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Al Krow

Compact headphone amp with aux in and DI / EQ

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Guys - I'm looking for a versatile little preamp / EQ with DI but which can double up as a headphone amp with aux in.

In terms of compactness, quality and price am I going to find anything better than the Palmer pocket bass amp?

Happy to pay a bit more if there's something that is either better quality or more compact. Can I pick your brains please as to what else is out there I should be thinking of? (And please feel free to go into detail / provide a mini review of your recommendations in case my Q is of wider interest).

Cheers

AK

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I really love my 3Leaf Audio Enabler, does everything you need and sounds great, although they're discontinued now.

The new DHA VT1-Pro does all you need too, with optional added tube distortion, but it's not exactly compact.

Si

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If you can find one The 3 leaf Enabler is one of the best bits of kit ive ever owned! kicking myself for selling it. maybe not terrible helpful, but a wanted ad may work ;)

great organic tone, fantastic quality headphone amp. I used it on tour as my DI through a monitor as we couldn' use bback lineand the sound man was very impressed with the tone :)

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PJB Bighead does it for me and a lot of others around here. Battery powered and rechargeable via USB, simple 2-band preamp. Sounds pristine with zero noticeable noise. Also doubles as a USB audio interface so you can play music through the USB connection and also record from it.

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Cheers guys. Yup the DHA is going to be bigger than I'm looking for - the Palmer is just 10cm x 10cm. And as you say the 3Leaf AE is discontinued.

The Palmer is fully analogue with no latency and has a 3 band EQ with semi-parametric mids. Add to that a clean blend on dirt with clean, overdrive and fuzz settings and 3 cab sims (flat, modern, vintage), and all for £143 new. Hmmm...it is looking rather tasty. But I'm keen to hear what else is going to whop this little boxes derriere! 

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Some great suggestions, thanks guys. 

PJB Bighead - it's smaller (90% footprint and even smaller volume ratio) but no DI and very basic functionality. Guessing it will be amazing quality. Found one online for £175

EBS Microbass II - similar functionality (actually a bit less) than the Palmer. +65% footprint; circa £250

GK Plex - similar functionality (but also a bit less) than the Palmer. +94% footprint; circa £290

So on price £143, functionality (it does a LOT) and compactness (10cm x 10cm), the Palmer is still coming out (a fair bit) ahead of its rivals. Kinda interesting! I guess maybe not surprising given that this is 2016 tech whereas e.g. 3Leaf was 2012 tech?

Edited by Al Krow

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Here you go...gives you a little flavour of what it's capable of. Not too shabby, right?! Especially at the price point it's coming in at :) 

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All I can tell you is that if I didn't have my Enabler tomorrow, I'd find another one to buy....over all the other stuff about at the mo. I love it's relative simplicity, excellent sounding EQ and doesn't try to cram everything in one box, which I usually leads to concessions (a top-mounted DI on the GK??? stupid IMO).

The Palmer looks good to be fair (although the Fuzz/OD is likely a waste of space for most people), but I'd want to hear it first.

Si

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Yeah! ! I'll deffo grab an Enabler if I can in the future!! it was so good for practice!  The fantastic EQ and Di were just the icing :) 

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Seems to have been a lot of these 'If You Could Have One...'  threads of late.  I don't generally engage too much because I think recommendation can only get you so far, as with YT demos, etc.  You have to physically try these things out to know if it works for you, with your bass / rig.  However, this one seems different.

At first, I thought this thread was reading a bit like looking for validation for the Palmer, as opposed to looking for alternatives.  There's a pretty specific list of criteria - including size - for which most other suggestions will probably not meet.  If the Palmer meets or exceeds one's wshes, the only way to know if it works is to bite the bullet, so to speak.  In any event, I thought I'd look around for something meeting the criteria outside of the Palmer - and found Harley Benton do the same functionality in a similar sized enclosure (2cm wider, 0.7cm deeper) for about 85 quid...

https://www.thomann.de/gb/harley_benton_custom_line_bass_di_expander.htm

Also, has a compressor instead of the noisy o/d circuit on the Palmer.  Sounds a lot like the old 3Leaf mentioned previously - the way that Harley Benton tend to operate.

