As a heavy metal player, a vocalist, or a sound guy, an external bass preamp pedal is an essential weapon in your arsenal. With a good one, you can make a passive bass active and vice versa. In the same light, these pedals are a way to raise signals and make the lowest bass frequencies perceivable to your amplifier without modding your tones. And because everyone has special needs to be met by these portable boxes, it’s reasonable to admit that there’s no one-solution-fits-all model out of the tens on the market.
For example, the best bass preamp pedal for recording is not the best, after all, if used in a live show. Therefore, I have recommended and reviewed 10 different models in this post. And for the sake of confusion, I have categorized my 10 recommendations into groups based on price and based on the chief area of application of each. Also, I have shed light on some of the topics mostly thrown around when it comes to preamps and boosts. Likewise, I have shared my FREE buying guide for choosing the right preamp pedals as a roundup of this post.
Great! Right? Drill down.
Best Under 500 Dollars
In this category, I review 4 best bass preamp pedals under 500 dollars, with each designed for a unique application.
Best For Live Show; Darkglass Alpha Omega Ultra Bass Preamp Pedal
For anyone who has had experience with any of Darkglass’ lines of musical instruments, expecting quality and performance is sensible. And with the all-new Alpha Omega ultra bass preamp, you can equally expect the same for your live shows. This pedal is designed with engineers and sound guys in mind for detailed preamplification of bass guitar signals on a stage. Whether in a band setting or you’re buying this for your one-man show gigging, every penny you put on this device counts. You are also able to take this into the studio and get the heavy metal sound quality you want. But here’s why I think so.
The Alpha Omega is a versatile and highly dynamic pedal with an extremely dynamic range of options. And as the name suggests, it features 2 distinct distortion circuits namely Alpha and Omega. The alpha circuit makes your mixes punchy, straight, and tight with many definitions. Meanwhile, the Omega circuit is more raw and brutal on the flip side. Either of these distortion circuits can be engaged on the footswitch control as you play. And you can boost 2.8Khz High Mids for more definition without compromising on clarity when playing to a larger audience. Thanks to the exclusive Bite functionality.
This portable box has 6-band digital graphic EQ for maximum control of frequencies or elements. And you can equally get the exact copy of your guitar signal every time, thanks to the advanced digital impulse-response cabinet emulation integrated. After processing signals, you are able to maintain the same unity gains but tweak volumes to your venue. There’s even a Growl functionality built in to fatten your bass tone while increasing the low-end saturation. Overall, this is a complete set needed by a modern bassist. And to speak, you get to connect your MAC or PC with it for DAW processing while staying at the surface of the task with a headphone connected directly to the box. See the complete specs below.
- 6-band active graphic EQ
- Impulse-response cabinet emulation
- Low-shelf bass; 12dB @ 80Hz
- High shelf treble; 12dB @ 5Khz
- Mid bands; 10dB @ 250Hz/500Hz/1.5Khz/3Khz
- Built-in headphone amplifier
- Micro USB connector
- Current draw; 110mA
- Adapter requirement; 90V DC power adapter
- Master volume control
- Switchable ground lift
- Bypass and distortion footswitch
- Overdriven signals can be tweaked
- Creates growling effects
- Fine-tunes overall output
- Allows DAW processing
- Connects with headphone
- Provides volume adjustment for headphones
- Compact design, highly versatile
- Excellent sound quality
- Responsive functionalities’ control
- A power adapter is not included
Best For Studio Recording; Darkglass Microtube X Ultra Bass Preamp Pedal
If you’re looking for a DI and a preamp box in one compact place, this is for you. Darkglass Microtube X ultra is the all-new bass pedal designed and engineered by Darkglass for studio use. It brings the quality sounding that was once exclusive to a group of professional studio producers to the general public of studio sound producers. From high gain articulation to punchy mild overdrive to gnarly fuzz and raw, the sky’s the limit to what you can achieve. Darkglass Microtube X Ultra also allows you to create a wide range of distortion. On the flip side, you can bypass distortion and low-frequency filter for a crispy clean tone. All thanks to the Clean Channel functionality.
