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I’m sizing up a small preamp pedal to run into a power amp and an Ampeg B410HLF cabinet. 
 

contenders so far are the Ampeg pre pedal, MXR M81, and the TC Spark Boost. Anyone got any experience of either of these units as a preamp?

Edited by paul_5

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I'd have a look at what Tech21/SansAmp and DarkGlass do, more expensive, but absolutely worth every penny.

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Have a look in the For Sale section. Pentode is selling several decent preamps (I don't know him, btw, so not trying to promote his items).

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Knowing my ocd I’d have to look at the Ampeg, figuring Ampeg tone into Ampeg cab had to be the right thing to do.

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I've got the MXR and I use it as an outboard bass preamp for basses I don't want to chop up. It's great for that.

 

It is VERY VERY clean indeed. No character of it's own at all.

I wouldn't use it the way you are looking for - would sound sterile to me. But that might be your thing?

 

I'd be looking at a Tech21 or Darkglass for that - or the Helix Stomp. Helix is fantastic for bass.

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On 14/01/2020 at 07:29, paul_5 said:

I’m sizing up a small preamp pedal to run into a power amp and an Ampeg B410HLF cabinet. 
 

contenders so far are the Ampeg pre pedal, MXR M81, and the TC Spark Boost. Anyone got any experience of either of these units as a preamp?

Ive got a Spark. its a great pedal but not what id call a pre amp.Good at driving a preamp though.

If you dont particularly want dirt or colouring the Tech 21 Q/Strip is a fantastic pre amp pedal. Very musical EQ and has the usual XLR, direct out etc. Also has a built in LPF and HPF.

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As @dave_bass5 says the TC Spark Booster (the big one, not the mini) probably isn't the best choice as a pre-amp, although it might well do what you want. But it does do a nice, smooth low gain drive though if that's your thing, especially with the mid boost on. 

Another contender in the same price range as the Ampeg and MXR is the Fender Downtown express. It's a pre-amp, drive, DI and usable compressor all in one box for well under £150. Having used the usual DarkGlass and Tech 21 suspects in the past I personally prefer the voicing of the Fender, it doesn't have that massively compressed sound of some of the Tech 21 stuff and it doesn't have the mid range canyon of some of the DG pedals. But it does have a very flexible 3 band EQ, unfortunately not semi parametric like the MXR, a drive section voiced to be more mid range focused so about as different to an Ampeg/BDDI or B3K as you're going to get (but that works perfectly for me) that does a decent low gain warmth through to balls out distortion. Then there's the (what sounds like an optical) compressor too, which smooths things out nicely. I like it a lot. Might be worth a look, perhaps? 

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How small is small? How much do you want to spend? Do you need a XLR DI out?  How much tone shaping control do you need?  The Fender pedal mentioned above is a lot of pedal for the money - Alex Aguilar designed, I believe - or there's the Xotic BB Preamp, Tonehammer DI, GK Plex,  Helix Stomp, Ampeg SCR-DI (although I'd refer this pedal without the Scrambler), amoongst many others.  I'd probably start with a Sansamp BDDI though!

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If the budget will stretch you won't regret the versatility or sound of the Line 6 Helix Stomp. Out of the ones you've suggested I'd pair the Ampeg pre with that cab. I did a comparison video on YT of the Ampeg and Fender Downtown that's being mentioned by others in this thread, maybe check that out if you're at all interested in either? T

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