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ADA MB-1

Here's the review I posted to Harmony Central about the ADA MB-1. (The MB-1 is confusingly listed under "Effects," because the fine folk at HC don't have a preamp section for Bass like they do for Guitars. We're being discriminated against.)

Price Paid: US $699 in 1992

Ease of Use: 6

The User Interface on the front of this unit is intuitive (every parameter has its own button) but changing a sound quickly, or dialing in a radically different new sound quickly is darn near impossible. If you're playing you have to press Edit, then the Parameter potentially more than once for some parameters (like Compressor ratio and Compressor gain), then either the up or down buttons. Then after that's done, press store and the program number to save the program.

I will cut ADA some slack, however, since motorized potentiometers weren't really cheaply available when the MB-1 was being made. The UI lends itself to the set-it-and-forget-it programmability for which someone buys a MIDI preamp.

The back panel, however, is a dream. Each effect loop has its own send and return gain controls. The DI has a pre-post effects switch, and a ground lift switch. The crossover has a dedicated frequency knob, as does the low frequency limiter. In short, every function has its own knob--wonderful.

Sound Quality: 10

The range of sounds that one can get with the MB-1 is simply mind-boggling. Two parallel (tube and solid state) gain stages that can be mixed with different levels of gain/distortion and a EQ like filter run into a programmable compressor and then into a five band EQ of which the middle three bands are parametric. AND IT'S ALL PROGRAMMABLE!!! BWAAHAHAHA!!! But flexibility is nothing if the unit doesn't sound good. The tube preamp sound great and warm, and when over-driven, will turn any introverted children's book illustrator audience member into a wild and crazy metal head. The solid state is pristine. The compressor isn't *real* flexible with only ratio and output gain, but I've never had the urge to reach for the attack setting, so it must be right. The EQs can create extreme boosts and cuts in the sound, and aren't noisy at all.

There's even a chorus effect thrown in for those that don't have an external unit. The chorus is good and very usable when a slight to medium chorus effect is necessary, but I find it a bit tame for extreme chorus settings.

I'd give the unit a 9.5 because of the chorus, but I can't, so the MB-1 gets a 10.

Reliability: 10

I've owned my MB-1 since 1992. I've never had a problem.

Customer Support: N/A

The company doesn't exist. Check http://www.ADADepot.com for schematics and some parts.

Overall Rating: 10

I cannot imagine my rig without the MB-1. When I moved to Germany, I was lugging around a transformer to step-up the voltage from 110V to 220V. This posed a problem and a potential health hazard since the ground gets lifted though the transformer, and I always had problems with buzz through the PA and/or getting shocked at the mic. So I tried some other preamps like the Rocktron Probass and the Ampeg SVP-BSP, and even though they were flexible, sounded good, and together gave me about 80% of the capability of the MB-1, there just wasn't the same level of flexibility in the gain stages. I use lots of different sounds and effects, and MIDI programmability is 100% key to me. I can't live without it. Add on to that all of the extras in the MB-1 like a built in DI, crossover, and two effects loops, and there just is no match for the MB-1 feature wise.

I began looking for European MB-1s and after a long time was able to find two--I bought them both, just in case. I now have my rig again, and I'm very happy.

Shortcomings:

There are a couple of things that I would like to have seen in an MB-2, but, of course, unless I build it myself, I'll never see.

The MB-1 doesn't have a dedicated tuner output that's always on, and it doesn't have a separate gain control for the DI out; it's controlled by the master volume at the front. This can be a problem if you're running your amp near the max, and you've got the gain turned way up. The sound man is going to get a *very* hot signal.