Sunday, July 11, 2010

Digitech BP50

I've been playing around with stompboxes a lot lately, everything from my old reliable SansAmp Bass Driver to a semi-new Zoom B2.1u. But the most recent addition is a Digitech BP50 modeller and multi-effect.

I like to start with the bottom line: it's cool.  So cool, in fact, it's now an integral part of my sound. I'll leave technical details to the manufacturer's page. I want to talk about what the BP50 does for me.

I bought the pedal through some growth and changes that have taken place over the last 3 years concerning my playing and musical identity. I've always been a rock player, and I guess through my personal maturation I realized how much of a rock player I am. I still play funk, jazz and fusion, but my sound has now gravitated toward a really big, fat, dense and generally gnarly rock beast of a sound. This means lots of watts and lots of speaker paper (I dumped my ten inch speakers in favor of 15s, with a brief stop-over in 12-inch land). However, this being the 2010s, stage volume is even more of an issue than ever. Back in the day, we were playing at well over 120db all the time. However, the new equipment lets us get good tone at lower volumes, so even though the SVT monster still sounds great, it's not required.

Enter modelling pedals like the Zoom and Digitech. Both pedals have models that more or less impersonate amps of yore, like the aforementiond, venerable and occasionally de riguer SVT, but also the Marshall Major and Sunn amps - classic sounds all.

The BP50 has a setting that well resembles a Sunn Coliseum/Concert bass amp. I loved these amps for their openness of tone and bite that hacked through a mix. If you remember John Entwhistle's sound, and to some degree Chris Squire's early Yes tone, then you know this amp.  The BP50's version is interesting in that - like all the amp models - there are ten settings for the Sunn sound, ranging from clean to quite overdriven. The sound is very clear on all the settings, and I love it.

The SVT model has that tube amp "push" that's just right on some songs. This model can also be overdriven.

Match that, or any of the 11amp models, with the modulation section and you can see start to hear the potential of this pedal for rock bass.  What makes the BP50's modulation useful is that, when used, there's no volume change - no bass drop nor sonic cutout of the sound.  The flange, in particular, is quite nice.  It's not overbearing like that in the Zoom pedal, just adds a nice swirly movement that is very subtle.  Of course, one can dial in "obnoxious" too, if so desired. The "Obnoxious " setting  is, I suspect, a preset on all bass pedals.

There is icing on the cake in the mod section, but I'm not going to tell you about it; it's my secret weapon, but it's there for you to hear of you check one out.

There's also an interesting compressor in the BP50: it's capable of not only compressing the full signal, but also splitting the signal and compressing just the lower frequencies. It has quite a few presets allowing one to choose the crossover point and compression amount. No limiter, though, and that gets a BOO from me.

Construction is adequate, but kinda weak. It's in a plastic case and the jacks feel cheap.  However, the unit is so inexpensive, one can buy a second BP50 to keep as a backup.  Not my preferred course, but it's a solution.

The unit comes with an AC adapter, and is powerable with 6 AA batteries.  I'm lazy, so I always want a unit that runs on batteries so I don't have to run a separate power cord.  I use rechargeable batteries that seem to last at least 3 gigs.

There's a ton more to check out in this pedal, and I recommend that you do so.

- The sound!
- The presets are almost all good
- 40 spaces for custom sounds
- AA battery powerable
- comes with AC adapter
- include a tuner

- Feels cheap
- plastic case
- needs a limiter in addition to the compressor
- screen not viewable in bright sunlight

Overall: Not a home run, but a definite winner!

Zebron and James