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John East - His Background and Bass Preamp Lineup

The John East preamp story is one that we’ve seen many times in the world of bass electronics. We have a bass player who’s spent countless nights dialing in his tone and dealing with the limitations of existing equipment, so he decides to use his experience to create something that solves his tonal woes and then lets it free in the bass world. 

But here's the twist: John's not just any bassist, he's also a seasoned engineer with decades of experience working in the world of studio equipment. He's spent years working with high-end audio gear, meticulously crafting sounds for some of the biggest names in the industry. 

So he took his lifelong passion for playing bass, his intimate understanding of what makes a great bass tone, and his deep knowledge of audio equipment design, and combined them to create a line of top-notch preamps that bass players everywhere rely on to create jaw-droppingly good tones.  

A Brief History of John East 

In 1998 John East started East UK (originally called E-Pro) to launch his first product, the J-Retro 01 Bass Preamp. It was a preamp designed to drop right into a Jazz bass without any modifications. The J-Retro was a hit, and soon, John was designing other preamps based on requests from other bass players and luthiers.

John's goal has always been simple: make high-quality preamps that are affordable and help bassists get the sound they're after. He's got a "pro audio mindset," which means he focuses on performance and getting the job done right. 

His pro-audio mindset comes from working with heavy hitters in the studio world like SSL in the 80s and Sony Pro-Audio in the 90s where he had the chance to design everything from massive studio consoles to a host of other pro-audio equipment. 

Class A FET and the perfect EQ points

One aspect that sets East preamps apart from other high-end preamps is their use of Class A FET input stages and what seems to be the perfect choice of EQ frequencies. 

Without going into overly technical details, Class A FET has several distinct advantages that make these preamps something special. 

Class A operation generally results in a warmer, more harmonically rich tone than other designs. They also tend to have better transient response and dynamic range, meaning they can accurately reproduce the subtle nuances of your playing, from soft fingerstyle to aggressive slap. This responsiveness can make your bass feel more alive and expressive.

And if that wasn’t enough, Class A FET preamps typically have lower levels of distortion and noise, contributing to a cleaner and more transparent sound with less noise. 

Combined with the EQ curves carefully designed by decades of bass playing experience, you get preamps that sound open, organic, and get the tones that sound just right. 

The John East Lineup

Another aspect that makes John East preamps incredibly attractive is their solderless installation which makes them super easy to install and in addition, they make some J Bass exclusive models that require no modification of your bass. 

Here are some of the models we have in the current lineup. 

John East J-TONE 2 Band Bass Preamp

The 2 Band J Tone is a great option for those who love their J Bass and want to take it to the next level while keeping everything simple. It gives you 2 EQ bands (bass and treble), the ability to switch between active and passive, and it has a passive tone control. This is a drop-in preamp, so everything comes installed onto a J Bass control plate.

John East J Tone Bass Preamp Side view showing electronics and knobs

 John East J-Retro Bass Preamp

The J-Retro adds several big options in addition to what is offered on  the J Tone, while keeping everything that you love. The biggest one is the ability to have cut/boost of variable mid frequencies. This helps you choose exactly the mid-frequency you want to cut or boost. 

Also, you get active balance control between your two pickups. This gives you a smooth transition between the different combinations of Neck/Bridge which makes many more tones accessible that are hard to find with passive VVT. And you also get to keep your passive tone knob for those thumpy rolled-back tones. 

If you are looking for ultimate flexibility for your J Bass, the J Retro is the ticket. 

John East J Retro Bass Preamp, showing electronics and knobs

John East J-Retro Deluxe Bass Preamp

The Deluxe variation of the J Retro is designed for Deluxe style J Basses that have a side jack. This way you don’t have to leave an unused hole on your bass when installing your new preamp. Everything you love from the J Retro is here, the solderless installation and the confidence that it will fit in your existing control cavity without any modification.  


John East J Retro Deluxe Bass Preamp photograph showing electronics, quick connects, plate and knobs

John East Uni-Pre 3 Band Bass Preamp

The Uni-Pre is designed to be the ultimate East preamp for basses that have rear cavity electronics and 4 or 5 knobs. 

Similar to the J-Retro line, it keeps the three band eq with the variable mid selection and the passive tone control. Exclusive to the Uni-Pre bass preamp, it has additional frequency control for the bass control and the highs. By moving a couple of jumpers, you can change the ‘bass window’ so that it sits lower, between 20-80 Hz, or higher, between 40-200 Hz. For the treble control, you can change the shelf EQ point between 1 khz and 7.5 khz as well as activating a ‘Bright’ mode by pulling the ‘Treble’ knob. 

Also you can choose between ‘Flat’ setting and a ‘Pre-shape’ setting that adds a bit of bottom and a bit of highs to give your tone a subtle boost in the lows and a hint of sizzle in the highs. 

Having all these options available makes this preamp extremely flexible and capable of fitting into any bass rig. Admittedly, it will take some time to set-up and configure to your liking, but that customizability really offers some wonderful options.

John East Uni Pre Bass Preamp showing all included parts, knobs, electronics, wiring harness, jack


High-end tone combined with High-end construction

John East Bass preamps have been one of the preferred choices of pro bass players everywhere for over 20 years for good reasons. They sound amazing, they’re easy to install, and they are built to the highest standard. 

If you’re not sure which East Preamp is right for you, feel free to give us a call or shoot us an email. We’ve helped hundreds of bass players choose the right bass preamp for their needs and we’ll be happy to help you find the one for you.

Check out our John East Bass Preamp line-up.