Community Tone Wheel

Discussion in 'Amps [BG]' started by bgavin, Dec 26, 2013.


  1. bgavin

    bgavin Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2001
    Location:
    Orangevale, CA 95662
    I am building a work-in-progress chart of tone families.

    Link to Tone Wheel

    This is intended to be a graphic representation of tone families, similar to a color wheel.
    I'm looking for community input as to various unique tones, and where they fall on the wheel.
    As the information comes in, the above chart will evolve into a useful chart supported by comments made here.

    I seeded the prototype with basic tone families, i.e. "SVT" with "SWR" on the opposite side of the wheel.
    Please post opinions about:
    • Family Voice
    • Coloration
    • Dirt
    For starters, I have the Demeter in the middle as Clean voicing (neutral), Clean coloration (neutral), and no Grind/Dirt.
    The SWR voicing is very Scooped, the SVT something else.
    The VTRM tone is placed very close to the SVT, but the RBI is estimated closer to the scooped SWR sound.

    If the GK tone is unique, it can occupy a new degree point on the wheel.
    It would be helpful to start with the extremes to first establish the outer wheel.
    The in-between'ers (Genz-Benz, Peavey, Littlemark, Eden, ??) can be placed where they fall.

    All input is welcome.
  2. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

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    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Mendocino County, California
    I'm a bit confused by the physical positioning. Only right wingers can use a Kern? And what's up with the logic of using Ampeg as "true north?" Sorry, that might work for JimmyM but not for me! Nothing will stimulate TalkBass diatribe more than taxonomy!
  3. bgavin

    bgavin Supporting Member

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    May 3, 2001
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    Oh please, it is not a political statement.
    It is taken from a color wheel.
  4. Selta

    Selta

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    It just shows there's a difference. It's not political or geographical in nature. SVT is not "north", it's just "opposite SWR", tonally speaking.
    OP - neat idea, but you'll need to specify more parameters. What EQ, gain, volume and misc (i.e. "deep" switches etc) settings are you using? I know an SVT with gain at 10 o'clock and master at noon sounds vastly different than one with master maxed and gain at 9 o'clock.
    If you say "flat" - do you mean true flat (what gives the amp the most un-colored tone out), or just all knobs pointing straight up? Again, an SVT "true flat" versus position 5 with deep switch on are two vastly different tones.
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

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    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Apopka, FL
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    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I can get basically whatever sound I want out of any amp I plug into. Might not always be my ideal, but like I always say, if I hear someone with an inappropriate sound for the music they're doing, it ain't the amp's fault ;)

    Also, at one time I got an SWR SM-500 because I felt SWR amps had a sound that was about as close to an SVT as I could get without lugging 85 lbs.
  6. B-string

    B-string Supporting Member

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    Since bass amp heads have knobs to turn that can vastly change their character I don't understand the parameters either? What are you looking to achieve?
  7. bgavin

    bgavin Supporting Member

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    May 3, 2001
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    So far, the above comments tell me there is no difference in an SVT, G-K, or SWR or any other amp.
    If this is established, then why bother with a preference?
    Just buy the cheapest, since they all sound the same.

    C'mon guys, this ain't rocket science.
    Jimmy plays Ampeg because he cannot get a lighter SWR to sound like an Ampeg.
  8. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Mendocino County, California
    You may have picked off more than you can chew with mere words.

    Think about it: a color wheel SHOWS you the variations in colorized tones. You can't describe these in words with accuracy. You have to SEE it to know it.

