Review: Analog Alien Alien Bass Station

At New York studio Cloud 9 Recording, they love analog gear.
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AT NEW YORK STUDIO CLOUD 9 Recording, they love analog gear. They have a 2"-tape machine and a bevy of the classic outboard stuff that makes engineers drool. When they decided to get into the stompbox biz, they took this affinity for vintage analog equipment and designed a series of effects aimed at distilling the analog vibe into affordable, space-efficient pedals. Analog Alien's first bass-specific effect, the Alien Bass Station (ABS), is a reaction to a frequent complaint they heard from players in their studio. Many bass players complained that their effects seemed to diminish the lowend impact of their playing—Analog Alien attributes this to the guitar-centric origin of many bass pedals. Seeking to make an all-purpose pedal with a bass-first approach, the ABS packs three popular effects into one relatively compact housing. Whether it’s the LIMITER, AMP GENERATOR, or GAMMA FUZZ, the ABS offers a diverse selection of straightforward sounds. The ability to use each effect on its own or in tandem with the others significantly bolsters the ABS’ utility.

FIRST CONTACT

Rather than jam-pack the ABS with a ton of complex modulation and time effects, Analog Alien chose to focus on the sort of effects that most often get used in the real world. Plus, broadly expanding its palette would likely require the integration of a DSP chip, and Analog Alien is all about the analog. The most subtle effect on offer is the LIMITER, which is sort of misnamed given the LIMIT-COMP knob selects between a 2:1–10:1 compression ratio, with only the largest ratio getting into the so-called “limiting” range, although Analog Alien says the speed of the circuit, it limits effectively. The compressor also incorporates a SENSITIVITY control, which adjusts the gain at the input stage of the compressor. In this way it works a bit like the traditional “threshold” parameter of a compressor (more gain = more compression), but it doesn’t offer fine control over the amplitude that triggers the compressor. The SENSITIVITY control does boost the level of low-output basses, allowing the limiter/comp to work more efficiently. An OUT knob governs the level of the signal as it exits the LIMITER stage of the ABS. On its own, the LIMITER was smooth and effective, although I wish I had a little more indication of how knob position was directly impacting my tone. Perhaps a future revision could include an LED indicating when the effect is engaged. I found it best to just consider the knobs as a three-part recipe for my sound, and not worry too much about how they were set. It may not sound scientific, but I just turned stuff until it sounded good. The overall character of the circuit was not transparent; rather it imparted a pleasant warmth and character to the tone, not unlike using an old tube compressor like an LA-2A or Fairchild.

Next up is the AMP GENERATOR—a full-fledged FET-based preamp with a 2-band EQ and GAIN and OUT knobs. Analog Alien designed the AMP GENERATOR to simulate the plush response and cozy fur of classic tube amps, like the Ampeg B-15 or Supro Thunderbolt. Like those amps, the AMP GENERATOR is as simple to grok as can be. It performed exactly as advertised. Even with the GAIN nearly all the way down, engaging the AMP GENERATOR immediately added a smidge of hair to my sound, subtly attenuating the highs, beefing up the lows, and coloring the tone with subtle-but-present new overtones. As I rolled up the GAIN (and reduced the output to compensate), things just got hairier, but never in an unnatural, inauthentic-sounding way. The EQ is voiced broadly, and is effective at its job. In essence, the AMP GENERATOR seemed to instantly vintage-ize my basses and the additional gain on offer is great for solos or driving an amp hard. So long as you don’t expect modern, clean, and flat response, the AMP GENERATOR will surely please.

In contrast to the other relatively tame effects in the ABS, the GAMMA FUZZ truly earns all that alien-themed badging. It’s a super grind-y and moderately insane fuzz with a ton of low end. It manages this insanity with remarkably tight control—the moment a note is stopped, the noise stops. That’s more than I can say for a lot of fuzz pedals. Its coolest feature is the way it responds differently depending on the input frequency. Low frequencies sound broader, while going up the neck focuses the tone more, lending important clarity to articulate high-register playing. It takes what most of us love about fuzz tones, but adds just enough unique flavor and quality to make it stand out.

The ABS is exceptionally well constructed, with a rugged (and cool looking) metal-flake green finish, bright LEDs in three colors to correspond with the three effects, and rugged metal jacks and switches. It’s a touch on the big side, but given it could potentially take the place of three separate stompboxes, the size is no biggie. The ABS can’t be battery-powered, but big props to Analog Alien for including a Visual Sound 1-Spot with the effect. And one cool bonus: the pedal comes packed in a groovy green cooler bag, big enough for a couple adult beverages. The ABS may not dazzle with a huge variety of extreme effects (although the fuzz is killing), but what’s on offer bests many multieffects for its natural sound, gig-appropriate utility, and excellent construction.

SPECIFICATIONS

ANALOG ALIEN

Alien Bass Station
Street $TBD
Pros Excellent trio of warm-sounding effects; Instant vintage
Cons Compressor would be super-boss if it had an indicator LED
Bottom Line A superbly constructed multieffect that offers a remarkably broad palette of warm, vintage-sounding tones in one easy-to-use stompbox.

SPECS

Input ¼"
Output ¼"
Power 9V, AC adapter (included)
Made in USA
Contactanalogalien.com

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