Tech 21’s SansAmp Bass Driver DI is a modern classic. The VT Bass DI is a new take on this classic design. But not a replacement as the original BDDI is still around. Let’s hear what’s new…
There are quite some similarities between the original Bass Driver DI (BDDI) and the new VT Bass DI (VTBDI). As you can read in the original BDDI review, there are three main ways to use these pedals: 1) as a preamp/EQ pedal with basic Bass and Treble controls, 2) as a tube circuit emulator and 3) as a DI device. In fact, you could even use it as a preamp in front of a power amp and cabinet(s).
Now that we got that sorted, I will make no more cross-references to the original BDDI. If you are interested in a direct comparison, check out this shootout between the old and new SansAmp pedals.
The control surface it fairly packed on this pedal – no less than 7 dialing knobs, 5 push knobs and a footswitch. The most important things to touch upon before listening to the pedal are the BLEND and BITE knobs.
The BLEND knob mixes in certain parts of the signal processing and not the relation between the dry and FX signals as is often the case when a pedal has a blend knob. The BLEND knob determines how much of the CHARACTER and DRIVE you blend in with the rest of the signal when the pedal is active. The LOW, MID, HIGH and LEVEL knobs are always active.
The DRIVE unsurprisingly controls the amount of drive, but it should be carefully set together with the CHARACTER knob that changes the frequency response gradually moving through the classic Ampeg territory from SVT (below 12 o’clock) to Flip Top (around 12 o’clock) and beyond.
The BITE push knob activates a presence boost and a subsonic filter that in essence emulates that classic and characteristic Ampeg SVT ‘clank’.
Let’s just jump right to the sound clips. The possible combinations of knob settings are so vast that it makes little sense to take a very methodical approach. Therefore, I decided to simply create a number of settings that I like for various purposes and in most cases there are two versions of each – with and without BITE.
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 versatility of the Tech 21 VT Bass DI is nothing short of impressive. It can take you convincingly into most tonal territories and add to that the DI and speaker emulation features that I have not even demoed in this review.
As mentioned in Round 2 of the sound section, when the tone alone instantly inspires you to change the groove you had in mind, you know it’s a powerful tool you have before your feet. There is little more to say – it’s a great-sounding and super-versatile pedal.
The build quality seems very good. I have no reason to believe that Tech 21 has skimped on the quality compared to the original SansAmp Bass Driver DI that has served me well for over a decade without any issues and plenty of stomps under the hood. It feels just as solid, but of course I have not been able to put in the mileage as my old pedal has.
Design-wise, I can see how there was not room for any more knobs, but having a dial-knob for the Presence (as on the original BDDI) would have made it even more versatile. That said, it was probably skipped to make room for the CHARACTER knob, which I would also have hated to be without. However, since the BITE switch, which is the alternative to the dedicated PRESENCE knob, makes such an impact on the tone, I would have really loved to see an additional footswitch that simply kicked in/out the BITE.
In terms of the GUI (graphical user interface), you need to fully understand what the BLEND knob affects and the way the tone controls are crammed in between the tube/amp emulation parameters can be somewhat confusing. Once decoded, this is not a big issue, though.
Today (2015), you can pick up a new Bass Driver DI for a little over $200, which I find to be a very fair price for a pedal with so much to offer. The ‘FX pedal’ value alone is justified in my book, and then you can add the full-blown DI capability on top of that.
I can’t deny that I really dig this pedal. I was able to quickly dial in great-sounding tones that would suit most basses and playing styles. That in combination with the very high versatility factor, makes the VT Bass DI a winner.
Doubles as a DI
Knob layout/design a bit confusing
Would have loved a dedicated BITE footswitch