Considered by many to be the industry standard bass overdrive and DI: Tech 21's SansAmp Bass Driver DI V2 features three different outputs to drive power amps, recording desks, PA mixers, or simply enhance your current rig—the SansAmp Bass Driver DI is much more than just a direct box. Capable of dialling up big vintage tube tones, bright modern slap sounds, gnarly distortions, and a whole lot in between, Rodney McG tells us more about this versatile unit and compares it with a classic from the SansAmp line.
Today we take a look at a comparison of one legacy and one more recent version of the flagship SansAmp bass units. Both built on the same classic tone engine—but with different available options. The legacy device is the rackmount SansAmp RBI unit. A studio and live fixture for decades. The newer variation is the SansAmp Bass Driver pedal version 2. The most recent version of the same SansAmp Bass Driver classic includes new options for EQ and tonal control.
The differences between the units outside of the obvious form factor are that the RBI has much more extensive connection and interface options, while the Bass Driver version 2 has more extensive EQ controls.
They both share the same fundamental control set. Level, drive, mid, mid-frequency, blend, bass, treble. The RBI also includes a separate level control for the XLR connections.
From there is where our differences begin. While the Bass Driver version 2 has an XLR and quarter-inch out for the affected sound, it also includes a quarter inch out for an unaffected. The RBI rear panel offers quarter-inch and XLR out for both affected and unaffected signal. The RBI has a secondary input with a pad on the rear of the unit as well as a footswitch and an effect loop that can be 100% wet or 50/50 mix with the toggle selection.
The version 2 Bass Driver offers a few variable controls on EQ that aren't shared by the RBI. Both are controlled by front panel pushbuttons. The mid can be switched between 500 Hertz and 1 kilohertz, offering a different boost and cut frequency for the mids where the RBI is locked at 1k. The other variable is that the low/bass knob can be set to 40 or 80 Hertz, where the RBI bass is locked at 80.
So, let's get into actual sound differences. Are there any? With the push buttons on the SansAmp Bass Driver version 2 set to the same locked settings on the RBI and all dials at a neutral position, the sound will be nearly identical. Very slight variations based on how exact the neutral position of the knob is, and small differences that can affect analogue circuitry like power supply may be noticed (the RBI runs off of a three-prong standard connector for power, where the Bass Driver uses a 9-volt pedal style connector or battery or phantom power) but the variation is minimal, especially in a mix, or life ensemble.
So, if you're choosing between these two units, the choice comes down to one of two items realistically. Do you want the additional connectivity, interface, and form factor that the RBI offers, and does it fit better with your gear set, or the Bass Driver v2's compact form factor and additional tone controls?
Personally, I look at them both less as competing units but more complementary. The RBI is the studio fixture that has the expandability I'd want to go out to multiple recording and effect units. The Bass Driver v2 being my portable and easy to carry live unit to replicate that tone, and have larger adjustability to adapt to live environments where I may need to adjust to room acoustics and backline gear. However, given the option of only having one, I could be completely comfortable having either unit in either environment and know that I'll be getting the same core sound of the classic SansAmp bass series.
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