An Alembic F-2B preamp was not on my purchasing list when I started rounding up equipment to record with. New ones cost around $1,300. Much too rich for my blood. Especially when I already had so many other ways to record my guitars.
Then I came across an F-2B being auctioned on eBay. I put it on my watch list, but didn’t intend to bid on it. I mean, they usually expect you to pay for things if you win them. They’re funny about that.
Then something totally unexpected happened.
Then my dear Victoria offered to buy it on a credit card and let me pay her back. Holy crap! That was a hard decision for me. I appreciated the offer, but I’d never had anyone do anything like that for me. But damn I wanted that preamp! I’d wanted one for years. But just as I never expected to own an Alembic bass, I never thought I’d have one of these preamps.
Needless to say, as hard as it is for me to accept help from anyone, I took Victoria up on her offer.
If you don’t know what an Alembic F-2B is, it’s a bass preamp. The tone shaping possibilities of these preamps are just incredible. But they’re not just the province of bass players. David Gilmour uses one. Some have said it’s the secret to his sound. I didn’t know this. But after getting it and running my own Strat through it, I can say that there might be something to that. My Strat doesn’t sounds as sweet through anything else.
But I bought the thing for my Alembic Spoiler bass. That’s all I was thinking about. The fact that it also makes an excellent preamp for my Fender Stratocaster was just icing on the cake. What it does for the Spoiler is just amazing.
I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding musicians who would argue with my over the relative merits of an F-2B. Musicians always tend to think that whatever they’re using is the best there is. But it’s all a matter of personal taste. All I know is that through the many years, I could never find an amplifier that seemed to suit my Spoiler. Oddly enough, I could never find one that quite suited my Stratocaster, either. The F-2B fills the bill for both.
Maybe it has something to do with the pickups on each. My Ibanez Destroyer guitar, with dual humbucker pickups, sounds fine no matter I plug it into. The same goes for my other basses, which all have either humbuckers or soapbar pickups. Given that the Alembic approach has always been purety of tone, maybe the F-2B just suits the cleaner sounds of my Spoiler and my Stratocaster.
In the end, why it works is unimportant. It works. Well.
In fact, I found that the Alembic F-2B has such a wonderful, warm tube sound that I use it on just about everything. Every digital instrument that I use (such as synthesizers, drum modules, and even GigaStudio samples) is routed through the F-2B to add some warmth and dimension to the sound. It’s amazing how much of a difference it makes on some of the synthesizer sounds. Things which may have sounded good but didn’t jump out at you suddenly seem to breathe.
I know there are people out there who would pat me on the head and say “It’s called tubes”. But I don’t think it’s that simple. I’ve heard some of the tube preamps that are used primarily for warming up digital signals. The Alembic F-2B does more than that. It doesn’t just give signals warmth, it gives them life.
The picture I included on this page sums it up for me. The dictionary definition of an “alembic” is “something that refines or transmutes as if by distillation”. An example, in the philosophic sense; “… filtered through the alembic of Plato’s mind” – B.T. Shropshire.
Or this, from James Weldon Johnson;
“Nothing great or enduring, especially in music, has ever sprung full-fledged and unprecedented from the brain of any master; the best he gives to the world he gathers from the hearts of people, and runs it through the alembic of his genius.”
Amp Type: Tube
Alembic, Inc., Santa Rosa, CA
Seller: eBay Vendor