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Review – Broughton Audio: Josh Wah, Low+High Pass Filter, and Apex Compressor

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Broughton Audio Josh Wah, Low+High Pass Filter, and Apex Compressor Reviews…

Toronto-Based Broughton Audio is the brainchild and one-man operation of Josh Broughton, a bassist and electrical engineer with a vision to produce high quality, handmade effects and signal processing pedals designed specifically for the needs of bassists.  His evil genius level prowess has resulted in what many praise as among the finest offerings out there for bass tone shaping and effects. Since his pedals are built by hand in limited run small batches, there is a lot of intrigue and mystique around his pedals, and are highly sought after on the used market.    I was pretty thrilled when Josh agreed to send me three of his more recent offerings: The L+HPF, Apex Compressor, and JoshWah. Each arrived showcasing exemplary build quality and robust feel, right down to the click of the jacks, smooth turn of the knobs and slick paint jobs.    I have been having way too much fun putting these through their paces and am happy to report that the reputation is well warranted.

Broughton L+HPF

When I asked Josh about the L+HPF, he told me “it was designed as a one pedal gig fix no matter what the venue. Often times bassists find themselves in a venue with an unruly sub bass resonance, or a high frequency slap back. The L+HPF allows the user to vary the cut-off frequency of the lows and highs to correct for these acoustics, and even offers a clean, quiet gain control to make up any extra gain needed. The L+HPF is also an effective EQ for shaping other effects, as well as an effective cab simulator when going direct to a mixing console”.   While that sums it up nicely, I will add that the overall effect of the H+LPF is to narrow down the particularly wide footprint of an electric bass tone, helping to “pocket” your tone in just the right spot amongst a busy mix.  With the high cut (LPF) and low cut (HPF) knobs, you can locate just the right bandwidth to slot your bass sound between the kick drum and guitar, for example, or you can use it to tighten up a loose and flabby low end, or conversely, to remove string noise and zing without crushing your musical upper midrange.    Personally, I find that my hi fidelity rig can sometimes sound “too” full range and wide, or a little bright for some applications.  The catch is that cutting treble on most onboard bass preamps or amps can affect the center frequency of the treble EQ, but leave frequencies above that EQ point intact, resulting in some dips or peaky unevenness and a less balanced overall tone.  The H+LPF lets me shave off the highs, emulating a vintage amp.  It can crudely be thought of like a passive tone control on a Jazz or Precision bass, which is a welcome addition for those with active basses and traditional 3 band equalizers, with fixed EQ points.

Ultimately, this pedal is simple and effective, allowing one to powerfully shape the sonic footprint of their tone, and offering clean gain to make up for any volume lost in the process.  I have been using an HPF on my bass rig for a couple years now, in an effort to tighten up the low end by removing subsonic frequencies that can cause stage rumble, limit an amp from producing those power hungry subsonic lows, and protect my cabs from the potential ravages of sub-octave effects.   The filters are 12db per octave, which isn’t quite as steep as I am used to, for making surgical adjustments to taming low end, but that being said, it sure works as advertised and tightens up those lows as you roll up the HPF.   This is a great pedal for someone who uses a hi-fi rig with the characteristically extended bandwidth, looking for a one box solution to get them in the vintage tone multiverse.

Broughton Apex Compressor

The Apex compressor is a great sounding comp, optimized for bass, and including some very thoughtful and usable features for bass.  Josh says: “The goal of the Apex was to provide a high fidelity, transparent, low noise, easily tunable compressor for the gigging bassist. An internal charge pump gives the Apex a huge amount of clean headroom suitable for nearly any signal level. The VCA chip gives fast, accurate, and clean compression. The side chain HPF allows the bassist to remove ultra-lows that may trigger the compressor too much, giving equal and natural compression across the entire range of the bass. The wide range dB compression meter indicates exactly how much compression is going on.”  Uh, what he said. But seriously, the beauty of the Apex lies not only in its clean operation and excellent sound quality, but its variable ratio (from 1:1 all the way to infinity:1), and the HPF sidechain.  It took me a minute to wrap my head around it, but essentially, it allows a certain amount of low end to pass through, uncompressed, while affecting the frequencies above the cutoff point. I found it worked great set around 40-50hz.   The result is a powerful sound with plenty of transients, but still provided that slight cushion on the upper frequencies that I look for in a clean compressor. Like the L+HPF, the build quality and design is exquisite, and a 7 LED metering row helps a whole lot in getting the setting tweaked for best results.   The gain control offers up to 20 dB of clean gain, to offset any attenuation from compression.

