar 14, 2002
    The Signpost Up Ahead.
    Say it isn't so!
    Another "best pre" discussion.
  11. David Wilson

    David Wilson Administrator Administrator Supporting Member

    Oct 14, 2002
    Lower Westchester, NY
    Don't worry about it. The recurring issue we have here is that we're always trying to describe sound with words - the old "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" thing. One man's hifi is another mans brittle.

    The best we can do is have you define exactly what sound you're looking for and then help narrow down the field for you. Even then it's not foolproof. There are so many 'what are the best preamp?' questions posted it's not funny anymore. That's why Todd's basstasters site is so valuable, you can get to hear the same bass through all the various pre's and narrow your choices down.

    I'm on my third Alembic F-1X - I got and sold two, each time I regretted it soon afterwards so when I got my third I knew it was a keeper. I'm on my second DB680, I regretted selling the first one right away. The DB680 is my live preamp of choice, the Alembic is my favorite flat sounding preamp and the one I always take to recording. As Todd says, the one issue with it is the midrange eq so you might want to pair it up with some parametric eq - either a pedal or rack eq.
  12. Hman


    Jan 8, 2002
    San Francisco, CA
    I'm waiting for the Read Purity to hit Basstasters...I hope soon;)

    Right now, my Alembic F2B (the older blue one)& Walter Wood is doing a fine job. I like the F2B a little better..just sounds a little more bottom than the F1 X.
  13. lo-freq

    lo-freq aka UFO

    Jan 19, 2003
    DFW, Texas
    "a little more bottom than the F1 X."

  14. zoran


    May 10, 2002
    I say Glockenklang bass art classic all the way. Yup:oops: It's warm but very hi-fi
  15. Big String

    Big String Supporting Member

    Apr 22, 2000
    Northwest Indiana
    I get great lows from my Demeter.....
  16. you should try out a sansamp rbi....half the money of the alembic and really versatile...i have a swr 750x with which i wasn't happy with its lack of bottom. adding the rbi really fattened up the bottom alot and made my amp come "alive"....it does add it's own colour though..almost like the difference between a active an passive bass., but with the blend control you are able to control the amount of coloration....:)
  17. vanselus

    vanselus Supporting Member

    Sep 20, 2000
    Boulder, CO
    No way man, the ones that should charge are the cats like DavidMWilson, Nightbass, and JerryJ - they're the ones who actually bought the gear, then loaned it to me. That's trust.

    Viva La Talkbass!
  18. DaDo


    Nov 1, 2003
    Vanselus, I'm impressed by your review of the tonal qualities of the FX-1! Maybe you should consider adding reviews of your impression of all the pre's you've sampled to your site :)
  19. amos


    Oct 23, 2003
    SE Portland Oregon
    I'm heavily considering the BBE Max-T. however, if you want to keep your db 659 i would recommend the alembic as it seems to have an antithetical tone compared to the aggie. this way you have the most flexibility w/ your tone.

  20. mattwells


    Mar 19, 2003
    just a thought, I have an EBS V-2 and it is very hi-fi, but can dial in some pretty nice sounds. Only problem is it shows any inconsistencies/errors in your playing, but if you don't have any errors then no problem!

    Sure has made me practice more though.

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