In a seemingly flooded pedal market, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish yourself, not only by tones and product offerings, but also with pedals that have practical features and quality workmanship. In the case of the Bunker Booster by Levana, it appears they have conquered the distinctive tonal offerings you may be seeking, coupled with easy controls housed in a rugged chassis.
Formed in 1998, Levana entered a joint venture with Las Vegas-based Studio-Blue in 2008. It was then they began offering musical products, including its line of stomp boxes, which are entirely handmade in the US. The Bunker Booster, 2.8 pounds and 6.3"x4.5"x1.7", features three simple controls—Input, Gain Select, and Output in an all-analog, true bypass pedal. It should be noted that Levana recommends using their dedicated 9V power supply, which is not included with the unit.
I ran a couple of different basses on this trial, one active and one passive. There are benefits for both types of bass with this pedal, and the key to this is in the Gain Select switch. The two available positions, Silicon and Germanium (chemistry majors, maybe?), offer different approaches to your bass. Silicon brings slight compression, expansion, and a higher output, while Germanium features a very aggressive compression along with a lower output. The true secret to the pedal, however, is in the Input/Output controls, which also control compression. A higher input volume combined with a lower output equals a lower compression rate, and vice versa. These controls also hit a saturation point, which gets into the “I’m not sure why I dialed this in, but I can’t stop using it” frame of mind. It’s gnarly and aggressive, and will have your inner vintage-junkie satisfied in no time.
Starting with a passive, ’70s P bass, I dialed the input all the way up, positioned the Gain Select on Silicon, and set the Output at 75 percent. This setting brought out a great mid-range punch without getting harsh, and accented the vintage bass very nicely, adding just the right amount of grit. When I switched to Germanium, it got old-school and dirty with the added saturation and sustain, and broke up nicely as I dug harder into the strings harder while starting my best Entwistle. Rolling off the output, the tone evened out very nicely, giving it a more everyday, functional structure.
It seems that an active bass is best served on the Silicon position, with a nice compliment to the more modern sound. With the Input control dimmed and the Output set around 20 percent, I found the sweet spot for my active bass, bringing out just the right amount of tone and dirt. The Germanium side is a different ball game for an active bass. Cranking the Input and rolling off the Output (because of the lower output) was best, and as the Output is turned up, the signal breaks up quicker. One can get some keyboard-type tones this way, which is another cool angle of this pedal. However, one should use care if you A/B between the Silicon and Germanium positions due to gain structure. Your levels will be drastically different, and you could be in for a not-so-pleasant spike in level.
Guitarists are wildly obsessive about compression pedals. And because the Bunker Booster is made for both bass and guitar, this means all you multi-instrumentalists can feasibly kill two birds here. For bassists, the tones from the Bunker Booster are useful, but it may not be a pedal I would necessarily leave on the whole gig. For me, this pedal is best used for spotlight soloing or textures. If you’re a bassist in need of some boost here and there, or some grit and grime in your tone, then you may find the Bunker Booster a suitable addition to your rig.
you need a little dirt in your life.
you prefer a cleaner, more-defined bass tone.