Talk about control and capabilities. Darkglass Microtube X Ultra is one of the most powerful frontline preamp pedals offering more controls. You’re able to switch through the impulse-response cabinet simulation that it features. And you’re more decisive as per what frequency you want to compress for low Shelf. Likewise, you have the opportunity to select the frequency that you want to saturate for Treble. In other words, Darkglass Microtube X Ultra offers you full control of your bass signal construction in terms of texture, size, and definition. Unfortunately, you can only distort high signals with this box as it doesn’t pick up low signals for distortion. But then that shouldn’t be a dealbreaker for a studio producer. Right?
Overall, this pedal is highly versatile and adaptable to PCs, MAC, phones, and other DAW processing systems that you need to set up with it in the studio. Lastly, being able to compress low ends while distorting highs at the same time is a plus. Needless to say, this product connects with both headphones and an aux jack for studio productions. See the complete specs below.
- 6-band graphic EQ
- XLR DI output
- Built-in IR cab simulator
- Low Shelf; 250Hz
- High Shelf
- Mid; 250Hz/500Hz/1.5Khz/3.5Khz
- Switchable impulse-response cabinet simulation
- Aux input
- Low ends compression
- High ends depression
- High-pass filter
- Bypass; Clean channel
- Master control
- Versatile unit
- Best for studio recording
- Variable low-pass/high/pass filter
- Headphone adaptable and control
- A lot of control
- Ideal for detail signal amplification
- Does distortion and compression on a tandem
- A lot of opportunities to add different cabinets
- A simple, intuitive control interface
- Compact design
- Not easy to use for beginners
Best For Active Basses; Le Bass Preamp Bass Effects Pedal
If you are looking for a pedal that is designed for your active basses alone, this one will make you feel like a small buyer. Otherwise, the Le Bass preamp will disappoint you greatly on any of your passive basses and, therefore, you should scroll straight to the next recommendation. Still here? Great. Le Bass is a two-notes audio engineering box with two totally independent channels and it is designed for the experienced sound guys and the audio technicians alike. The channel A offers an ultra-clean bass and treble preamplification with lightning response and a complete spectrum of tone. On this channel, you can access pre-gain EQ along with a lower gain tube stage. On the flip side, channel B is for when you want rock bass, Mid sweep, Mid, and treble. With the two channels combined, you can engage the cold fusion to get the most of the two. Or you can initiate the hot fusion functionality to create a synth-like growling effect as another result of combining the two channels.
All the aforementioned functionalities can be engaged on the footswitch for convenience’s sake. And you can send Midi programs from your laptop to this pedal and it will respond for easy integration into any other pedalboard switching device. Speak about versatility. Le Bass preamp effects pedal serves as a traditional preamplifier when connected to your amplifier or a cabinet. On plugging it to the mixing board in the studio or on stage, it becomes your portable autonomous system. Place it before your amplifier and it serves the purpose of overdrive, a distortion system, or a boost. Finally, it is also perfect for recording whenever you use WoS (Wall of Sound). Just connect it with your headphones to listen silently when used for that.
Overall, this is a highly sophisticated unit for all active basses and I have spread out the full specs below.
- 2 channels; A and B
- Channel A; Bass and treble
- Channel B; Bass. treble, active-mid, and mid sweep
- Hot fusion
- Cold fusion
- Input jack; 6.5mm unbalanced
- Return jack; 6.35mm unbalanced
- Output jack; 6.35mm unbalanced
- Thru jack; 6.35mm unbalanced
- Send jack; 6.35mm unbalanced
- DI output; XLR unbalanced
- Phone jack; 3.5mm stereo
- Power adapter; 2.1mm DC jack
- Current draw; 500mA
- Power consumption; 6W
- Midi control
- 16 virtual cabinets
- Great solid punch rock bass
- Best pedal for active basses
- Highly dynamic
- High-quality electronic design
- Comes with an integrated speaker simulation
- Multi-channel and switching modes
- It has two channels fusion modes
- Fast responsive with full note spectrum
- The worst thing for passive basses
Best For Active And Passive Basses; Ashdown OriginAL Tube Preamp DI
Simply put, Ashdown OriginAL Tube preamp DI is a portable pedal for both signal coloration and signal overdrive. It is a consistent device for developing solid, overdriven signals and for preparing these signals electrically and sonically for the best delivery unto your amplifier. Whether you are playing a passive heavy metal or striking an active bass guitar on stage or in a studio, this is the preamp for you. Ashdown OriginAL Tube preamp DI encompasses all your needs. It creates crystal clean overdriven growls. It offers foot-switchable overdrive that is powered with valves whilst offering guitar-based signals shaping and tweaking.
