As a working bassist that doubles regularly (either on electric/upright or fretted/fretless), having an A/B box, a tuner, a separate EQ pedal, etc.. becomes a necessity.
And while putting together an effects board seems like a good option, I’ve also spent some time with many of the “all in one” units as well with varying levels of success. So I was equal parts skeptical and excited when I got a chance to get my hands on the BPA-1 Bass Preamp from Bassics in the UK.
But First, Some History
Bassics is the brainchild of studio legend, Malcom Toft. He’s been in the pro audio world for over 40 years, and has an illustrious career that involves working with artists such as T-Rex, David Bowie, James Taylor, as well as engineering ‘Hey Jude’ for the Beatles. He’s also designed and developed groundbreaking studio consoles around the world. So with that, he turned his focus on creating quality products for the bass player.
Upon first glance, this unit is stout. It’s a decent size, and is built solidly. What I liked immediately was that,unlike every other floor preamp, the BPA-1 uses a standard power cord (like your amp). This should already tell you the amount of power the BPA-1 has. The controls are simple and straight forward to use and understand. When you step on a footswitch to engage the compressor, EQ, etc.. the knob itself lights up which is a nice touch. And, understandably, when you engage the mute switch, all the knobs go dark. This type of visual confirmation works really well, especially when you’re on a dimly lit stage or a theatre pit.
The BPA-1 also has the ability to switch between two basses. The top input volume is for the first channel, which also has a normal/high impedance switch in the back. The second channel has a volume knob on the back (to allow you to achieve unity between the two), and is switchable by the button on the top of the BPA-1, next to the input volume. If anything, I would’ve liked to see the A/B function as a footswitch over a button.
The highlight of the BPA-1 is the three band preamp. Not only are each of the three frequency bands sweepable, but in addition to the master EQ footswitch, each of the three bands can be bypassed and taken completely out of the chain. So for instance, if you want to use the EQ strictly as a mid scoop, you can bypass the Bass and Treble frequency bands and only use the Mids (or conversely, bypass the mids and boost both the Bass and Treble).
What I liked the most about this was how, even when the controls were dimed, the unit still retained the individual sound and nuance of each of the basses that I ran through it. The Precision with flats sounded like a Precision with flats. The 5 string with active soapbars sounded as high def as you’d expect. And the Hofner? It sounded just like the British invasion.
The other highlight is the compressor. Because this is based on a studio console, the compressor is the same subtle type that you find in a recording studio. Those players that are hoping to use this more as a type of effect probably won’t like it, whereas players like myself that use it to just add a bit of shimmer and sparkle to the sound will enjoy it. The compressor is also able to be used either pre- or post-EQ, with the push of a button.
Other features include an effects loop/tuner out (so you can use it either as an effects loop or a tuner out), direct outs in both pre- and post-EQ with XLR and 1/4″ outputs.
With a US MAP price of $619.00, the BPA-1 isn’t just a preamp pedal that does a couple of other things. This is a serious unit that’s basically a high end studio console at your feet. If you run the output of the BPA-1 into the effects return on your amp (or use a power amp like the Bassics A900), you’ll hear the full potential of the BPA-1, as well as how great your actual bass sounds.