Hot off the press and delivered to my doorstep, Bergantino’s Super Pre offers exceptionally precise tonal sculpting with top-notch digital processing. The Super Pre is a DSP-based, multi-use bass player’s tone toolbox, focussing on recreating the sounds and feel of back-line amplification. On board compression, drive, equalisation, speaker profiles and a whole host of connectivity options make this fully programmable unit a must for on stage, studio, practice and creative use.

And, it is every bit what it promises. There is a tendency for some to think that anything featuring the word “digital” is going to be a bad idea for bass. Well, that’s simply not true. Free of those limiting thoughts, the audio world is brimming with the very highest quality analog-to-digital conversion today; firmware programmed with the finest detailed algorithms. This technology allows us to capture an entire signal path virtually, from instrument all the way to the mixing desk, with frankly scary accuracy, compared to the technology of yesteryear.

It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Super Pre!!!

The Super Pre has a fine pedigree that has proved its worth in the studio and live on stage many times. Following the glowing success of the Bergantino B|Amp (now in its Mk2 version), Super Pre takes Bergantino’s audio knowledge and DSP processing know-how and places the award-winning design into an easy-to-use foot pedal/desktop processor. For those who may have their own amplifier, are recording using a DAW, or who have the pleasure of running an “amp-less” stage, using in-ear monitoring, the Super Pre is the perfect tool. Furthermore, Super Pre is ram-packed with features you are unlikely to see on other preamplifiers; yet despite its programmable nature, when you get the hang of it, the unit is very easy to navigate and dial in your own amazing sounds

Bergantino Audio Systems™ Super Pre

If you haven’t already watched it, head to the video feature to hear the Super Pre in action. In this written review, I will expand on some of my points in the video, and as always, we have the full specifications in print to accompany my review. That said, covering the sheer amount of functions on Super Pre would make for a very long video. I therefore focused on some tone examples and how I created them to show how we can use the facilities onboard Super Pre in a wide range of musical situations. Incidentally, the resultant tone of the Super Pre was relatively untouched in the recording process of the review. One thing I should mention is that my bass has a slightly scooped tone in this setup.

Bergantino Super Pre is entirely DSP. Never fear, Jim Bergantino has many years in high-end audio and certainly is not one to skimp or cut corners. The quality of hardware components used in Bergantino products is incredibly high, as is the workmanship of the final products by the skilled staff at Bergantino’s Massachusetts, USA factory. The Super Pre shell is made from a combination of industrial-strength injection molding and steel, and each of the control knobs are mounted to withstand the rigours of the road, along with the quality sockets for input and output connectivity.

The Signal Path

After plugging your instrument in, checking your tuning is a breeze. Whilst in the “mute” mode that silences the preamplifier’s main outputs, the screen displays a chromatic tuner. From the input, the impedance is switchable in the menu system from 1M Ohm to 10M Ohm – perfect for users of passive piezo elements wanting to capture the entire frequency range and nuances of their instrument; think acoustic bass players, here. Within the DSP, a powerful set of features is all viewable via a high-contrast, clear OLED display screen. Nearly all the functions onboard of the Super Pre can be adjusted and saved as a program, known as a “scene.” Scenes are grouped in banks, and using the foot switches, navigating them is as easy as selecting one button for scenes and a pair of buttons to jump to a new bank.

Super Pre features compression and drive blocks with really useful parameters that are less frequently available to users in other devices. Whether you choose to “set, save, and forget,” or like to tweak per preset, there’s a veritable aural banquet on offer when sculpting those all-important bass sounds.

Take the compressor, first. It is a variable-ratio type that offers both serial and parallel routing styles (the latter is my go-to and favoured method of supporting my dynamic playing). By setting the input gain of Super Pre properly, it also sets the optimum input level for the compressor, too. Other compression parameters, such as attack and release, are set automatically optimised for bass instruments.

Bass recordings the world over have often benefited from a little gentle saturation to warm up the sound and, sometimes, to provide some aural glue to help the bass sit within a mix. Super Pre has that covered with the mildest of overdrive. Within the drive section block, access to higher saturation distortion and face-melting fuzz sounds will keep you smiling, too. For an angry biting tone, it’s just a twist of a knob away. Now, as you know, I am fussy about my bass tones. For example, I don’t like the impact of my low end sullied by the natural effects of full-band distortion. Well, neither does Jim Bergantino, and thus, a very complex filter network distilled down to a few controls means that the drive part of the signal can not only be blended in to the existing bass tone, but, using a crossover filter, the point at which the drive affects the signal is adjustable. I can move the drive away from the low end with the crossover, but to stop it from sounding brittle, there is a “drive low-pass filter” that emulates the natural roll-off of a guitar speaker, offering a more natural drive sound through full-range back line with tweeters.

The onboard equaliser is a 4-band parametric accessible using the four multi-function knobs, offering control over gain, frequency, and “Q” (the width of each filter curve). The frequency centres are adjustable in 5Hz increments, and there’s +/- 9dB boost and cut available on each band. Further tone manipulation comes in the form of a programmable “bright filter.” Adjustments for corner frequency and gain are saved in the program menu and the filter is engaged by pressing in button 4.

Personally, I have always been at odds with speaker simulations and have struggled to get the exact tone I have in my head, as often we are at the mercy of how someone else thinks a cabinet simulation should sound. I am delighted that Super Pre offers the elements I need, without the struggles I don’t.