As an aside - the Palmer brand is part of the Adam Hall group of companies, I found out the other day.  Same for Gravity Stands.  I had wondered how they'd grabbed a lot of metaphorical shelf space quite so quickly.

I've only used one Palmer product before, which was their bass O/D pedal.  It performed okay, and seemed fairly robust.  I note that Thomann knock out quite a lot of the Palmer range.  I think the general quality of HB gear has been discussed on these pages previously.

All the best with your questing!

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Cross the EBS Microbass off your list as it has a headphone out but no aux in. Bit of a dealbreaker and as a result is no better than the 2 Notes Le Bass you already own @Al Krow

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The send on the loop can be used as an aux in!! I used to plug my MP 3 player into it and use my Bergantino IP and AE112 to play music through :)

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@Tonteee Very good shout on the Harley Benton, thanks - it does look like a good 'budget' alternative to the Palmer (with a compressor rather than an overdrive...but have to confess I'm getting increasing driven these days :) ) You mention that HB gear quality has been discussed previously, was the reaction broadly very positive?

@burno70 I think the lack of DI out on the PJB is a limitation. It would be great to take this box in a pocket to a rehearsal and just plug into the PA and not bother with loading and unloading an amp and cab. Oooh that is sounding good already! :) 

@Cuzzie no thanks to the Ampeg SCR DI (that's basically a straight swap for the Two Notes and with due respect to the Ampeg I know which one knocks the socks off the other - as should you! :) ) The rest of your recommendations (apart from the iRig which also won't have DI out and looks like an alternative to my-once-upon-a-time-I-thought-it-was-cute Vox amPlug) were a little too shorthand for a dotard like me to know which exact models you were referring to?

@CameronJ @lee650 noted, cheers guys, but the bigger footprint and £250 price tag are also factors for me here.

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@Al Krow so the game changes, and to my mind the goal posts change unless I am reading it correctly.

you say you want something to put in your pocket to go to rehearsals, but you also said you wanted it to live on your board as you talk about real estate etc.

how much function do you actually want?

is it purely to plug headphones in, EQ capabilities etc. I know you hate the Ampeg and it’s circuit, but you want a small box with a DI, it has it and an EQ.

If you did some extra research you would know that the Cafe Walter headphone practice amp is about one of the best on the market, it’s just a few extra words to type into google.....

if you really want a DI is as well and a stand alone box with capabilities them look at the Radial Bassbone OD.

you can also

plug Direct into a xenys502 mixer which also you can DI out and it has an Aux in.

you can just plug your bass straight into the PA mate and have nothing, nowt to carry.

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Yes.  You might not be very loud, but yes.

Anyway, HB gear has been discussed previously on other threads, but to summarise - made by third parties, often copying older successful designs a la Behringer.  The HB pedals I've had on my board have been broadly good quality for the money paid.  I've gigged their flanger on my board for about 3 years.

Palmer are not necessarily out of budget territory either, which I was trying to convey.

Edited by Tonteee
Shocking grammar.

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Hmmm...if you can't be properly heard without a decent DI that sounds more like a 'no' to me, so it would be good to have the DI option on a headphone amp then methinks.

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That wasn't a no - you would always be heard.  My vagueness of response was due to it entirely depending on the strength of output of the bass.  In addition, it depends on how well your mixer handles an unbalanced, Hi-Z signal.  How good the pre-amp is, too.  As discussed on another thread about going ampless, the EQ options on a mixing desk can be more powerful than anything on your bass head.

 

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DI gives you a line level signal for a PA to use.

You would need to figure out how much of a dB boost you will need to keep up with whatever else is through the PA.

So the decision is do you need a Headphone amp (which will have a small boost potentially, could be about 12db for example). This is unlikely to have a big boost as it’s just for powering headphones and having a method to play along with tracks

OR

Do you want a Pre-amp which you can use for headphone practice and DI out with plus or minus an aux in.

Once you have that set, then the options become more obvious and narrowed down

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