The Best Bass Preamp Pedals + Rackmount

The Highest Rated Bass Preamps

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Bass preamps add amp-like textures to your tone, which can then be used as sonic enhancement, or as a tool for plugging straight into PA systems without having to mike a bass amp. So whether you're looking to improve your tone, or take a minimalist approach to going direct to PA, you'll benefit from having a quality bass preamp.

In this guide we feature the cream of the crop among what's currently available, divided into four categories: Rackmount, Table / Amp Top, Multi-switch Pedals, and Regular Single-switch Pedals. The ones we recommend are those that topped the ratings produced by the Gearank Algorithm, which is based on actual user feedback, including the most recent rating and review data, up to June of 2021. You'll also see their noteworthy features, specifications, along with summaries of what bassists like, and don't like, about each one.

The Best Bass Preamps

Author & Contributors

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Best Bass Preamp Rack-mount

Incidentally, there aren't that many bass preamps in rackmount form, or at least they're not as widely available and popular as their pedal counterparts. Still we found two rackmount bass preamps that are worth recommending because of good market feedback they are getting.

Tech 21 SansAmp RBI Bass Preamp DI Rackmount

97
GEARANK

97 out of 100. Incorporating 275+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$329
Tech 21 SansAmp RBI Bass Preamp DI Rackmount

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Rackmount Bass Preamp.

Tech 21's SansAmp was first introduced in 1989, and it is considered as the pioneer of amplifier sound emulation via analog components. The SansAmp RBI Bass Preamp stays true to the original formula, albeit with modern improvements.

The interface is simple and easy to use, with knobs for adjusting the preamp and EQ sections of the amp. It has dedicated knobs for adjusting the bass, mid and treble frequencies, as well as a knob for adjusting the drive or gain setting of the unit's tube preamp emulation, along with control for blending and overall level.

Being in rackmount form factor, it comes with extended input and output options, and it is easier to integrate into your existing racks, which is commonly preferred for their reliability especially when gigging in different venues regularly.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp Preamp
  • Controls: Drive, Blend, XLR, LEVEL, Active Switch, Mix 50/50 Switch, XLR Output Level Switch
  • EQ: Presence, Treble, Mid, Bass
  • DI Function: Via XLR Balanced Out
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 20kHz
  • Input: 1 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" Instrument/line, 1 x 1/4" Effects loop Return, 1x 1/4" Footswitch
  • Output: 2 x 1/4", 2 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" Effects Loop Send, 1 x 1/4" Footswitch
  • Power: Built-in Power Supply
  • Dimensions: 1.5" x 19" x 5.25"
  • Weight: 5 lbs

Pros

If I were to summarize how the market feels about the SansAmp RBI, it would be that "it sounds good". Its natural sounding tube emulation continues to exceed the expectations of many bassists, including pros. In addition, even pro touring bassists are blown away by how responsive the EQ section is, making it an ideal preamp for those who play songs in different styles. Reliability and build quality are also positively received, with many reports of it working without problems after years of regular use.

Cons

Lack of a ground lift switch is a headscratcher for a few, while there are some who are looking for more grit from the drive section.

Overall

Get the Tech 21 SansAmp RBI If you're looking for a reliable rackmount profile bass preamp.

Tech 21 SansAmp GED-2112 Geddy Lee Signature

89
GEARANK

89 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$369
Tech 21 SansAmp GED-2112 Geddy Lee Signature Rackmount Bass Preamp

Rush bassist Geddy Lee is well known in progressive rock circles for his virtuosic playing and great tone. Tech 21 worked with him to better incorporate his tone in a rackmount preamp unit, resulting in the Geddy Lee signature SansAmp GED-2112.

Its main selling point is its two preamp voicings, the first one is called Drive, which is based on SansAmp RPM with artist approved EQ curve. The second one is called Deep, tweaked to provide enhanced lows with variable saturation, for a wide variety of tones from clean to tube-amp like grit.

It provides flexible DI out options with XLR and 1/4" ports for each of the two preamps, and it also has effects loop for integrating other rack processors and pedals.

