Hotone B Station Review
A preamp/DI for bassists that packs a ton of essentials, but keeps the price well under two bills.
Recorded with Sanberg TM 5-string direct into Focusrite Saffire 6 interface into MacBook Pro using GarageBand.
Clip 1 - Blend at 100 percent, drive at 2 o'clock, comp at 9 o'clock, bass at 10 o'clock, middle at 12 o'clock, treble at 3 o'clock.
Clip 2 - Drive off, comp at 9 o'clock, EQ flat.
The applications of a preamp/DI for bassists are numerous—particularly in a time when many players are leaving their SVTs in the garage and going to gigs essentially, well, rigless. Amp builders and effects gurus have taken note by developing versatile devices to suit the needs of working players on the go, and packing them with a host of practical features. The B Station from Hotone is both packed and practical, and, as an added bonus, it’s priced nice, too.
The B Station is a tad smaller than the size of two stacked CD cases, and the main panel consists of a 3-band EQ, a drive control (with accompanying blend dial), and a compressor. Dual footswitches provide the means of activating the B Station and engaging the drive section.
The rear side of the box is packed with options. Next to the input is a parallel output, along with a mini jack for headphones tucked above the two. Hotone also kindly added an effects loop, which is a feature rarely found on preamp/DI pedals. After the output jack is the DI section with ground/lift and pre/post EQ switches. The pedal can be powered with either a 9V battery or adaptor.
I explored the versatility of the B Station in the studio by placing it between a Sandberg TM 5-string and the studio’s audio system. As a clean preamp, the pedal functioned well. Boosting the bass control didn’t add punch, but instead thickened the notes.
The middle dial offers a nice mix of presence and bark that’s ideal for bridge pickups. I felt that the treble control functioned best in its higher settings, as it delivered pleasing finger attack and authoritative popping transients.
A little went a long way with the compressor. It added some focus and punch in the 7 to 10 o’clock range, which was great for thumb work or fingerstyle playing. Any settings beyond this range sounded a bit too squashed for my taste, but the B Station’s compressor is a nice, user-friendly feature to have onboard.
As an overdrive tool, the B Station succeeds at creating dark, rocking tones. I was surprised, however, to hear such a significant amount of low-end boost as the blend dial was turned past 12 o’clock. This resulted in some extensive tweaking between the clean and drive channels to balance the volume when switching between the two modes. Because the drive sounds lean toward the darker side of the spectrum, the B Station would be right at home for doomy, drone-driven tunes. A crank of the treble dial added teeth and helped me nearly replicate the sound used by Chris Wolstenholme in Muse’s “Undisclosed Desires.”
Either pre- or post-EQ, the DI did its job delivering the signal and I’d say brought just a slightly darker representation of the Sandberg’s sound through the studio speakers. The B Station might not replace your favorite tube DI, but it will definitely suit most musical applications.
At a penny under $170, the B Station’s price point places it on the wallet-friendly side of the aisle amongst other preamp/DI pedals on the market. Its preamp is super simple to use, so the B Station might be attractive if you’re a minimalist tone shaper. It took a little work to balance the levels between the clean and drive sections, but that’s a non-issue when using the B Station as a standalone drive pedal or clean preamp. If you’re ready to free yourself from the burdens of a big rig, or like the notion of an all-in-one device that’ll work in almost every musical environment, pull into the B Station for a test ride.