    With sound, you need to HEAR the differences to truly understand the comparisons. Trying to describe these variations is fruitless. It's why endless threads yammer on and on about what the gear can do. For audio gear, and from a practical standpoint, HEARING is knowing. The words are pretty useless unless you've already got the sound in your head.
  9. B-string

    B-string Supporting Member

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    Maybe you are starting to get the futility of the exercise, one person's gold is another person's garbage. "Tone" PREFERENCE starts at the hands and instrument and ends at the speaker cab(s). Maybe a "Wheel of versatility" might be an idea but is still subjective and up to the skill of the user and factors out of an amplifier's control.
  10. Selta

    Selta

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    I don't see anyone that says there's no difference. Just that each amp has it's own tonal range it can cover. An SWR can sound similar to an SVT, but also can sound polar opposite. How do you show that on the wheel effectively? I'm not sure you can.
  11. Passinwind

    Passinwind Charlie Escher Supporting Member

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    Ambitious and interesting idea Bruce. I'd prefer to see those descriptions you mentioned posted on the wheel itself, so we know what north-east-south-west represent without necessarily having heard any of the specific pieces. If the Kern is unique, in what way? Also, what is the distinction between color and voicing? And finally, why include out of production pieces or companies?

    In any case, my experience with most of the gear you've posted so far is really minimal, so comparing stuff I am familiar with would be pretty difficult.
  12. callofcthulhu

    callofcthulhu

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    You haven't labeled your axes so I'm not sure what you're trying to convey.

    Colors on the color wheel are organized by wavelength, depicting a progression through the spectrum of visible light. You need to decide what the analog for wavelength is for bass tones as you travel through the spectrum of available equipment. Upper harmonic distortion? EQ curves? Compression?

    You've got a good idea for what could be a very useful tool, you just need to decide what your base unit is.

    It will also be nearly useless without sound samples.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

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    I got it fairly close ;) But yeah, ultimately, nothing quite satisfied me like the A word. Still, if Ampeg disappeared tomorrow and all the existing Ampegs blew up spontaneously, I think I could still get a sound out of anything I was forced to play.
  14. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    Joined:
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    The issue of baselining the taxonomy is crucial. And with tone, you have many variables.

    • Positions of the amp's EQ knobs, and how they interrelate
    • Type of strings used on the bass (roundwounds, groundwounds, flatwounds, nylon tapewounds)
    • Type of bass (hollow body, solid body, hybrid)
    • Type of wood used in bass
    • Type of pickups (single, double, triple magnetic; piezo)
    • Type of plucking (fingers, fingernails, pick)
    • Intensity of plucking
    • Length of cable

    Then you must consider WHAT is producing the tone. Is it a DI built into the amp? An external DI? If latter, is it a solid state or tube DI? Are you micing a cab? If so, what mic are you using, where is it positioned? What are the tonal characteristics of the cab's driver(s) and EQ settings?

    The list of variables is endless. Sorry if I put you off initially by cracking jokes. The notion of an amp color wheel is noble, but really seems impractical.
  15. bgavin

    bgavin Supporting Member

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    Location:
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    Today is the first day, first pass through this concept.
    I fully expect it to evolve over time.

    There are no axes on a circular chart... it is a Color Wheel in layout concept at this stage.
    I have given no thought to making it color coordinated.
    This project needs to crawl before it can run.

    I'm trying to visually depict the difference between two voicing families.
    For example, on a horizontal line, the Demeter and Ampeg would be at opposite ends of the line.
    The Demeter is pure/clean/sterile, where the Ampeg is dirty/grindy. The G-K 800RB has a reputation for the "G-K" tone.

    I spent a lot of time listening to Bass Tasters on my high fidelity gear, and frankly do not hear a whole lot of difference.
    I wish BT would have level matched their samples, because the ear favors the louder item in a comparison.

    If B-String is right, and any tone is achievable with a twist of the knob, there is no compelling reason at all for the endless All Tube discussions.
    There is no justification for carting around and worshiping an 85 pound SVT.
    Using this logic, we should all buy a Crate and be equally happy.

    However, I don't believe this to be true.
    Same as speaker cabs, I suspect the amps are voiced to their respective design intentions.
    I'm trying to visually depict this in a line chart, tone wheel, or whatever device is most appropriate.

    70s SVT are long out of production, yet highly coveted.
    These are one of the primary basis for comparison.
    The SVP-Pro, SWR-IOD, Fender TB1, and others are also out of production.
    Ampeg continues to garner very high prices for their Heritage replacements, and they obviously sell enough to keep the line alive.

