Bass drives are tricky. When you add drive to a guitar, you get a push… a crunch… a pleasant breaking up; but when adding drive to a bass (due to its frequencies), too much drive turns into sputtering notes or fizzy mess. I prefer a growl and some punchiness, and the LiberaToe Bentham delivers on that front. It is not a fuzz or distortion, but a great pedal to make a bass pop in the mix, or to engage prior to a bass solo.
Bentham is a dual channel pedal (and a module for the LiberaToe four and six module systems) that offers soft, normal, and hard attacks. In essence, you can set each channel differently, and if combined with a dual channel bass amp, there are a lot of gain options. Each of Bentham’s channels have Volume, Gain and Mix controls. Both channels share a Tone control.
This is the basic drive options, which coordinate with a toggle switch:
With toggle switch up (Soft Attack), the Green channel provides a ‘low’ pass drive, whereas the Red channel has a ‘high’ pass.
With toggle center (Normal Attack), the Green channel provides a ‘middle’ focus, whereas the Red channel provides a ‘high’ pass.
With toggle down (Hard Attack), the Green channel has a ‘middle’ focus, whereas the Red channel has a ‘low’ pass.
There is no ‘hard attack’ with a ‘high’ pass, since the added treble/tighter low-end pushes through the mix very well with a ‘normal attack.’ And so, without adjusting the toggle (in the up position) you can switch between a low pass + high pass soft attack. With the toggle in the middle position, you can switch between a midrange focus + high pass normal attack. With toggle down, you can switch between a midrange focus + low pass hard attack.
All this is straightforward, but Bentham does its job very well and makes for shifting between drive settings easy. I imagine this pedal may be directed toward rock and metal players. However, I can see this being an effective tool for nearly any bass player who wants more fullness and greater presence in a mix. Bentham works for blues, country, and jazz fusion because of the Mix (blend) controls and being able to add just a bit of energy to the tone. Now, cranking the Mix and Gain up full does not produce a super filthy overdrive; again, the sound is more of a thickness, growl, and wider tone, although this depends on where you place Bentham in the signal chain. If I have an EQ and Compressor running, for example, I prefer the EQ after Bentham and my compressor before. If I place Bentham toward the end of the chain, then I get more dirty fuzzy sounds as I crank the Gain, which some people may prefer (I rather the setup described and then adding a fuzz near the beginning of the chain if I wanted that tone particular quality).
In sum, if you are missing that punch or ‘oomph’ with your bass, I highly suggest Bentham… it is as though it’s a very important finishing touch, and goes well with a quality bass EQ/Boost (I recommend the LiberaToe Holy Belly, another 2-channel pedal). On that note, Bentham has only one EQ knob (to sweep for more low-end or high-end), which works well, but if more EQ fine-tuning is in order, then take care of that step first and perhaps check out Holy Belly; I’ll have a review up soon on that product, as well.