High-quality, robust construction. Ability to blend in clean tone.
Difficult to manipulate controls. Unusual layout. Significant volume changes when adjusting settings.
RMI Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive
Ease of Use:
From the country that gave us Beethoven and BMWs, Germany’s Lehle is producing a bold new distortion called the RMI Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive. Much like German automakers, the pedal builder has made a name for itself by using exceptionally high-quality components and paying attention to detail. The manual for the Enhanced Overdrive states that the pedal “starts where a little distortion is not enough,” which had me primed for a test drive.
Tanks a Lot
The Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive is completely manufactured in Germany and the all-metal housing is solid as a tank. There are four control knobs for tone, mix, gain, and volume, and the knobs are uniquely recessed to protect them from damage and inhibit unintentional setting alterations. The company also incorporates a proprietary footswitch, which I won’t go into in detail about here, but suffice it to say it’s an ultra-robust design that feels practically indestructible. The pedal’s status LED is always on: glowing blue when the distortion is engaged, and white when bypassed.
The Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive is not a true-bypass pedal, but instead features a high-quality and audibly transparent buffer intended to provide a very low-impedance signal to combat any possible cable length issues. The pedal is powered via a standard 2.1 mm barrel connector accepting 9–15V (AC or DC), which is then internally brought to 18V for increased headroom. The pedal does not have the option of battery power.
Lehle-ing It Down
For initial testing, I went with the old standards: a 1965 P bass into a 1965 Ampeg B-15. My first impression of the pedal was that it was bright sounding and a bit brash. I know how much high end can get gobbled up by drums and guitars in a mix, however, so I pulled up a track I had recently recorded in my studio and replaced my original bass line with one using the Lehle overdrive. Sure enough, a lot of the obnoxious frequencies were tamed, and those previously objectionable frequencies allowed my signal to cut through the mix in a very pleasing way. And the quality of the distortion in combination with the original signal via the mix control gave my tone a nice, tight bottom with plenty of low end intact.
I did find that the overall control of the box takes a bit of getting used to. For me, the recessed knobs were somewhat difficult to manage. And because the controls are all very interactive, I found that any changes to the settings usually needed some notable compensation with the volume control. Also, the mix and tone controls are, in a sense, “upside-down,” since middle ground is 6 o’clock rather than the typical 12 o’clock. All of this said, however, I’d imagine many players will find their desired sound and leave it. Another feature worth noting is that the tone control actually adjusts the midrange, which is unusual, but it’s quite effective in shaping the tone of the grit, since it’s placed before the gain stage.
Yes, it took me some time to “get” the Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive. It’s like that esoteric new band your friend recommends. The band’s sound might not grab you at first, but after you start to sink into it, they quickly become your favorite. The minimum gain setting on the pedal still delivers a lot of distortion, so I found the Basswitch Enhanced Overdrive to be a little bit of a one-trick pony. It’s a very good trick, however—especially if you like the idea of great, aggressive distortion that will not turn your bass tone into a thin, washy mush.