Other features include tuner out, blend control, and it has dual inputs.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp Drive and Deep Preamp
  • Controls: Drive, Level1, Saturation, Level 2, On/Off
  • EQ: Mid, Mid Shift, Blend, Bass, Treble
  • DI Function: 2 XLR Balanced Out
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 20kHz
  • Input: 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/4" Return
  • Output: 2 x XLR (Deep, Drive), 2 x 1/4" (Deep, Drive), 1 x 1/4" (Thru), 1 x 1/4" (Tuner Out), 1 x 1/4" (Send)
  • Power: Standard IEC AC cable
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 19" x 5.25"
  • Weight: 5 lbs

Pros

As expected, many of the positive reviews are from fans who appreciate how close this preamp gets them to Geddy Lee's tone, to be more specific his dirty clean tone. It also gets a lot of thumbs up for the flexibility afforded by the EQ, and there are plenty of reports of it sounding great with different amps, PA systems, monitors and even through headphones. Even experts noticed its flexibility, Jon Button of Premier Guitar concluded his review by saying: "The GED-2112 is an excellent-sounding, versatile bass preamp. That said, I encourage players to not just look at it as a box to get Geddy Lee’s sound, but rather as a flexible tone machine that he helped create."

Cons

There are some who wish for practical features like having a blended output for the two channels, and being able to footswitch between Drive and Deep channels.

Overall

This is a no-brainer for fans of Geddy Lee, and it can also be a good preamp for those who regard sonic versatility as important.

Best Bass Preamp Table / Amp Top

Although this type of unit is sometimes called a 'pedal' by retailers, it is actually meant to be operated by your hands and not your feet.

Tech 21 SansAmp DI-2112 Geddy Lee Signature

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 10+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$329
Tech 21 Geddy Lee DI-2112 Signature SansAmp Bass Preamp Pedal

The Tech 21 SansAmp DI-2112 is a bass preamp and Di box, based on the popular GED-2112 rackmount that's also part of the Geddy Lee line of signature bass preamps.

It comes with the same 2-preamp design that can be run parallel with dedicated outputs. First of which is the Deep section which enhances the low end, while Drive is based on the SansAmp RPM preamp that covers a lot of voicings from clean to overdriven.

Tone shaping is provided by a semi-parametric 2-band EQ with Mid-Shift control that meets Geddy’s specifications.

The Tight button is another noteworthy feature, it is meant to "tighten" up your sound by improving clarity when using clean voicing, it also adds punch to overdriven tones.

Compared to the Tech 21 SansAmp YYZ, this pedal takes it up a notch with its DI box functionality, but it doesn't have a footswitch - which means it is in an "always-on" state.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp Drive, Deep
  • Controls: Drive, Level1, Saturation, Level 2, On/Off
  • EQ: Mid, Mid Shift, Blend, Bass, Treble
  • DI Function: 2 XLR Balanced Out
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz - 20kHz
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 2 x XLR (Deep, Drive), 2 x 1/4" (Deep, Drive), 1 x 1/4" (tuner)
  • Power: 9-18V DC power supply (Optional)
  • Dimensions: 1.75" x 4" x 6.37"
  • Weight: 1.18 lbs

Pros

Great tone in a small and lightweight package, that's how most users view this preamp. Some even describe this unit as a dream turned reality, because it allows them to get great bass tones on stage without having to haul around bulky bass amps. And as expected fans of Rush appreciate how easy it is to get Geddy's tone, but it also gets a lot of thumbs up for allowing for other voicings that also sound good. Reliability and durability are also often commended.

Cons

Some users are scratching their heads because of the lack of a footswitch, which makes this an always on preamp.

Overall

If you are looking for a versatile always-on compact preamp and Di box - then definitely check this out.

Best Bass Preamp Multiswitch Pedals

Here we look in detail at bass preamps that come in the bigger multiswitch pedal form factor. They offer more control over the resulting sound, and can usually do more than their smaller counterparts.

Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI V2 Preamp Pedal

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 300+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI V2 Preamp Pedal

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Multi-Switch Bass Preamp Pedal.

The most noteworthy feature of the Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver is its array of control knobs, which is plenty for its compact profile.

