Electro Harmonix Battalion Bass Preamp And DI
By Phil O'Keefe |
Electro Harmonix Battalion Bass Preamp & DI
Tired of fighting with your bass tone? Maybe it's time to call in some reinforcements
by Phil O'Keefe
In the battle for bad-ass bass tones, there are certain basic weapons that every bass player should have in their arsenal. There's more than one way to go about getting those tools together, but if you want to keep your load-out light, going with a single pedal that packs as much punch as possible is often the best plan of attack. That's the basic idea behind the latest bass-oriented pedal from Electro Harmonix. Let's put it up for inspection and see what kind of firepower this Battalion is packing.
- The Electro Harmonix Battalion is a bass preamp and DI pedal that packs the features you'd typically need three or four pedals to get into a single compact enclosure that measures 6" W x 2 3/8" H x 4 5/8" D.
- Painted white with a top label that has a largely black background with blue, green and red accents, it has more of a high-tech look than the military one that the name might initially lead you to expect. All of the control labels are in white and are easy to see.
- Power is supplied in the form of an included 9.6V 200mA DC adapter. The 5.5mm x 2.1mm center-negative power jack is located at the top of the pedal. The Battalion draws 100mA, and you can use your garden variety Boss or Ibanez 9V DC power supply if you lose your EHX unit.
- Battery powering is not an option, and there are no user-adjustable trim pots or switches inside the pedal either.
- The Battalion has a wealth of connectivity, with all the goodies you'd find on a typical direct box, including a 1/4" input with a 2.2 MOhm input impedance and a Dry Output jack (both located on the right side of the pedal) that functions like the Thru jack of a DI pedal.
- On the opposite side of the pedal you'll find the regular 1/4" output jack (220 Ohm output impedance), which can also be used to feed headphones for quiet practice, and although the level's pretty low overall, the signal feeds both sides of the headphones.
- There's also an XLR DI Out, with pin 1 GND Lift and Bypass buttons right next to it, along with a dedicated Vol(ume) control, which is a nice addition that makes it easy to get just the right level to the PA, mixing console, or your DAW interface when recording.
- The XLR Bypass switch is a really useful feature. When it's out, the pedal's XLR output acts like a direct box that was placed before the pedal, sending an unprocessed signal out, regardless of the pedal's bypass / active state. If you depress the Bypass switch, the XLR output follows the pedal's bypass state and sends out an unprocessed signal when it is bypassed, and the processed signal when the pedal's active. This gives you a choice of routing a clean signal to the board at all times (useful in some live situations and for reamplification purposes in the studio) or one that has been processed by the pedal when it's active.
- Of course, the Battalion isn't just a direct box, but a full-featured bass preamp too, so let's look at the top panel controls.
- A -10dB Pad switch lowers the pedal's input sensitivity when depressed, which can be useful when using a bass with a hot active preamp or active pickups.
- The Battalion comes equipped with a four knob EQ section that is specifically tailored for bass and is a very powerful tone-shaper. All four EQ controls have center detents, and either boost or cut the signal (respectively) when turned above or below this point, and have no effect when set to the center detented "noon" position.
- The Bass knob acts like a shelving EQ and boosts or cuts frequencies from 200Hz and below.
- The Lo Mid control has a peaking type filter centered at 280 Hz.
- The Hi Mid control is also peaking, and is centered at 750 Hz, which is perfect for bringing out note articulation.
- The Treble EQ is a shelving filter, and boosts or cuts all frequencies from 2 kHz and up.
- A Volume control sets the pedal's overall output volume level.
- A Bypass footswitch on the lower right lets you turn the Battalion on or off, with a Green LED right next to it that kicks on when the pedal is active, and shuts off when it's bypassed. The Battalion has a buffered bypass.
- It's very easy to dial up a wide range of bass tones using just the EQ section, but the preamp isn't all the Battalion comes equipped with. Besides Distortion, two other effects are also included - a compressor and a noise gate.
- The single knob compressor has a pushbutton on/off switch to activate it and a blue LED that lights up to let you know when it's on, and while you can't control the attack time or any of the various other controls you might find on a multi-knob compressor, this has the advantage of being easier to use and yet it is still very cool-sounding and effective; adding more punch and sustain to your sound the higher you turn it up. You also get a bit more hiss at higher settings, but this is typical of nearly all compressors.
