Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal
By Phil O'Keefe |
Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive Pedal
Does this new bass overdrive from Ampeg live up to its legendary name?
by Phil O'Keefe
Ampeg recently introduced a DI, overdrive, and preamp pedal called the SCR-DI ($279.99 MSRP / $199.99 "street"), and now they've released two new smaller stomp boxes called the Scrambler Bass Overdrive and Classic Analog Bass Preamp. These basically take sections of the SCR-DI and break them out into separate pedals. To check out my review of the Classic Analog Bass Preamp, click here. This time around we'll look at the new Scrambler Bass Overdrive.
- Longtime Ampeg fans may be familiar with the Scrambler name - it was used for a guitar octave-distortion pedal model in the late 1960s, and those pedals go for big bucks on the vintage market today. Even the reissues from the mid-2000s are expensive.
- Expensive doesn't apply here. The Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive is an affordable bass overdrive that's not a reissue or reproduction of the earlier guitar-oriented Scrambler Distortion/Octave pedal, but an Overdrive with new circuitry designed specifically for bass. First used in the BA series amps, the circuit in the Scrambler Bass Overdrive is basically the same as the one in the V2 versions of those amps. The same overdrive is also built into the SCR-DI pedal.
- The Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal has a matte black, all-metal enclosure measuring 2.2" x 2.4" x 4.5" and weighing 0.6 lb.
- Input and output jacks are side mounted, and the input incorporates the expected battery switch - so unplug from the input when not in use to conserve battery life.
- Input impedance is 1 Mohm (83 kohm with the -15 dB pad engaged) while the output impedance is 120 ohm.
- The white lettering and flat black of the housing give the pedal a utilitarian look that's anything but flashy, but the high contrast, along with the white indicators on the four "chicken head" knobs means it's always easy to see how you have everything set, even in low light conditions.
- While the SCR-DI has two knobs (Drive and Blend) for its built-in Scrambler overdrive section, the Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal has four - let's look at what each one does.
- Drive sets the amount of overdrive and dirt, with a range from inaudible at its lowest settings to fairly heavy when dimed.
- The Treble control offers a range of +17 dB / -14 dB at 4 kHz. It can have a significant influence on the pedal's overdrive sound , giving it warmer tones when rolled off and rather nasty and snarling ones when boosted.
- Blend can mix in some of your dry, unprocessed signal along with the dirt. Turning the knob fully counterclockwise gives all dry signal, and fully clockwise, all overdrive. In between are all kinds of wonderful blend possibilities that yield unique combination tones.
- Volume sets the output volume level, with unity gain at noon. This control, like the others, is only active when the pedal is engaged.
- Removing four screws and the bottom plate reveals the battery compartment, with a foam surround that holds the battery in place. No battery or adapter is included, so you'll need to supply your own.
- Note the small user-adjustable jumper, indicated by the red arrow in the "gutshot" picture. Repositioning it provides an extra 15 dB of headroom to accommodate hot, active pickups.
- The Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive can also be powered by an optional DC adapter. It takes the standard 5.5 x 2.1 mm center-negative 9V DC plug, and draws approximately 20 mA. The power jack at the top of the pedal is clearly marked with the power requirements.
- The Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive uses true bypass switching, and has a purple LED on the top of the pedal that turns off when the pedal is bypassed.
- The Scrambler Bass Overdrive doesn't add quite as much sustain as some dirt pedals do, but I found that adding a compressor in front of it in the signal chain was helpful. This added considerably to the amount of sounds I could coax from it - either from the compressor's extra sustain, and/or by hitting the Scrambler's input with a hotter signal by boosting the compressor's output level control. This can drive the Scrambler harder for even gnarlier tones that bordered on fuzzish-sounding.
- If you're looking for a reproduction of the original Scrambler guitar pedal, this isn't it.
Ampeg now offers the two main sections of their SCR-DI pedal as individual pedals with their Classic Analog Bass Preamp and Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedals. For those who want both, the SCR-DI is still probably the one to beat since it has a few added features (like the XLR direct output) that are missing from the other two pedals, but if you already have a preamp and just need the overdrive, having it available separately is convenient.
Bass tone connoisseurs have long known that one of the keys to a great bass sound with excellent definition is a touch of grit and distortion. Don't believe me? Head over to YouTube sometime, and take a listen to some of the isolated bass parts from old Motown records. You might be surprised by how gritty many of them are when soloed. With its solid feature list and great gritty sound, the Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal is an excellent way to add some subtle dirt (or not so subtle overdrive) to your bass sound, whether live or in the studio.
Some guitarists will be sad to hear that this isn't a reissue of the late 60s classic, but many bass players will doubtless find this pedal to be far more useful and less overwhelming to their sound - not to mention, it's considerably more affordable. The Blend knob is particularly helpful, allowing you to retain some of your dry signal for a fuller sound than you'd typically get without it. When paired with the Classic Analog Bass Preamp you get almost the same set of features as you'd have with a SCR-DI, so unless you really need the XLR direct output or the headphone/practice features of the SCR-DI, it comes down to the format you prefer - one single, larger pedal or two smaller ones. Either way, I suspect Ampeg is going to make a lot of bass players very happy with their latest bass effects. -HC-
Have questions? Want to talk about this review or the Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive? Then head over to this thread in the HC Bass Forum and join the discussion!
Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal ($139.99 MSRP, $99.99 "street")
Ampeg's product web page
You can purchase the Ampeg Scrambler Bass Overdrive pedal from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.