A sophisticated, portable unit that's built for beginners and pros create their ideal tones
When it comes to creating powerful bass amps and cabinets with superb responsiveness and clarity, Bergantino Audio Systems is at the forefront. For the past 22 years, owner Jim Bergantino and his team have continually worked at engineering the next innovation. The latest of these is the Super Pre, which condenses the Bergantino sound into a portable unit for both gigging bassists and studio players. A compact box that can fit in a gig-bag pocket and just as easily onto a pedalboard, the Super Pre was designed to give your tone a boost with a precise EQ; customizable distortion, fuzz, and overdrives; a world of compression options; and 21 scenes to save the sounds you create and access them with the tap of a switch.
Bergantino wisely based the Super Pre on its popular B|Amp design, and included the Bergantino Speaker-File EQ System, pre and post studio-quality DIs, a DSP embedded system-controlled preamp, and a software-selectable input impedance. The result is a highly advanced unit with simple controls that even a novice pedal user can dive right into.
Out of the Box
Upon unboxing the Super Pre, you can immediately tell that it’s a durable unit, with its solid matte-black casing made of a combination of industrial-strength injection molding and steel, along with its high-quality, easy-to-adjust switches and knobs. The controls include Master (volume), Gain, Memory 1, Memory 2, Memory 3, Bright, Program, and Mute, while the footswitches cover Memory 1–3 and a Mute, but also serve to toggle the bank. Once plugged in, the bright OLED display is easy to read at any distance, which is key for using it onstage. For longtime users of Jim’s products, the interface mirrors the B|Amp almost identically, which gives it a familiar feel that’s easy to command.
Rather than consulting the manual, I decided to dig right in to see how intuitive the Super Pre is to use without instruction — and fortunately, this proved possible. The four controls below the display adjust the 4-band EQ settings for Bass, Low Mid, High Mid, and Treble, so the first thing I did was play around with those to hear what they did with my bass. As with anything Bergantino, the true sound of my Fender Mod Shop P-Bass came through with extreme clarity, and even the lightest adjustment of the tone knobs had an obvious impact on my sound. I bumped up the Gain knob, and my passive bass was the recipient of extra grit and body, which made me want to dig into the distortion, fuzz, and overdrive components.
Pressing the Prog button pulls up the menus for Banking, Filters, VCR compressor, Effects, Blend, Xover, and DLPF. In the Effects screen you can scroll through options for Overdrive, Fuzz, and Distortion, and then adjust their drive and volume levels. Once you find the sound of your choosing, you can save it to one of seven banks of three independent memory scenes by selecting a bank, holding the Prog button, and then tapping which of the memory footswitches you want to assign it to. You can even toggle through to name each individual scene for easy recall. The Super Pre includes Bergantino’s BFT (Big Fat Tube) technology, which is featured in the Forté D amp. It provides all of the dirt and grit that excites harmonics and cuts through all frequencies, from high to low. After playing around with various distortion sounds, I landed on a sweet spot with the Fuzz effect activated, the Drive set to 7, and the Volume set to 6. I adjusted the 4-band EQ to raise the mids and lows and lower the highs and then saved it as a scene in the bank.
The sheer amount of options within the effect banks seems endless, with each setting entirely customizable and easy to access. It’s hard to narrow down your favorites when you keep landing on different sounds, but that’s a definite plus of the Super Pre. The Tone Control Q menu is another function that allows you to manipulate every aspect of your sound and save those settings to your scenes. Offering Wide, Medium, Narrow, or Notch controls allows you to keep your tone consistent and never miss out on any part of your tone. By adjusting and saving your Q and Center Frequency preferences, you can eliminate any dead spots that your bass might have. This is especially useful if you’re switching basses throughout your sets, even if you’re swapping out your electric for an upright bass.
The compression options are equally impressive on the Super Pre, which offers both parallel and VCR (variable ratio compression) options. The parallel option actually thickens your notes by running half of the signal through Compression and the other half through Clean. In adjusting Comp and Gain levels in the menu, you can hear every minute change, as you move from highly compressed muted tones, to scooped-mid funk, which is perfect for slapping. And thanks to the high-quality Pre and Post DIs, the compression function is ideal for studio use, where compression is of utmost importance. Like the Bergantino B|Amp, the Bright function is frequency- and gain-adjustable, as well as scene-savable — so in engaging the Bright feature with +6dB of gain @ 6.5kHz, you’ll notice an additional presence in your tone while using a pick, slapping, or playing in higher registers on your neck.
(Tony Grey demonstrating the Super Pre)
As a whole, the Bergantino Super Pre succeeds in taking all of the amplification and effect elements that players want and putting them in a compact package you can take anywhere (2 lbs). While these high-functioning DI systems always have the potential to seem overwhelming or complicated, the Super Pre was designed to function intuitively, with a simple interface that’s easy to navigate and master. With additional details like an onboard chromatic tuner, programmable effect-send and return loops, a USB input for upgrades and scene shares, and inputs for headphones and an auxiliary cable for personal practice, it appears that Jim Bergantino and his crew have thought of everything.
There are many options for DI and multi-effect units on the market, making it daunting to choose one — but if you’re going for top-of-the-line audiophile tone with infinite customization that anyone can use, then the Super Pre is the unit for you. –BM
Street price $699
For more, visit www.bergantino.com