A lot of times when bass players put their pedalboards together, they may have heard of a bass preamp, and wonder to themselves ‘what is a bass preamp pedal?’. You may be wondering why you need a bass preamp pedal if your amp already has one built-in, or what the benefits are. Well, when it comes to sculpting sound, ampless gigging or improving your live sound, bass preamp pedals are a vital tool for bass players.
So today, we’re looking at the key benefits of a bass preamp pedal, and we’ll explain what a bass preamp pedal actually does when compared to a bass preamp which is built into your amp.
In this we’ll answer the questions:
A bass preamp is the built-in section of your amplifier that prepares the signal for your EQ.
The power amp is the amplification section – where you get the volume and how your amp is heard.
When you plug your bass directly into an amplifier, the signal is quite weak. The preamp will lift your input signal into useable levels – otherwise known as “line level” which is the standard term for a workable level of sound.
The preamp is closely followed by the EQ section, which is where you sculpt your sound. Without a preamp, the bass signal would be very quiet, and lifeless – the EQ section would not be able to manipulate your sound correctly without a preamp.
If you have an Active input, this is for your bass with Active pickups. Active pickups will make the bass will run at a higher output, so the preamp will “tame” this signal to useable levels – otherwise known as attenuation.
Most bass guitars have passive pickups – these are standard. If you have a Passive input (most bass amps have this as standard) you need to plug your passive bass into this input otherwise the bass will not be heard at a useable volume. The passive input brings your bass signal to line level, strengthening the signal to usable levels.
A bass preamp pedal is the sound preparation and tone sculpting section of your amplifier in pedal form. It has a DI connection and all the tone-shaping capabilities that your bass amp will likely have but has no speaker or power amp.
In a nutshell – it’s a bass amp in a pedal without the power amp and speaker.
You can use a bass preamp pedal for live gigs, studio recording and practice rooms or practising at home.
In a live scenario, a bass preamp pedal can send the signal of your bass and the EQ’d sound directly to the front-of-house engineer and mixing desk, giving them the sound you’ve dialled in (and the sound you want) rather than making them struggle to get a good sound on the mixer or changing your tone to something you don’t like.
In the studio, a bass preamp pedal can send your signal to a mixing desk complete with the added signature tone you’ve worked hard to achieve. The engineer will likely want a DI clean signal, as well as an EQ’d signal – a good bass preamp pedal like the Laney DB-PRE bass preamp lets you send both clean (Dry) and effects signal (Wet) at the same time.
The use of a bass preamp pedal means the engineer doesn’t need to mic up a bass cab to get the sound of your amp – your signature sound is all pre-dialled into your bass preamp pedal and the signal is going directly into the desk for recording. It makes life a lot easier for everyone – plus you don’t have to carry your amp with you!
At home, you might want to use a bass preamp pedal to help sculpt your ideal tone without dragging your amp home every time. A good preamp pedal has headphones out which means you can practice your bass lines without disturbing the neighbours, and even hook up your external music source to jam along to.
There are many more benefits of a bass preamp pedal that everyone from pro-level bass players to hobbyists really appreciate.
In this article, we’re going to cover the following 7 benefits and why you’d need a bass preamp pedal:
One of the major benefits of a bass preamp pedal is the ability to gig without an amplifier. Bass players will know that the likelihood of amping up your bass cabinet on smaller stages is almost zero. Your sound engineer will almost always request a DI signal, sending your sound through the fold-back monitors. You’ll almost always use your bass to hear yourself on stage unless you’re in a touring band or playing festivals.
Carrying a bass amp everywhere with you may not always be an option, especially if you’re gigging with other musicians in a hatchback car (we’ve all done it!). A bass preamp pedal is essentially a bass amp in a pedal format, which allows you to create the exact sound you need and send it to the front-of-house engineer for them to mix into the sound.
You get all the tone-shaping flexibility of a bass amp and the EQ possibilities without having to carry an amp with you anywhere. The sound engineer sends your tone to you through the monitor speakers and out to the crowd, exactly how you want it to sound, without any sight of an amplifier.
A bass preamp pedal allows you to make a completely ampless rig. Place it on your pedalboard with your other effects pedals and you’re ready to play any gig, anywhere.
Another benefit of a bass preamp pedal is its ability to send a Wet/affected signal to the front-of-house engineer. This means you can sculpt your tone before it hits the desk, keeping your signature sound intact.
This is ideal if you have a less than adequate mixing desk as you can increase gain, mids and other EQ elements to get the sound you want before it goes out to the crowd and PA system.
Each room you play in will sound different. Each bass you play will sound different. Each amp you play will sound different. But you always want consistent quality of sound and clarity when playing. A preamp bass pedal can benefit bass players by allowing them to sculpt the low-mids and high-mids – which is where you get all the detail and power.
