Marcus Miller
Fender Bassman schematic
Fender Bassman
Bassbone OD with 2 basses
Tonebone Texas, Ibanez TS9 and the Fulltone OCD

Bassbone OD DEVELOPMENT

Since Radial launched the Bassbone a decade ago, it has become one of the most successful bass preamps on the planet, having been adopted by many of the world's top bassists including Marcus Miler, Victor Wooten and Tony Levin just to name a few. Over the years we have had many conversations with artists on how we could improve the Bassbone. Some of the requests we received included a mute footswitch for quiet tuning, the ability to have the effects loop active at all times, and the option to elegantly switch between passive, active and upright basses.

During this time we also had many conversations regarding the use of distortion on bass – including the type of overdrive bassists would like to use and more importantly, what typically does not work when applying overdrive or distortion to bass signals. We quickly discovered that in order to deliver a solid bass foundation and deliver the natural tone of the instrument, you have to maximize the frequency response, retain the dynamics and introduce the ability to 'mix in' the dry (original) bass signal with distortion. Once we got started... well, we kept on going until we got it right!

The Bassbone OD is a bass preamp with two instrument input channels, each of which is fully equipped with level control, a semi-parametric equalizer and low frequency resonance filter. Channel-A is equipped with a PZB booster that increases the sensitivity and load to 10 meg ohms to optimize it for use with piezo transducers as commonly employed on upright bass. Channel-B takes a different slant with Drag Control load correction to optimize the tone and feel when using a vintage passive instrument such as a vintage Fender bass. Radial's unique Drag control has become mandatory for those that truly want the ultimate in signal transfer.

Since the beginning of time – when Leo Fender introduced his first bass amplifier – every product on the market followed Leo's lead with a 1 meg ohm input impedance. No one ever questioned it. During the development of the Radial JD7 Injector, we noticed that magnetic pickups tend to sound bright and brittle when connected to a solid state amplifier, yet sound great with a tube amp. This led us to 'invent' Drag Control load correction which basically allows the artist to adjust the load to match the signal path for best tone. As we delved further into pickup interfaces, we noticed that piezo transducers are often described as being peaky, abrupt and lacking natural bass. Manufacturers always employed the same 1 meg ohm impedance. This led us to test various loads and discovered that when you elevate the impedance, the response broadens and tone becomes more natural. With a higher impedance comes the responsibility to fight noise. This in fact is part of the magic that makes the Bassbone OD so unique.

One of the unique features on the original Bassbone was the performance aspect of the pedal. This allows the on-stage performer to quickly switch between two instruments using a footswitch. The Bassbone OD augments the concept of two channels with a blend switch that enables both channels to be used at the same time. This opens the door to using dual-pickup instruments that combine a magnetic and a piezo via ¼" TRS connection.

Outputs include a ¼' instrument level output to feed the on-stage amplifier plus a balanced low-Z Radial DI box output to feed the PA system. The XLR output can be assigned pre or post effects to suit the engineer's preference. This way, the artist can incorporate effects on stage without having to necessarily send them to the PA system. To accommodate quiet on-stage tuning, a dedicated footswitch mutes all the outputs except the tuner out - which is on all of the time. All of the outputs are individually buffered to ensure quiet performance.

For bassists that employ effects, both input channels can share the same pedals via the built-in send & receive effects loop. The effects loop may be activated via the overdrive footswitch or left on all of the time if so desired. When routed via the footswitch, the loop passes through the wet-dry control allowing the bassist to retain as much of the original tone as wanted. A 180° polarity reverse on the effects loop ensures the phase can be matched between the wet and dry signals.

The OD of course means overdrive. The single biggest problem with applying distortion on a bass is that the instrument gets lost in the mix. Most overdrive pedals cause the bass frequencies to become mushy and indistinct. Our goal with the OD was to enable the artist to retain the original bass tone while mixing in just enough distortion to suit. You could for instance add just a touch of grit to replicate the tone of an Ampeg SVT being driven hard. If preferred, you can accentuate the harmonics by increasing the distortion and opening up the high-frequency tone control. We added a 3-position switch to assign the footswitch to activate the effects loop, the overdrive or both.

Finally, we decided to incorporate a headphone amplifier so that the Bassbone could be used for practicing when sitting on the bus between gigs. A dedicated 3.5mm mini TRS plus a volume control lets you quietly play while capturing the tone, overdrive and any effects that are plugged in.

The Bassbone OD is already in use by many of the world's most prominent bassists including Chuck Rainey, Rhonda Smith, Victor Wooten, Steve Bailey, Doug Johns, Ric Fierabracci, Mark King, Danny Miranda, John Patitucci, Carlos Puerto, Benny Rietveld, Leland Sklar, Justin-Meldal Johnsen, Eric Holden, Dennis Crouch, Roscoe Beck, Michael Kroeger and many others.