As a bassist, your go-to tone will most likely be a clean sound, which is where a preamp will shine. A preamp, unlike the other types of pedals, is barely perceptible because its primary function is to shape your fundamental bass tone. A preamp pedal is the simplest and most cost-effective approach to add tonal diversity and control to your passive bass sound.
Your bass signal is converted to line level via a preamp pedal, which shapes your tone along the way. Adding a bass preamp pedal to an otherwise lifeless “DI signal” bass is an easy method to add colour. You may add grit, colour, and warmth to your signal as it passes through the various stages of electronic circuitry.
Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver Effect Pedal – Version 2
- Capable Of: Much more than just a direct box, the SansAmp Bass Driver DI is capable of dialing up big vintage tube tones, bright modern slap sounds,...
- Three Different Outputs: Three different outputs to drive power amps, recording desks, PA mixers, or simply enhance your currentrig
- Controls: Controls include Presence for definition and upper harmonic content; Blend to combine the proportion of direct signal and SansAmp circuitry,...
The SansAmp Bass Driver DI is a timeless classic that has been in production for decades, and for good reason: it is a bass preamp’s reference pedal. It’s arguably the most popular bass guitar preamp/DI. And the second version is even better than the first. One of the original’s flaws was a lack of mid control, which Tech 21 has addressed by replacing the old 2-band EQ with only bass and treble controls with an active 3-band EQ with +/-12 dB cut/boost. Selectable centre frequencies for the mids (500Hz or 1000Hz) and bass (40Hz or 80Hz) have also been introduced, making this preamp more suitable for extended range basses.
The footswitch will simply turn on the SansAmp Tube Amplifier Emulation circuitry; the pedal will not be bypassed. Aside from the EQ, the faceplate has control knobs for Drive, Presence, Level, and Blend. Drive adjusts the overall gain structure, Presence controls the amount of upper harmonic content, Level sets the levels for standard 14″ and XLR out, and Blend blends your EQed dry signal with the Tube Emulation circuitry. The Drive, Blend, and Level knobs all impact each other, so balancing levels on the BDDI can be a little complicated at times, but it’s nothing you can’t get used to after a few minutes of experimenting with it. This pedal’s sonic range is based on tube-like warmth and harmonically rich, overdriven sounds. Its cleanest sounds will still have an overdriven tube-like vibe to them, which isn’t necessarily a negative thing if that’s what you’re after.
The BBDI is a bass preamp that is always on and made to last. It has a 3-band active EQ with boost and cut functions (Bass, Mid, Treble +/-12dB) as well as two selectable frequencies for Mid (500Hz or 1000Hz) and Bass (500Hz or 1000Hz) (40Hz or 80Hz). It has three output options: a 14-inch out with +10dB adjustable via a switch, a 14-inch parallel out with a completely dry signal, and a balanced XLR out with -20dB selectable by a switch on the faceplate. It can be powered by Phantom Power, a 9V PSU, or a 9V block battery.
This is not the preamp for you if you want to keep the natural flavour of your bass. However, if you appreciate classic tube amps or perform a harder style of music, the SansAmp BBDI is for you. It’s not the most straightforward to set up, but it’s nothing that a few minutes with it can’t fix. The Bass Driver DI is a workhorse for the majority of bass players; it offers traditional tube sounds, a decent DI, and isn’t too expensive. This is the Best Bass Preamp Pedal in 2023.
MXR M81 Bass Preamp
- Separate INPUT & OUTPUT level controls
- 3-band EQ section with sweep able midrange
- Studio-quality Direct Out
The MXR M81 is designed for the no-frills bass player, with no overdrive and only a clean, boosted signal for pure bass tone sculpting. It’s simple to set up, making it suitable for both new and experienced players. It’s simply a fantastic pedal with excellent build quality at an affordable price.
MXR pedals are excellent, as we all know, but the M81 is in a league of its own. It’s the tiniest pedal on our list, yet it still offers all the capabilities a bass preamp should have. The M81 is housed in a normal MXR chassis and has a six-knob layout with two additional switches — the faceplate is a touch crowded, but it’s doable. The 3-band active EQ with a sweepable midrange is at the heart of the M81, allowing you to boost or decrease Bass (+/-16 dB@40Hz), Mids (+/-17dB @250Hz,400Hz, 500Hz, 800Hz, or 1kHz), and Treble (+/-18dB@4kHz). The Pre-EQ Gain knob controls the pre-EQ gain, the Output knob controls the overall output volume, and the Mid Frequency knob controls the mid-frequency.
