Perhaps it’s their ubiquity in the glass case of every music store on earth, or their durability and mostly superb tone, but Roland’s Boss pedals are the kings of the stompbox universe. (We all have at least one, right?) Boss offers a pedal for nearly every type of effect, and while not every one is an undisputed winner, many of its effects are industry standards. Given the extensive R&D that goes into each Boss offering, it’s not often (at least these days) that the company releases a new bass pedal. Thus the relatively recent debut of the BB-1X Bass Driver is well worth a close look.
Savvy Boss aficionados may be wondering why Bossis releasing a new overdrive, given it has long had the ODB-3 Bass Overdrive in its lineup. The reason, it seems, is that the BB-1X offers much more than meets the eye. Rather than an always-dirty distortion, the BB-1X is much more like an outboard preamp voiced for harmonic coloration and grind. It has more in common with products like the Tech 21 SansAmp and Darkglass B7K, both of which emulate the sound of a tube preamp pushed hard, than it does a fuzz or raw distortion pedal. In that sense, the BB-1X is usable not just for its obvious distortion effects, but for adding thickness and color to an otherwise dry bass sound, like a specialty direct box. To further emphasize this use, BOSS includes a balanced output in addition to the standard ¼ jack. Unfortunately, for some aggravating reason, the balanced out on the BB-1X utilizes a ¼ TRS jack, rather than the infinitely more conventional XLR standard. If you plan on using the pedal as a DI live, bring an adapter.
The digital BB-1X is surprisingly analog in its character. I liked it best in the lower settings, actually, when its excellent dynamic sensitivity and pleasant fur added propulsion and drive to my playing. When I cranked up the drive control, the BB-1X could get a little fizzier than I like out of an overdrive. That said, I’m glad Boss included low and high EQ filters, as they easily helped tame the spitty sound I disliked, while also adding heft to my tone. Admirably, the pedal seemed to add sweet even-order harmonics to my tone, yet the sound grew increasingly sterile at high settings. The layout is clear on the front panel, and like all Boss pedals, the BB-1X is built like a tank. Yet again, though, I found myself a little let down by the concentric LEVEL/BLEND knob. It’s simply too awkward in the space allotted to make quick adjustments to the lower ring (BLEND).
The BB-1X is an excellent one-stop-shop for a player who isn’t necessarily an overdrive connoisseur, but rather wants an effective, solidly made stompbox that’s capable of a fairly broad spectrum of overdrive-style bass tone. It doesn’t go insane like some fuzz pedals, but its composed and classy demeanor, coupled with the well-integrated tone sculpting, make it a useful tool for adding dirt and color to an arid sound.
Pros Solid and smooth overdrive; excels at adding a tinge of color, like an overdriven tube amp.
Cons Gets a little fizzy at high gain settings; concentric blend knob a hassle; balanced output less useful without an xlr jack.
Bottom Line An excellent all-purpose overdrive and colorful preamp.
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