Turn up the high mids and you get the clarity you need, turn up the low-mid and you get the power and fatness you’re looking for. As different bass guitars will respond differently to your amp and the room you’re playing in, you might find that your detail is getting lost, or the bass is overpowering the sound onstage.
The Laney DB-PRE solves these bass issues by offering low-mid and high-mid sculpting options. That’s just one of the reasons you need a Laney DB-PRE bass preamp.
You might find that you’re not being heard over the drums, so pushing the low-mids will get you in front of the drums. If you’re finding that the detail and clarity are being lost on a hollow stage, the high-mids will bring the punch and detail out. This is a key benefit of a bass preamp and another feature within the Laney Digbeth bass range.
On occasion, you may have a bass amp with a DI connection that doesn’t play nicely with the venue you’re playing in. The DI may be sending an overpowering signal to the PA system, causing your FOH engineer a headache when trying to get your bass to sit nicely in the mix.
A bass preamp pedal gives you greater control over the DI’d sound, allowing you to adjust the output and ensuring a smoother sound through the PA system.
One of the downsides of being a bass player, or drummer is the fact you often have to use the house kit or bass amp when you play a venue. If you’re playing festivals or you’re gigging with the house bass the last thing you need is a lacklustre sound from a terrible-sounding, heavily used house bass amp that has likely had beer/water/other spilt all over it.
A bass preamp pedal allows you to EQ low-quality backline which is perfect if you’re sharing amps. This means you can plug your bass preamp pedal into any amplifier and sculpt the sound you need. Just set the house amp to flat and let your bass preamp pedal dictate the tone. If you can hook it up through the FX loop, you’re going to sound exactly how you want on any amp!
This is a major benefit and a key reason why you need a bass preamp pedal as it takes all the guesswork out of getting your signature sound on shared bass amps.
The best bass preamps will have at least two different channels that you can switch between. A bass preamp pedal lets you choose between two very different bass sounds, engaging those sounds by stomping on the pedal.
If you’re in the middle of a drop-down, you might want a cleaner, more pronounced sound. If you’re heading to the chorus, you might need a beefier, fatter tone. A bass preamp pedal enables you to switch between these two tonal qualities without having to adjust your settings each time.
It’s like carrying two different amps onstage!
We’ve mentioned it before, but a key benefit of a bass preamp pedal with a headphones output is its ability to let you play and practice silently.
If you’re learning new parts, sculpting your tone for a particular song or jamming along to your favourite songs at home, you’ll probably not want to carry your bass amp home and turn it up loud. A bass preamp pedal allows you to hook up your headphones and play, retaining the tone of your bass “amp” and providing an accurate representation of what it will sound like on record, onstage and in the practice room.
This is great when you’re trying to dial in the low mids or testing out gain stages but don’t want to blow out the windows in your house!
Your family will thank you for using headphones.
You might be thinking, why would I use a bass preamp pedal on a bass amp?
Option: 1 Direct to the amp.
Well, the benefit here is that a bass preamp pedal gives you more tone shaping options before it hits the amplifier. You might find that your existing amplifier lacks the low-mids you need for added power. If you use a bass preamp pedal, you can ensure those low-mids are increased before it hits your amplifier’s preamp section.
You use the sound of your existing amplifier, but improve it with the bass preamp.
Option 2: A new bass sound with an FX loop
You might want to get a new sound without paying for an entirely new (and heavy) bass amp. If you like the sound of your existing bass amplifier, but you need more clarity on certain songs or you just want another amp sound for added tonal choice, a bass preamp allows you to essentially get another sound without purchasing another amplifier!
Here’s an example:
With your existing amplifier, you might have the amp set to bring out the clean compressed lows, with the high-mids being used on the distortion for clarity.
However, with another song, you might just want the low-mids completely ramped up for those powerful chorus lines. Instead of changing the settings of your amplifier, you can use a bass preamp directly into the FX loop. When this is engaged, it bypasses the amp’s tone controls and just uses the settings on your preamp pedal.
It’s like having a completely different amplifier! Another great benefit of bass preamp pedals.
If you want greater control over your sound, the ability to gig without an amp and EQ any amplifier to your specifications, then a bass preamp pedal is a great investment. It makes your life easier when you’re trying to hone your sound, on stage, at home or in the studio. Bass preamp pedals offer so much value in terms of sonic variety that there is rarely a situation where you won’t be heard how you want to be heard.
Of course, all bass amps will have a preamp in them, but a bass preamp pedal just allows you to sculpt your tones in minute detail, record directly to a DAW and ensure your signature sound is kept intact on any stage.
We recommend the Laney Digbeth DB-PRE preamp pedal as it has all these features, benefits and much more. Why not read about the key benefits bass players will appreciate about the DB-PRE? We’re confident you’ll love it as much as we do.
Watch an example of what a bass preamp peal does for your sound below: