Practice setup and preamp advice

Hey everyone, unfortunately life got in the way of starting my bass journey earlier in the year, but now I have time to focus on it properly, I’m hoping I could get some fresh thoughts on my practice setup. (Apologies for the incoming wall of text)

I’m on the search again for a setup I’m happy with, while unfortunately still being limited to headphones. I’ve tried various things - some I’ve posted about previously on the forums - and some of the no-go’s were:

  • Headphone amp gadgets (vox amplug, Nux mighty plug, mustang micro) - bad sound quality/hiss, having to be tethered to pc for aux input, and primarily guitar focused)
  • Zoom B1 Four - this is what I’ve been using on and off, but I’ve never got along with it. I can’t find a sound I like, the distortion effects don’t sound great, and the user interface drives me crazy.
  • Interface to PC + amp software (e.g. BiasFX) - I didn’t really want to be tied to a computer when playing, it just got in the way

From my experimenting I realise I need to keep it simple, so I’ve been leaning towards a mini home pedal setup, in the form of a preamp + tuner (and perhaps extras later to learn about pedals: looper, compressor etc.)
My problem - and where I could use your advice - is with the huge array of preamp pedals (and the fact that some don’t have built-in aux input / headphone output). I’ve read so many forum posts and reviews at this point that they’re all starting to blend together. The only requirements are being able to aux in, use headphones, and can give some nice distorted tones without needing a separate OD pedal.

Have aux + headphones

  • Ampeg SCR-DI (Often named in these kinds of headphone practice questions, but people don’t seem to love the distortion?)
  • Nux NBP-5 Melvin Lee Davis Bass Preamp
  • Darkglass Element
  • TC Electronic Spectradrive (Missing from all the shops, Thomann said they can’t even order it any more, discontinued?)

There are also these following ones which would need an extra solution to be able to get aux input / headphone output. I’m trying to avoid having some kind of mixer on my desk, so one small item I’d found was this Behringer MA400 - would it be possible to connect these to the XLR mic input on the MA400, leaving the monitor input free for aux cable from PC?

Missing aux and/or headphones

  • Sansamp BDDI v2
  • Behringer V-Tone Bass BDI21 (Fairly well regarded and massively cheaper copy of the BDDI)
  • MXR M80 Bass DI Plus
  • Electro Harmonix Battalion (Has headphones, but no aux input, and noise gate is often complained about?)

I’d love to hear anyone’s current-day thoughts on these or others I missed, as I’ve kind of overloaded my brain trying to research all of this stuff :slight_smile: Thanks to anyone who made it all the way to the end of this post!


I owned one and while it’s a decent preamp with a little Ampeg color, the distortion was terrible. Really world-class bad. Recommend you avoid.

Owned one of these too, and I liked it a lot. The noise gate is kind of throwaway yeah, but who cares. I use a ton of effects and I’ve never needed a noise gate on bass. Just don’t use it.

This is one of the best buys in music. You should buy one even if you get another preamp :slight_smile:

This one didn’t float my boat, I ruled it out early on. Too sterile and transparent - I want a preamp to add something.

This is a headphone amp, not a preamp.

Darkglass makes some outstanding preamps though. Recommend the Vintage Microtubes Ultra, B7k Ultra, and Alpha/Omega.

I’d recommend their VT Bass DI instead. It’s utterly great. It’s my second favorite preamp I have owned, behind the EBS ValveDrive.


The HX Stomp from Line6 could also be something for you. It’s like the Zoom but just ten times better imo, I have owned both devices and I had a similar feeling with the Zoom (altho I did like the Ampeg sims). The HX Stomp interface is intuitive and feels modern, not like you are tweaking with some gameboy from the past. It has a lot of good (pre)amps and effects for bass. There is even one Darkglass B7K effect which is one of the best distortion for bass. It can act as a (headphone) amp, DAI or just as a FX loop. Lots of possibilities. Line 6

Tuner and looper are also available on the stomp. It’s a great all-in-one solution.

