Do I Need a Bass Preamp Pedal?
You may wonder why you’d need a bass preamp pedal if you already own a bass amplifier. However, in the next section we reveal several of the additional benefits that a bass preamp pedal can offer — even if you’re already happy with your rig. But to remain somewhat impartial, we’ve also detailed a few of their drawbacks.
Advantages of Bass Preamp Pedals
Many sound engineers prefer to take a direct signal from a bass guitar instead of mic’ing a bass amp. It’s simply easier to manage, and allows for greater separation in a mix. This can be achieved with a standard DI (direct injection) box, which lets you plug your bass into a mixing desk via an XLR connector. However, a dry bass signal can sound anaemic and sterile — lacking any of the tone-shaping wizardry that comes with bass amps or pedals.
This is where a bass preamp pedal can come into play. As most examples of these boast DI output capabilities, they let you control your bass sound before it reaches a mixing board. So essentially, the main advantage of a bass preamp pedal is that it allows you to precisely sculpt and refine your bass guitar’s tone before it is recorded or amplified through a PA system.
However, most modern bass amplifiers will feature DI outputs too. This means that you can use one onstage for monitoring and simultaneously send a DI signal to a mixing desk. While this can be effective, some bass amp DI outputs produce a signal that is simply too hot for a mixer — causing a brash, distorted sound that can potentially damage a sensitive input. A preamp pedal’s output can be adjusted more easily, meaning that you can run one straight into a mixing console and find a good balance. Even if you can’t part way with your bass amp rig, you can always just own a preamp pedal as a backup!
Disadvantages of Bass Preamp Pedals
While it’s clear that bass preamp pedals have many plus-points, there are some snags that put traditionalists off buying them. The most debated issue is their supposed lack of realism. Some bassists simply believe that preamp pedals do not deliver a convincing “amp-like” sound or feel, which ultimately leaves them feeling uninspired. This is something that older units are guilty of, but modern bass preamps are far more advanced and can offer tones considered more authentic — especially those that feature cabinet emulation.
Another downside is obviously their lack of physical speakers. This means that they can’t emit a room-filling sound unless connected to a PA system or bass amp/cab. So if you’re a gigging musician, you’ll always need to make sure that a venue has a speaker setup that you can plug your preamp pedal into. It would be unusual for a venue to not accommodate for that, but it’s certainly something that you’d have to keep in mind.
What is the Best Bass Preamp Pedal?
There is no definitive “best bass preamp pedal”, especially as tone is completely subjective! But there are a few brands that are particularly favoured by bassists — namely Darkglass, DSM & Humboldt, Tech 21, EBS and Gallien-Krueger. With plenty of products between them that span a variety of different price-points, you’re practically spoilt for choice when it comes to bass preamps.
Darkglass Bass Preamp Pedals