Rane SP 13 Stick Preamp

Has Anyone tried the Stick with the AP 13? How does the AP 13 and SP 13 differ?

I use an AP-13 with my Stick, and it does work really well. The main differences are the input impedances and effects routing. The AP-13 was designed to combine two signals from an acoustic guitar (microphone and pickup), whereas, the SP-13 is Stick specific. Glenn Poorman has written an excellent article about the SP 13 which also discusses how it differs from the AP 13. You can read all about it at

The only reason I went with the AP-13 is that I was very fortunate to find a hardly used one for $200. The input modification is no big deal, and I’m using a line mixer as well, so the differences in effects routing don’t really come into play for me. However, if I hadn’t been so lucky, there is no doubt I would have purchased an SP-13.


Is the SP 13 modified especially for the passive pickups for the Stick? How about use with the ACTV-2 active pickups?

The Rane wasn’t specifically modified for the passive pickups exactly. The original unit had mismatched impedences because it was made for acoustic guitar players using both mic and piezo pickups. So the modification was made so that the impedences in both A and B channels match.

I’ve never played with an ACTV-2 but, from what I’ve gathered from Greg Howard, using the SP 13 with ACTV-2 works just fine. The only difference is that you’ll probably be more likely to dial the EQ flatter with the ACTV-2 than you would with either of the passive pickups.

Sure you can use the Rane SP 13 with the ACTV-2. The confusion is this:

One of the many advantages of the SP 13 is that it buffers the passive pickups (Stickup and PASV-4). Understand that with passive pickups, the tone changes as you load them down by plugging them into low impedances, typically rolling off high (and sometimes low) frequencies. This effect becomes more pronounced the lower the impedance of the device you’re plugging into. The SP 13 presents a very high impedance to the passive pickups, allowing their full sound spectrum to come through, no matter what you connect the SP 13 output to.

By the way, understand that the Stickup and PASV-4 pickups sound just fine when you play then directly a standard musical instrument amplifier: any guitar, bass, or keyboard amp. This is because the input impedance of standard musical instrument amplifiers is pretty high. But the buffering capability of the SP 13 comes into play if you want to connect into a mixer, for example, which can really load down the pickup and make for a very weak, empty sounding tone. And the input impedance of the SP 13 is somewhat higher than most musical instrument amplifiers, allowing a slightly harmonic-richer signal to get through.

With the Active pickups, there is a tiny amplifier built in which does this buffering. So although the SP 13 and the ACTV-2 are perfectly compatible, you don’t need the SP 13 to do this buffering for you, it’s built into the ACTV-2. So, you don’t need an SP 13? Ah, but remember that the SP 13 has tons of other advantages: Dual channel with separate graphic EQ on both channels, outputable as stereo, dual mono, or mono, and scads of effects routing options. And there are many ACTV-2 users who use the SP-13 for this reason.


Raven Labs PMB-1

Raven Labs is a relatively new company started by Steve Rabe, the founder of SWR.

My first piece of Raven Labs gear was the MDB-1 a combination mixer/direct box/buffer/preamp. I bought it to have more control and to get a better sound on stage. I was blown away with quality of this unit. It made the Stick sound great. The Specifications are amazing.

Since the MDB-1 was such a great product, I thought the PMB-1 would work well as a preamp for the Stick.

I emailed Steve to ask about changing the aux/mic input to 10 meg. He said the modification was easy one. A week later I had my “modified” PMB-1 in hands.

I won’t go on and on about this product, but it sounds outstanding. It makes my Stick sound better than it ever has. I sometimes have to remind myself that its really is me playing it.

What attracted me to the PMB-1 over the Rane SP 13 is its powered by two 9 volt batteries that last over 50 hours, has inputs for both standard Stick chord or straight stereo chord, is small (6.7” x 2.26” x 6”) and is only $299.

Over all the SP 13 has a few more features than the PMB-1 but the PMB-1 is no doubt a great preamp for the Stick. For its size the PMB-1 is loaded with features and its sound can’t be beaten with a stick.

If you want to know more check out:

I use the Raven Labs “Master Blender” PMB-1 for the Stick and am very pleased with it. I had the aux/mic channel impedance changed to 10 meg so the two channels matched. The PMB-1 is as much a part of my sound as my Stick is. Great preamp!

Raven Labs has a new preamp on the way that will blow everything else out of the water the “RAVEN LABS UNIVERSAL STEREO INSTRUMENT PREAMP” A great looking piece of equipment.