This little box integrates a -3dB pad switch together with an input level control to modify inputs for the instruments you’re playing. Whenever you’re playing a heavy metal that has a low output, you won’t really need this functionality. But because a guitar with high output will cause unpleasantness and unwanted signal distortion, this functionality comes in handy to eliminate the snags of overloading. Just connect the box to your 15V-18V DC power outlet to power it with a stable 300mA current and you can start cashing in on all the benefits. But here’s a sneak peek of those benefits.
For one, you get to create a broadband mid-scoop and apply it to your signal before overdriving or equalization. Once in the overdrive circuit, you can tweak gains and volume to both your venue and instrument. Straight in the EQ circuit, you can control 5 different frequencies around 100Hz, 340Hz, 680Hz, 1.6Khz, and 7Khz. And because the integrated filters are low Q-type filters, there are the possibilities of a considerable overlapping between frequencies, and that secures a fast, smooth response anyways. Right? Finally, for further integrations, Ashdown OriginAL Tube preamp DI is designed to be used together with mixers, amplifiers, and other instruments other than guitars. See the complete specifications below.
- 5-band graphic EQ
- -3dB pad switch
- Current usage; 300mA
- Power voltage; 15V-18V
- Low Q type filters
- ¼” output control
- Line input; 3.55mm mini-jack
- 12A✕7 power tube drive distortion
- Weight; 3.09lbs
- Quality signal distortion
- A lot of on-board equalization
- Switching noise elimination
- Quick low-frequency compression
- Smooth high-frequency accentuation
- Highly responsive input level adjustment
- Unwanted distortion elimination
- Powerful and clear overdriven growl effect
- Easy switch between overdriven signal and clear signal
- The power plug is not included
Special note; Those are my 4 best recommendations for your 500 dollars budget. Note that I have clearly stated the area of application unique to each. That doesn’t, however, relegate each of the recommended pedals to the stated area of application though. It’s just that you’ll get the most from your investment accordingly.
Best Under 300 Dollars
You want to put all your dime to work without breaking the bank. Right? Below, I have reviewed another round of 4 powerful pedals, and this time, for your 300 bucks budget. Dive in!
Best For DJing; Aguilar Tone Hammer Preamp
You’re leaning on flexibility and power more than you lean on beauty or portability as a DJ. Though Aguilar tone hammer is not all too bulky and heavy, as the name suggests, it is a tough, heavy-duty tone shaper for your DJing gigs. It is a strong, powerful preamp/direct box that offers fully sweepable midrange frequencies on top of the fixed treble and bass. If you have experience mounting an OBP-3 onboard preamp on your guitar you can easily know what to expect from the Aguilar Tone Hammer preamp. With this unit, you are able to cut and boost all frequencies from treble to bass through mid. The pre-DI and post-DI functionalities are the icings on the sugar.
Also, this box features a built-in AGS (Adaptive Gain Shaping) circuitry. The Adaptive Gain Shaping circuitry provides ultimate flexibility and more tone-tweaking by allowing you to add more gain structure and EQ at the push of a button. And dialing your instrument’s preferred gain structure is made easier, thanks to the separation of gain control and Master control on 2 different buttons. Unfortunately, if you set it up in a chain, Aguilar Tone Hammar will bleed into your pure sound even when the pedal is off. And that is just about the downside. By the way, a master-bypass eliminates this bottleneck if you don’t mind the extra bucks.
Okay, I guess there may be another bottleneck if you run this box in a chain without a master-bypass. Through the first hour of usage, the box maintains input and output fine. But over time, the input and output begin to change independently, and the box tires-out. The bottom line is, get a master-bypass along with this and you’ll have ownership of a heavy-duty steel construction pedal that worths every penny.
