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Aguilar Tone Hammer Preamp – Gear Review by Brad Houser

Aguilar Tone Hammer Preamp… This box could also be named “soundman defeater” or, alternately “front -of -house-engineer-helper”.

The Tone Hammer is a one of the more recent additions to Aguilar’s line of excellent products. Essentially, it is a preamp that can be used as a DI, in front of a regular bass amp, or as a standalone preamp driving a separate power amp.

Here’s how I found it to perform – beautifully……..

Some of you may have read my previous column “Tone Survival…..“. In it, I wrote about how to basically EQ the house PA at a gig using pre-DI tone shaping. The Aguilar Tone Hammer EXCELS at this.

With the Tone Hammer, because it has extensive EQ, and tons of gain, you can send a strong DI signal to the PA, with lots of reserve. My typical strategy is to put the Tone Hammer last in line before my amp, sending an XLR (mic) cable from the TH (tone hammer) to the PA. On the Tone Hammer box I set the initial gain knob (on the left side of box) at about 10 o’clock, and the master vol. at about 12. bass and treble at about 12. mid at 12. Turn onstage bass amp down to a fairly quiet level. Start playing, listen/ feel carefully to sound coming from main PA speakers. Is it muddy/mushy? Roll back the bass a little, turn up master gain. Pre-gain can also be turned up, it’s pretty clean, got a lot of room before distortion sets in. Is your tone thin? A little bass boost is good. Is it too scooped in the mids? (typical problem in modern PA rigs) Engage the AGS circuit. The AGS circuit, on a separate footswitch, with it’s own LED indicator, is the secret weapon of this box. At lower levels, it introduces a slight tightening of midrange, and adds thickness. At higher levels it becomes full-blown overdrive/distortion. This box has a ton of gain. That’s why I recommend keeping the levels fairly low initially. It gives you some reserve in case the engineer is burying you in the mix. If you are being buried in the mix, bring the output level up GRADUALLY, so as not to spook/piss off the sound engineer. IF you are sneaky enough, you can gradually dial in an amazing tone on your bass in the PA system. This takes practice, and deep listening, but is hugely rewarding. On numerous gigs I have been able to dial in an amazing tone thru the sound system, to the point where it feels like an extension of my bass amp. Superb.

For specs and more info, go to aguilaramp.com

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