I’ll just say: I have used a bunch of high end compressors in the last few years, most notably, the Empress, Demeter, and Diamond compressors, and the Apex certainly contends strongly with this list. I was able to coax a handful of great tones out of it, from a clean “fat boost” sound, to a more vintage-voiced compression sound with slight midrange bump.   Between its usable range and its great sound quality and low noise, there is a lot to love about the Apex and users are sure to be rewarded the more they tune into its broad capabilities.

Broughton Joshwah

The Joshwah is the least straightforward of the 3 pedals reviewed here, but with all that complexity comes a crazy spectrum of great and usable bass sounds.   I think of the Josh Wah as something of a 1 click “lead channel”, a combination envelope filter and fuzz pedal, with all kinds of cool and weird things happening at the intersection of the two.  Capable of producing familiar clean envelope filter sounds with a fast release time, as well as full on fuzzed out synthy tones dripping with distortion, the Joshwah is one of those pedals you really have to get to know, in order to appreciate the scope of its capabilities.   As Josh says, “The LPF topology retains all of the lows while giving a wide ranging sweep of the mids and highs. The Sense knob gives a wide range of sensitivity for practically any bass. The gain knob can add in harmonics for a more pronounced filter effect, all the way to a full on distorted synth type sound.”  What can I add?  Well, that it’s a LOT of fun, for one thing.  I had a blast dialing up different amounts of fuzz laden bubbly filter sounds, and because each knob is reactive to the settings of the others, it is seriously deep.  Like I said above, I ended up using it as a one click solo channel, with a little envelope effect, a touch of grit, and a slight volume bump.  This worked great for switching between clean bass tone for ensemble playing, and all the texture, color and gain I wanted when it was time to step forward and solo.   Overall, a very compelling and desirable range of sounds for bass, all lurking on one deceptively intricate pedal.

Broughton Audio effects are sold direct through Broughton’s website, which features lots more info about their pedals, as well as some links to great video demos.  For more info, visit: www.broughtonaudio.com

 

 

Bass Videos

Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

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Review: Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB…

Minuendo Lossless Earplugs Live 17dB – Hearing protection has always been front and center on my mind because I love music so much, I cannot imagine my life if I were unable to hear.

You might remember back in 2021, we had a good look at the Minuendo Lossless Earplugs featuring adjustable protection. This system has a lot of very good features but there was always the question of how much sound attenuation to choose.

Now, the great folks at Minuendo have come up with a new version of their earplugs that has a set 17dB noise reduction. You still get a lot of the great features of the adjustables but you just don’t have to think about the specific sound level. In addition, this new version of earplugs comes at a very attractive price point.

For more information, visit online at Minuendo.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

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Review: Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp

Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp: A Tribute to 90’s Iconic Sounds

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the realm of bass preamp/DI pedals, capturing the essence of iconic tones from the 90s can often feel like an elusive pursuit. However, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp emerges as a great option for bass players seeking to replicate the signature sounds of that era, particularly the revered tech21 SansAmp. With its robust feature set and compact design, the Tidal Wave offers a faithful homage to classic rock tones and low-gain distortions, all while providing modern conveniences for today’s bassist. Let’s delve into why the Joyo Tidal Wave stands out as a versatile and budget-friendly tool for both stage and studio.

