View Full Version : Fender TBP-1 Tube Bass Preamp

07-21-2005, 03:45 AM
I just picked up this device tonight and had a chance to use it in a live setting once, and then a substantial run-through by myself (i.e. not with the band) after the fact. Since this is all pretty fresh, I'll post a follow-up review within this thread once everything has set in a bit.

Fender TBP-1 Tube Bass Preamp

Manufacturer: Fender Musical Instruments Corp.

Preface: This preamp is designed around the same preamps used in such Fender classics as the Twin Reverb and Dual Showman. Now, initially you might think that since its based around two different guitar preamps that it will be a bit bass shy. Quite the contrary, only the passive tone stack, gain stage and tube integration is based on those amps, the frequency centers and Q's (bandwidth) are different and more suited to a bass application. Now, unlike a lot of tube preamps, this one actually makes use of its tube. Most notably, SWR and Hartke amps have a tendency to simply throw a tube into one of the gain stages, but leave the EQ as a solid state section. Not true with this amp, all stages are ran through the tubes. There is a tube in the clean section that buffers your initial signal, than again during the EQ stage, then one more time during the output gain stage (that's some serious useage of a single 12AX7). The second tube is dedicated for the overdrive function of the amp.

Features: 4.5/5
This thing is a veritable cornucopia of features. The front panel features a -6db pad switch for active instruments, volume control for the clean portion of the preamp, a simple (thank you very much) 3-band EQ, with pull out knobs for a deep boost (around 40hz to my ears) and a bright boost (around 6khz to my ears), an overdrive gain control, an overdrive volume control (thankfully the two are separate, a real god-send), an overdrive on/off switch, a blend control (blends the clean and dirty signals), a Vari-Q section with on/off, frequency and smart level controls (as the level is increased the Q becomes wider for a more musically pleasing boost and as the level is decreased the Q becomes more narrow for a more accurate notching effect), a room balance control which is essentially a global EQ shift (as you move towards "deep" lows are boosted and highs are cut, as you move towards "bright" lows are cut and highs are boosted, this allows for your core tone to stay unchanged when dealing with poor room acoustics), a master volume and a mute switch.

The rear panel features a balanced line output with ground lift, pre/post switch and independent level control (only affects line out), a Jensen line out transformer, a dedicated tuner out (not affected by the mute switch), an effects loop with adjustable level control, a full range main output, a bi-amp output (independent outputs for the high frequency cab and low frequency cab with an active adjustable crossover right on the back panel, this literally destroys Gallien-Kruegers method of a biamp, really a blessing IMO), additional input on the rear panel (will be overridden by front panel input if both are used simultaneously)

I would have given this thing a 5/5 if it had a compressor similar to the ones on BBE's Bmax preamps, but I honestly don't know where they'd fit the darn thing. The amount of times the signal passes through the tubes creates some natural tube compression, so its almost not needed.

Sound (preamp): 1 or a 5/5
Big, fat, round, thick, very harmonic, very cool. This thing is creamy, buttery, warm, quite nice. Its also suprisingly articulate for something this warm. Now, if you like your tone to have REALLY glassy, hyped treble, this preamp is not for you. Even with extreme treble boosts, the bright switch engaged and a 15db boost at 2khz on the Vari-Q I could not get this thing to sound nasal, even when solo'ing the bridge pickup and playing with a pick on my 1983 Peavey Foundation (a notoriously bright bass).

So, if you like thick meaty tone this is for you and I give it a 5 for that, if you like glassy top end with a lot of bite, you might want to look elsewhere, and I give it a 1 for that. Depending on your perspective of tone you can be the judge as to a 1 or a 5.

Sound (overdrive): 1 or a 3.5/5
The overdrive on this unit simply does not do what the manual says unfortunately. It claims you can go from subtle overdrive (i.e. just a little bit of edge) to full-on distortion. Not true. Even at its most maximum setting and all the EQ controls boosted on the treble end of things, I could not get this thing to sound like anything more than subtle overdrive. Now, if you want full-on distortion I give this thing a 1. If you want subtle overdrive I give it a 3.5. Not the best overdrive I've ever heard, but its definitely not bad.

Reliability: ?/5
Only time will tell. Based on the fact that there are VERY few plastic components on this thing I doubt that reliability will be a problem.

Overall: 4.5/5
Thus far I'm very happy with this preamp. It really sits well in a live band setting. I'll be recording with it next week and will have more opportunities between then and now to play more with it live. I'm letting a friend use it for his punk band tomorrow and I'll get his opinion as well to include in my follow-up.


07-21-2005, 04:26 PM
How the hell do you make me want to buy everything?

07-21-2005, 08:37 PM
umm... i may be n00b-ish, but what exactly is a tube preamp? i assume it's just to change around volumes and tones and whatnot?

oh and what is so special about a tube?

07-22-2005, 02:30 AM
A tube preamp is a preamp that uses tubes (or a tube in some cases) as its primary source of tone shaping and gain stages.

07-24-2005, 03:34 AM
great review. have fun with it.

07-31-2005, 09:13 AM
by the sounds of that review it seems very worth it...you should also be a salesman becuase i really want it now.