Re: the SansAmp Bass Driver DI, does anyone know if one could also plug into the output (with stereo/mono adapter) some headphones and use it also as a practice/headphone amp with decent audio volume to it?

I’ve never actually tried that, but I doubt it would be loud enough; it’s a line level output. Plus you would probably only hear it in one ear because the jack is probably mono.

I’ve used the BassDriver DI for the bass half of the Stick ever since I got it, it sounds great. I also use it for recording my Fender Bass VI direct into the computer. To me it sounds a lot like the Trace Elliot bass amp my roommate used to have. If you turn up the drive, you can get really nice distortion a lot like that used by John Wetton in King Crimson. I highly recommend it.

I’ve been using one of these in my performance rig for years. I went to Guitar Center with my bass player once. I was trying out some Joe Meek compressors and he was trying out a Demeter preamp. We somehow got a cool clerk (who was a drummer!), who suggested we try out the Sans Amp, just for fun. It actually blew all the other stuff we were trying away! Of course, it’s not a compressor, but it does do a little bit of compressing when you turn up the “Drive” knob a bit.

Not only could you not drive headphones with the output, but it’s even a little low for line level. I was going to put it after the SE-70 in the signal chain, because of the amp simulation, but for some reason it works much better (well, with less noise, anyway) before the SE-70. I bought a second one to take apart and rack-mount, but I haven’t got as much time for projects like that as I used to, so it’s in pieces just waiting. Of course now they have a rack-mounted version...

I’ve had really good results with my Bass Driver on both Stick and bass. I like the fact that it buffers the signal even when it’s switched off so you can play passive pickups through a bunch of stompboxes with no signal loss. It also works wonders for making cheap amps and basses sound quite a bit better. Tech 21 recently started making a rack version called the RBI that adds a mid control and an effects loop and sells for $299.

Was fortunate to pick up a SansAmp Bass Driver DI out of the Recycler for $100.

What a great sounding unit, especially for a fat tube bass sound, along with the ease of analog knobs to adjust on the fly. I have it patched in between the SP 13 and VF-1 on the bass side in my effects loop.

Re: can one use this as a battery powered headphone practice amp, YES. You just have to turn all the way up, the Level, Blend, Drive and Presence knobs. Volume is adequate with my Sony headphones from a CD player. Don’t know how long a 9v battery will last yet. It’s built like a tank.


To anyone using a mixer, would there be any benefit to using a DI as opposed to just plugging in to the mixer?

The purpose of the DI is to match the high impedance of the instrument output to the much lower impedance of the line input of your mixer. In fact, th mic input is a closer match than the line input and that why your system works ... after all the pick up is a special mic. The result of mismatched impedance is loss of high end, and blurred tone. If your cord is very short and of high grade materials these artifacts are minimized.

The DI changes your output into a balanced line, like your line transformer does. It is a simple form of DI. You SHOULD be going into the mic input, because an instrument only puts out in the millivolt range, just like microphones. (active electronics, and some condenser mics being the exception).

The line input is usually after the microphone input gain stage in most mixers, and instead of handling a mic signal that is -20db to -40db down, is handling a signal that already at line level.


What is the best input impedance of a preamp for best results with passive standard pickups?

The Rane SP 13, designed specifically for the Stick, is rated at 1.74 Meg Ohms for inputs A & B impedances. Some have spoken highly of the Raven Labs PMB-1 preamp for the Stick. The PMB-1 stock, has impedances of 10 Meg Ohm for the instrument channel, and 820K Ohms for the aux/mic channel. For one person, it only took a phone call and a 1-week wait to have it modified so both channels were 10 Meg Ohms, with great results with his Stick.

Recently, Emmett Chapman had Rane do some more tweaks with the Rane SP 13 regarding optimizing impedances. Best to check with Emmett at Stick Enterprises, Inc.,, for more specific info on this.

Overall, the best preamp is the Rane SP 13, which not only is specifically designed for the Stick, but also has a 7-band EQ for each channel, along with a host of options to loop in and control effects for each channel. See Glenn Poorman’s excellent article (STICK LINKS page) on this for more info.


BBE BMAX Bass Preamp

I am just posting to rave a little on the bbe bmax bass preamp. I was using the rane sp-13 although a great unit the bmax really shines. I am able to pull out mids that were missing IMO using the para-mids section. Bbe included its famous sonic maximizer with this unit to get some over the top tones. If anyone on the list has been debating on getting one I would recommend it, might get one for the melody side. They go for $299 but eBay always have better prices.


preamps.txt (-2147477318 views) · Last modified: 03/02/2010 11:47