Xotic BB Preamp. The ultimate overdrive pedal. Stop.
It would seem trivial to describe it like this, yet this is the feeling I just had, alone, and immediately after compared with sacred monsters such as the Ibanez Tube Screamer. But let’s go in order.
The Californian Xotic was known to produce high quality effects, even if it wasn’t only from indication of the price tag, which, according to the saying (not always true) “who spends more spends less”, or “quality must necessarily be paid”, already makes it clear that here the money (a lot) will be well spent.
The point is this pedal sounds really incredible, in terms of sound, to the point of wondering what’s the point of having more in the pedalboard.
Like the RC Booster, according to Xotic tradition, it comes in a cardboard box without particular graphics, with a simple sticker from the parent company also bearing the serial number of the effect, which is then also shown on the same.
Just like the RC booster, the external metal box of the BB Preamp is a common Hammond container, in die-cast aluminum, 1590 series, IP54, measuring 112.4 x 60.5 x 31mm (I know them because I have used them too to make me some handcrafted pedals). Excellent, nice solid and very resistant.
There are 4 knobs: volume, gain, treble and bass. It must be said that the equalization, unlike almost any other pedal effect, is active! This means that at 12 o’clock of treble and bass they are neutral, that is, they do not affect the signal, while at less than 12 they attenuate the signal and at more than 12 they boost it actively. Almost all other pedals use passive pots, which actually cut only the signal, without actively adding anything, like almost all amplifiers for that matter.
The power supply is the standard 9V, with internal or external central negative battery. Another peculiarity is that it can also be powered externally at 15V, for greater headroom. Works? Yes. But it works so well even at 9V that it’s not essential.
There is one thing to say: zero background noise! It is truly built with the highest quality components, coupled with excellent engineering.
Opening it, you notice an interesting thing: the internal circuitry is covered with a paint that prevents you from being able to copy the diagram. Rightly so, at Xotic they must be very jealous of the time invested in research and development required to obtain this little gem.
But it is very different from a normal tube screamer, in a number of small details that together make a huge difference. First of all the controls, active. Left the bass and treble at 12 o’clock it has a sound that is very reminiscent of a tubescreamer, but not with that punch typical of the Ibanez pedal. Here the fact that you can adjust the treble and bass separately makes a huge difference compared to the single tone control, because it allows you to shape the sound in a very precise way. For example, if we want more mids, we just need to lower the bass and treble at the same time (since they are active controls).
In any case, thanks to the really sensitive controls, you can change the sound as you want according to your needs. In reality with bass at 12 and mid-range at 12 (note that positioned at 12 o’clock the potentiometer has a kind of click, as if to be sure of the half-way position) you get a sound that is good for the vast majority of cases.
The gain. It can go from zero to quite a big distortion. You do not get to metal territories as a true distortion, this no, but the distortion gets to be very compressed but always of a “vintage” mold. The point is that no matter how much the sound is compressed, there is never the effect of that crushing typical of some distortions such as to lose real dynamics in the signal. It is a “good” compression, so that you always feel the touch and sound under your fingers, but with a “liquidity” that makes it manageable and beautiful to hear on all occasions.
Decreasing the gain obviously decreases the compression as well, but that feeling of velvety and liquid sound still remains. Perfect for both AC / DC type rhythms (even without having a rough sound, crunch) and for rhythms like Foo Fighters (more compressed) and also for solo parts. Only in the latter case, perhaps, can help with a booster maybe put in retrospect. To boost a tube amp? Well, of course yes, perfect!
Compared to a tube screamer, with an A / B test, the Xotic BB Preamp has a more refined, more compressed but at the same time more dynamic sound (although this seems in apparent contradiction), thanks to the “liquidity” of its sound. He manages to have even more attack and more body, in fact resulting from the same family but with a set of details that take him to an incredibly higher level.
If you want to listen to a demo, here’s a spectacular one, which actually shows the quality of the Xotic BB Preamp:
Other demos can be found directly on the Xotic’s page: https : //xotic.us/effects/bb-preamp/.
Xotic with its BB Preamp has created an overdrive / distortion pedal in the footsteps of the Ibanez tube screamer, but improving it in every respect, with a phenomenal result in retrospect.
So good that in the end, comparing it with all the other effects of the same kind on the pedalboard, in the end I decided to keep only him and him Xotic SL Drive.
There are four versions: the signature one by Andy Timmons, which has a slightly higher level of distortion, the MB one, with further control on the mids, for a three-band EQ, and the Custom Shop one which features a switch. with three levels of compression, one higher and one lower than the basic model.
For a review of the Xotic BB Preamp MB here you can find an in-depth proof (in Italian):
Defects? Maybe just one. In this period, where micropedals and pedalboards are depopulating, they are shrinking more and more to satisfy the needs of guitarists to have less weight and bulk to carry every time, the dimensions of the Xotic BB Preamp, which are the classic standard ones, appear almost bulky, if compared to those of the new generations of pedals, such as the Xotic SL Drive or the Mooer Pure Boost.
However, it must also be said that the BB Preamp was therefore conceived almost years ago, where the needs were very different. Of course it would be nice if Xotic now proposed a revised version of its flagship jewel, perhaps with the three-band EQ controls and the compression switch, all in a single pedal, small in size! 😉
Published on musicanza.it on: 20/10/2022.