- Ground lift switch
- One input jack; ¼”
- Output jack; ¼”
- Output jack; XLR
- Nominal output; -40dBU balanced
- AGS (Adaptive Gain Shaping) circuitry
- Pre DI and post-DI
- Power source; a 9V power battery
- Bass; -/+18dB @ 40Hz
- Mid; -/+17dB @ 180Hz and 1Khz
- Treble; -/+18dB @ 4Khz
- Adaptive gain shaping functionality
- Fully sweepable midrange frequencies
- Heavy-duty steel construction box
- Cuts and boosts all frequencies
- Adaptable with amplifiers
- Excellent sound quality
- Bang for buck
- Output and input may change over time
Best For 600-800 Amplifiers; Ampeg SCR-DI Bass DI Preamp With Scrambler Overdrive
If you own any 600 series amplifier or any of the models in the 800 series and you’re looking for the best bass preamp integration, this is for you. Ampeg SCR-DI bass DI preamp is a dual-purpose unit for your large audience gigs. It features classic Ampeg EQ for exclusive tone adjustments which include both Ultra-Lo functionality and Ultra-Hi functionality. With the Ultra-Hi, you can shape high tones more efficiently through a various range of high frequencies. Likewise, you can fine-tune low signals better through a lot of low frequencies by engaging the Ultra-Lo functionality. And that is just what you need to push low signals to the background and make your front signals more audible to a large audience.
But here’s more. If you love tube preamps for their even-order harmonic distortion, progressive distortion, optimized power output, and less negative feedback, you’d love Aguilar. It integrates an all-new bass scrambler overdrive that allows you to dial in a tube-like grind on your tones. Also, the SCR-DI functionality provides multiple connections to your rig of choice so you can bounce Aguilar tone off of your software. All that is required is a simple connection with your MAC or PC through the Aux input. In a studio setting, you may plug in your headphones to the headphone output and even loop backing music from your mobile device at the same time.
Overall, this is a great investment for your 600 series or 800 series amplifier. It is a highly versatile unit that finds application in multiple areas. You can use it for professional recording in the studio; amateur recording in your home studio; professional audio DJ mixing; and home practices. See the complete specifications below.
- XLR outputs
- ¼” outputs
- ⅛” aux input
- Drive and Blend control
- Master volume
- Thru input
- Ground lift
- Scrambler functionality
- 9V power supply needed
- Multiple midranges
- Great footswitch
- Pushes your power amp easily
- Massive functions and quality for the money
- Smooth compression
- Clean tone
- Warm and comfy to use
- Great power output
- Extra low-end
- Extra treble
- Extra mid-range
- Excellent bass DI pedal with scrambler unit
- Not for switching between active and passive
Best For Effects And Preamp; Trace Elliot Transit B Bass Preamp And Effects Pedal
If you’re looking to have all the needed effects processing functionalities together with a preamp functionality in one useful place, this is for you. Trace Elliot B Bass Preamp and Effects Pedal is a classic, professional-grade preamplification box for the discerning heavy metal players. With it, you have access to an extended 5-band semi-parametric EQ for maximum tone-shaping. This feature is foot-switchable for convenience. Likewise, there’s a dual-band compressor that is easy to engage by using the defeat switch dedicated to it. Another function every professional love about this pedal is a built-in Chromatic Tuner with both an output control line level and an input gain control.
Other important tone-shaping functionalities are the Ultra-Hi and Ultra-Lo functions for Bass and treble enhancement. This is a plus for any studio production professional or a sound guy with a lot of gigs to handle. And as expected, there’s a drive feature for distortion adjustment as well as a blend function for effective mixing and separation of dry and wet signals. Finally, this pedal can be used connected to a chain with no problem. And you can use it along with your rig software by just connecting your laptop to it. Needless to say, there’s a connection jack available for headphone connection and mobile device adoption. Overall, there are more features in this box than you will find on any of the high-price models. See the complete features below to verify.