    I'm looking for community input, from those who can say "I own an SVT, and it is completely different from my ____".
    Like all novels and software, this is going to have a lot of rewrites along the way.
    Besides... it beats the endless TB arguments of how many speaker angels can dance on the head of a pin... :D

    For me, this project is a mental exercise to stave off dementia and keep my typing skills current.
    It's only academic, but it might prove useful to the young players just coming up.
  16. Passinwind

    Passinwind Charlie Escher Supporting Member

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    The axes on a color wheel represent the primary colors, or the primary and secondary ones. "Kern" doesn't cut it if we haven't heard one and don't know what's unique about it. JMHO, and I'll be happy to contribute if I can.
  17. callofcthulhu

    callofcthulhu

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    You can't just put things on opposite ends of a line and say "there is no axis." You've implied you're measuring against something - without knowing what that something is that's grounding the measurement to reality you've created nothing more scientific or useful than an opinion wheel, which is why the first slew of posters were jumping down your throat with cries of "That's just like...your opinion man."

    The conclusions and theories that people draw using the color wheel are ultimately arbitrary, but the reason even competing theories are able to agree on using it as a starting point, the reason it has persisted as a useful tool, is because it has a basis in objective measurements which cannot be denied. Red has a shorter wavelength than orange, which is shorter than yellow, etc. etc. all the way up to blue and purple, which leads back to red in a nice pleasing way since purple is a mixture of blue and red.

    You need to figure out what the tone wheel's organizational metric is before we cane even start debating where gear lies on that continuum.
  18. HolmeBass

    HolmeBass

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Location:
    Charlottesville, VA
    Agree w/ it seems you don't really understand the color wheel. There are axes and objective specifications for the different positions on the wheel, as noted above, the wavelength of the light that produces that color.

    Missing from the color wheel: luminosity and saturation information. What people are telling you is that tone *has even more degrees of freedom* than color.

    A wheel with your subjective placement of a few pieces of gear is not going to stop any discussions anywhere. It will only fuel heated and equally subjective criticism of your approach.

    You need to develop some objective criteria on how to compare these amps or this isn't going to go anywhere. Some figure of merit, possibly some frequency-specific distortion rating (?) obtained through careful testing of each amp with a representative test signal and an oscilloscope. This is a complicated project to do right.
  19. B-string

    B-string Supporting Member

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    Nov 21, 2008
    Location:
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    Not what I am saying, some amps will not make it much past their designed "centered" sound. Most good designs are much more capable that people are willing to explore, maybe the "eyes" see control position and that affects perception.
    If you get a "feeling" from an all tube Classic SVT then the few minutes of carry time will be worth it to you. I saw as a young player the massive product placement of "Ampeg" gear and equated that to "the sound of Pros". Most "prominent" of my owned and gigged gear includes Fender Bassmans and Showmans, Ampeg (all tube) SVTs and V4-B, Sunn 2000s, G-K 800RB and present Fusion 550. Many others used along the way for either a short time or as a backline. Maybe my view is skewed by having played to many to be useful? Like JimmyM I have made most "work" for my personal needs with a few failures that may have been out of my own frustration or impatience, I can't say. I didn't maintain the need to play an all tube amp for whatever reason, those that still have that personal preference are valid as my "needs".
    So can you chart personal preference and/or perception as representative? You can but not as definitive fact as it will only be as accurate as the sample that will respond.
    I wish you success. I have the impression I can be of no further service in your quest?
  20. bigchiefbc

    bigchiefbc Supporting Member

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    Oct 9, 2006
    Location:
    Rhode Island, USA
    So if you consider Demeter to be a clean, neutral sound, and you put it at the origin, then further out towards the edge of the circle means, what? More distorted? More colored EQ? If that's so, I wouldn't put SVT at the edge, because there are other amps that get far more distorted and with more wildly colored EQs (like a Marshall Super Bass, for instance). I guess I understand what you're trying do do as far as having distinct "families" of tone be in clumps around the circle, but I'm just trying to figure out what makes something be closer to or further away from the center within a clump. Like, you have the SVT on the edge, and you have the SVT-PRO a little closer to the center in the same "family". What makes the SVT-PRO closer to the center?

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