EHX’s latest full-featured preamp comes with all the bells, and indeed, all the whistles. Joel McIver prepares to stomp
There are so many bass preamp pedals of varying cost and usefulness currently on the planet that occasionally we wake at night from a nightmare in which we are drowning under a tsunami of small metal boxes, each of which has several buttons marked Bypass and Gain on it. We must lay off the crackers and Stilton at bedtime. Still, the upside is that at least we’re likely to be paying attention when yet another preamp lands on the doormat at BGM’s secret command bunker – and one such gizmo of more than average quality has done just that, courtesy of the fragrant marketing people at Electro-Harmonix.
Counting the controls, adding the number of ins/outs and hefting the solid weight of the Battalion, a pedal with a heavy metal name if ever we heard one, it’s apparent that you’re getting a whole lot of functionality for your 136 quid. Essentially designed as two EQ and distortion stages, the pedal offers different effects flows – in other words, whether you want your EQ-ed signal overdriven, or should the EQ affect the signal when it’s already been overdriven? Only you can decide that, but I love the choice of options and the very real difference in sound and the feel of the notes ‘opening’ that each gives you. The Dry EQ option means that only the dry portion of your blended tones – one EQ-ed, one not – is distorted. Clever stuff.
The EQ is familiar – Bass (below 200Hz), Lo Mid (boost/cut at 280Hz), Hi Mid (boost/cut at 750Hz) and Treble (boost/cut above 2kHz). You can go pretty much anywhere, and pay half as much, for that. However, if you’re looking for reasons to buy, I’d say the fact that the Battalion comes with unusually sophisticated distortion shaping – Level, Blend, Drive and Tone controls plus a dedicated footswitch – is attractive. There’s also a pushbutton-operated compressor with its own purdy LED, and – astoundingly at this price point – a noise gate, which allows you to reduce between-note noise and which I haven’t seen on a unit of this type. XLR, headphone and ¼” outputs round off a pretty impressive package.