- EQ type; 5 band semi-parametric (with defeat switch)
- Compressor type; dual-compression (with defeat switch)
- Input gain control
- Output level control
- Passive and active switch
- Built-in Chromatic Tuner
- Line level control
- Instrument level control
- Dry outputs control
- Pre and post-balanced XLR outputs
- Ground lift
- Tune/mute switch
- Drive control
- Phones output
- Aux inputs
- Pre-shape switch
- Versatile box for passive and active
- Ultra-Hi and Ultra-Lo functionalities are a plus
- Smooth compression easy to tweak on the fly
- Maximized tonal options
- Backlit control panel for easy control and adjustment
- Accurate tuning
- Balanced dry and wet mixing
- Applicable for professional recording and home studio
- Compact body built like a tank
- Great sound quality
- There’s less grit on the drive (a weak drive?)
Best 2-Channel; Radial Engineering Bassbone V2 Bass Preamp And DI Box
This Radial engineering Bassbone V2 is a special preamplification unit that has been designed to outmatch the role of a sound engineer in a band setting performance. Whether you’re new to setting up chains and engineering sounds in a live show or you’re a sound guy with a lot of sounding skills to hone in on, this is your preamp box. Radial Engineering Bassbone V2 presents the functionalities of a preamp unit and that of a DI box in one compact place. It features a topnotch sounding circuit that has made it a choice for prominent bassists like Marcus Miller and Rhonda Smith.
Set it up with up to 2 heavy metals of varying string number. Radial V2 offers a 2-channel audio circuit with separate level controls dedicated to each channel so you can make the most of your audio balance. It integrates a passive interactive EQ that is dedicated to these 2 channels. And with that, you’re able to adjust tone and toggle between the 2 channels as if you were switching between Rickey and P-bass using the same bass. Also, if you play an upright bass when doubling and you prefer connecting with a piezo, this pedal comes with a PZB booster that adds a whole new dimension to your sound.
But integrating this pedal with other footswitches opens you further to greater opportunities. For instance, you can set it up with your power booster and engage a boost footswitch for your solos. Or even use that for a quiet onstage toning as a mute switch. Also, you can retain the original tone of your instrument before mixing for a crispy direct amplification on your amplifier, thanks to the wet-dry control of the effect loop that is easily accessed through a footswitch. Note that your mixed-in effects can be sent to either or both of the two channels at once and your processed sound can be directly sent to a PA system, a Tuner, or a stage amp. (Yes, this doesn’t come with a Tuner).
- Boost and Loop
- 2 channels
- 2 level controls
- Built-in Radial DI
- Dry/wet effects
- PZB booster
- Power voltage; 15V DC
- Ground lift
- Balanced output
- Tuner output
- A complete bass control center
- Rugged and flexible
- Warm and comfy to set up and use in a chain
- Excellent sound quality
- Versatile effects mixing
- Powerful passive-interactive EQ
- It uses a non-standard power supply
Special Note; so far, I have reviewed 4 preamp pedals from the frontline for your 300 budget. In the next category, I review the best choices for lower budgets.
Best Under 200 Dollars
Low budget? No problem. In this category, I review the 2 best bass preamp pedals for your 200 dollars budget and for your 100 dollars budget. Drill in.
Best For Home Studio; Ampeg Classic Analog Bass Preamp Pedal
This is the second bass pedal from Ampeg that makes the cut to my list of recommendations. Ampeg Classic Analog Bass preamp pedal is an analog control device as the name suggests. Unlike its peers that are controlled with backlit knobs, this one features backlit analog controls for the best footswitch experience. With its 3-band tone stack, it offers wide possibilities of frequency adjustment for a unit under 150 bucks. And like the high-ends you’d get for 500-100 bucks, Ampeg Classic Analog features both Ultra-Hi and Ultra-Lo features for high flexibility of Ampeg tone adjustment. This is a cost-effective investment to buy your way into a lot of tone dialing in the home studio. Though tens of users have bought this for more professional applications such as studio recording and live performances, I believe you won’t have your expectation unfulfilled if you use it only for the home studio.
Overall, Ampeg Classic Analog is a portable unit for light-duty processing for your amplifier. Whether you’re playing a Fender P-bass or any of the 4-5 strings bass series, this is the most budget-friendly way to quality preamplification. You can set it up in a chain and be creative with your mixing. Also, if you’re a beginner to heavy metals and are looking for a preamplifier for your new 2-3 strings bass, you can easily hone in on your skills and grow with this Ampeg Classic Analog Bass Preamp Pedal. See the complete features, pros, and cons below.
