Pedals

JL Bluemoon Power Bass Preamp

At the time of this writing, Brazil seems like it’s in all the headlines. The Olympics, political unrest, and scandals are dominating the news cycles. Somewhere in all this human drama is a pedal company, diligently building analog devices and shipping them around the world. So it was when I received the JL Bluemoon Power Bass Preamp to check out, complete with an instruction manual in Portuguese. I don’t speak the language, but thankfully this pedal did plenty of talking in the international language of tone.

I’m not a player that changes my bass strings often, so eventually they’ll get that muted, flabby kind of sound. I forgot all about my plans to change them for this review, and started playing with the Bluemoon, and I was pretty amazed at how bright and full this preamp sounded even with these muddy, crusty strings on. I can tell you from experience that plenty of preamp pedals sound just as dead when the strings of the instrument go dead, but this one could fool an audience if you’re short on cash or just too lazy to change your strings.

I did eventually get around to changing them though. The settings I liked with the dead strings had to instantly be reigned back a bit, because now the emphasized frequencies were really coming through. This is a very powerful EQ section here, and you may find that it’s not quite a “set it and forget it” type of pedal. It reminded me of an internal preamp you may find on an active pickup bass, where making small adjustments depending on the venue, interaction with effects, or, yes, the newness of your strings will make sense. Active bass electronics can sometimes sound very clinical and dry, but I was pleased that the Bluemoon essentially made my bass sound like my bass—it can be an option if you have a great sounding bass that you just want more control over.

I thought the preamp interacted well with my other effects. Preamps can be a bit fickle sometimes with fuzz and filter pedals, due to their typically high input impedance and hotter output than plugging straight in with a passive bass. I liked putting this at the end of my chain, where it seemed to have to have the same EQ enhancement over my effects. The bass preamp pedal I currently use is the first pedal in my chain, so this is something that you’ll have to experiment with to find what works best.

I did find that the pedal’s high frequency controls can introduce some noticeable noise into your signal. I’m using a Gibson Thunderbird for my reviews, and it’s typically dead silent, as you may expect from a properly shielded instrument with passive humbuckers. For single-coil instruments, this could be more pronounced, so this is something to look out for. In general, dialing back the high frequency knob does reduce the noise a bit, and this may be a necessary evil for the kind of power the EQ section seems to have for tone sculpting.

The preamp has master volume, Drive, and Mix controls, letting you overdrive the signal. I really have to applaud them for adding the Mix control, because sometimes preamp pedals capable of distortion neglect this. If one want to get woolly, they won’t have to compromise the low end. The distortion itself is more “tube” sounding than fuzz-box sounding, giving a pretty decent approximation of amplifier overdrive that sounds SVT-esque. Completely maxing out the Drive never quite gets to a face-peeling tube amp dirt, though that doesn’t seem to be the pedal’s focus. Smooth and touch-responsive overdrive is what players can expect, though I did find that it paired nicely with a tube amp when I wanted to drive the amplifier.

There’s also a few little things that this pedal does right: The soft step true bypass switch, the boxy, industrial enclosure, including both rubber feet and Velcro strips to let players choose how they want to use it, even a promotional sticker, which really tells me in a language I actually can understand that this company is doing it right. They seem to understand what real players are looking for. That makes taking a gamble on a lesser known tone box from across the globe a little easier.

What We Like

Gives a more transparent sound that doesn’t sterilize your instrument’s natural tone.  Very powerful EQ section; it brought even my dead strings to life! There’s a mix control to blend the dry and effected signal is a nice touch. It’s well-built, with attention to the little details.

Concerns

A bit noisy, especially with the high frequencies increased. You may have to see if your equipment jives with it. The overdrive doesn’t get too wild, if that’s what you’re after.

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