Some of the best bass guitar sounds come from valve amplifiers, and as all guitarists and bass players know, valve amps distort rather musically when you drive them hard. A number of modern studio processors either include valve stages or offer 'tube emulation' with varying degrees of success. You can even get valve DI boxes, such as the Ridge Farm Gas Cooker, and using any one of these can help beef up a bass sound without making it sound obviously distorted. Of course, if you want the Stranglers' bass sound, a suitably-set overdrive pedal might well do the trick. Where you place the valve device or valve emulator in the signal chain is really down to where it sounds best, but if you want to be purist about it, it should come before the speaker simulator if you use one. That's because in a real amp, any distortion created within the amplifier circuitry is filtered by the limited high end response of the speakers, and if there's a lot of distortion, it is important to remove the high end to prevent grittiness. If you like an easy life, some preamps designed specifically for recording guitar also work well with bass. Last month I reviewed (and subsequently bought) the Line 6 Pod physical modelling digital guitar preamp, and initially wondered why they didn't make a bass version. However, after a little experimentation, I found that by using a Fender Bassman amp model combined with a 4 x 12 speaker cab and no effects other than compression and a little amp drive, I could get a very convincing miked bass amp sound. One practical advantage of a digital product of this kind is that you can be quite certain of the maximum output level as you can never get louder than 'all bits on'. If you deliberately overload the input by plugging in a hot synth so the clip LED comes on, whatever comes out is your maximum level! You can safely set your record levels with reference to this level. Then all you need do is plug in your guitar, make sure the input clip LED isn't coming on, and you can play in the knowledge that your recorder will never clip, no matter how you adjust the preamp drive or tone controls.