This means that you can tweak your sound in more ways compared to most preamp pedals. Most of the knobs are dedicated to giving you more precise EQ control, including presence, treble, mid and bass.

It also comes with a built-in drive control that lets you add bass-friendly distortion as you see fit.

Finally, it comes with three output options for easier implementation into your live or recording rig.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp Bass Preamp
  • Controls: Level, Blend, Treble, Presence, Drive, Mid, Mid Freq Switch, Bass, Bass Freq Switch, Phantom & Ground Lift Switch, -20dB Pad
  • DI Function: XLR Balanced Out
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (thru)
  • Power: 9V DC Power Supply or Phantom Power
  • Dimensions: 2" x 4.75" x 3.75"
  • Weight: 0.875 lbs

Pros

Good sound quality is the most prominent reason why owners rate this pedal highly. One user described the resulting sound as phenomenal, and it nicely summarizes market sentiment. The ability to shape tone also gets a lot of thumbs up, while others are pleased with the unit's versatility, with many vouching for its performance in both live and studio settings.

Cons

There are no noteworthy complaints, other than a few who feel that they could not get the sound they want from the pedal.

Overall

The Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI V2 is highly recommended for those looking to color or tweak the sound of their bass.

Tech 21 SansAmp Character VT Bass DI

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$229
Tech 21 SansAmp Character VT Bass DI Preamp Pedal

The Tech 21 SansAmp Character VT is a preamp that reproduces the voicing of old Ampeg SVT Tube bass amps in a compact pedal format.

What separates this from other preamp models is its Character knob, which changes the Drive voicing as you go higher, from vintage SVT tube tone to a compressed modern tone. The Drive knob lets you set the amount of overdrive type effect, which as mentioned earlier, is affected by the Character knob.

For more tone shaping, there's a Bite button that tightens up the low frequencies while adding punch to the high frequencies.

Other features include Speaker Simulation, 3-Band EQ, Level, Blend, and multiple DI outputs.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp
  • Controls: Level, Blend, Low, Mid, High, Character, Drive, Phantom, - 10dB 1/4" Pad, -20dB XLR Pad, Bite, Speaker Simulation
  • DI Function: XLR Balanced Out
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4" Parallel, 1 x Balanced XLR, 1 x 1/4" Unbalanced
  • Power: Optional AC Adapter or 9V Battery
  • Dimensions: 2.5" x 5.75" x 4.25"
  • Weight: 4.25 lbs

Pros

Incredible, awesome, and great are just three of the many positive ways that are being used to describe this bass preamp. And most of them point to tone as its best trait, impressing even those who own or have played actual SVT tube amps. Many of the high ratings are from owners of P-bass and other passive pickup-equipped basses. Solid build quality and versatility also get mentioned often by satisfied bassists. It's also interesting to note that even though this pedal was released many years back, it still consistently gets high ratings in more recent reviews.

Cons

The coloration of this pedal may be a bit too much for those who prefer transparency, but note that it has the option of bypassing the coloration. There are a few who comment that the drive knob tends to shave the lows.

Overall

If you're a fan of the classic SVT tube sound, or if you're looking for a preamp to color your tone, then this is for you.

Ampeg SCR-DI

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 400+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$250
Ampeg SCR-DI

The SCR-DI brings you preamp, overdrive and DI box functionalities in a single stompbox, with a preamp section that reproduces the low-end friendly flavor of popular Ampeg SVT bass amps.

What makes this preamp standout is the addition of Ultra Lo and Ultra Hi switches, a bass friendly feature for those who want to accentuate high note runs, or those who want more bottom end oomph.

As mentioned above, this pedal comes with Ampeg's Scrambler overdrive effect, which is tweaked to work with bass guitars, and this section comes with dedicated footswitch and controls.

Wrapping up, its features include wet and dry output ports, aux in, and DI out.