Ground lift (to minimise feedback loops) and a pre-post switch that decides whether the DI’s Direct Out signal is affected by the EQ settings or if it outputs a fully dry signal to the XLR are the two switches. When you first plug it in, you’ll notice that it’s a very clean preamp; it doesn’t produce much in the way of overdrive or crunch, but it does provide an almost surgical tool for shaping your clean tone with a low noise floor. With the midrange sweep, you can expertly manipulate the part of the frequency spectrum that is most crucial to us bass players. Internal dip switches allow you to disable the DI out or choose between buffered bypass and true bypass.
The M81 is a high-end clean bass preamp with a configurable midrange and a 3-band active EQ. It includes independent level controls for the input and output, making it simple to establish unity gain. Bass (+/-16dB@40Hz), Mids (+/-17dB @250Hz,400Hz, 500Hz, 800Hz, or 1kHz), and Treble (+/-18dB@4kHz) all have cut or boost functions. It boasts a studio-quality balanced XLR DI out with a ground lift control and a pre/post EQ switch that lets you choose whether or not the EQ settings impact your DI output to the console or PA. It can be powered by both a 9V block battery and a 9V conventional power supply.
This is the pedal to look at if you’re on a budget and want a high-quality, tiny form-factor, clean preamp to fit on your pedalboard. Overall, I believe this is the best bass preamp pedal money can buy.
Aguilar Tone Hammer Bass EQ Effect Pedal
- Footswitchable 3-band EQ with sweepable midrange and AGS circuitry
- Unbalanced output can drive a power amp
- EQ: Bass +/- 18 dB @ 40 Hz. Mid +/- 17 dB @ 180 Hz to 1 kHz. Treble +/- 18 dB @ 4 kHz
Aguilar is a bass legend that makes pickups, preamps, amps, cabinets, and effects for bassists all around the world. The Tonehammer preamp, on the other hand, is unique, so unique that it inspired their highly successful Tonehammer Amp range. It’s built like a tank and feels substantial. The preamp has a robust active 3-band EQ with a fully sweepable midrange and an AGS (additional gain stage) section (Adaptive Gain Shaping). Both the preamp and the AGS have their own footswitches, however the AGS cannot function unless the preamp is turned on.
Bass, Treble, Mid-frequency, Mid Level, Master, and Gain are the six knobs on the pedal. The Master control governs the pedal’s output level, while the Gain control determines the amount of overdrive and is added to the EQ when the AGS switch is toggled. With a single press of the AGS footswitch, you can switch between two unique sounds. The Tonehammer is simple to use and set up, owing to the fact that no matter what settings you choose, it never sounds terrible. Even with the gain pushed up, it’s a pretty quiet pedal with a low noise floor. This is a very versatile pedal that can produce a wide range of great sounds, from a subtle clean boost to nearly fuzz-like overdrive.
The Tonehammer is a heavy-duty steel enclosure that houses a specialised bass preamp. It has a three-band EQ with a fully sweepable midrange (Bass +/-18dB @ 40Hz, Mid +/-17dB @ 180Hz-1kHz, Treble +/-18dB @ 4kHz). On top of the EQ, the AGS footswitch engages the Overdrive part of the pedal. The internal 18V functioning is a plus, as it offers you extra headroom. In addition to the usual 14″ jack input and output, it has a balanced XLR DI out with pre/post EQ and ground lift controls. You can power it with two 9V block batteries, a PSU, or Phantom power, which is really convenient.
TC Electronic SpectraDrive Bass Preamp
- Tube Drive with Tone Print technology emulates preamplifier and power amplifier tube stages, offering you everything from subtle drive to full-on...
- Spectra Comp control with Tone Print technology provides a variety of ultra-transparent and highly musical multi-band compression profiles to cut...
- Intelligent EQ stack Dedicated to bass has four simple control dials to give you easy and impressive tone-shaping
A tweaker’s dream, the SpectraDrive. TonePrint capabilities give you access to dozens of preamp/overdrive combinations as well as the built-in SpectraComp compressor, providing you unrivalled tonal freedom. It requires a more experienced bass player to get the most out of it and to rapidly set it up, but because experimentation is vital, bass players of all levels may easily reap the benefits.
