It seems everyone is talking about clones of effects these days, but one company is still out there making original Clones . . . Small Clones, that is. Of course, I’m talking about Electro-Harmonix and the Small Clone, a classic chorus effect that’s been a staple offering of the company for decades. The new Bass Clone is a version of the Small Clone with extra bells and whistles aimed at us large-stringed individuals.
You can actually think of chorus pedals as delay effects, with a very tiny delay time. The original signal and the delayed signal play so closely together that they appear to double, achieving the effect. The Bass knob on the Bass Clone cuts or boosts the low frequencies of the unmodulated, dry signal and the Treble control cuts or boosts the high frequencies of the combined signals, letting you dial in the chorus sound you’d like. Cutting lows and boosting highs can get you a more ‘80s rock chorus sound that’s brighter and cuts through with a pick. Boosting lows and cutting highs gets old-school fat, especially if you’re using the chorus as a type of filter with Depth high and Rate very slow. The Bass and Treble knobs are each capable of some very extreme frequency boosting, and the Bass knob is super woofy when dimed. One of my favorite settings—and something unique to the Bass Clone—is Bass and Depth set to the maximum, with Treble and Rate very low. I rolled back the Tone knob on my bass and just loved the old R&B or dub sound, which was subtly filtered with a gentle vibrato and extremely fat.
The Bass Clone comes with a built in Crossover switch, which allows a fixed percentage of your dry signal to pass through unaffected. This allows your low end to avoid some of the murkiness of chorus pedals, especially when you’ve got the Depth knob at higher settings. It’s the most bass-centric feature of the pedal, though I also found it to be very cool with distortion or an envelope filter before, leaving some of those effects to creep into the signal in contrast to the chorused tone. The crossover also makes the pedal something that players of regular six-string guitars should check out, because it does lend a clarity that even a lot of guitar chorus effects lack.
I was interested in comparing the Bass Clone’s tone with an old Small Clone. My friend’s old late-‘90s big box model that he’s owned for years was the one I got a chance to compare with. I would say the Bass Clone’s tone definitely has the Small Clone vibe; that kind of chiming overtone and swirly texture that separates it from other famous chorus pedals. However, the old Small Clone felt a little juicier and a little deeper sounding. With the crossover off and EQ controls flat, the Bass Clone was a little brighter in most settings. With the crossover on, increasing the Bass control brought it closer to the old Small Clone’s richness, and the Treble control accented the overtones of the chorus nicely. Turning the Rate and Depth knobs all the way up on the Bass Clone didn’t sound the same as the Depth switch up and turning the single knob of the Small Clone all the way up. The Small Clone is much more over the top, and its “underwater” sound is much more intense. The experiment made me really appreciate the crossover switch on the Bass Clone, which let a lot of the natural feel of the bass sit underneath the chorus sound, especially at these extreme settings. It’s interesting that the single knob Small Clone sounds so good at almost all positions, although there are combinations of Depth and Rate on the Bass Clone that produce sounds the Small Clone can’t reach. Specifically, you can get some excellent seasick vibrato and warble that is more rhythmically matched to your bass line with careful adjusting of the Depth and Rate knobs.
If you are really wondering which of the two to get, I think it depends on your setup. If you’ve got a blend or loop pedal to mix in your dry bass with modulation, I’d probably go with the classic Small Clone or its newer version, the Neo Clone. If you’ve got a simpler setup, the Bass Clone offers a lot tighter low-end with very useful EQ adjustments, and would probably be the better pick for your signal chain.
The Small Clone is an outstanding effect, and the Bass Clone proudly carries its legacy. I couldn’t help but smile playing “Frizzle Fry” with it (at least the parts of that song I am capable of playing), so this is one clone out there that feels fresh.
What we liked:
Classic Small Clone overtones and vibe. The Bass and Treble knobs are powerful and add a lot to the effect. The Crossover switch is handy; guitar players should like it, too.
Not quite as deep sounding as the old Small Clone to which I compared it.