Features:

  • Preamp: Legacy Amper preamp and Tone Stack Circuit
  • Controls: Volume,Aux Level Ground Lift, Drive, Blend
  • EQ: Treble, Mid, Bass, Ultra Lo Switch, Ultra Hi switch
  • Other Features: Built-in Scrambler Overdrive
  • DI Function: XLR/Line Out
  • Input: 2 x 1/4", 1 x 1/8"
  • Output: 1 x XLR, 1 x 1/4" (Line), 1 x 1/4" (Thru), 1 x 1/8" (Headphones)
  • Power: Optional Power Adapter or 9V Battery
  • Dimensions: 2.2" x 7.6" x 4.3"
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs

Pros

Owners of the Ampeg SCR-DI have many good things to say about its tone, with some describing it as a good portable alternative to an Ampeg SVT amplifier. Even Jordan Wagner of Premier Guitar was impressed writing: "Its construction feels bulletproof, its preamp and EQ have a supremely wide breadth, and its overdrive circuit can cover much more ground than many standalone alternatives." This preamp is widely praised by bassists who use passive pickups, but there are also reports of it working well with active pickup equipped basses.

Cons

Battery life seems to be an issue for some, so it is recommended to power up this pedal via a power adapter. There are a few who wish for extra features like the ability to choose Pre/Post EQ DI out, for those who want to use a dedicated EQ pedal.

Overall

The Ampeg SCR-DI is a no brainer for those who want Ampeg SVT tones that fit in their gig bag, it is also a great all-around preamp, DI, overdrive pedal to add to any bassists tool kit.

Best Compact Bass Preamp Pedals

Here we look at the best compact bass preamp pedals, all of which provide straightforward single footswitch operation while keeping space requirement and cost low.

MXR M81 Bass Preamp DI Pedal

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$170
MXR M81 Bass Preamp DI Pedal

The MXR M81 is a bass preamp with equalizer and DI functionality, packed inside a regular-sized stompbox.

It saves you both money and space, but more importantly, it does not skimp on quality - based on the many positive reviews that it has gathered.

For something this small, it gives you deep control over the EQ section, which includes knobs for adjusting the lows, mids, and high frequencies that are specifically tuned for electric bass guitars. It also has a sweep-able midrange circuit, controlled via a single knob. If tone shaping is not your thing, then there's a Pre/Post EQ switch that lets you bypass the EQ section.

The preamp section gives you the ability to control the input and output levels, giving you precise control over how much you want to drive the preamp section independent of the output volume.

Finally, it features MXR's "Constant Headroom Technology" which allows for improved clarity at higher output levels.

Specifications

  • Preamp: MXR Studio Quality Preamp
  • Controls: Input, Output, Output, Ground Lift
  • EQ: Bass, Mid, Treble, Mid Freq. 500, Pre/Post EQ
  • DI Function: Switchable DI Out (Internal)
  • Extra Features: Switchable Buffered/True Bypass, Buffered Bypass
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4", 1 x XLR (DI Out)
  • Power: Optional Power Supply or 9V Battery
  • Dimensions: 4.5" x 2.5" x 4.5"
  • Weight: 0.438 lbs

Pros

To put it simply, the general consensus is that the MXR M81 is a great-sounding pedal. Experienced bassists were impressed with the many tone shapes that the EQ section was able to conjure, while others were happy with how easy it was to get to the sweet spot for set and forget operation. While most use it for subtle tone enhancements, there are a good number of users who use it as their main coloration pedal, which says a lot about its preamp section.

Cons

Those who were looking for a bit more tube-like growl and warmth found the MXR M81 to be a little too pristine for their taste. There are some who nit-pick on the super-bright LED which can be annoying in a dark stage, especially when the pedal is constantly on.

Overall

For subtle enhancement and coloration, and for rounding off some of the rough edges of your bass tone, the MXRM81 Bass Preamp is highly recommended.

Tech 21 SansAmp YYZ Geddy Lee Signature

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
Tech 21 YYZ Geddy Lee Signature SansAmp Bass Preamp/Overdrive Pedal

The Tech 21 YYZ Geddy Lee Signature is an all analog bass preamp with overdrive functionality in one pedal.

It uses Tech 21's popular SansAmp analog preamp technology but tweaked to meet the demands of Geddy Lee.

It runs two separate internal preamps in parallel which you can blend together via the Mix knob. The two preamps are Deep (Enhanced low end tailored to Geddy's preferences) and Drive (dirty tube amp like tone).

