Boss FX are common enough on guitarist's pedal boards - ubiquitous, you might say - but perhaps less so in bass players' rigs. Is the new BB-1X about to rectify that? Dan Veall finds out.
The market in recent years has become swamped with literally hundreds of boutique and off the shelf 'bass orientated' distortion pedals. We've even featured a few of the best in these very pages!
From the Boss range, the likes of the ODB-3 Bass Over Drive and even the BD-2 Blues Driver have found their way in to bass rigs as us low-enders strive to find the ultimate grit tone. Once upon a time I used a parallel loop pedal with a MT-2 Metal Zone pedal for over-the-top gain and drive. Now it seems Boss has come to our rescue with a one box solution for all our drive needs.
Boss has created a rather complex digital pedal on the inside but stuck to the well trodden path of absolute simplicity on the outside. 'If it ain't broke,' they say and that simplicity of use is one of the qualities that has made Boss what it is today.
So on to the layout - and it's a familiar fascia for Boss distortion pedals. Far left hand side, a dual concentric control features a level knob for balancing your volume of the pedal engaged or disengaged once you have sculpted your sound. The lower section of the knob is a blend control. For us bass players that's really important - being able to mix in the girth of your dry sound creates a bigger more dynamic fatness to your overall bass sound. Mixing clean sounds with distortion is nothing new and bass players have often connected their basses to a guitar (or distorted) amp and used their bass amp in a parallel configuration to add bite to their sound. Duff McKagan, Mike Kroeger, John Myung and Chris Wolstenholme are just a very small handful of players off the top of my head that have used this set-up to great effect.
On to the EQ section, where two knobs provide control over the low end and top end portions of your sound whilst the pedal is engaged. Check out my video to see what a difference these make and see where I give a few examples of how I felt they can be utilised. Don't just stop there though. If you get to try one of these, then go to the extremes! Speaking of extremes - the 'drive' knob on the far right will reward you with everything from a 'coloured' dry tone all the way round to a blistering all out aural assault. In my review video, I set up the pedal as a sort of 'amp simulator' with virtually no drive at all and it warmed up the mix nicely. It would certainly help your bass drop in to the overall performance mix - though for more aggressive sounds, shifting the drive control round rewards with all of those 'in between' tones that are sometimes difficult to get. Pushing up further, saturation comes in bucket loads and is great fun to play with. Judicial use of the high EQ control will help you maintain clarity without things getting too muddy. I'd say that it is wise to use the EQ in conjunction with the drive control, rather than expecting to leave it stationary. All the controls do appear to be interactive and that's probably due to the processing going on under the bonnet. Boss says that the new pedal uses its latest MDP technology - a digital processor that senses the input signal and adjusts the way the drive characteristics are applied to the output.
Connections are in the usual place on the Boss BB-1X - Boss has also gone a little further with this mini beast too. There is a line out jack on the left hand side, but it's not just a standard output. Firstly, it is a balanced output - so using a TRS cable you can feed this straight to a PA desk or recording device: no DI box needed, though you might require an adaptor if you are used to plugging in XLR equipped cables because this is a 1/4” jack socket.
This output is an 'emulated' feed, essentially sending an 'amplifier simulated' signal to your external device. No need for miking or extra signal processing. It's all done in one box.
I think the BB-1X is a very useful pedal and it's nice to see Boss offering something bang up to date. The only thing that might let it down is that 1/4” line out. I appreciate space is a premium in such a small box but an XLR socket may have been a better choice. That aside, this really is a cracking pedal that like other Boss pedals comes with a five year warranty.