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Review: K&K ProST Dual Channel preamp

Last post I described my experience setting up my Stick to have bass strings on both sides of the fingerboard. One roadblock is that the Stick uses a stereo output jack to carry each side. This is cool for independent processing of bass and treble registers, but if you're trying to play both registers as a single bass instrument, you might want to treat the output as a single mono source, without switching cables around.  (Basically, I wanted to mess round with chords without messing around with cords. Heh. I slay me.)

This topic comes up quite a lot on the Stickist.com forums. What equipment to use with the Chapman Stick's dual channel design? Many people invest a lot of money in capable, sophisticated and expensive processing units, but it seemed to me that I really just needed a simple two-channel active mixing device.

After much searching on the web I found Gollihur Music, and after absorbing the information on Bob's site, I ordered a K&K Pro-ST Dual Channel Pre-amplifier, for $124. It seemed like the ideal thing from the specs.

It arrived the other day. It's a nice, compact black box with two knobs (volume for each channel) and three jacks (stereo input, main mono out, and a second output that splits the output and retains the channel separation. So basically if you want to keep the pre-amp feature but process the two channels independently, you can. This seems like the best of both worlds.

There's a small screw at the side that you have to remove to take the lid off. This thing is very solidly built, it feels very reliable.

Once the lid is off, you can plug in the required 9-Volt battery, and adjust the channel gain and EQ pots. There is even a little metal "screwdriver" for this purpose, tucked away inside with velcro to keep it from knocking around.

Yes, this device allows you to set the gain and bass/mid/treble for each channel independently. Perfect for my situation, where the treble side of the Stick sounds a bit too trebly, despite the bass strings that are used.

I plugged in the Stick and experimented with adjusting the EQ.

With the volume turned all the way up, it seems as though the default available gain is about 120% unity. 

If you're looking to amplify a piezo pickup or similar (I have a Dean Markley acoustic pickup I was thinking of using with my Wendler bass, for example) then you can change the amount of gain on each channel using adjustments to the mini-pots. They are set half-way by default.

I ended up knocking back the treble pot a little to even out each side of the Stick. I couldn't get it perfect - the two registers just sound different, that's just the way it is, but I could get a definite improvement over the flat response, so it was worth it. 

With the stick hanging off my military-style web belt, the preamp's handy belt clip lets me use a short TRS "patch cord" to direct the Stick's stereo output to the preamp input. Then my regular "Monster" mono instrument cable takes the preamp output away to my POD, etc, for recording.

Initial tests are very promising.

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