Recorded direct with a Yamaha BBP34 using PreSonus FireStudio and PreSonus Studio One 3.
Clip 1: Master at 9 o’clock, blend at noon, dry gain at 2 o’clock, tone at 2 o’clock, drive voice in middle position (mid bump), and SUB LPF at 1 Khz
Clip 2: Master at 9 o’clock, blend at 100 percent wet, dry gain at 2 o’clock, tone at 9 o’clock, drive voice in left position (flat), and SUB LPF at 100 Hz

 

Ratings

Pros:
Sharp, modern tone options.

Cons:
Sharp, modern tone options—if that’s not your thing. The knobs were a touch loose-feeling.

Street:
$159

DSM Noisemaker Sub Atomic X-Over CMOS Bass Drive
dsmnoisemaker.com


Tones:


Ease of Use:


Build/Design:


Value:
 

In the most basic of setups, I need a few things to get by: a tuner, a compressor, and maybe a chorus pedal. After that, I might get to have some real fun by adding more colorful stomps. It’s especially enjoyable when we bassists get to use distortion or overdrive. Some dirt pedals try to keep everyone happy, but what if we are leaning toward a darker place and need something special? For the bass-playing population that lives a little closer to the edge, DSM Noisemaker has offered the Sub Atomic X-Over CMOS Bass Drive.

Red Skies at Night
The Sub Atomic pops out of its cloth bag (Save it for plectrums!) with one of the smallest footprints and the most control options per square inch I have seen on a pedal. I like a small pedal, as long as it does what it is supposed to do. And there is a lot of ground to cover within this little guy, so let’s get started.

First, the top half of the pedal has four dials that illuminate an ominous red when the pedal is engaged. I really like this feature over a simple indicator light, because it leaves no question whatsoever as to the operation mode. The four pots are tone, master, drive gain, and blend, which are pretty self-explanatory. There are also two mini toggles—one a sub-low-pass filter and the other for drive voicing—that are nestled between the dials, which provide some additional EQ options. These are most likely controls you won’t change on the fly that often, since they are really tightly packed into this tiny pedal.

Freq Out
I plugged the Sub Atomic directly into my DAW using a passive Yamaha BBP34, and grabbed a set of Victor headphones to get a sense of the nuances and all the tone options of the pedal. I started with everything at about noon, except the master, which found its home at 10 o’clock to match my volume when the pedal wasn’t engaged, and left the mini toggles flat. I was greeted with a Michael Anthony OD bass vibe reminiscent of the intro from “Running with the Devil.” It’s a great place to start for dirty tone, and the blend setting really helped maintain the bass’ integrity.

I found that the tones border on the higher side of the frequency spectrum overall, giving a lot of buzzy in the fuzzy.

Keeping the controls where they were, I moved the mini toggles between their three different frequency settings, and the pedal opened up a bit (or closed off, depending on how you look at it). The low-pass frequency switch moved the bottom around enough to give me a super-modern Swedish-metal tone with weight and bite.

The drive-voicing toggle is useful as well, for it gives the mix-cutting ability we need when we dive into overdriven bass tones. I found it useful when used with the blend control sparingly, keeping just enough dirt while distinctly maintaining the low-end.

Moving around with different settings on the Sub Atomic, I found that the tones border on the higher side of the frequency spectrum overall, giving a lot of buzzy in the fuzzy. There are a lot of variables within the pedal, so finding your voice and pairing it with your amp and bass may take some doing. The pedal’s controls can be dimed, but shouldthey be? For my taste, it was a bit extreme on the high-end with the tone maxed, but everything in the universe has a place, right?

Diming the tone and drive gain, and moving the drive-voicing mini toggle to the mid-bump position got me into some guitar-player tone territory. Try this setting at home with some chords and it can certainly open things up for you musically.

The Verdict
The Sub Atomic is a very focused and specialized distortion pedal that can add some zest to a modern pedalboard. If you want a cutting drive pedal in your life, it may be a place to start. Tube lovers beware: The tones here are not the warmest, but we can all branch out and try some new fuzz cocktails every now and then.