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This article was originally published in issue #31
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Superbly dealt up in a Dr Green pedal board with an illuminated green logo, six bass orientated pedals from the 'tone laboratories' of Ashdown Engineering in the UK arrived in the Bassment for a bit of friendly abuse a few weeks ago. They are the bass equivalents of the Dr Green pedals offered by Ashdown's guitar amp brand, Hayden, which have been very well received by reviewers, so we had high hopes for them. They share the basics of construction, power sources and so on, so I'm going to cover all that in the conclusion and get to the important bit first - how they work and sound! Here they are in the same order as in the video.
Dr Green Tune Up
A nicely simple to use and accurate bass tuner that when engaged mutes the output socket for silent tuning. It can do full chromatic tuning as well as the ability to drop tune to three semi-tones below standard tuning. Its display is large and bright and I was pleased to see it handled an open B string on my bass with ease. Great stuff!
An all-analogue compressor pedal with three simple controls. I felt The Tourniquet was a useful tool for controlling your bass guitar dynamics, which is what a compressor should do. Sure it did a good job of limiting my loud notes but I really liked how, when pushed to extremes it was able to recreate those squashy overly compressed sounds without excessive noise artefacts in this case. It did become a little hissy on very high gain settings, but I've come to expect this as fairly normal for this style of unit. Lower settings and softer compression rewards you with a nice punch and almost valve-like characteristics. The three controls for input level, output level and threshold make setting up a breeze. I'd go as far as saying that you can ignore the manual and just use your ears to decide if it sounds good. Confusingly, on the Ashdown website this pedal is described as both the 'The Aspirin’ as well as 'The Tourniquet'.
Based on Ashdown's now famous Sub Harmoniser found on their bass heads, the Octa Dose dishes up a lower octave bass sound in this all-analogue design. Two simple controls for the effect level and direct bass signal level, there's really almost nothing else to say about setting up! Plug in, twist the knobs until you find the sound you are after then rock-out!
You can engage the pedal so that you only hear the sub octave effect on its own making, for some cool synth bass sounds, or have a clean dry signal with just a hint of octave sound in it that would work nicely for fretless bass. I had to do the acid test to see how far down my bass neck the pedal tracked and was pleased to hear it made it down to the B note on my A string thus giving me a usable octave below equalling that of an open B string on a 5-string bass! That said, the octave effect sounds great when you are higher up the neck anyway, so that's just being hyper critical. This is another really nice pedal from the range!
Bearded Lady (see above image)
Time to get gritty with the Bearded Lady vintage style fuzz pedal! Again, this has a simple control layout and the description on Ashdown's site made this pedal a breeze to understand how it works. Even so, it was the only one that I found some settings didn't yield totally the sounds I was expecting.
The Bearded Lady pedal can almost be described as two separate mini pedals. A fuzz pedal that affects your top end frequencies and another fuzz that only affects the lower frequencies of your bass. The Hi Fuzz control sets the amount of gain (intensity of the fuzz effect) and it has a Hi Level control to set the level. On the right hand side of the pedal similarly a Lo Fuzz knob and Lo Out level control for the low end.
It should be possible, as an example, to set lots of low end 'fuzz' for a stodgy dirty low end but to leave the top end less driven, thus allowing more clarity from your instrument voice or vice versa. You could have a very distorted fizzy top end of your instrument but leave the meat of your bass sound relatively untouched.
I was expecting to be able to wind the top end down to create a big fat bass end, but on this occasion we seemed to always have a huge amount of high frequencies coming through at varying amounts of distortion. Maybe it needs more fiddling with? That said, it did a very good old-school gritty bass tone through our studio monitor bass amp with the tweeter switched off.
Here's a very useful all analogue envelope filter. When I say useful, I mean fun! Unusually again the controls marked out on the physical hardware don't match the photographs on the Ashdown website at the time of writing, so there was some confusion as to what does what. Still, maybe being less influenced by control names made me more likely to throw caution to the wind and just turn knobs until it made a crazy noise I liked!
The Doctor's Note features a resonant peak level control as well as a pair of controls that govern the direction of the filter slope (low to high or high to low) and also the LP/HF knob for further sculpting of the filter's character. I loved the 'sub drop' type effects I could get with this pedal as well as some truly eardrum splitting top end that you'd have to use some sort of restraint with live! Grab your decent earphones to hear those in the video!
Last up and keeping it very simple, the Bass Verb a fairly flexible reverb pedal for all your ambient sound needs. The mix and depth knobs vary the ratio of dry signal to the depth of the reverb effect from small hall sounds to what could be described as playing at the bottom of the ocean! This pedal isn't in the Eventide or Lexicon effect arenas (though neither is the price!) but the reverb effect is warm enough. However, the one thing to be aware of with extreme settings on this pedal is that there can be a noticeable level drop off when engaging the effect, unless you keep the mix control set high. This will leave as much of your clean bass signal present as well as the reverb - you may lose your volume in a performance otherwise.