Published On: Tue, Apr 29th, 2014

EBS Billy Sheehan Signature Drive Pedal Review

This all-in-one bass mayhem pedal combines overdrive, clean/dirty blend, EQ and compression plus an added FX loop. Review by Gareth Morgan

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Details:

Specs: Dedicated bass guitar distortion pedal. Made in China
RRP: £179
Contact: Sound Technology – 01462 480 000 -www.soundtech.co.uk

EBS launched their first stompbox into the bass ether in 1993 in the form of the Octabass, a three-mode octave divider pedal that has become one of the most popular of its type. Their roster of pedals has slowly increased, with one notable recent addition being the Signature Wah/Tone Filter bearing the name of the great Stanley Clarke. With the second offering in this fledgling series EBS have got together with Billy Sheehan (Dave Lee Roth, Mr Big, Niacin, etc) to produce a brand new Signature Drive distortion pedal.

The BSSD is an all-analogue effect. It’s housed in a metal box of slightly more girth than standard EBS pedals, measuring 53mm high (including protruding controls and switch), 96mm wide (including jack sockets) and 110mm deep. It works on the concept of balancing clean and effected signals while preserving low frequency levels and definition.

Finished in an appealing metallic purple, aside from Sheehan’s image and signature, its face bears four controls: Drive (which adjusts overdrive gain level), Tone (adjusts the frequency scoop; to the right is thinner and clearer, centre is even, and to the left is more bottom-end focused and woollier), Level (controls distorted signal volume) and Clean (ditto the clean signal).

There’s also an onboard compressor with three-position level switch (Off, Mid, High) and you can unscrew the backplate if you want to fiddle with two trim pots. One is for setting the Mid position level and the other is overall compressor threshold (sensitivity).

If you get deep into the BSSD, the Clean and Drive Loop enables you to insert another effect into clean or dirty signal paths and pre-load your tone with another effect, EQ, etc, producing a myriad of variations on the basic distorted tone.

Sounds
With Drive, Tone and Level at 12 o’clock and Clean near your ‘bypass’ level, the sound is pleasantly ruffed-up by a fizzing, chocolatey fuzz that’s even and well-defined and feels very much like a bass sound with more of an edge. Wind up Tone for varying degrees of crunching distortion and saturate your sound by hiking drive Level or just shadow your notes with varying degrees of vicious spitefulness. Heavy rock mayhem or Jack Bruce’s crunching ’60s growl are easy to find.

Winding Tone anti-clockwise produces a duller offering that’s a little woolly at the extremes but fat and spiteful with a rubbery quality and plenty of impact when you crank Drive, while at lower levels the emphasis is in the low mids, adding a sense of foreboding to the darker character. Nudging Tone to clockwise won’t simply give distorted bass-light – care in the setting of the Clean level will enable a seamless transition from right to left, so the distorted tone is brighter with more harmonic life, but the core of your sound remains. There’s a snappy, wiry quality to the distortion with a lighter, more metallic and less in-your-face feel.

At more intense Drive levels you’ll find a fruity, buzzsaw tone, and the contemporary heavy rock distortion here means you can have a ball hitting root/fifth shapes or widdling in the higher registers. By the way, we set Compression level at Mid for the review and didn’t even notice it was there… which was a great result.

Verdict
The Sheehan Signature Drive offers various levels and intensities of distortion in a user-friendly package. Blending clean and dirty creates varying textures, and if you tweak the trim pots or use pre-inserts into the loops, you’ll expand both functionality and versatility. If it’s a mere fuzz you crave £179 may seem steep, but for a high quality distortion pedal it’s a snip.


Screen shot 2014-04-29 at 10.14.31

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