Maxon BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver
By Phil O'Keefe |
Designed for bass, this pedal can rock your guitar too
Sometimes it seems like guitarists get a lot more love from pedal manufacturers than bass players do. While it's true that many guitar-centric pedals can also work very well on bass, there are relatively few pedals that are designed specifically for bass players, and that take the unique needs of bassists into account in their design. Up for review this time is a new pedal that was developed by Maxon in collaboration with famed Japanese bassist Masaki called the BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver that does exactly that.
What You Need To Know
- The BD10 is Maxon's first overdrive pedal designed specifically for bass. The word "Hybrid" in the name refers to the joint development effort between Maxon and Masaki, and isn't a reference to any kind of hybrid circuitry. The BD10 is manufactured in Japan.
- The BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver can run from an internal 9V DC battery, or from an optional 9V DC external power supply, and it uses the industry-standard 2.1mm center-negative type power jack, which is located at the top of the pedal. The battery compartment is accessed by removing two screws from the bottom of the pedal. Battery life is rated at 25 hours with the included manganese type battery, or 45 hours when alkaline batteries are used. Unplugging from the input jack when the pedal is not in use disconnects the battery and prolongs its life.
- Switching for the BD10 is buffered bypass, and a red LED illuminates when the pedal is active. The 1/4" input and output jacks are mounted on the sides of the pedal. Input impedance is 500k ohms, and output impedance is 10k ohms or less.
- The BD10 is part of Maxon's Compact Series, and measures approximately 2.75" W x 4.45" L x 2.20" H, including the knobs, jacks and switches.
- The BD10 uses a diode-based symmetrical clipping circuit that is based on Maxon's famous 808 overdrive. It provides loads of distortion and plenty of sustain when cranked up, with a noticeably bright and articulate edge to it that works very well, even when playing fast passages and using heavy amounts of dirt. The overall sound of the grit is somewhat fuzzy in nature, with an emphasis on the high frequencies.
- Two EQ knobs (Low and High) allow you to control the overall tone of the overdrive and dirt. Both are highly effective and between the two you can go from very dark and warm to quite bright and present tonalities. The Low knob affects the sound of the bass frequencies from about 20Hz to 200Hz, while the High controls the midrange and treble frequencies from about 200Hz on up to 20kHz - that's a very broad range, and I did occasionally wish for a dedicated midrange control while dialing in the overdrive's tone.
- The Drive knob sets the amount of overdrive and distortion, from moderately light to very heavy. The character of the dirt is somewhat fuzz-like in nature. It's not as buzzy as some fuzz pedals, but definitely leans towards a brighter rasp in terms of its sound.
- There are two Level controls, labeled Clean Level and Drive Level. These allow you to independently set the amount of clean, un-effected signal and the level of the overdriven signal. This is a terrific feature that I wish more bass overdrives offered. The Clean Level can boost the signal by up to 6dB on its own, while the Drive Level is capable of boosting the distortion level upwards of 14dB above unity gain.
- The BD10 Hybrid Bassdriver is a fairly quiet pedal, especially considering how much overdrive it is capable of generating.
- The basic tone of the BD10 is a very appealing one - especially for hard rock and metal, but whether the bright and somewhat fuzzy nature of the overdrive will appeal to large numbers of bass players in other genres remains to be seen. Still, it's probably best for any bass overdrive to emphasize the sizzle in the top instead of trying to dirty up the lows too much, which tends to lead to loss of definition and weakening of the all-important fundamental.
- The EQ controls work only on the overdrive, and they have no effect on your Clean tones as set by the Clean Level knob. Turn down the Drive Level all the way, and no matter how you adjust the EQ, it will not change the sound. This may actually be considered a benefit since it means the Clean sound is unchanged by the pedal except in level, but it also means you can not use the pedal to adjust the EQ of entirely-clean sounds.
The key to this pedal, and in many ways its greatest strength lies in the twin Level controls; they allow you to control the overall ratio of your un-effected clean tone and the overdriven signal. This is a feature that all bass overdrives should have and that greatly benefits bass since it allows you to bring some of the raw bass tone back into the mix, which helps keep the bottom end intact - something that frequently suffers when a bass is run through a garden-variety overdrive that was designed for use with guitar. Other than the very heavily-overdriven (some might say "fuzzily distorted") sounds that the BD10 specializes in, my favorite sounds from this pedal came from blending in just a touch of overdrive to give a bit of edge to an otherwise fairly clean sound, but in order to do this, I had to set the Drive knob at half or lower, leave the Clean Level up fairly high and set the Drive Level between about 9 and 11 o'clock. Rolling off the Treble and boosting the Bass EQ knobs can help a bit too, but if you go too much further than that with the Drive, the heavy nature of the fuzzy overdrive begins to predominate. Again, this is a great sound that can work really well with heavier styles of music, but if you're looking for more mild to moderate overdriven tones, there may be a bit less variety on tap than you might be hoping for. But check out the demo videos below to get a better idea of what the pedal actually sounds like. Its tonal character could very well be right up your alley. In the turn-about is fair play department, don't be surprised to see this pedal showing up on some guitarist's pedalboards - while it was designed specifically for bass, and despite the name, it can work very well on guitar too.
BD10 Hybrid Bass Driver product web page
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.