I can emulate the low-end roll-off of any desired speaker cabinet using the variable high-pass filter (VHPF). Mimic the roll-off of an Ampeg fridge’s low-end for that punchy, sealed cabinet sound? Done! The VHPF roll off is adjustable between 30Hz and 98Hz in 2Hz increments. Speaker drivers have their own top-end roll-off characteristics, too, and I may choose to emulate that with the Super Pre variable low-pass filter (VLPF) option. Adjustments between 500Hz and 10kHz offer precise control.

In the same menu window, double bass players are looked after with the inclusion of a very effective variable feedback filter (VFBF). An issue that plagues acoustic players on stage is the tendency for feedback to occur in certain situations. Howling or whistling is troublesome, but if it’s possible to identify where that frequency is occurring, Super Pre can reduce it actively without causing undue changes to the overall sound.

Overall, “scene” gain is accessible and saved per program, along with an overall output gain for matching the Super Pre to the next device, such as a power amplifier.

Bergantino Audio Systems™ Super Pre

Bergantino Proprietary Speaker Profiles

Jim Bergantino released the innovative and award-winning B|Amp back in late 2015, which was a massive inspiration for the Super Pre. They are closely related in that respect and now, B|Amp can be thought of as a powered Super Pre, though they differ in some features. Using DSP opens up a lot of avenues for better pairing of amplifiers with speakers, and that’s where the Bergantino speaker profiles (also referred to in the manual as “Speaker-Files”) come in.

Put broadly, imagine a system that could compensate for a speaker’s frequency response “idiosyncrasies” and make perceived improvements to the overall sound. These speaker profiles that have been tailored for models of Bergantino speaker cabinets won’t damage standard speakers either, and can almost be thought of as “adapted equalisation presets.” Thus, using your ears, you can decide if they sound good with your existing setup. In my review, I found them very useful when dialing a tone directly to my DAW. It should be noted that these are proprietary files, and not to be mistaken for Impulse Responses (IR files). Several profiles are available on Super Pre by default, but there are many available on the Bergantino website.

But Wait, There’s More!

Yes, there is an onboard mono effects loop. That, as part of the architecture, has a recallable state. For further connections, Super Pre has an auxiliary input for silent rehearsal or external sound monitoring and headphones output. Super Pre features not one, but two studio-quality balanced line Direct Injection outputs via XLR sockets. One is a Pre DI out, carrying a buffered raw instrument signal, alone. The other, a Post DI output, comprises all the selected effects blocks, including the effects loop sound and the option to engage the speaker profiles filter block at this out, as well. They are both 48V phantom power protected and the Pre DI is latency compensated to ensure both outputs are in phase.

Navigating your presets is easy, and I found that once I had created a sound I liked, holding down the program button and selecting a foot switch was all needed to save my settings. In the program menu, you have the option to name each preset, too, and this name displays briefly when a foot switch is pressed.

If all of this wasn’t enough, Bergantino’s wireless Bluetooth controller (that is available for other Bergantino Audio Systems products) also works with Super Pre. This is an ideal accompaniment for those who like to have the processing gear in a rack system, keeping cabling to a minimum. A wireless controller on the floor at the front of the stage is a neat solution. Super Pre’s USB socket offers access to updating the onboard speaker profile library and a connection point for the Bluetooth foot switch’s USB dongle. One major plus is that Super Pre, like other top-tier processors on the market, can be software updated to include new future-proofing features. Those update emails come directly from the man himself, Jim Bergantino!

The Bottom Line

Super Pre is very impressive. Either in running active or passive instruments, I was greeted with a balanced, high-definition sound. I could produce useful bass tones immediately, and frankly, after this review, I don’t think it’s possible for Super Pre to sound bad (when set up properly). Once you have become familiar with the menu system (which is very simple to navigate – and I have owned a great deal of DSP-based processors over the last 30 years!), creating your own signature sound is a breeze!

For most bassists’ needs, it would be hard to fault. The technophobes amongst us may be put off, at first, and may even argue it’s larger than other pedals, but I would counter and say that it will replace a good few pedals on your existing board. Feature-rich and capable of being a very useful central hub to any rig no matter how complicated or “plug and play,” I think this tone creator will prove useful for years to come.

GENERAL INFO
Manufacturer:Bergantino Audio Systems
Website:https://bergantino.com/super-pre/
Model:Super Pre
Made In:USA
Enclosure:Injection molded plastic and steel
Display:OLED
Inputs:¼” Instrument (1Meg or 10Meg), 1.8”/3.5mm Aux in (20kOhm), USB, 9-12 VAC/DC power input (500 mA), ¼” effects Return input (20kOhm)
Outputs:1.4” unbalanced Line out (1.0kOhm), Pre and Post effects DI XLR outputs (600Ohm), 1/8”/3.5mm stereo headphone out, ¼” effects Send (1.0kOhm)
Controls:Input Gain (with overload LED indicator), Master volume output (with clip LED indicator), four multi-function push-button/dials (Mem1, Mem2, Mem3, Bright), Program (with indicator LED), Mute (with indicator LED), ground lift, four foot switches (Mem1, Mem2, Mem3, Mute; also function in tandem as Bank up/down), Power switch
Accessories:Bluetooth foot control sold separately.
Dimensions:8.5” w x 6.75” d x 3.0” h
Weight:2.5 lbs.
Warranty:1-year warranty
Price:$719.00 US
author avatar
Dan Veall
Dan Veall has an insatiable appetite for all things bass guitar, be it vintage or cutting edge technology. Dan is a seasoned stage and studio player and a private teacher of bass & guitar from his home studio based in the UK. Over his career in music to date, Dan has produced over 400 HD bass gear video reviews and has recorded with some of the very best in the world of rock and prog’.