Rodenberg pedals are hand-built in Germany. And just like German car design, pristine engineering and attention to detail are keywords to take notice of when it comes to the GAS 728B+ bass drive pedal…
The Rodenberg GAS 728B+ NG is a feature-rich pedal. But how is the balance between features and usability? This is often one of the most tricky things to get nailed just right when you clearly want to present the user with plenty of options to tailor the tone. Let’s find out…
The first thing to point out is that you could consider the GAS 728B+ two pedals in one chassis. On the right (L.D.P.) you have a clean boost pedal with its own designated footswitch. You have a TONE and a LEVEL knob, which doesn’t really call for further explanation. The big, diamond-shaped LED is green when you punch in the boost circuit.
On the left side of the pedal, you have the drive section (808 B) that has large TONE and DRIVE knobs, as well as a small LEVEL knob to dial in unity gain. The LED for this side of the pedal light up blue when you engage the drive.
Now, on the front side panel you will find 6 toggles witches with their own small, red LEDs. These could be considered fixes settings that you probably wouldn’t attempt (or need to) adjust on the fly.
On the far left and right you have two DEEP switches that kicks in an additional low end punch for either side of the pedal. The second switch from the left is named 909B and adds a bunch of steroids to the overdrive circuit – three times the amount of gain actually!
The <-GO! switch puts the drive circuit into latch mode, which means that the drive will only be kicked in for as long as you press and hold the left foot switch.
The <-827-> switches the order of the signal flow internally, which gives you the option to decide whether you want the boost to feed the drive – or vice versa.
Finally, the BOLT switch enables you to completely separate the two halves of the pedal. When disengaged, you can have both the boost and drive circuits running in serial (decide the order with the <-827-> switch as mentioned above), but if you tun on the BOLT function, whenever you kick in one of the circuits, the other one will be disengaged (if it was on in the first place, of course).
Lots of features, flexibility and options at hand. Let’s check out how it sounds!
The sound clips are divided into 8 rounds:
- 808 DRIVE
- 909 DRIVE
- SLAP DRIVE
- CLEAN BOOST
The approach is a mix of methodical and ‘various settings’.
NOTE! Please use headphones or ‘real’ speakers. You simply can’t judge low-end material on laptop, tablet or phone speakers…!
NOTE! If you are on a mobile device, please turn it to landscape mode to see the knob settings of the pedal for each audio clip.
The GAS 728B+ sounds great. Period. That is the starting point for even getting into talking about versatility. At the very top level, you have two independent and fundamental functions: Drive and Clean Boost.
The clean boost is a tool that is extremely handy to have once you need an additional bump in the overall level. It is not the most sexy feature, and not really an effect. But great to have, and the boost circuit of the GAS 728B+ does the job beautifully. It is not 100% transparent, though. I found that it colors the clean tone just a little bit even when you crosscheck at unity gain. Yet, having said that, I really like whet it does to the clean tone. It becomes just a little bit more clear and present. Should you want to deliberately color your boosted tone a bit, you have the DEEP switch and TONE knob right there to give that extra little tweak to your core tone. Works.
The drive section of this pedal, on the other hand, is sexy as h… The range from the DRIVE knob all the way down in 808 mode, which adds just a bit of very pleasant crunch, to the outer extreme with the same knob at max in 909 mode is huge. And the amazing thing is that I more or less found the pedal musical and great-sounding throughout the entire (and vast) spectrum of overdrive / distortion. It was almost impossible to make the sound turn muddy – even at max 909 and ‘legato slapping’ with multiple notes overlapping, you could hear every detail and articulation. That is pretty impressive. As for the drive alone, this pedal is super versatile and your problem will not be to try to dial in a great-sounding drive tone, but rather to choose between then many great drive tones you can create with this pedal.
On top of the main functions, the way you can connect (and disconnect) the two parts of the pedal is also adding a lot to the versatility. The GP!, BOLT and <-827-> switches opens up whole new possibilities, and I would recommend to take some time to just play with this pedal at home before releasing it in the rehearsal space or on the stage. The learning curve is not overly steep, but you need to decipher the main functions of the switches and understand how the two circuits interact. Once you have that in place, you’re set for a great bass overdrive experience.
The quality of this pedal is likely to compare to that of German cars to pick up on the analogy from the introduction. It’s a cliche, but it definitely seems to be built like a tank. It’s heavy (I like heavy), it’s rough-looking and all knobs, switches and connectors gave me confidence that this is a piece of quality equipment through and through. As always, of course, when it’s a brand new pedal I really don’t know how it will perform over years and years, but the first impression this pedal gave me was certainly good.
The visual design is very nice. I like the raw, industrial approach, and the super-bright and quite large green and blue LEDs are something of a contrast to that, which is also pretty cool.
The functional design is good. Having a row of toggle switches (with their own LEDs) is certainly a unique approach, but it actually works out really well. You could have argued that regular toggle switches on the top panel would have been more accessible (and you might even have had a chance to cram them in), but there are two things that argue against that. First, these switches are probably meant as ‘universal settings’ that you decide on through testing and then chances are you don’t touch them again – and now they are out of your way on the side panel. Also, many of them make fundamental changes (e.g. signal flow, latch mode, etc.) so you wouldn’t want to activate them by accident – and if you did, you’d want to quickly turn them back on/off. Now, imagine a row of 6 toggle switches on a dark stage…
The one thing I wondered a bit about was the small LEVEL knob. I understand that it is probably meant as a mean to counter-adjust to unity gain in case the drive circuit changes the overall output level too much, but why on such a small knob? The large DRIVE knob invite to adjust on the fly and you may dial away from unity gain, so now you need to grab the small knob anyway. Having said that, it’s probably not really a real-world problem, as you need to adjust the DRIVE knob pretty significantly to wander completely off unity gain.
If should have one wish for this pedal, it would be a blend knob to dial in some of the clean tone with the drive. I know that I use this argument all the time. For compressors, envelope filters, drives, etc. But it is really great to have the option of mixing your clean bass with the FX signal.
If you order directly from the Rodenberg website (they ship worldwide), a new GAS 728B+ will cost you around $300 by the current exchange rate (2016). Not the cheapest drive pedal in the market, but there are also many more expensive alternatives out there. Any way you cut it, at this price, you need to get some great tones and features in return if you are to claim a high value for money. But luckily that is exactly what you get from this pedal.
If you are looking for a versatile and great-sounding drive pedal, you should definitely check out the Rodenberg GAS-728B+. It gives you a tremendous range of drive flavors and a clean boost to top if off.
If you have been in the drive market for some time, you have probably come across the Darkglass pedals. They have been top of mind in bass drive in recent years and they are great, too. But I would say that the both the GAS and the B7K / B3K pedals are unique creatures and that they offer some very different flavors of greatness. The GAS has a mix-cutting mid bump, whereas the Darkglass pedals have an ear-pleasing mid scoop, but also blend options to add clean tone which prevenrt you from drowning in the mix.
Ultimately, I am not swapping my B7K pedal for a GAS. I am adding the GAS 728B+ to the board – it’s that good!
Good value for money
A blend option would have been nice
The small LEVEL knob may be hard to adjust on the fly