EBS MicroBass 3 Review
This versatile outboard preamp/DI combines the flavors of two classic amps for tone-sculpting nirvana.
All clips recorded direct into Avid Mbox into Logic X.
Clip 1: [’84 Yamaha BB 3000S - neck pickup soloed] Lo gain distortion with compression at 10 o'clock, blend at 1 o'clock, 2k boosted at 3 o'clock on both channels, tone and drive at 2 o'clock, character switch engaged, and deep switch engaged.
Clip 2: [Spector Euro 4 LX with both pickups at full volume.] Hi gain distortion with compression at 10 o'clock, blend at 1 o'clock, 2k boosted at 5 o'clock on dirty channel, tone and drive at 11 o'clock, character switch engaged, and deep switch engaged.
Clip 3: [Sadowsky Vintage reverse PJ 5 in active mode with both pickups at full volume.] Clean channel only with 180hz boosted at 2 o'cloc and character switch on.
Versatile sounds. Clear layout. Dual XLRs. Channel blending.
No cab sim.
EBS MicroBass 3
Ease of Use:
Sweden’s EBS has a rich, 30-plus-years history of innovation as a purveyor of hi-fi bass tones. Players like Marcus Miller and Stanley Clark helped put EBS on the map, and when the company’s HD350 was introduced in 2001, the amp (now called the HD360) quickly became a favorite among slappers and modern gospel players alike for its squeaky clean highs and tight, modern lows. Meanwhile, EBS was determined to also be known for a wide variety of tones, including midrange-forward hard rock and metal, and the model that carried the rock torch for the brand was the Fafner II. Why all this reminiscing about two classic Viking warships in the sea of bass amps? The EBS MicroBass 3. It’s the company’s new all-analog floor unit that combines the characteristics of both amps into a small, road-ready enclosure.
Unpacking the MicroBass 3 from its black, rune-themed box, I was immediately struck by its build quality. The housing is solid, and the controls have a confidence-inducing amount of resistance at first turn. Pedals with lower-resistance knobs will often come out of a gig bag with the previous show’s settings altered, so it’s a feature I always appreciate.
Many bassists, including me, love a simple, SVT-style layout. If presented with too many controls, we can be slightly pensive about a new piece of gear. The MicroBass 3 has a plethora of controls, but they are laid out in a very concise and efficient—dare I say very Scandinavian—way that almost makes the owner’s manual unnecessary.
The first feature that grabbed my attention is the pair of XLR outputs. One is a designated post out at all times, while the other can be a completely unaffected pre out or a second post out, determined by a small button next to the output. (Why this isn’t standard on every bass preamp/DI designed for professional use is beyond me.) Other features on the sides of the unit include a separate input for the drive channel only, serial on/off switch for series mode, an aux-in for playing along to music, a headphone out, and an effects loop. The effects return can be sent to the FOH or mixer in stereo by pushing the button located to its right. Next to the effects loop is the mute footswitch, which engages the onboard tuner that displays on the small LCD screen.
Ebony and Ivory
The MicroBass 3 houses two channels which can be run in parallel or series: a dirty channel (Fafner II) and clean channel (HD 360). The clean channel’s controls are assigned an angelic shade of white, while the distortion channel, of course, is black. (The color scheme is actually incredibly helpful.) Located underneath the two rows of channel controls are a character switch for mid-scooping and a bright switch that adds hi-fi sheen to the tone, but without adding any noise to speak of.
The gain switch on the upper right side of the pedal maneuvers the overall sound of the distortion section, from vintage-sounding, lo-gain distortion to a more modern, super-saturated hi-gain sound. Next to it is the 3-way type switch, which provides a varying amount of thickness to the distortion channel—thin, middle, or deep.
Out to Sea
With an ’84 Yamaha BB3000S running through the clean channel, it took me no time to find a high-quality, rich-yet-neutral bass sound, without any control tweaking at all. I achieved full P bass-tone glory and was ready to gig or record by simply engaging the well-voiced character switch. With a slight boost on the treble control, the pristine high-end presented itself by showcasing all the overtones of my brand-new stainless-steel strings. I appreciate gear that’s able to let the top-end shine through vintage, passive pickups. And the MicroBass 3 did exactly that.
Eager to hear both flavors of distortion, I set the type switch to deep, added a little onboard compression, set the mids to 2k on both channels (about 3 o’clock), and set the distortion channel’s tone control to 3 o’clock. My sound was definitely on the more aggressive side of “vintage,” but it was warm and well defined while listening on headphones through an Mbox interface. My midrange setting also gave the sound a nice honk that cut through, without adding gain.
When I flipped the gain switch to high and cranked the mids to 5 o’clock on the distortion channel, I was rewarded with a creamy—but also very aggressive—tone, reminiscent of what the company’s Billy Sheehan Signature Drive can achieve. I then switched over to my EMG-equipped Spector Euro4LX, and the tone cut superbly with these settings.
I felt like I had run a short-distance race after my first session with the MicroBass 3. The pedal can do so many things at once, and is a lot easier to navigate than you might think at first glance. For anyone travelling or short on space, the MicroBass 3 is an effective solution to several issues we contend with as bassists. The amount of control the pair of XLRs provides is truly a godsend for anyone who dreams of easily hauling their 2-channel studio rig to gigs. And when you consider the upgrades since the previous-generation MicroBass, such as the onboard tuner and compression, this pedal is well worth some time and attention. Color me impressed.