This pedal comes with a 3-band EQ that follows Geddy's preferred taper. It also has a Drive knob that lets you set the amount of gain and overdrive, much like when you push the output section of a tube amp. For even more sonic flexibility, the YYZ preamp has a Tight button which makes your overdriven tone more snappier and adds more definition to your clean tone.

It is important to note that this pedal does not have a dedicated XLR DI output, so if you want to connect to PA system directly, you're forced to use its unbalanced 1/4" output.

Specifications

  • Preamp: SansAmp
  • Controls: Master, Low, Mid, High, Drive, Mix (Deep/Drive), Tight Switch
  • DI Function: None
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4"
  • Power: 9V DC Power Supply (Optional)
  • Dimensions: 2.1" x 3.9" x 4.7"
  • Weight: 0.7 lbs

Pros

One user aptly described market sentiment by saying that this pedal is "Geddy Lee in a Can". And Music Radar's Joel McIver agrees, stating that: "Playing through this pedal is a bit like having a tiny Geddy Lee, perhaps half an inch in height, living inside the unit and tweaking the controls from within." But you don't have to be a fan to appreciate the pedal's versatility and ability to craft many different tone flavors, and this is reflected in reviews. It is commonly being used as a coloration pedal, and people who do so are very happy with the results. Being well built is another reason why bassists rate this pedal highly.

Cons

Lack of an actual XLR DI output is an issue for those who want to use this as an all-in-one preamp/DI pedal. The coloration that this pedal brings may not appeal to those who prefer a more transparent sounding preamp.

Overall

While many will get this pedal for its association with the popular Rush bassist, this is a great pedal to get if you're looking for a versatile preamp/overdrive for your bass.

Darkglass Vintage Microtubes

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Darkglass Vintage Microtubes Bass Preamp Pedal

The Darkglass Vintage Microtubes is a bass preamp pedal with versatile overdrive, thanks to its "ERA" knob which lets you go from '70s era midrange heavy to modern metal punchy bass tones.

With only four knobs, this unit may seem like a streamlined pedal, but the controls in place allow for in-depth control over the preamp and overdrive effect.

The Drive knob lets you adjust overdrive saturation, Level knob adjusts the volume of your overdriven signal, and the Blend knob lets tweak the balance between your clean and overdriven signal.

Specifications

  • Preamp: Darkglass Vintage Microtubes
  • Controls: Blend, Era, Level, Drive
  • DI Function: None
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4"
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (sold separately)
  • Dimensions: 2.95" x 4.37" x 1.77"
  • Weight: 0.55 lbs

Pros

The Darkglass Vintage Microtubes preamp impresses many users with its versatility, an incredible feat for a pedal with no conventional EQ. Many users are happy with how they can get close to the bass tones of their favorite artists and tracks, and do so without getting lost in countless knobs and buttons. While this pedal is labeled as a preamp, most owners implement it as an effect pedal for tone shaping, some even have it on for most of their playing.

Cons

There are a few who note that the overdrive of this pedal can sound a bit muffled, especially for those who are just looking for a clean sounding preamp. Note that this one doesn't have a DI out, so you'll have to look elsewhere if that is your main requirement.

Overall

This compact yet versatile preamp/overdrive pedal will make a great addition to any one's tool kit.

Darkglass Harmonic Booster

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$220
Darkglass Harmonic Booster - Clean Bass Preamp Pedal

The Darkglass Harmonic Booster 2 is a preamp/boost pedal that lets you enhance the harmonic content of your sound while staying within the clean to low-gain realm. This means that you can enhance your sound with minimal effect on its clarity and definition.

It has a Boost knob that behaves like a level knob, allowing for +/- 20dB boost or cut.

The Character knob lets you blend the preamp voicing to your tone, going from transparent to full preamp voicing.

Other controls are for tone shaping via EQ, with smaller knobs for bass and treble, and bigger knobs for Mid gain and Mid Freq.

