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NPD: Dunlop MXR M81 Bass Preamp


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#1 discreet

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 02:38 PM

NPD: Dunlop MXR M81 Bass Preamp

http://www.jimdunlop...uct/bass-preamp

Blurb:

'The MXR Bass Preamp combines a pristine bass preamp with a studio-quality Direct Out in a Phase 90-sized box, providing clear tone without hogging precious pedalboard space. Use it to add a new voice to an old passive bass, sweeten up any amp, or put some special sauce on a particular song. Dial it in just the way you want it and send it straight to the house — pre or post-EQ — with the built-in Direct Out.

'The MXR Bass Preamp features separate INPUT and OUTPUT level controls and a 3-band EQ section with sweepable midrange — from 250hz to 1khz — for extensive tonal flexibility. It's all delivered super-clean with high headroom thanks to our own Constant Headroom Technology™, and you can use the PRE/POST EQ switch to set whether or not your Direct Out signal is affected by the Bass Preamp's EQ section. And the Bass Preamp features a GROUND LIFT switch in case you encounter ground loop hum.

'The MXR Bass Preamp is pre-set to operate in 1/4" Out buffered bypass and Direct Out active. For players who only want to use the 1/4" Out, there are two internal switches that disable the Direct Out and 1/4" Out buffered bypass for true 1/4" Out bypass mode.'
Posted Image
Now read on:

I have bought, used and sold many onboard and outboard bass preamps of various flavours over the years - VT Bass, Behringer BDI-21, Markbass Super Booster, Zoom B3, B1on, B1Xon and MS-60B, MXR M80, DHA VT1, Tone Hammer, Audere JZ3, East P-Retro, EMG BTS, Spector TonePump, TonePump Jr, most of the various types of Guitar and bass Sansamps... and so on and so forth.

I suppose the nearest thing to the M81 I've used would be the MXR M80. I liked the M80 a lot for its big clean-channel tones, but not so much for it's distortion facilities, so reluctantly I moved it on.

However, the difference between the M81 and much of the competition at this price point is the 3-band EQ with sweepable mid control. I've no idea what the 'Q' is set to, but it can't be too wide as blithely cutting or boosting the mids does not overly interfere with your bass or treble settings. This is a good thing.

The input and output controls can provide lots of clean boost and together they are very user-friendly. Unity gain on a board would be a doddle. There is nothing that is not useful and there are no superfluous bells or whistles. The build quality is as you would expect from Dunlop/MXR and the action of the controls feels very positive.

The M81 is also fairly unique in that it provides no crunch, grind, grit, hair, fuzz, growl or distortion of any kind and doesn't radically change your tone in an obvious way - it's very transparent in use and very clean and quiet in operation - yet it imparts a vivid, crystal-clear warmth.

So if you're already happy with the core tone of your bass (as I am - Fender Road Worn P with La Bella flats) then the M81 will keep it intact but also render it sonically epic, somehow. Plus you can add more punch in the mids, iron out any frequency lumps and bumps that a crap-sounding room may introduce, bring forth a full, tightly-controlled bottom (fnarr) and dial in an airy (but not strident) top end. Which is nice.

I have a Markbass SA450 - itself an amp that sounds great just as it is - but the M81 really brings it to life, turning an already very capable and articulate amp into a muscular Balrog of Warm Clean Heft. I suspect this would be a perfect preamp to drive a power amp. It would also be interesting to try it on the front of an all-valve power amp for that big-bounce slam.

In short it's a powerful, flexible and very useful little box with a cracking circuit in it that gives your sound great clarity and warmth, apparently without artifice, which is a neat trick. How much of this is down to MXR's proprietary Constant Headroom Technology™ is something of a mystery, as even via the gift of Google I've so far been unable to find out exactly what it is. Marketing, probably.

No matter, the M81 is a great-sounding pre/DI and it's easy to imagine it being used as an always-on device both live and in the studio. It's also something of a bargain... at least compared with some of its peers. Buy used for around the £100-mark - if you can find one. Recommended.

Edited by discreet, 03 January 2017 - 11:23 PM.