Specs:

Measuring at 130 * 110 * 50 mm and weighing 442g, the Joyo Tidal Wave strikes a balance between portability and durability, making it ideal for gigging musicians and studio enthusiasts alike. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Tidal Wave ensures reliable performance in a variety of settings.

Controls:

At the heart of the Tidal Wave’s versatility lies its comprehensive control set, allowing bass players to sculpt their tone with precision. Key features include:

– Level: Sets the overall output volume of the pedal.

– Blend: Blends the dry signal with the cab-emulated signal, offering seamless integration of the pedal into any setup.

– Presence: Controls the dynamics of the high upper-mids, crucial for shaping drive tones.

– Drive: Introduces low-gain distortions and classic rock sounds into the clean tone.

– Treble, Middle, and Bass: Provides a 3-band EQ with frequency selectors for bass (40Hz – 80Hz) and mids (500Hz – 1KHz), offering ample control over tonal shaping.

– Middle Shift and Bass Shift: Allows for further fine-tuning of midrange and bass frequencies.

– Ground Lift: Helps eliminate ground loop noise in certain setups.

– DI Attenuation Switch: Adjusts the level of the DI output signal.

– LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal.

Performance:

True to its inspiration, the Joyo Tidal Wave excels in delivering classic rock tones and low-gain distortions reminiscent of the tech21 SansAmp. Whether you’re seeking gritty overdriven sounds or pristine clean tones, the Tidal Wave offers unparalleled flexibility and sonic versatility. The inclusion of a headphone out, XLR DI out with cab simulation, and throughout for the original bass sound make the Tidal Wave a versatile tool for both stage and studio applications. From practicing silently with headphones to crafting quality recordings in an ampless setup, the Tidal Wave delivers on all fronts with clarity, definition, and unmistakable character.

Pros:

The Tidal Wave boasts an array of advantages that set it apart from its direct competitors:

– Headphone Out: Transforms the pedal into a convenient practice tool.

– Size and Weight: Compact and lightweight design for easy transportation and setup.

– Rugged Construction: Durable build quality ensures longevity and reliability.

– DI and CabSim: Offers professional-grade direct recording capabilities with authentic cab simulation.

– Familiar Tones: Faithfully replicates the classic rock sounds of the tech21 SansAmp.

Cons:

While the Tidal Wave excels in many aspects, it does have a few drawbacks:

– Plastic Knobs: Knobs may feel less premium compared to pedals with metal controls.

– Cab Simulation Only on XLR Output: Limited cab simulation functionality may require additional routing for certain setups.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of classic rock tones from the 90s. With its faithful homage to the tech21 SansAmp, comprehensive control set, and modern conveniences like headphone out and XLR DI with cab simulation, the Tidal Wave offers bassists a versatile  tool for sculpting their sound with precision and finesse. Whether you’re seeking to replicate iconic tones from the past or forge new sonic territories, the Joyo Tidal Wave Preamp is sure to inspire creativity and elevate your playing to new heights.

Available online at Amazon.com

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Gear Reviews

Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

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Review: Joyo Scylla Compressor

Joyo Scylla Compressor: When Quality meets Budget-Friendly

Disclaimer: This pedal was kindly provided by Joyo for the purpose of this review. However, this does not influence our opinion or the content of our review. We strive to provide honest, unbiased, and accurate assessments to ensure that our readers receive truthful and helpful information.

In the diverse landscape of effects pedals for bass guitar, finding a compressor that strikes the balance between performance, versatility, and affordability can often feel like a daunting task. 

However, amidst the sea of options, one pedal stood out as a true diamond in the rough – the Joyo Scylla compressor. Despite its wallet-friendly price tag, the Scylla boasts a great array of features and controls typically reserved for pedals with much higher costs. Let’s take a closer look at why the Joyo Scylla is turning heads and earning praise among bassists on a budget.

