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Phil Jones Bass Buddy

Phil Jones Bass has entered the hi-fi bass amplification market in a big way with innovative products aimed at the connoisseur bassist. Top-notch engineering, rugged yet sexy construction and practical features are the calling cards of its product line. The Bass Buddy ($349) is the smallest item in the Phil Jones catalog, but PJB proves that size isn’t everything when it comes to delivering great sound. The Bass Buddy is a preamp, equalizer, optical limiter, headphone practice amp, direct box and practice amp all in one 7 x 5 x 2-inch package.

It’s a cute little box, but you can tell right away this is no toy. The 1/4-inch-thick aluminum front panel and stainless-steel chassis give it a confidence-inspiring heft. There are many applications for this little toolkit, but most notably it’s an instrument preamp. The passive/active switch changes the input impedance to match up with a wide range of instruments, both electric and acoustic. In passive mode, the unit’s gain structure brought out the best from my active basses when bypassing their internal preamps. The active input is optimized to match up with the high output of modern instruments. The five-band graphic EQ is tuned to what PJB considers to be the most useful frequencies for bass. The relatively short-throw sliders allow for 18dB of boost or cut-that’s a lot of control in a small space. Caution is advised; it’s easy to over-boost, resulting in distortion-a little goes a long way. The 50Hz slider provides nice full bottom or can cut the sub frequencies that wreak havoc in some rooms, while 160Hz adds punch. 630 Hz worked great for dialing in the trademark Jaco Pastorius tone on a fretless bass, while the 2.5KHz can add the presence a vintage ax needs to cut through the mix, or used as a cut to make it more slap-friendly. The 12KHz slider gives that sizzle modern electric bassists crave for slap-funk-and that’s where the Bass Buddy really shines. My hot-rodded Jazz bass pumped out pristine highs and velvety lows when I adjusted the Buddy for the classic “smiley-face” EQ curve. Not just suited to modern funk, it was able to handle my collection of basses ranging from high-end active four-, five- and six-strings to vintage passive basses with old, dead flat-wound strings-always delivering great tone with a minimum of tweaking.

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