Fender B-DEC 30 Bass Digital Entertainment Center
Fender Musical Instruments Corp.; fender.com
WHEN I WAS a kid, we had to practice to vinyl records that only played at one tempo, didn't loop, didn't change keys, and wouldn't teach us our scales and arpeggios, and we had to walk to music school fi ve miles in the snow-and we felt lucky! As a certified bass geezer, I can't help but feel envious of the cool learning tools today's bass students have at their convenience. But now, the masterminds at Fender Bass Amplification have come out with a product that could revolutionize the way people learn how to play. Are you ready for an amp that may be smarter than you?
GHOST IN THE MACHINE
The Fender B-DEC 30 is a bass workout machine that pumps 30 watts through its 10-inch woofer and piezo tweeter. Its nine amp models, wide variety of onboard effects, and auxiliary inputs offer tons of cool tones and interface options, but it's the B-DEC's brain that sets it apart from conventional "practice" amps, while also creating a whole new category and breed of bass amplifier: the Digital Entertainment Center. You'll be entertained for countless hours by its 38 full-band play-along performance loops, in styles ranging from Chicago blues to punk rock.
There are also two complete, fully arranged songs in the memory-but that's just the beginning. Here's where the mad scientists at Fender took it to the next level: You can change keys, adjust the tempo, isolate the bass track, adjust the volume of the keyboard tracks, dial in just about any tone imaginable-and perhaps the coolest part is you don't need an engineering degree to figure out how it all works. And they've managed to keep it musical; the performance loops sound good and the tasteful drum tracks thankfully avoid the annoying over-playing and over-programming that plague many preset rhythm devices.
If you're a beginning bassist, these loops can give you a whole lot of playing experience in a wide range of styles. And while the B-DEC is an invaluable training tool for newbies, if you're an old pro, try cranking up the tempo, or changing the key--the machine will always win! The amp models represent a good range of tonal choices, from modern hi-fi to vintage tube, or grindy rock-making the B-DEC 30 a great little amp for miking in the studio, too. The built-in effects menu offers a heaping helping of some classic essentials, including overdrive, chorus, delay, auto-wah, and reverb. And they can all be tweaked to your personal taste and saved as user presets.
As an educator, I find the 38 teacher loops contained in the B-DEC 30 to be its most exciting feature. A well-rounded program that includes technical warm-ups, multiple workouts for major, minor, and pentatonic scales, arpeggios, intervals, rhythms, and even slap bass, it provides a solid base of musical fundamentals. If practicing scales had been this much fun, I might have done it more often years ago when I should have! The B-DEC 30 has another cool feature called "Tempo Creep" that speeds up the loop each repeat (sounds like a drummer I know)--you can set how much of a jump the tempo makes, up to 10 metronome clicks.
As with the performance loops, you can program the B-DEC 30 to change keys each time (the modulation interval is also a variable preset), so you can practice valuable fundamentals in all keys. The B-DEC 30 comes with a method book with all the tunes and exercises written out in standard notation and tab. There are helpful technique tips, theory thoughts, and a brief description of the main objectives for each example, which kicks up the instructional value. The bass tracks are recorded for reference--you can play along with the guide track, turn it off completely, or even have it alternate so you can play with the bass, then play it on your own.
Whether you harbor delusions of grandeur, or have low musical self-esteem, the B-DEC 30 can also serve as your reality-check machine. The built-in phrase sampler lets you record yourself and listen back. Whether you're happily surprised, or brought back down to earth, this feature is a real boon for self-improvement. Aspiring solo bass artists take note: You can also create your own bass loops and add multiple layers with the overdub function, and hands-free control of the phrase sampler is possible with the optional ULT-4 footswitch (list price: $75). The ULT-4 also allows you to scroll through the presets, start and stop loops, and switch between three bass tones; it can engage and display the B-DEC 30's tuner functions, too. The B-DEC 30 also has a "virtual hard drive" which allows you to load standard MIDI fi les for playback. You can create your own, or download from any of the numerous free MIDI sites online.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The B-DEC 30 is an amazing example of forward- thinking technology that contains all the tools you need to make your practice sessions productive, challenging, and fun. For bass educators, it may be the ultimate teaching studio amp. Fender plans to develop the B-DEC concept further as the technology expands and becomes more affordable, so as feature-packed as it is right now, we can only imagine the possibilities that future advancements may bring as this new product category continues to evolve.
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