For an instrument with such limited impact on the length and breadth of the frequency spectrum, it never ceases to amaze me how much bass effects pedals hone in on the particulars of any given sound. I guess it stands to reason; essentially, the less you have to play with the more you have to focus on the toys in your toy box in order to have the same amount of fun as your more overstocked counterparts. In a way, the world of music would be a much less wild, muddy and confusing place if guitar players paid as much attention to the minutiae of tonality as bass players are forced to. If every six stringer’s first pedal was a ten-band EQ as opposed to a dirt box, imagine how much more creative they’d have to be to stand out in the throng. But I digress.
The preamp has been the ace in the hole for bass players the world over since fader jockeys started insisting on direct injection decades ago. When soundies started baulking, “You don’t need a mic in front of that 8x10 mate, we’ll just chuck you straight into front of house,” our low-frequency fiends ached for a way to satisfy their oft neglected sense of individuality. The answer is a simple stompbox that does what the front end of a criminally unattended amplifier would be doing were it allowed. Denmark’s undeniably clever upstarts TC Electronic present their new SpectraDrive as the answer to the preamp prayers of bass players everywhere.
Essentially, the SpectraDrive is a multi -effects unit that eschews the clink and clutter of most in favour of absolute tone-shaping essentials. It is a crystal clean DI box with concurrent ¼” and TRS outs, a ground lift and TC’s signature silent switching system. The four-band EQ is incredibly sensitive and voiced to illuminate the lower half of a frequency graph down to the tiniest nuance as well as find just the right notch in a mix for a bass tone to poke through into the holes left by brighter instruments. The inclusion of a compressor, based on the juicy yet subservient SpectraComp circuit, makes thickening and tidying up dynamics a breeze. Push all of that into the front end of the Tube Drive circuit, replete with a dedicated footswitch, and you’ve got yourself as complete a package as you could ask for. TC has also decked this unit out with an aux in and headphone out for home practise, and proprietary TonePrint technology means there is next to no way you’ll sound like every other player that came before you.
On first glance there is a lot you can do with this little workhorse, almost intimidatingly so. There is just about a Neve channel strip worth of tone shaping on board, and if you don’t know what you’re looking for, it could be easy to get lost in the wash. On the contrary, the SpectraDrive has a subtle way of doing a lot of the guesswork for you. If you start out with everything at noon and make minor adjustments from there, it is nigh on perfect from the get-go. Essentially, it is only as complicated as you make it. In the SpectraDrive, TC Electronic has combined several of its more popular tricks of the trade in a tidy, one-stop-shop for subsonic satisfaction.
Hits and Misses
Clarity and simplicity where it is most necessary, with a healthy dollop of personality to taste