The Original Bassbone

Several years ago we had the opportunity to meet up with bassist Will Lee, best known for his work with the David Letterman show. Will was playing at a popular club in Greenwich Village. He had a tangled mess of cables on the floor attached to two basses, some pedals, his tuner and his amp. We thought about his setup and figured that maybe we could come up with a better solution. As the design began to take form, we contacted other notable players including Alain Caron, John Patitucci and Mark Egan, who helped by voicing their thoughts.

We discovered that since most bassists use more than one bass on stage, changing basses means constantly readjusting the amp's tone and level controls for each instrument. We also discovered that the tonal range on many amplifiers is quite limited. Then... another revelation: bassists hate carrying bass amps! (Are you surprised?). For many, the best gig in the world is one where you can show up with a gig bag, a bass and be totally equipped to do the job. This got us thinking about incorporating a Radial DI box into the device so that you could send the direct signal to the PA system or record direct. We then brought effects pedals into the picture and asked ourselves how they could be best interfaced with two basses, a guitar amp and the PA system. Finally... we thought about the tuner and where it could be best connected for optimal use without causing problems such as clock noise and loading. We put all of these concepts together and started developing.

The first prototype was huge! It had four inputs and a ton of outputs and when connected, caused a mess of spaghetti. We worked on the concept until it was refined and then shrunk it down so that it would be manageable. This became the Bassbone that we have today.

Bassbone V2 DEVELOPMENT

It's hard to believe that the original Bassbone has been around for over a decade. Over the years, thousands of Bassbones have been shipped around the world where it has played a pivotal role in live performances and recording sessions with the most demanding players.

It all started with the concept of providing the bass player with a means of effectively controlling two basses on stage at the same time. With today's music, it is more common than not to see a player transition from a passive vintage Fender P-Bass to an active 5-string. Since these two instruments are so very different in terms of output level, frequency range and dynamics, gracefully moving from one to the other requires significant adjustments with the stage amp and the PA. The Bassbone makes it easy.

As more and more Bassbones were put in use, comments from players around the globe came back with either requests for work-arounds or suggestions on improvements that could be made. The Bassbone V2 brings these extra features to life yet retains the same compact enclosure that makes it easy to take to a gig.

Switching between two basses

I remember a conversation we had with John Patitucci. He suggested that the Bassbone had to be as small as possible. But wait... John primarily plays an upright bass? Why is small so important? It turns out that with the high cost of air freight, reducing the gear to the smallest size possible is essential.

With two basses, having two separate volume controls is a necessity. We then looked at the EQ. The only way we could provide a separate EQ for each bass would be to make the unit larger. This, in fact, became the Bassbone OD. This larger unit is designed specifically for those that require maximum control and adds a built-in overdrive for more character. The Bassbone V2 was kept small and retains the original EQ design from the first generation whereby bass-1 is EQ'd using the stage amp while bass-2 passes through a very powerful passive-interactive EQ that will counter the effect on the amp. Two additional pre-set curves on input-1 are designed to accentuate a passive bass or make older vintage amps sound more modern.

Making one bass sound like two

Another slick feature that is found in the original is the ability to use the Bassbone V2 as a two channel preamp. Once we got playing with the EQ we realized not only how powerful it was, but how musical it sounded. This got us thinking: Why not allow a bass player to take one bass to a gig, but make it sound as if he has two totally different basses on stage? The Bassbone V2's three-band EQ is so powerful you can carve the sound of your bass to create an almost unlimited range of sub-sonic landscapes.

The magic lies with input-2's ¼" switching jack. When input-2 is not in use, the signal from input-1 is automatically routed to input-2 and all you have to do is hit the footswitch selector to change channels. You can set channel-1 for a traditional bass tone and then go wild using the EQ on channel-2.

Doubling up with a contrabass

Over the years, one of the most common refrains came from bassists that double between an electric bass and an upright. The trouble with uprights is that most piezo pickup systems are not very faithful to the original tone and when you plug a piezo into a regular direct box, the sound is often thin and peaky. The problem, as we discovered, is not so much the piezo transducer itself, but the electronic preamp that acts as the interface between the bass's piezo transducer and the amplifier.

Piezos are extremely finicky devices that work best when presented with a very high input impedance. However, as you increase the impedance, noise becomes a problem. Most circuit designers simply use a lower impedance – typically 1 meg ohms – or compromise the audio circuit in order to eliminate noise. The Bassbone V2 is different: We added a PZB booster on channel-2 that increases the impedance from 220k-ohms - which sounds warm with a magnetic pickup - to 10 meg-ohms for piezos. The higher impedance widens the frequency response to bring out the rich bottom end and eliminates the squawks and peaks. In fact, you get so much bottom end that we have added a high-pass filter to help control the excessive resonance when playing live.

Adding effects without losing bass

If you have ever tried a distortion pedal, overdrive or chorus on your bass you know how much these pedals can mess up your tone. These 'guitar effects' take away all of the low frequencies leaving you with a tone that lacks clarity, punch and bass.

With the Bassbone V2 we incorporated a true effects-send and receive circuit, akin to what you find on a mixing console. We then added an all-important wet-dry control and a dedicated footswitch to turn it on. This lets you connect pedals at will and dial-in as much of the effect as you like without killing the original bass tone. You finally get to keep your cake and eat it too! Best of all, you can assign the effects loop to bass-1, bass-2 or both – giving you absolute freedom.

Turn it up or turn it off!

Another cool addition is the way the boost footswitch can be assigned to be a power booster or a mute. No... you cannot do both... but then again, do you need to?

When set to boost, you can increase the output so that your 10 minute bass solo stands out. When set to mute, you can quietly tune-up in between songs or mute your bass so that the signal going to your amp and the PA is off in between sets.

Getting the sound right

At Radial, we are truly uncompromising when it comes to tone. In fact, this is the reason why so many of the world's most prominent bass players use Radial as part of their signal chain. We pay particular attention to signal handling, frequency response and phase accuracy in order to minimize artifact and distortion.

Like the rest of our DI box range, the Bassbone's built-in Radial direct box sounds amazing. It is musical, warm and works as well in the studio as it does live. In fact, it is so good that you can use it without an amp when playing smaller gigs or promotional tours where bringing an amp may not be practical.

In our view... the mark of a top bass player is their fluidity. Not just in their playing, but their ability to move from one musical genre to another without missing a beat. The Bassbone V2 is a bass preamp that facilitates this fluidity and is why so many of the world's most prominent players use it every day.

Bassbone V2 – The next generation in bass control