As a producer, I realized long ago (not long damn enough ago; listening to my early recordings makes me cringe) that bass is potentially the most important instrument in a mix. When it’s right, it makes people want to move – when it’s not, you better hope you’ve got a great enough song that the audience can ignore your production shortcomings. So having a lot of flexibility in dialing in your tone is very important, and in heavy music, you need access to a lot of distorted sounds. When performing live, you need a gate, a compressor, and a DI as well – wouldn’t it be handy to have all of these in one unit?
The Battalion from Electro-Harmonix is a very reasonably priced solution to the bass player’s usual onstage problems – you need a DI, a gate, compression, and if you play heavy music of any kind, it’s really nice to be able to blend clean and dirty sounds to taste. There are digital multi-FX boards and larger-scale solutions for this kind of thing to be sure – but the Battalion is compact, simple, and cheap, with plenty of powerful analog features. It’s very well thought out, and I got some killer sounds from it. You can check the demo video above if you don’t believe me!
The flexibility of the onboard controls allows you to dial pretty much any tone you can possibly imagine, from super clean to raging fiery distortion, and fat or clanky or any version of all of those, with a blend knob to combine whatever amount of distortion you like. I’m a big fan of all-in-ones, and although I didn’t get the chance to play this onstage, we’ve been using it at practice and it’s pretty easy to quickly get the tone we’re looking for without using anything else at all.
I hate, hate, hate to nitpick something so fully featured and great that costs so little, but I am paid to be critical, so here’s my main thoughts on the Battalion’s shortcomings – the gate’s sustain/release is too long for tight metal playing, and there’s no way to change it. It’s a one-knob gate, so really, there’s not a ton of flexibility implied, but that is something I wish I could change. The other thing I wish they could do is let you really carve out the sounds going into the distortion path with some high and low pass filters to send a fat clean low end parallel to a distorted high end and then be able to blend those to taste. As it stands now, I was able to fake a bit of that crossover with the EQ knobs, but to me, distorting the low end makes it sound fuzzy rather than aggressive. I want to be able to add clank without it fuzzing out.
Those are small complaints though, as overall, this is an incredible bang for the buck – for about $150, you have something that is competing with something like the Darkglass B7K Ultra (which has no compressor or gate!) at less than half the price. I think this should excite just about every bass player out there, and producers and tone tweakers as well. The EHX Battalion is a major win, and is really fun to play with. Find out more info from Electro-Harmonix’ website.