- The second built-in effect is a Noise Gate. Like the Compressor, this is a single-knob affair, but instead of a full-sized knob like the Compressor uses, a single small knob sets the Gate's threshold. The detector is located right at the Battalion's input, with the gate itself located after the other processors so it can silence any noise that they might add to your sound when you're not playing.
- But we're not done yet! When you really want to light 'em up, you can kick in the built-in four-knob Distortion section using the second (left-side) footswitch. When engaged, a red LED lights up to let you know it's active.
- The Distortion controls have white knobs with red markers, which visually sets the Distortion controls apart from the pedal's other knobs, which are black with white indicators.
- A Drive knob allows you to set the amount of distortion, and it has a range that goes from practically inaudible to nearly fuzz-like amounts of grit.
- You can shape the character of the distortion somewhat with the Tone control, which attenuates the highs from the Distortion as you turn it down, giving the dirt a smoother sound.
- Since Distortion can sometimes overwhelm your bass tone or draw attention away from the bottom end a bit too much, EHX has also thoughtfully included a Blend knob that lets you bring in some of the undistorted signal so you can dial up just the right balance. When turned up all the way, you'll hear all distortion, and down all the way blends the distortion out.
- A Level knob sets the overall output of the Distortion section.
- Not only do you get a fully featured distortion, but also the ability to set where it appears in the pedal's overall signal path via a three-position Distortion Pre/Post/Dry toggle switch.
- The Pre setting puts the Distortion after the Compressor and before (pre) EQ, allowing the EQ to shape the post-distorted sound. The Dry signal that gets blended in is sourced as the signal feeding the Distortion section.
- Post puts the Distortion after the Compressor and the EQ, allowing you to use the EQ to sculpt the signal going into the distortion circuit. The effect of the EQ is somewhat less noticeable on the tone of the Distortion in this mode. The Blend is sourced post-EQ in this mode.
- Dry puts the Distortion immediately after the Compressor in the signal chain, with the EQ only being applied to the Dry signal that is brought in with the Blend knob. This means that the EQ has no influence on the Distortion sound, either before (pre) or after (post) it, only on the undistorted signal brought in with the Blend control. .
- There's enough controls here to get yourself into trouble; by that I mean it's possible to set things up in such a way that you're going to get some hiss or noise. That's not the pedal's fault, just a caution to the user; with this much firepower aboard, care and common sense should be used when you dial things in.
- Because the Battalion can make some noise with more extreme setting combinations the noise gate is a nice feature to have, but unfortunately it is pretty hard to set, and it's somewhat abrupt and at times a bit "clicky" when the threshold is exceeded and the Gate shuts off. In fact, I generally just left it off most of the time. It's very effective at getting rid of noise and hiss when you're not playing, but it does limit what you can do in terms of playing dynamics since setting it high enough to cut off the noise will often prevent the gate from opening up when you play softly.
The Battalion is a preamp that just might become your secret weapon in the fight for a great bass sound. The Compressor is super-easy to use but quite effective at increasing punch and sustain, and the EQ lets you easily dial up whatever tone you're after. The only real disappointment is the gate, which is a little too temperamental for my tastes. The MOSFET distortion section is quite powerful and it's easy to get a variety of effects, from subtle growling overdrive when you dig in hard, to flat out distortion that borders on fuzz that will be present on even the softest-played passages. Kudos to EHX for including a bend control, which lets you use some of your dry signal along with the dirt to get just the right balance, as well as the Pre/Post/Dry switch, which gives the Distortion section even more flexibility.
The DI functions were really well thought out, and it's great that you can send just a dry signal to the board at all times while using the pedal, or you can send a signal to the board that mimics whatever the pedal is doing, whether it's bypassed or active - this is great if you're using the Battalion as the foundation of your sound and want the FOH people to use that instead of a dry, unprocessed sound. Of course, if you're recording you can track both the dry (XLR) and processed (1/4" output) signals, giving you the ability to reamp and process the recorded dry signal later, as well as use the processed sound from the pedal. This makes the Battalion just at home in the studio as it is on stage, and a very versatile addition to any bassist's arsenal. -HC-
Have questions or comments about this review? Then be sure to click over to this thread on the Harmony Central Bass Forum and join in the discussion!
Electro Harmonix Battalion Bass Preamp + DI ($197.00 MSRP, $147.00 "street")
Electro Harmonix product web page
You can purchase the Electro Harmonix Battalion Bass Preamp + DI 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.