If you’re in the market for a good bass overdrive pedal, there’s never been a better choice. There are dozens to choose from and a few, like this Hematoma from boutique effects pedal maker Homebrew Electronics, even offer a separate preamp channel. Like many players, I’ve been using a SansAmp Bass Driver for years, so it will be interesting to see how the Hematoma compares to this and other bass overdrives.
It certainly compares well in terms of construction. The cast aluminium case and steel back plate look like they’ll take years of being kicked around a stage. Inside, the internal components are all top quality too, with the kind of hand-soldered craftsmanship that’s only really seen these days in the best (and most expensive) effects and amps.
Anyway, time to plug in the bass and see how it sounds. First impressions are good. Like all the HBE effects I’ve tried, the switching is totally silent but for the reassuring clunk of the sturdy metal foot-switches. There’s absolutely no hum, whether used with a battery or the supplied PSU. With neither the bass preamp (BP) or the bass overdrive (BO) switched in, the signal from the bass seems to be completely unaffected as it passes through the pedal. This is important and is no doubt down to the quality of internal components as much as the careful routing circuits.
The first thing to say is that although the preamp can be used separately if required, the Hematoma is really more an overdrive with an added gain stage, rather than a bass preamp in the way that the Radial Bassbone or SansAmp is. However, with just the BP button pressed and its bright yellow LED lit, you get a useful 5db of gain from the pre-gain control and like the rest of the functions, it works in a smooth, linear way, gently increasing the level from your bass without colouring the tone.
The BO switch also has a yellow on/off LED, and this is where we get down to business. It’s not what you’d call subtle, and even with the gain turned right down, there’s still a noticeable distortion. Crank it up though, and things get serious. The good news is that your bass losses virtually none of its frequency range, as can happen with some overdrive pedals. You still get all the low end frequencies coming out that went in, and although I detect a tiny bit of compression, it’s natural and a positive addition if anything.
With both the BO and the BP switched on, there’s an infinite variation of overdrives available and experimenting with the pre-gain, level and gain controls, you can soon call up anything from a nasty ‘70s bass fuzz to a truly demonic, speaker-wrecking distortion. The tone control is a real bonus, and gives you a smooth clockwise sweep from bass to treble. The EQ shift switch is fairly subtle, but further increases the range of EQ available, giving you a slightly darker tone when switched to the right.
In terms of sound and quality the Hematoma seems to tick all the boxes, but if I have a bit of a whinge, it’s regarding the aesthetics. It may offer bomb-proof construction and top rate components, but the screen printing and layout, not to mention the rather incongruous purple ‘chicken-head’ pre-gain control, all look a bit like a radio enthusiast’s home-built electronics project. Maybe that’s intentional: after all the company is called Home Brew Electronics, but on a dark stage the mid-blue printing against the matt black background is quite hard to see. You have to squint to see where the black tone, level and gain controls are all set.
As an overdrive, it’s not as smooth as the EBS Valvedrive or the Dunlop Way Huge Pork Loin (where do they get these names from?), and as a preamp it’s not as versatile as the SansAmp or Bassbone, but it’s not really meant to be. If you’re looking for a versatile bass overdrive pedal rather than a dedicated preamp, and like the idea of having some of the most extreme distortion effects available, the HBE Hematoma is definitely worth a listen.
Made In USA
Features Gain, Tone, Level, EQ Shift, Pre-Gain controls, BO and BP switches
Power 9v DC
Dimensions 177 x 101 x 76mm
What We Think
PLUS Solid construction and plenty of extreme distortion effects available. Preamp and overdrive can be used together or separately. PSU included
MINUS Doesn’t really look like a top quality piece of kit. Not exactly subtle
OVERALL If most bass overdrives just aren’t cutting it for you, try the Hematoma. It may
not look like much, but you’ll certainly not be
left wanting more distortion