Specifications

  • Preamp: Darkglass Digital Preamp
  • Controls: Boost, Mid Gain, Bass, Character, Mid Freq, Treble
  • DI Function: None
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 1 x 1/4"
  • Power: 9-18V DC Power Supply (Optional)
  • Dimensions: 1.77" x 2.95" x 4.37"
  • Weight: 0.55 lbs

Pros

Owners are happy with how the Darkglass Harmonic Booster has improved their tone without much coloration. It is often described as a great sounding boost, and is praised for its transparent sound. Interestingly, many bassists recommend it for being a good EQ pedal, thanks to its versatile Mid gain and Mid Freq knobs. Finally, they are pleased with its pedalboard friendly form factor and reliability. Rich Osweiler of Premier Guitar summarizes his review by saying: "Solid build. Great EQ. Conjures a more present, thicker, tone without coloration."

Cons

There are some who feel that the price could be lower, especially when considering that it doesn't have DI out functionality. Since this pedal leans more towards transparent tones, it will not appeal to those who are looking for coloration or overdrive style effects.

Overall

If you're looking for a transparent sounding Boost/Preamp pedal for your bass then this is for you.

Darkglass Alpha Omega

96
GEARANK

96 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$320
Darkglass Alpha Omega Preamp/OD Bass Pedal

At publication time this was the Highest Rated Compact Bass Preamp Pedal.

The Darkglass Electronics Alpha Omega is a preamp overdrive DI box with growl and bite switches that let you saturate low and high frequencies respectively.

At its core is the same preamp tone as its name sake amp, only this one comes in a compact single switch form factor.

It has a blend knob for more control in adjusting the ratio between clean and overdriven tone.

Finally it allows for parallel output processing and has a DI out, quite the number of features for its size.

Specifications

  • Preamp: Darkglass Alpha and Omega
  • Controls: Blend, Level, Dry, Mod, Mid, Bass, Treble, Growl, Bite
  • DI Function: Yes
  • Input: 1 x 1/4"
  • Output: 2 x 1/4" (OuT, Parallel out), 1 x XLR (Direct Out)
  • Power: 9V DC power supply (Sold Separately)
  • Dimensions: 4.2" x 4.7" x 2"
  • Weight: 1.1 lbs

Pros

Tone is the main reason why most users rate this pedal highly, and market sentiments continue to favor it even in this new revision. Many appreciate the coloration that this pedal adds to their sound, thanks to the impressed sonic qualities of its overdrive. The ability to blend the clean and overdriven signals is also well received.

Cons

While most users are impressed with its coloration, there are a few who feel that it's clean setting is not clean enough.

Overall

The Darkglass Alpha Omega continues to be the highest rated single footswitch bass preamp pedal, get it if you want nothing less than what the market deems as the best.

Things to Consider When Buying a Bass Preamp

  • Tone Coloration

    Bass preamps are often used to improve sound, making them more like an effect that colors the sound. Most bassists prefer those that mimic the sound of old tube amps, but there are others who prefer clean and transparent. Most preamps let you adjust the level of sound coloration via the drive/gain knob, other preamps allow for more precise control via blend/mix knobs and other parameters. Note that aside from giving you direct to PA/Console tones, you can route your preamp to the poweramp section of your bass amplifier to give your amp a different voicing. While ratings provide a good representation of sound quality, your perception of sound quality will always be subjective, mainly dependent on the sound of the artists that you look up to. We've included demo videos so you can have a better idea of the sound of each preamp.

  • EQ and Sound Shaping

    In addition to coloration, most preamps let you shape your sound via EQ knobs. Some provide basic Treble and Bass equalization, while others offer more precise control, complete with fully sweepable Mids. They work in conjunction with the preamp to give you more control over the resulting sound. While more knobs do mean more control, be careful not to end up obsessing over the controls instead of making good music.

  • Passive or Active Electronics

    Most bass preamps are meant to work with traditional passive pickup equipped bass guitars. They can also work with active pickup equipped instruments, but the interaction of the active electronics within the instrument and the bass preamp may produce unexpected results. It is recommended to de-activate or bypass the active electronics of your bass guitar if you plan to use them with preamps, unless your preamp has a specific option for active pickups.

