Truly geeked-out effects hounds know that one of the best ways to avoid the possibility of “tone suck” is to use buffered effects loops. The benefits are numerous, especially for passive basses or when a player favors pedals that are noisy, poorly designed, or otherwise sound-mangling in undesirable ways. First, the buffering ensures a bass’s signal is low impedance, which in short makes it less vulnerable to noise and to the loss of high-frequencies due to the impedance relationships of other inputs down the line. Second, switchable effects loop mean that any offending pedal is in the signal path only when necessary, and not just sitting their sucking tone when idling, unused. The final advantage is one of utility, not tone. By making a series of effects loops switchable, a player can potentially bring in a multitude of effects with a single switch, rather than doing the tap dance each time a multi-effect sound is desired.
Japanese company Providence recently released its BFX-1 “bass console,” which is far as I can tell, is really the only product of its kind, insofar as its purpose built for bass. In its diminutive and rugged chassis lies a remarkably powerful tool. There are four separate and switchable effects loops on tap, as well as a full-fledged preamp that’s potent enough to use in a live rig. There’s also a balanced xlr output for feeding to a mixing console live or in the studio. The loops can be used in a convention way, such that each is triggered by its associated switch or the unit can be programmed so that any one switch engages a user-determined combination of loops.
That the Providence stuff this all into such a small footprint is itself an engineering achievement. That it does this with such clean and reliable tone is truly impressive. I used the BFX-1 in front of a power amp, as well as part of a pedal board. In both settings it acquitted itself well, with its abundant indicator lights being particularly welcome as I brought loops in and out. Its construction, both inside and out, was orderly and durable. While some of the programming buttons and preamp knobs were a bit too small for my taste, I also concede that it’s a necessity in order to keep the unit small, light, and portable.
While $500 isn’t anything to sneeze at, when you consider that with the BFX-1 you get a clean and effective preamp, as well as a quartet of high-end effects loops, it starts to feel like a bargain. Worth a look for any intrepid tone nut.
BFX-1 Bass FX Console
Pros A ton of utility in a small package
Bottom line The one-of-a-kind BFX-1 is bassdom’s only preamp-cum-effects switcher, and it’s a darn cool piece of gear.
Made in Japan