Hands-on Review: Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion
(Dave Molter | Posted 2010-08-16)
I’ve been a fan of bass distortion/fuzz since Paul McCartney hooked up a guitar fuzz box for George Harrison’s “Think for Yourself” way back on “Rubber Soul." But finding a bass distortion/fuzz pedal that offers more than the ability to create the sound of a demonic chainsaw can be difficult. The new Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion from SourceAudio makes great headway in offering low-end dwellers a variety of choices in an attractive, easy to use stompbox.
The Bass Distortion Pro adds a “virtual” graphic EQ, EQ level knob and six user-definable presets to the basic Soundblox Multiwave Bass Distortion, which in turn is based on SourceAudio’s Soundblox guitar distortion. Tailoring guitar effects boxes to bass frequencies is nothing new, but the Soundblox bass pedals take things a few steps further by offering multi-band processing, which divides the bass signal into multiple bands, then distorts them individually. On top of that, the Pro model's EQ can be set differently for each of the pedal's six presets. The result is unprecedented control and clarity, allowing full, rich distortion that is very controllable.
The Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion is packaged in a heavy-duty attractive Lake Placid Blue box that isn’t very tall but has a slightly larger footprint than most single-use effects boxes. Controls include a center-mounted master rotary control that lets users select any of 23 distortion effects plus an additional spot that allows the pedal to act as a boost/EQ without distortion. Once an effect is selected, it can be adjusted via four rotary knobs – EQ Amount, Drive, Clean Mix and Distortion Mix. Below the master distortion selector is the seven-band EQ ( 62Hz through 4KHz), which uses an LED readout to replicate sliders. Bands are selected by two pushbuttons, which then can be boosted or cut +/-12db using a rotary knob.
A single, small pushbutton enables choosing between two banks of three presets (red and green LEDS indicate the active bank), which are controlled by three heavy-duty footswitches. (One minor quibble: it might have been nice to use a standard footswitch to allow bank switching on the fly. The bank selector switch could probably be activated if you were wearing very pointed shoes, but it would be tricky).
Individual LEDS above each footswitch indicate not only which footswitch is engaged but also which bank is active. Saving a preset is a snap. While editing, the LED blinks occasionally to signal that the preset has been changed. Once you’re happy with a sound, press and hold the footswitch to assign the effect. (There’s also an option for copying one preset to another location so you don’t have to start at ground zero every time.) The LED blinks rapidly to signal that the change has been saved. Kicking off the footswitch returns the pedal to true bypass mode. An additional set of calibration pushbuttons is designed to be used with SourceAudio’s HotHand, a very hip motion-controller ring technology that is perhaps better applied to SourceAudio’s wah and phaser/flanger pedals.
Power is supplied by an included 9V wall wart; battery operation is not an option. Rear panel connections include Guitar In; Guitar Out; EXP In, which allows the user to connect a traditional expression pedal to seamlessly morph from one preset to another; and MIDI jack, which allows external access to presets and parameters.
If the Multiwave has a “secret sauce” it’s the pedal’s ability to create what I call, for lack of a better term, “clean distortion.” I’m not a fan of over-the-top grating fuzz tone, but I want a pedal that can give me something other than the sound of an overdriven tube amp. The Multiwave Pro offers several unique distortion sounds through selecting just the right preset, judicious use of the seven-band EQ and mixing the clean and distorted sounds in the correct ratio. It also has superior tracking and sustain and reacts well to double stops or chords. I had a lot of fun recreating the synth sounds of Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein by using the pedal’s Multi/Foldback areas, and I was able to create the illusion of a guitar doubling bass by venturing into Octave territory. At least with my bass, the Single band areas of the rotary control (20-22) were less useful, but I was able to make my Lakland 55-94 sound very much like a Rick 4003 using the boost/EQ setting without distortion.
The bottom line
If you’re bassist who wants a wide variety of distortion/fuzz sounds that can be tailored and controlled easily, the Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion offers an intriguing alternative to other stompboxes in this genre. The Multiwave’s multiband processing gives depth and clarity to distorted sounds without sacrificing critical bottom end, and the addition of an integral EQ that can be applied separately to each of six presets in a truly inspired idea. The ability to control straight and distorted sounds, plus EQ level and Drive, offer players control, and the addition of Foldback and Octave settings make it easy to add synthlike sounds to your arsenal. Far more than a simple fuzz box, the Multiwave is a powerful tone-shaping machine.
MGR Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Soundblox Pro Multiwave Bass Distortion -- MSRP : $219 USD; (Soundblox Multiwave Bass Distortion, without EQ and Presets, retails for $119 USD.) For more information and other specs, visit www.sourceaudio.net.
Dave Molter (“Laklander”) is Managing Editor and Bass Guitars Editor at MusicGearReview. He has played bass professionally for 45 years. Contact Dave at dave at musicgearereview.com