Like many of you, I remember my first bass amp. It was an Ampeg BA115. At the time, I couldn’t afford a full-blown SVT stack, and this was as close as I could get to “that Ampeg tone.” If you are in search of that classic tone/distortion in a format that is nicer to your budget, this review is for you.

Up for review are two pedals from Ampeg: the Classic Bass Preamp and Scrambler Bass Overdrive. Bass Gear Magazine reviewed the combined version of these pedals (in the form of the SCR-DI) back in issue #17, and you may want to give that review a read-over, as these two pedals share the same circuits as the BA combos and the SCR-DI, just separated into different chassis.

A Classic Choice

First up, let’s take a look at the Classic Bass Preamp. The preamp section allows for a hefty + 18 dB gain, and the 3-band EQ provides +7/-20 dB @ 40Hz (Bass), +5/-11 dB @ 500Hz (Mid) and +10/-10 dB @ 4kHz (Treble). In addition, the Classic offers the Ultra-Hi (+7 dB @ 8kHz) and Ultra-Lo (+2 dB @ 40Hz, -10 dB @ 500Hz) buttons. My personal favorite is the Ultra-Lo, as that’s where my favorite slice of the Ampeg magic resides. A blue LED indicates when the preamp is engaged.

Bass Preamp

The Classic seems like a clear choice if you are after that solid Ampeg sound, but I was curious as to how well it would work when fed into a non-Ampeg rig. To this end, I ran the Classic directly into the input of my GK MB Fusion 800. I thought this would be an interesting test, figuring the “baked-in” tones would clash against each other a bit. They did seem to fight each other a bit, at first, so I dialed down the grit a bit on the GK and was pleasantly surprised to hear an SVT coming out of my cab. After dialing things in a little further using the 3-band EQ on the pedal, it got fairly close to that classic Ampeg sound.

After this, I tried running the Classic through the effects loop on my head. This resulted in a more clear tone, with added punch, as well. For whatever reason, the inherent tone of my GK head didn’t seem to fight against what the Classic was bringing to the table when I ran it in the effects loop. But again, with a little tweaking, it worked fairly well in front of the amp, as well. Either way you prefer to run it, I was pleased to find that the Class Bass Preamp allowed me to punch in a convincing “Ampeg tone” with the flick (or “stomp,” as the case may be) of a switch.

One thing is for sure, the tones you can get out of this pedal definitely make you think twice about lugging around several hundred pounds of gear! The Classic Bass Preamp does have a true bypass switch, but I would probably never turn it off; it sounds that good.

I would have liked to see an XLR out, and at first, I was a bit disappointed it didn’t have one. Once I thought about it a bit, though, the SCR-DI has an XLR out, and also comes attached with the Scrambler circuit. If you want an XLR, you would clearly opt for the SCR-DI. The player who buys a Classic Bass Preamp will likely use it in conjunction with a head that already has an XLR output, so there is no need to duplicate functionality and add to the cost.

One nice thing about separating these functions into two pedals, it allows you to run them in different order, or run one in the effects loop and one in front of your amp head.

Scramble On

If you’re in the market for a solid overdrive pedal, the Scrambler should be on your short list. It’s a small little guy that packs a fairly big punch. Like the Classic, the Srambler features an internal jumper that can be switched to knock the input gain down by 15 dB. The Drive knob adjusts the amount of the Bass Scrambler™ overdrive effect, and the Blend knob allows you to blend the overdriven tone with your clean tone – a supremely useful feature. The Treble knob on the Scrambler offers +17/-14 dB @ 4kHz.

I tried this pedal solo at first and was able to get a nice overdriven SVT sound. Even when everything was cranked, it held its own and didn’t make me cringe. With everything cranked, it gave a dirty drive sound with a hint of fuzz mixed in. I like it because it’s simple to use – there are only four knobs – but it can contend with some high-end overdrives. This does have true bypass, so if you run it inline with the Classic, it won’t interfere until you switch it on.

The Bottom Line

  Both pedals have a nice bright LED to signal when the effect is engaged and each sports an internal compartment for a 9v battery, if you don’t want to use a standard 9v power supply. I would personally use these in my amp’s effects loop, but you could certainly go in front of the amp to give you more options. These pedals are compact, durable, and the controls are intuitive. Most importantly, they sound really good. Classic Ampeg tone has never been more easy to come by, nor so easy on the wallet.  

SIDE PANEL INFO

Manufacturer:Loud Technologies Inc.
Web: www.ampeg.com
Model:Classic Bass Preamp
Made in:China
Enclosure:Die Cast Zinc with rubber feet
Inputs:¼” Input, 9v-12v DC 100mA center negative power input
Outputs:¼” Output
Controls:Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Ultra-Hi & Ultra-Lo switches, On/Off switch
Other Features:Purple LED preamp active, -15dB pad jumper located inside the enclosure
Dimensions:4.5” D x 2.6” L x 2.2" H
Weight:0.6 lb
Warranty:1-year, nontransferable
Price:$139.99 list, $99.99 street

Manufacturer:Loud Technologies Inc.
Web: www.ampeg.com
Model:Scrambler Bass Overdrive
Made in:China
Enclosure:Die Cast Zinc with rubber feet
Inputs:¼” Input, 9v-12v DC 100mA center negative power input
Outputs:¼” Output
Controls:Drive, Blend, Treble, Volume, On/Off switch
Other Features:Purple LED preamp active, -15dB pad jumper located inside the enclosure
Dimensions:4.5” D x 2.6” L x 2.2" H
Weight:0.6 lb
Warranty:1-year, nontransferable
Price:$139.99 list, $99.99 street