Hands-On Review:Fender® B-DEC™ 30
Your ticket to groove
By Jimmy Nichols
Burn your How To Play Bass books. Fire your bass teacher. Put napalm to your collection of bass videos and strike a match. The B-DEC™ 30 is here to blow up all the usual ways you practice and learn to play the bass guitar. It combines preset play-a-long loops, great-sounding amp and effect models, and a phrase sampler in a fun and easy-to-use combo amp.
The B-DEC 30 takes the original concept of the guitar G-DEC™ as a jam buddy and elevates it to a new level. The B-DEC 30 is just as entertaining as the G-DEC but it can also lay down a low-end education nearly every bass player will benefit from by incorporating smart features that teach while you play. The B-DEC is capable of accompanying a player from the first time he picks up his bass through an entire lifetime of grooving and improving.
When Fender® introduced the G-DEC back in 2004, it quickly became a bestseller as musicians everywhere discovered the fun. But Fender soon had a laundry list of revisions and upgrade requests; the biggest group being bass players asking for their own version. The tantalizing B-DEC 30 answers those petitions with a bigger, beefier, and smarter serving of DEC goodness.
It starts with 76 preset loops including musical performances and teaching lessons. Each of these performance presets focuses on a style of music (R&B, rock ’n’ roll, country, blues, ska, etc.) and includes full band accompaniment (drums, bass, keyboards, and guitar). A pre-recorded bass track plays an appropriate part. You can easily disarm the bass track to replace it with your own interpretation or have the bass track play once, then turn off after one complete loop.
Each loop also includes a preset bass sound that matches the style represented. There are nine bass amp models complete with the usual amp controls, 18 adjustable effects, and three reverbs combined with a compressor and a noise gate. You can also create and edit your own presets and save them to 76 user preset locations. All these sounds are amplified by a 30W power amp section and a Fender Special Design 10" woofer and piezo tweeter. A MIDI player loaded with GM sounds handles all the loop instrument sounds, and you can even load up to 64 MIDI song files to take with you. Everything is housed in a rugged tilt-back cabinet covered in tough black carpeting.
Because the typical role of the electric bass in most music is different from guitar, different goals were set for the B-DEC 30 and its loops. It’s a tricky job seamlessly integrating rhythm and harmony while being creative and supportive at the same time, but that’s what bassists are called upon to do. The only way to achieve that zen-like state is through experience actually playing music with a band. To that end, Fender designed two types of presets for the B-DEC. Presets of the first type—designed to help simulate playing songs with a band—include an A section followed by a fill, then a B section.
Presets of the second type are Teacher Loops designed to cover things you might learn from a teacher. These scales, arpeggios, rhythmic drills, slap-and-pop studies and other exercises are presented using a bass guide track and a drum track to make sure everything is practiced with a steady tempo. Using the Tempo-Creep and Auto-Key functions, you can automatically increase the tempo (1-10 bpm) or transpose to a new key (from a minor 2nd to a major 7th) each time the loop repeats. This makes practice a lot more fun, while forcing you to play the exercises at different tempos and in every key. To help you learn, an included method book shows the examples in notation and tab for every Performance Preset on the B-DEC 30.
Sample and hold
The amount of time you can record with the phrase sampler has doubled to 28 seconds on the B-DEC 30 and now supports lots of overdubs. You can capture music from a loop or from an external CD or MP3 player through the RCA inputs. Let’s say you’re jamming along with a preset or favorite song and you feel inspired. Just hit the Record button, the loop restarts, you lay down your lick, and then hit Record again. Now you’ve got a loop with your bass line inserted that you can solo over or add more parts to with additional overdubs. You can also simply record yourself playing along with the loop and then listen back to see how you sound. It’s an easy way to explore your creativity and develop your feel, style, and technique.
For all the functionality the B-DEC offers, its user interface is surprisingly simple. The first time I sat down with a G-DEC, the whole interface and menu system felt very logical and intuitive. Fender also includes many pages in the user manual that explain the LCD screen, menu system, and controls in great depth. With an optional footswitch (the Fender ULT-4), navigating DEC settings like Mode Select, Loop Start/Stop, and Program Select becomes even easier.
Will the B-DEC 30 really replace all those bass books and videos, or even a good teacher? Maybe, maybe not; different players learn in different ways. The one thing I can say for sure is the B-DEC 30 had me playing with more creativity and thoughtfulness in less time than any bass book or video I’ve ever tried. Get yourself a B-DEC 30 and get your groove on.
Features & Specs:
- 10" Fender® Special Design Speaker
- High-frequency piezo horn
- Tilt-back cabinet
- Headphone jack
- 76 permanent loops (38 performance and 38 teacher)
- 76 editable preset loops (editable versions of above)
- Instrument backing tracks in various styles
- Teacher loops
- Transpose and tune function
- Tempo control
- Volume control over each instrument in loop
- Preset loop model and effect controls
- 8 bass amp models
- 18 effects
- 3 reverbs
- 28-second phrase sampler
- Internal MIDI synth
- Storage for 64 MIDI song files
- Method book
- Speaker out
- RCA aux in
- Line level 1/4" out
- MIDI I/O
- Rear panel teacher input jack
- Footswitch jack
- Black carpet covering
- Black metal grille
- 15"W x 17"H x 14.5"D
- 33 lbs.
- Optional ULT-4 Footswitch