di preamp

We test four versatile and feature-laden bass stomps from Gallien-Krueger, Providence, Two Notes, and Tech 21.

One of the wisest decisions any bassist can make is to invest in a good DI box. They’re ideal as inexpensive and reliable interfaces for laying down tracks in studios large and small. They help make sure you’re heard in less-than-ideal venues with less-than-attentive sound guys. And they’re great for juicing up dead and muddy tones with an infusion of brilliance, body, and punch. Plus, if you’re a bassist with proclivities for filthier tones, using a solid DI box in addition to your rig is almost essential for ensuring your sound feels intense, and not a weak rumble, after the rest of your band kicks in.

Most of the road warriors, sound engineers, and techs reading this will know what I’m getting at. But if you’re anything like I was many years ago when I first heard about bass DIs, you might be thinking what I was then: This sounds about as exciting as buying a tuner pedal. Lucky for all of us, bass DIs entered the modern-tech era a while ago, and their continued evolution has resulted in bigger, badder, and more ambitious tools that go far beyond what DI boxes were capable of in the past. Technology’s obsession with all things micro has allowed for intricate multi-channel bass preamps to coexist with full compliments of EQ’ing, compression, cab emulation, high quality A/D conversion, and a wealth of analog and digital connections for routing and updating software.

The aforementioned highlights would be appealing to any bassist. But for those who really enjoy using grittier tones yet hate dealing with excessive noise and finicky EQ’ing, the compact and controlled environment within a modern bass DI is a godsend. And we specifically chose the four overdrive/DI/preamp pedals in this gathering with that type of player in mind.

The SansAmp Bass Driver DI Version 2 is an updated version of Tech 21’s popular pedal that doesn’t mess with the original’s excellent formula, but offers more features. Providence’s Brick Drive BDI-1 delivers gobs of juicy overdrive in a simple and straightforward package. If your ears perk at the sound of bells and whistles, Gallien-Krueger’s Plex brings a full complement of onboard features, from tuning to a USB recording interface. And the Le Bass from Two Notes Engineering sports a highly tweakable, dual-channel tube preamp that generates an array of absolutely brutal distorted tones.

To test each pedal’s mettle, I used a 2013 Fender American Precision bass outfitted with a Lollar P-style pickup, along with either a Gallien-Krueger 400RB or 800RB into an Ampeg 8x10. Despite each pedal being roughly intent on accomplishing the same goals, it was interesting to hear how unique they sounded compared to one another.

Click next or choose the di/preamp you want to learn about first:
Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI Version 2
Providence Brick Drive BDI-1
Gallien-Krueger Plex
Two Notes Audio Engineering Le Bass

Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI Version 2

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Photo by Steve Trager

For his stylistically diverse new album, the fiery guitar hero steps back from his gear obsession and focuses on a deep pool of influences and styles.

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Bogner's beastliest amp is made miniature—and still slays.

Excellent sounds in a portable and very affordably priced package.

A footswitchable clean channel and onboard reverb would make it perfect.


Bogner Ecstasy Mini


The original Bogner Ecstasy, released in 1992, is iconic in heavy rock circles. Though it was popularized and preferred by rock and metal artists (Steve Vai and Brad Whitford were among famous users), its ability to move from heavy Brit distortion to Fender-like near-clean tones made it appealing beyond hard-edged circles. Even notorious tone scientist Eric Johnson was enamored with its capabilities.

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