- 3-band tone stack
- Ultra-Hi circuit
- Ultra-Lo circuit
- Power supply 1; 9v battery
- Power supply 2; 9V DC
- Thru bypass
- Balanced output
- Balanced input
- A full metal classic construction
- Rugged, compact design
- Simple control panel interface
- Amazing signal-to-noise ratio
- Wide range of dialable authentic tones
- Dual power supply (can be used either with battery or electricity)
- Bang for buck
- Limited features
Best Lowest Price; Behringer BDI21 V-Tone Bass
It was never possible to get as much value for 50 dollars. Until the movement of Behringer BDI21 V-tone bass into the market, you can’t get more than a few functions for 100 dollars. Now, with as low as 35 bucks, you have access to a quality preamp, DI box, and a Bass amp modeler. Behringer BDI21 combines the power of a direct injection box together with a tube emulation circuitry for a simple but yet powerful sounding box for your amplifier and heavy metal guitars. It puts a lot of vintage tube amplification at your fingertips for even-order harmonic distortion, progressive distortion, optimized power output, and less negative feedback.
Also, you can mix-in your preferred amount of tube emulation into your bass direct signal as an additional function of the Blend feature. Finally, this box completes its performance with dedicated Drive; Treble, Presence, and Level dials. Just set it up and initiate the ground lift to eliminate every ground loop hum bottlenecks.
- Power supply 1; PSU-SB power supply
- Power supply 2; 9V battery
- 2-band EQ
- V-Tone modeling technology
- Output; ¼” balanced
- XLR connector
- Tube emulation circuitry
- Truckload of amps in a simple box
- Crunchy distortion and other distortions
- Active DI functions
- Compact and responsive design
- Versatile unit with excellent sound quality
- Great for both amateur and professional recording
- It eats battery
And now…to the “clearing the heat” part. Below, I throw light upon some of the basic and most confusing topics around preamp pedals.
What Does A Pream Pedal Do?
The answer is pretty straight but tricky at the same time. But here’s the simple work of a preamp box. The purpose of all preamp pedals is to prepare signals for amplification. This preparation surrounds raising signal volume and adding EQ effects to a direct signal before relaying it into your amplifier. Meanwhile, the type of preamp pedal you’ll need depends on your instrument. If you’re a bassist playing bass guitar, you’ll need one of the bass preamp pedals recommended so far.
What Is The Difference Between A Preamp And A Boost
Another tricky question this is (in Yoda’s voice). Preamp pedals are mostly taken for boost pedals but they are not the same devices. Though their functionalities appear to be uniform, a preamp brings your signal to the line-level perceivable to your amplifier while a boost raises signal level beyond just making it observable to your amplifier. In other words, a boost may take the role of an amplifier but a preamp can’t do that.
Where To Put Preamp In A Chain
This depends on you. Nevertheless, it is more ideal to make preamp pedal the first member of your chain setup.
As promised, below is my FREE buying guide to choosing the best preamp pedal.
How To Choose The Best Bass Preamp Pedal; The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide
Here are the factors to consider when buying your own preamp box for your heavy metal.
- Bandwidth; depending on your needs, a preamplification box must come with the needed number of bands for your setup. For instance, if you’re expecting to pre-amplify 2 separate bass guitars on the same pedal, such a pedal should be in the 2-band category.
- Point of application; are you looking to use a preamplifier in a band setting or in a studio or for your home practices? Once you have an answer, you can go straight for a model designed for the purpose you want.
- EQ and Volume; in all cases, a preamp model must come with enough EQ and volume possibilities. Most especially if you’re a DJ, you should look out for a model with more EQ.
- Budget; your budget determines how many features and benefits you’ll get from your purchase. Nevertheless, it is important to look for quality even when on a low budget.
- Passive or Active; depending on the kind of bass guitar you’re playing, the pedal model you will go for must conform accordingly.
Coming up with a clear purchase plan for your bass preamp pedal may turn out to be tricky. So far, I have recommended 10 models that you can easily pick your best bass preamp pedal from. Would you like to as more questions or receive a more specific recommendation? Use the comment box.