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Thanks for the comments - regarding the EHX Battalion missing the aux input, and BDI21 + Tech21 offerings having neither that or headphone out, would my suggestion of connecting to that Behringer MA400 headphone amp via XLR work to give me those options?

And for the Darkglass Element - my main use for any of these other preamps is basically only going to be headphone practice for the immediate future - perhaps into an amp later on - so I think it would still be a good candidate (assuming it’s any good)

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That’s an interesting one, I’d missed that during my searches. It for sure seems nice, the only negative is that it’s quite a lot more expensive than the other options, I’m not sure I can justify spending so much while I’m just a stay-at-home bass beginner :slight_smile:

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The DG Element is an amazing piece of gear. I use my Element mainly for the cabsims since I go directly from my headphone amp into a monitor. My favourite setup is Compressor > Preamp > Cabsim > Monitor/Headphones.

I actually bought it because I didn’t want to spend too much money on different pedals and (pre)amps but I didn’t want to make concessions in sound quality either. In the end it was much cheaper (now I have two pedalboards which are in total double the price of the HX Stomp). Wish I could resist my GAS and sticked to the HX stomp :sweat_smile:


This is what I’m planning to buy.

I mainly want it for the cab sim and the Bluetooth connectivity (so that I can ditch the aux cable), but it also functions as a DAI, so I’m secretly hoping that it can replace my Scarlett as well. Also I think they’ve added a noise gate feature in a firmware update, which should be useful.

The only downside is that I’d have to use my phone to adjust the EQ, because the pedal has no controls for that.

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Actually it has EQ controls :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I’ve got an M80. What I like about this preamp is it doesn’t add color to your tone.

A lot of what you list are good choices, so it will come down to what you want to sound like.

Where? I only see volume controls for the two headphones, blend, and the cab sim selector.

I think you can access it via the menu. It actually has a standard and Darkglass EQ setting.

Well that’s exactly what I said too… :slight_smile:

Oh sorry I read it wrong :expressionless:

But now that I think of it, it would be cool if you could reassign the three sliders on the pedal to bass/mid/treble, instead of volume/blend/volume

You can set an EQ for each slot tho.

The Element does seem nice, though from all the demos I’ve watched I haven’t seen anyone showing off any distortion without an extra preamp or pedal, so I’m guessing that’s just not something it really does?

For something completely different, my favorite in this category is a used Line 6 POD X3 kidney. It has a second input. Headphones. DI. USB DAI. Amp/Cab Sim. Effects. Tactile knobs for tone and drive control. A number of direct access buttons to get to common effects.

The only trick is that the second input isn’t stereo and needs a special soldered cable to go from a music player to just a mono input unless you are OK with L channel or R channel only for backing.


Correct. I use a preamp with a distortion channel in front of it. The Element does have a power amp section where you can push the gain/drive.

They would make all the other Darkglass pedals obsolete if they had added all distortion effects in the Element. Maybe they will add one in the future but i dont think that will happen anytime soon :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

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I used the Zoom for quite some time, I think the Sansamp patch they have in there is quite decent, the delay and chorus and all that stuff also works quite well.

For distortion, I had a Digitech Bass Driver that I got very cheap on Reverb. If it comes to distortion, I think that is pretty much the cheapest pedal you can get and quite underrated, IMO.

I am not sure where you are in your bass journey. If you are pretty much in the beginning, I’d suggest you stick with what you have. The Zoom is a very decent predal. Though I also think it might lack a bit in higher distortion settings, I also think it is better to stick to a more clean bass sound while learning, just a tad bit grit maybe added with the “Bass Drv”-effect (there is a premade patch called Sans Clean that you can add with Tonelib Zoom, check that one out. I like it a lot).

Though testing out pedals is its own kind off fun, I think it is best to go down that road later on, when you at least can play a few songs.


Has anyone here tried the new Boss IR-200? It looks like it could be useable for both guitar and bass which would be of interest to me