#2 gary mac

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 04:39 PM

Thanks for your usual high standard of review, sounds like a great piece of kit.

I have the M80 and think it is superb, I know exactly what you mean about the distortion channel but by chance I found it to be very useful if used with the controls set very low. Instead of sounding distorted, it then just adds a pleasing, slightly overdriven/valvey sort of effect, well it does to my ears :lol:

#3 GreeneKing

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 06:29 PM

Thank you. I've been looking for a DI that also functions as a practice tool with aux in and headphone amp. I foolishly sold my 3 Leaf Enabler before a circumstances change :(

I"ve this on order...

http://www.palmer-ge...-PEPAMPBASS.htm

It does more for less money (£125 from Thomann). That doesn't make it better of course as it depends on how well it functions as a DI and EQ.
If you change the way you look at things:

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#4 skidder652003

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 12:25 PM

a Balrog of Warm Clean Heft

possibly best description of the year!

#5 ahpook

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 01:09 PM

It's a very impressive little box, no mistaking - feed it into a power amp and you're a very impressive-sounding solid-state head.

#6 paulo m

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 02:55 PM

EBS Microbass II
is streets ahead of the designs ' talked about here
& has a multitute of applications..
Superior Built Quality' & Sound Quality.

#7 GreeneKing

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 06:48 PM

View Postpaulo m, on 02 January 2017 - 02:55 PM, said:

EBS Microbass II
is streets ahead of the designs ' talked about here
& has a multitute of applications..
Superior Built Quality' & Sound Quality.

I've owned 2 EBS Microbass II over the years and they are twice the price. I'll comment when I have used the Palmer :)

Edited by GreeneKing, 02 January 2017 - 06:58 PM.

If you change the way you look at things:

The way things look changes.

#8 Mykesbass

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 08:10 PM

View Postdiscreet, on 01 January 2017 - 02:38 PM, said:


So if you're already happy with the core tone of your bass (as I am - Fender Road Worn P with La Bella flats) then the M81 will preserve and subtly enhance it. Plus you can add more punch in the mids, iron out any frequency lumps and bumps that a crap-sounding room may introduce, produce a full, tightly-controlled bottom (fnarr) and dial in an airy (but not brittle) top end, keeping 'your' tone intact, yet rendering it sonically epic.

View Postgary mac, on 01 January 2017 - 04:39 PM, said:

Thanks for your usual high standard of review, sounds like a great piece of kit.

I have the M80 and think it is superb, I know exactly what you mean about the distortion channel but by chance I found it to be very useful if used with the controls set very low. Instead of sounding distorted, it then just adds a pleasing, slightly overdriven/valvey sort of effect, well it does to my ears :lol:

Another happy M80 user - I completely get where you are at with the above description on the clean sound discreet, but also, like Gary Mac, on a handful of songs I just use a tiny amount of overdrive blended in, which I'm also happy with.

Nice to see you back, Happy New Year!
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#9 Painy

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 11:41 PM

Again good to see you back.
Another M80 user here that uses the distortion channel in the same kind of way - gain right down and blend at about 10 o'clock works for me. When I got it I was torn between these two pedals but went with the M80 as I thought it would let me save some space on my pedal board by replacing one of my other drives. Just as well it does work for me like this though because as an actual distortion it's an awful fizzy mess.

This review Just makes me want both!!!
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#10 discreet

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Posted 04 January 2017 - 07:05 PM

View PostMykesbass, on 02 January 2017 - 08:10 PM, said:

Nice to see you back, Happy New Year!

View PostPainy, on 02 January 2017 - 11:41 PM, said:

Again good to see you back.

Thanks folks, Happy New Year to you, too.

#11 Lozz196

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 10:30 PM

Yep, great to see you back on The Chat, Mark
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#12 discreet

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Posted 05 January 2017 - 10:51 PM

View PostLozz196, on 05 January 2017 - 10:30 PM, said:

Yep, great to see you back on The Chat, Mark

Thanks Lozz... didn't go anywhere really, just haven't been posting much. :)

#13 Defo

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 02:06 PM

My M81is always on, goodness knows there's enough eq options in my chain but it just seems to nail it
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