Deep Impact SB1 review by Akai

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 8
  • Ease of Use: 10
  • Reviewer's score: 9.3 Superb
  • Users' score: 10 (2 votes)
Akai: Deep Impact SB1

Price paid: £ 180

Purchased from: eBay

Sound — 10
I'm not usually a bassist so I don't have a lot of bass kit. I used this with a Fender USA Standard Jazz into an Ashdown Mag III. It's a genuine true bypass so when it's off there's no tonal impact at all. When it's on the majority of the patches are already set up to be incredibly fat, lush and usable. You will obviously need to tweak depending on your pickups and playing style but it's not anything you'd need to spend weeks getting right. You can have fun right out the box. Though you could spend a long time just experimenting. The effects are notably great and I'm still not sure why Akai discontinued this other than perhaps it wasn't advertised properly at the time. I suppose this has been made more famous recently by Chris from Muse, although I actually bought this before he did because I was fed up of Boss Synth-bass pedals which sounded pretty dull. As soon as you plug in the Deep Impact you can sense how much of a better unit it is. You can get a few great Vintage synths and filters out of it, but it's far better suited to sci-fi/crazy/electro stuff (I guess this fits with some of the Muse stuff) but it's effectively like having some cheesy but awesome keyboard player/mad scientist in your band. I wouldn't say it could really do subtle (though I'm not sure you'd ever want a bass-synth to be really subtle - I wouldn't at least). This works great with distortions/fuzz/overdrives and can get deeply crazy with an octave pedal as well. It works best first in your chain as the triggering seems to handle the cleanest signal in best (though it's tracking and triggering is just about the best I've ever used). My bass player who inherited this has sometimes run a dual compressor in front to get a more direct signal, but it definitely sounds better to distort the synth, than synthesize a distorted signal which tends to just lose the fullness with all the clipping. The Deep Impact will work with a downtuned guitar (about C or lower), especially with heavy strings on (.12s or .13s) but it's frequency range is mainly designed for 4 string bass and so normal guitars just won't trigger it.

Overall Impression — 9
I play in a rock band that does a lot of dub-step and electronic sections, so this pedal is ideal for creating some of the more sci-fi bass sounds. Unlike a lot of synth pedals it's not really touchy and it tracks incredibly fast and triggers properly. I'm still not sure why it's been discontinued for years and nobody else has come up with anything as good or better. Hell, you'd think someone would just clone it. If it were lost or stolen I'd be pretty gutted but would probably be right back on eBay looking for another one as it's hard to find anything that could replace it. You end up basing song ideas on some of the sounds this can make, so unlike a lot of pedals, it's actually a song-writing tool and essential in some cases. The only small flaw I can really think of is that the scroll footswitch only goes up. So if you are on bank 1 and want bank 9 - you have to do 8 stomps and if you miss your setting you have to just keep cycling round 'til it comes back. This means it's not always great if you need two totally different sounds close together in a song. You can throw another footpedal controller in to scroll down as well, but live that's a lot of pedalboard room just for that. It's a big pedal and uses a lot of power, so you have to be careful not to stick it on an overloaded Voodoo or DC brick. It takes up a fair bit of room on a pedalboard. None of these things bother me particularly, I'm just trying to think of anything that's annoying. I love the shiny glitter red paint job but it's not everyone's favourite. The only bad thing about the distinctive colour is loads of people come up to our bassist after each show, asking if they can buy the damn thing and I'm sure someone will try nicking it one day (though it's now bolted into the pedaltrain metal so it's harder to nick it). If you can afford one, don't hesitate, it's really the best. I just can't see why anyone would be selling unless they were in poverty. Even then I'd probably have to weigh up between food and keeping it.

Reliability & Durability — 8
I couldn't get a backup now as these seem to be going for about 750 on eBay these days and unless you're really loaded it's not an option to have more than one. I know if anyone tried to nick this one they'd get hospitalised pretty fast. It's a big, tank like pedal and has never shown any sign of wear, damage or glitches. I presume it must be a fairly complex board inside and so it's possibly not going to last forever but it's been well gigged and still looks brand new. Obviously there isn't any support from Akai anymore, so if it did die I'd be on my own fixing it.

Ease of Use — 10
The Deep Impact is a great bass-synth which is now discontinued but goes for a lot of money on eBay just because of the quality. The set-up is incredibly easy, the manual gives a decent overview but it doesn't really go into much in the way of suggested settings - but it's so easy to tweak and play with you want to invent anyway. You have a main selection of synth patches on the central bank and then you can control input, output and varying parameters depending on your preset chosen. The foot controls are a true bypass on/off and a bank scroll up (there is an extra optional footswitch to scroll down instead). It's easy to get a good sound out of the Deep Impact. It's actually hard to get a bad sound out of it. It crushes any other synth pedal or amp I've ever tried on a bass.

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