TC’s conventional double footswitch enclosure houses the SpectraDrive, which feels tough and solid. It has a 4-band active EQ with Bass, Lo-Mid, Hi-Mid, and Treble settings, as well as a Gain control for overdrive and a Level control for overall output volume. You also receive a one-knob compressor controlled by the SpectraComp knob, as well as the TubeDrive Knob, which, along with the Gain knob, controls the level of the Tube Drive circuit. The SpectraDrive’s TonePrint functionality is its distinctive feature.
This effectively combines a SpectraComp compressor with hundreds of TonePrint profiles and a TubeDrive circuit with dozens of TonePrint presets, all of which are combined with a preamp to bring it all together. It’s an understatement to say that this pedal is sonically flexible. The range of the 4-band EQ varies according on the loaded TonePrint. The Bypass footswitch activates the preamp and SpectraComp compressor, while the Drive footswitch activates the TubeDrive circuit. The SpectraDrive is virtually noiseless in operation, and the DI is transparent and crystal clear. Due to its aux in and headphone out, it may also be used as a standalone practise amp.
The SpectraDrive is a bass multi-effects unit with TonePrint support that focuses on overdrive and distortion. The 4-band EQ has varying ranges depending on the TonePrint selected: Lo-Mid (+/-12dB@160-200Hz), Hi-Mid (+/-18dB@630-800Hz), and Treble (+/-24dB@1800-2800Hz) all have a maximum cut of -24dB@50Hz and a maximum boost of +24dB@80Hz). The SpectraDrive has two inputs: a 14-inch instrument input and a 3.5mm aux input, as well as four outputs: a 14-inch instrument out, a 14-inch thru out, a 3.5mm headphone out, and a DI XLR balanced out with three switches (ground lift, pre-post switch, and instrument level/line level output switch). You may load your favourite TonePrints by connecting the pedal to a PC or Mac through the Micro USB connector, and it has a buffered bypass that keeps your signal intact even when using long cords or a complicated pedalboard arrangement.
Behringer V-Tone Bass Driver DI 21
- Analog modeling bass preamp/stompbox with DI recording output
- This BEHRINGER product has been designed to compete head to head with leading products on the market
- Authentic V-TONE modeling technology capable of dialing up big vintage tube tones, funky slap sounds, crunchy distortions and all in between
The BDI 21 is a smaller plastic-encased clone of the original SansAmp Bass Driver with an active 2-band EQ with Bass and Treble that can be boosted or lowered by 12dB. The Level control allows you to dial in unity gain while the Drive control changes the degree of overdrive. To avoid grounding concerns, the DI incorporates a balanced XLR out with a ground lift switch. It’s a buffered bypass pedal that can be powered by a conventional 9V PSU or a 9V block battery, just like the original.
Behringer has been around for a long time, delivering low-cost, high-quality knockoffs of iconic effects pedals, and the V-tone Bass Driver DI fits right in. It’s a clone of the SansAmp Bass Driver DI version 1 as the name says, and as far as I can tell. It has a six-control knob configuration and is encased in a durable and compact plastic housing. The V-Tone BDI has a 2-band active EQ with Bass and Treble that can be enhanced or decreased by +/-12dB. The Presence slider allows you to augment the high-harmonic end’s richness for more attack. The Drive knob controls the amount of gain and overdrive, which sounds comparable to pushing a tube amp’s output stage.
The Blend control sets the amount of tube emulation blended together with your EQed tone, while the Level control decides the overall output level. There’s a balanced XLR DI out for connecting to a console or PA, as well as a ground lift button on the faceplate to prevent ground loops. In the low to mid-gain spectrum, the BDI 21 boasts a surprising amount of useful sounds, with warm, gritty tube-like tones. High gain sounds can be a touch fluttery, but they’re still good. Except when the Level is turned all the way up, the noise levels are tolerable. It sounds best when used as a clean boost with just a hint of roughness, much like the Bass Driver on which it is based. The lack of mid-range control is a drawback, but even without it, the BBDI 21 is versatile enough to provide antique tones as well as more current sounds with a warm, tube-like simulation.
This is the perfect pedal to start with if you’re new to bass preamps and have a limited budget. It offers a good mix of old and current sounds, and it’s a bargain for the price. It can be a little tough to dial in the appropriate tone, but it’s no different than the original SansAmp in this regard.