Tech 21’s reputation precedes them. The company is well known for products that allow the player to run direct with all the dynamics, clarity, warmth and response of playing through an amp/speaker combination. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity to review their new pedal, the VT Bass DI ($275.00 list, $209.00 street).
I took this pedal with me on a little three week tour playing casino showrooms and some casino lounges. At a few of the gigs I had the luxury of having a soundman; but at a couple I had the responsibility of dialing in my own sound.
For this particular review I did a comparison to my current rig as a point of reference.
Currently, I’m using a Bass DI / Preamp that I have in a loop with a compressor pedal, Chorus pedal, Distortion pedal, Big Bottom pedal, Octave pedal and my tuner.
I took my time putting this rig together and I’m really happy with the sound: plus, it is flexible enough to use in both direct and amp situations.
Starting a new tour and not wanting to take any chances, I used by tried-and-true for the first shows. Once assured that things were running business as usual I broke out the U.S.A. made Tech 21 VT Bass DI.
I bypassed my entire pedal board with the exception of my tuner: I figured if this was going to be a test we were going to see how it sounded with no help from anything else.
I’m not really a manual reader per se. I find most of them use way too much technical jargon and other words that I do not, nor care to, understand.
But there is one term that really jumps out that is associated with this pedal: analog. Perhaps this is where the reputed warmth and responsiveness comes from.
Anyway, it was against my natural intuition when I took out the instructions. I gave it a quick precautionary read to make sure there was nothing I really needed to know about the unit before plugging it in.
The VT Bass DI has a single ¼” input along with a parallel ¼” unaffected output. There’s a pair of effected outputs: a balanced XLR and a unbalanced ¼” jack. Obviously, this allows you to use either the unaffected parallel out or the effected out to your amplifier, while the XLR feeds the PA. Very cool.
There is also a jack for an optional 9 volt power supply. The VT Bass DI can run on a 9 volt battery, phantom power or the 9 volt DC power supply.
The controls are: level, blend, character, drive and three bands of EQ (low, mid, high). The character control is where the different amp types are selected. This control also changed the amount of gain, so having the additional volume and gain controls come in handy. The drive control full up is used to achieve the sound of an amp being pushed hard, and, of course, this can be backed down to the user’s preference.
There are also five push switches: phantom power/ground, +10 dB for the ¼” output, -20 dB of the XLR out, bite, and a mute switch.
Once I got the basic idea of the pedal I moved on to twisting some knobs. I will say that I liked the examples of settings recommended in the back of the manual.
I chose the SVT setting. I probably could have used something else for this particular situation since it was a country rock band. But I was anxious to try the SVT sound.
My main bass (Fender American Deluxe 5 String Jazz Bass) has active pickups and it is recommended you set your controls flat on the bass and increase slightly if needed. Setting my bass in the flat position, the soundman gave me some gain in my wedge. Since I was running direct I made sure I had the speaker emulator on.
(I also need to say that I use in ear monitors as well. check out my review of the Future Sonics Mg6 pro in ear monitors.)
Now the moment of truth…I play a few runs.
WOW!!! There it was: the SVT sound that I had grown to love over the years. With a few minor tweaks to dial in the pedal and my bass I had the sound of a lifetime.
I got the punchy highs, the big bottom end and the tight sound of ten inch speakers. I was very surprised at how crisp the sound was. The twang of my Sfarzo round wound strings was right there. Without realizing it I had been missing this with my current rig and just attributed it to being time to change strings.
I did try out a couple of other setting. I used the Flip Top setting and the Fat Tube setting. Both of these setting sounded amazing to me: you would think I was using an amp.
What is amazing to me is that with a few simple changes of the knobs I can get some of my favorite amp settings and sounds.
Now, I probably go direct 90% of time at my gigs. It makes it easier for me and the soundmen I work with. I like to have gear that gives me that true amp sound I’m after without having to break my back carrying a huge amp. (That’s for the road crew, LOL !)
Not only does this pedal do that but it’s tiny and light weight. I could just show up to a gig with this pedal in my gig bag and have great sound every time.
The controls are very easy to use and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out and get a great sound. The blend control is really cool to get kind of two different sounds going at once. You can blend the direct instrument signal with the VT bass DI sound. I favored having the bend control fully clockwise for the all pedal sound.
I did keep the bite and speaker emulator buttons on all the time. The bite button makes my notes on the five strings more defined and not washy.
The speaker emulation makes it sound like a nice punchy SVT cabinet. The tone was great and I never turned it off. It was obvious that this pedal has enough controls and is versatile enough for the bassist to create his/her own signature tone.
– Scott Woodward