Review of Carl Martin Bass Drive Pedal -
Denmark's Carl Martin has a reputation at the top end of
boutique effects - not least for the much respected Bass Drive
pedal. We let Tim Slater into the Bassment to try one.
Modern trends in bass amplification have seen many bass players
switching to the new generation of lightweight yet very powerful
bass amplifiers. However, whilst there is a lot to be said in
favour of a 1,000 Watt bass amp that can virtually fit inside the
glove compartment of your car, some bassists have noticed that for
all their amazing ultra-efficiency, many of these modern bass amps
lack a certain tonal gravitas…something commonly known among bass
playing circles as 'balls!'
So, how does one put the bite back into one's bass sound? An
overdrive pedal might do the trick but it also might be a bit too
one-dimensional and fuzzy-sounding…you may want extra muscle and
punch but not necessarily pure distortion, preserving your core
tone's integrity is non-negotiable as far as most bassists are
The Carl Martin Bass Drive pedal could be the ideal solution.
The Bass Drive is a tube-driven stomp box style preamp designed to
goose up a hi-tech bass head or combo that might sound a bit too
clinical in certain situations where a bit more growl is
Professional build quality is something that Carl Martin pedals
are renowned for and the Bass Drive features a typically sturdy
shell, complete with a removable ventilation panel for the single
12AX7 preamp tube. Mains powered via an IEC cable, the Bass Drive
features a built-in 12v switchable power supply that can be
reconfigured to run between 115-240 volts; a very tour-friendly
feature that travelling professional musicians will doubtless
The user-friendly control layout includes a basic but
nonetheless versatile 3-band EQ, plus a pair of rotary controls
that adjust the volume level and gain. Carl Martin is keen to
stress the importance of these latter two control knobs in helping
to set the correct balance between your amplifier's dry signal and
the pre-amp pedal when it is connected directly into the amp's
front end via the main instrument input, especially allowing for
the big differences in gain between passive and active passive
With up to +40dB of gain under the hood the Bass Driver has
enough muscle to easily overwhelm your amp's input gain but with a
careful bit of adjustment before you get going it is very easy to
engineer a smooth transition from a super clean sound to a grittier
classic Rock bass tone.
Even at fairly low gain levels the Bass Drive instantly adds a
darker, hairier sounding growl to an otherwise pretty sterile bass
sound. It's probably not unfair to describe the Bass Drive's earthy
influence as something akin to introducing an exciting 'SVT' type
tingle without the inconvenience of burying your tone under a mass
of pure fuzz.
Starting out with the gain level set around half way and playing
using a pick, the Bass Drive armour plates the bass tone with an
aggressive punky edge that instantly captures the spirit of 1977!
The steroid-enhanced grunt is no less impressive because the picked
notes still retain a clarity and edge; the low frequencies sound
particularly tight and punchy despite the extra gain and our test
bass's naturally throaty bark remained clearly intact.
However, what happens when the irresistible urge to urge to do a
'Lemmy' kicks in and you really start to grind things up? Well,
apart from the dramatic increase in the crunch factor as the gain
increases the Bass Drive still sounds clear and articulate right
across the board. The treble frequencies sparkle whilst the
all-important low end still occupies its space in the mix with an
authoritative growl that actually enhances the low end by helping
it create a nice warm sounding space to sit in that doesn't clash
with the other instruments or cancel out the bass's natural
If you like the power and convenience of a modern bass rig but
agree that in some circumstances it can all sound a bit too precise
and clinical the Carl Martin Bass Drive drive pedal offers a simple
way of capturing convincing crunchy sounding 60s & 70s style
bass sounds:…think Geddy Lee, John Entwhistle, Jean Jaques Burnell,
Jack Bruce and you're in the zone!
Check out the full review inc. video of the Carl Martin
Bass Drive by Dan Veall featured in Issue 15 of
Guitar Interactive Magazine.