EBS Billy Sheehan Signature Drive Deluxe Review
A new drive pedal for bass that boxes up the tone of one of the greats and offers customization galore.
Clip 1 F Bass - F Bass BN6 and the following pedal settings: drive at 2 o'clock, tone at 1 o'clock, level at 10 o'clock, clean at 3 o'clock. Mid comp setting engaged.
Clip 2 P Bass - Nash P-style and the following pedal settings: drive at 1 o'clock, tone at 12 o'clock, level at 8 o'clock, clean at 2 o'clock. Mid comp setting engaged.
When bassists hear the words “Billy Sheehan collaboration,” their ears tend to perk up rather fast. The bass virtuoso has stamped his name on a number of products over the years, highlighted by his popular drive pedal crafted by EBS. This year, the Swedish company has released an upgrade to the original Billy Sheehan Signature Drive’s design by adding significant customization features.
The original Signature Drive contains the conventional quartet of controls (drive, tone, level, and clean) as well as a compression switch and the means to run a clean and/or drive loop.
The Deluxe model, however, expands on the design with the addition of a boost switch for more gain on tap, and a phase inverter for extra low-end and a tamer midrange. (Both the boost switch and phase inverter affect the drive part only.)
Where the Drive Deluxe gets seriously cool lies within the copper box. The circuit board contains trim pots for the compression’s ratio and threshold levels (also found in the original), and, now, a trim pot for the boost switch. The pièce de résistance lies to the left of the boost trim: an IC standard socket that holds the op-amp of the effect. This feature allows players to easily remove the op-amp and replace it with their 8-pin chip of choice. Bonus: No soldering.
Employing a Nash P-style plugged into a Bergantino B|Amp pushing a Bergantino HD210 cabinet, I got to work tweaking the Signature Drive Deluxe’s controls. It took minimal time and adjustments to recognize the characteristics of the pedal. Sheehan’s signature sound was quite present within the pronounced mids and aggressive, clanging highs I was generating. By cranking the tone dial clockwise, I created different shades of this character—from darker, doomier tones to airy, edgy effects.
The compression function and its ability to push notes forward and tighten up the tone was a handy companion. Tone tweakers will dig the fine-tuning capabilities that the easy-to-manipulate trim pots provide. And because the compression function can operate without the drive, you have a clean, on-the-fly compressor when you need it.
Using the same Nash and Bergantino duo on a rock gig, Sheehan’s signature pedal added fantastic aggression and authority to my bass notes. I experimented with the amount of drive and tone throughout the show, and elicited pleasing results with each distorted concoction. One of my favorite settings was dialing the drive to 1 o’clock, the tone to 10 o’clock, and setting the comp at the mid position, which gave a vintage vibe to the timbre that was reminiscent of Jack Bruce’s tone in Cream. The setting worked superbly while jamming over “Crossroads” and savvy listeners remarked about the tonal similarities post-show. Because I was so pleased with the tones and confident in the way they sat in the mix with two guitars and a heavy-handed drummer, the Drive Deluxe ended up engaged all night long.
EBS and Sheehan have created a pedal that’s simple enough for novices, but boasts features that will allow tinkerers to immerse themselves in full-on customization. The components provide safe manipulation of circuitry and distance from any potential soldering accidents. Most important, the pedal sounds freakin’ nasty—from subtle snarls to full-on roars. If you’re on the hunt for a monstrous drive pedal, the Billy Sheehan Signature Drive Deluxe should be near the top of your list of candidates.