  • Input / Output Options

    Most, if not all portable bass preamps come with DI box functionality, and this usually means having at least one balanced XLR or 1/4" line level out. This straightforward option is best for basic use, but there are others that allow for more signal routing options - including the ability to plug in two bass guitars and/or send your dry signal out to a regular amplifier. Some even have dedicated effects loop section, aux in, headphones out and more. We have presented the input and output ports for each unit above so you can choose one that has the connections you need.

  • Form Factor

    Unlike mic and guitar preamps that come in a wide variety of shapes, most of the top rated preamps come in pedal format. This makes them easier to integrate into existing pedalboards, and allows for some level of hands-free control. This 2021 edition sees two rackmountable bass preamps making it into out recommended list, they are ideal if you already have rackmount gear setup, or if you have a trusted roadie/tech that can make sound adjustments for you. Rackmount units tend to have more connectivity and control options, but based on market data, they are not as popular as pedals for most bassists.

  • Power Supply / Battery

    Bass preamp pedals are powered by either a power supply or a battery. Power supplies are more convenient, just double check if the pedal already comes with one, because some manufacturers require you to buy them separately. Some of the bass preamps listed above are powered by batteries, and they are recommended for recording, because of their quiet operation. Just note that preamps tend to eat up batteries relatively quickly.

Best Bass Preamp Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in March 2017 and the latest edition was published on June 8, 2021.

We sifted the market for preamps that are specifically designed for bass guitars, and like always, we limited our search to those that you can readily buy from major retailers in the USA. We did not include compact amp heads and combos because while they do have preamplifier sections, they serve a different purpose, which is mainly to drive speaker cabinets.

For this 2021 edition, we ended up with 34 bass preamps on our short-list. We then gathered and analyzed the most recent reviews and ratings, up to June of 2021, which added up to over 5,300 sources. All these data were then processed by the Gearank Algorithm to produce the rating scores out of 100 you see above. We used these scores to select and rank the top performers and market favorites, divided into four categories: Rackmount, Table / Amp Top, Multi-Switch and Regular Single-Switch Pedals. For more information about our methods see How Gearank Works.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Alexander BrionesAlexander Briones

He's written about and researched music gear for many years, while also serving as a music director at his local church, in addition to teaching guitar, bass and mentoring young musicians.

Drawing from his experience in performing and recording, he teaches guitar and bass and mentors young artists to be better musicians. And when he is not busy playing or tinkering with musical gear, he puts on his entrepreneurial hat, which helps fund his passion for collecting guitars, mecha figures and Gunpla kits.

Contributors

Alden Acosta: Product research.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Produced by Gearank.com using photographs of the Darkglass Alpha Omega, Tech 21 SansAmp Bass Driver DI V2 and Tech 21 SansAmp RBI.

The videos have been embedded in accordance with YouTube's Terms of Service.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

Recently purchased the Tech

Recently purchased the Tech 21 Sans Amp Geddy Lee Signature Bass pre to use in my rack to replace my Ampeg PF350 as I needed a rack mountable unit. What a disappointment. It basically is a Fuzz Face with very little to offer for getting a clean, driving bass tone. Once I found a clean setting, I tried to dial in some low end....nothing. None of the tone knobs made any notible change to the sound. Way too much $ for such a limited piece of equipment. I have an Ampeg SCR DI that I use in my home studio and it sounds great, however it does not lend itself for rack mounting. I ordered and received a 2u drawer and secured the SCR using foam materials and it works fine (also provides storage for other gear). I ordered a second SCR as backup and both units cost a few $ more than the Sans Amp alone. I also like Sweetwater, however they would not match Musician's Friend price point. Still give them props.

You sold me! I just ordered

You sold me! I just ordered from Sweetwater... Actually, it was the candy. :)

You needed to add the

You needed to add the Sadowsky pedal pre to this list.

I'm interested in the AVID

I'm interested in the AVID Eleven Rack as a bass preamp. I was wondering how the Eleven Rack would hold up as a live performance rig as compared to other bass preamps in this review. Given that it's price has been cut in half ($350) makes it more competitive. Not too much information about this.

I don't think any of the

I don't think any of the Gearank.com team can advise you on this because we have only researched hardware systems and I'm pretty sure none of us have used a software setup for Bass.

Hopefully someone else will read this and provide their thoughts.

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