Specs: The Joyo Scylla compressor measures in at 109 * 72 * 48 mm and weighs a mere 234g, making it both compact and lightweight – perfect for gigs or studio sessions where space is at a premium. With a power consumption of just 100 mA and a working voltage of DC 9V, the Scylla is efficient and versatile, compatible with a wide range of pedalboard setups.

Controls: What sets the Scylla apart from its direct competitors is its comprehensive control set, offering bassists a good amount of flexibility in shaping their sound. With six knobs, the Scylla allows for a very precise adjustment of key parameters:

  • Input Gain: Adjusts the amount of signal being fed into the compressor.
  • Output Volume: Controls the makeup gain after compression, ensuring consistent output levels.
  • Compression Ratio: Unlike traditional compressor pedals with preset ratio options, the Scylla features a continuous knob, allowing for seamless adjustment from subtle compression to limiter-like effects.
  • Attack and Release: Determine how quickly the compression engages and releases, offering a range of tonal possibilities from punchy and aggressive to smooth and subtle.
  • Output Tone Control: A unique feature not commonly found in compressor pedals, the tone knob adjusts the coloration of the compressed signal, adding warmth or brightness to your bass tone.
  • LED Light Switch Control: Allows users to customize the ambient lighting of the pedal, adding a touch of visual flair to their setup.
  • Performance: In practice, the Joyo Scylla delivers where it matters most – in sound quality and performance. Whether you’re aiming for a tight, punchy bass sound or smooth, sustained notes, the Scylla excels in providing transparent compression that enhances your playing without sacrificing dynamics. The granular control offered by its knobs allows for precise tailoring of compression settings to suit a wide range of playing styles and musical genres.
  • Pros: The Scylla’s strengths lie in its granular control, versatility, and compact design. Its sturdy build quality and diminutive size make it a welcome addition to any pedalboard, occupying minimal real estate without compromising on functionality. However, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Scylla is its price point. Despite offering professional-grade features, the Scylla remains accessible to bassists of all budgets.
  • Cons: While the Joyo Scylla excels in many areas, it’s not without its drawbacks. One notable omission is the lack of metering, which may pose a challenge for users seeking visual feedback on compression levels. Additionally, the plastic knobs, while functional, may feel somewhat less premium compared to other pedals. 
  • Conclusion: In conclusion, the Joyo Scylla compressor emerges as a great option in the world of budget-friendly effects pedals for bass guitar. Its comprehensive control set, transparent compression, and compact design make it a compelling choice for bassists seeking professional-grade performance without breaking the bank. From its intuitive interface to its thoughtful touches like the tone knob and customizable LED lighting, the Scylla delivers a level of versatility and functionality that belies its modest price tag. For bassists looking to elevate their tone without compromising on quality or affordability, the Joyo Scylla compressor is a clear standout.

For more information, visit online at joyoaudio.com/product/265.html

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Bass Videos

String Instrument Humidifiers

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String Instrument Humidifiers

String Instrument Humidifiers

After living in some very humid parts of the country for decades, we moved to a dryer, much sunnier location. As a result, I started noticing some fret sprout on my string instruments and recently did a video on fret sprout correction.

It occurred to me that I should take a more preventative approach to string instrument humidification. Of course, I turned to my instrument maintenance experts, Music Nomad Equipment Care, for a solution and they suggested their Humitar series. (Note: They sent two press samples and I purchased the remainder online.)

Join me as I look at these useful tools for keeping my string instruments in tip-top condition.

The Humitar series is available online at Music Nomad Equipment Care, as well as Amazon.com

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Bass Videos

Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

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Review: CrystalBright Rombo Picks

CrystalBright Rombo Picks

PR Sample

Playing bass with a pick is still a touchy subject in our community. I believe you should be able to use whatever you need to get your sound. Even though I mostly play with my fingers, I like to check out innovative new picks that might have something new to offer, sonically speaking.

Judith and Carlos from Rombo recently contacted me about a new material called CrystalBright that they have been researching for the last 12 months and offered to send some prototype picks. After trying them out, I put together this video with my findings.

For more info check out @rombopicks

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