Demystifying the preamp

(Image credit: Future)

It seems we bassists are on an eternal quest for sonic nirvana, a journey that takes us through every part of our signal path. We spend hundreds of hours researching, testing and evaluating gear, exploring everything from the bass speakers in our cabinets to getting the best tone from our hands. If you’re a bass player who’s interested in exploring the possibilities of tone, you’ve probably already thought of adding a preamp to your setup. With so many models to choose from, though, what’s the best way to choose which one’s right for you?

A preamp is essentially a device that can increase the signal level, color the tone, lower the output impedance, convert the signal from unbalanced to balanced, or do any combination of the above. Each of these functions has its use, but an onboard preamp is a very different animal from a rack-mounted model. Making sense of the different preamp designs and functions will help you decide which preamp you need.

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