Bass Player Magazine (September 1999)
By Scott Malandrone
Like its lower-priced brother the Demeter VTBP-1, the HBP-1 is built take abuse. Demeter pairs a thick, brushed-aluminum front panel with a steel chassis, making the unit ready to do battle with your favorite (or least favorite) roadie.
Inside, a single-sided circuit board wears minimal components, including Wima capacitors (a favorite of audiophiles), a ceramic tube socket and a Neutrik XLR output jack. Demeter tops off the preamp with super-smooth pots, solid push buttons, and wire. The tube could be supported a bit better, though.
At the heart of the HBP-1 are a Chinese 12AX7A preamp tube coupled with a 2-band parametric EQ system. The EQ lets you select a wide or narrow bandwidth range and then cut or boost the frequency. The 4-band passive EQ section has a bit more range than that of the VTBP-1’s (it is also quieter than the VTBP-1’s boost switches).
The tube on our test preamp was slightly microphonic, we could hear “pinging” sounds when plugging in. Replacing the defective tube with a fresh one solved the problem. Also, engaging the EQ and effects loop in/out buttons injects a scratchy pop into the sound. James Demeter responds, “I chose to use a hardwire bypass in the switches design so the signal path would be direct as possible. That way the signal doesn’t go through any solid-state devices that would degrade sound quality.”
Ease of use
Operating the preamp is pretty darn easy. Select the desired input jack (always start with passive), adjust volume, and make initial tone tweaks with the 4-band EQ. Fill in details (or remove annoying peaks) with the parametric.
It is tempting to spend a lot of time tweaking the bandwidth knobs, so know when to say when. Use any effects? Stick ’em in the effects loop, which has both adjustable send and return knobs, great for matching the input-output levels of pedals or studio-style rack effects. Want to tune up silently? Hit the mute switch and the HBP-1 routes your signal to the rear-mounted tuner-out jack, while muting the main outputs.
Demeter has taken the VTBP-1’s tone and made it more versatile. We’ve used the latter as a reference piece of gear in our soundroom for years. The VTBP-1’s strength is its purity, although its minimal controls and passive EQ don’t provide a lot of flexibility for sculpting weak passive basses. The HBP-1 solves the problem with the addition of the powerful parametric, capable of adding beefy lows to bridge pickups or sucking out treble harshness from cheap active systems. We couldn’t quite match the VTBP-1’s purity, as the HBP-1 sounded a bit more distant at similar volume and EQ settings.
Kick in the parametric and the HBP-1 takes on a different character that the VTBP-1 can’t dupe. We also A/B’d the HBP-1 against the Kern Engineering IP-777 (December ’98) and found that although the Kern has a certain fatness the HBP-1 can’t match, the Demeter does a lot more for $100 less.
Compared to the Demeter VTBP-1, the HBP-1 is a good choice if you use both passive and active-equipped instruments. This is a preamp that’s at home in many situations. Those who’ve found the classic VTBP-1 a bit limited should smile when they discover the added tones of the HBP-1.