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A DI box/ outboard preamp to help combat weak output?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Dincrest, Mar 28, 2005.

  1. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Firstly, I get the feeling this has been asked a billion times, but I'm so piss poor at selecting the right/best search terms that I always come out blank. It happened again. (That and the search function doesn't allow 2 letter terms)

    Anyway, I quite like the sound of my bass (Samick Fairlane 6, active soapbars, 2 band EQ), but the output is rather weak. I've thought about gutting it and having all new pickups and preamp installed, but I already like the tone the way it is on the stock electronics (though a midrange control would be nice.)

    So would using a DI box or outboard preamp (i.e. a SansAmp or something) help my output signal be any hotter? I've heard that Tobias Toby Pro basses have weak output and that people have remedied that with DI boxes. What are some that you've used? On the surface this seems more economical than a full onboard electronics upgrade?

    Thanks again.
  2. illidian


    Jul 2, 2004
    Ampeg makes a tube DI now. Pricey, but it's got a tube in there.

    Sansamp is another option, take your pick of the three (bass driver with drive but no mid, acoustic driver with no drive but with mid, and para driver with a selectable midrange [not sure if this one has drive or not]).

    You could also use some effects pedals to remedy this as well. Maybe a para eq would boost your output, or a graphic eq?

    Only problem is, when anything boosts your output, your tone is going to be affected.

    Good luck solving this issue.
  3. MJ5150

    MJ5150 Terrific Twister

    Apr 12, 2001
    Olympia, WA
    What about an Avalon? There is one for sale right now in the FS forum, and it is top notch quality.

  4. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    If you add an active DI or preamp between the bass and your amp you're adding a stage of amplfication that adds noise to the system and accomplishes no more than what turning up the volume on your amp also does. Is the output insufficient to drive your amp to full power? if not I wouldn't be concerned. Otherwise a good techie may be able to increase the gain of your onboard pre.
  5. BenF


    Mar 29, 2001
    Boston area
    Yeah, a Sansamp BDDI (or Sadowsky or Aguilar outboard pre) pedal would give you a gain boost, and has other cool, usefull features. A regular DI, like a Countryman, won't give you a gain boost. These are all kind of high-end solutions, any effects pedal with a gain knob might do the trick (as long as you could defeat the effect part and just keep the gain.)



    Boost-only pedals:


  6. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    :help: What are you actually trying to drive ? An amp, an effect or a board ? If your bass is OK and the battery is good (asssuming that it is active) then it should be able to drive an amp to volume easily.

    I run a mix of passive and active basses. A mix of amps & preamps. I do pay attention to the hi or low impedance inputs on the amp/preamp and which bass I'm hooking up. If I'm going to my recorder - I use a DI rather than jacking straight in but that's about it ...

    If you really need a DI, there are a number of Demeter 201's around in the $400 - $500 range. They make a heckofagood DI. with a knockout hi-fi preamp attached (one way to look at it, right ?) Not to knock the U5 which has a marvelous reputation as a DI.
  7. Kael


    Dec 26, 2004
    Oklahoma City
    I use a Fishman Pro Plat. EQ DI to drive a power amp. I also use a 6 string with only two band onboard EQ, so I find the 5 band EQ on that Fishman to be very helpful on occasion. The depth knob on it sounds surprisingly good. They run about $170 or so new.
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I'm with 4Mal, the whole reason that amps can be driven into clipping in the first place is to allow them to reach maximum output even if the instrument has a weak output.

    So what IS your actual problem here?
  9. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    It's a deceptively simple thing. Unless I crank the volume control on my bass and max out the bass and treble on the onboard preamp, the bass is still rather 'quiet' (low output) through my amp (Ashdown MAG210C combo) even with extensive EQing and my bass ran through the passive input.

    I don't know if it's weak pickups or a subpar preamp.

    I've heard that people have the same weak output complaints about the stock pups on Toby Pro basses. Some said they upgraded the pickups, while others said they added an outboard preamp or somesuch.

    Therefore I wanted to hear from others who may have experienced the same and used an outboard preamp box to beef up their signal. I do think the pups and onboard preamp on me bass should be eventually upgraded, but I wanted to see if using an outboard preamp box of some kind could help beef up my signal/sound before I take "pup/preamp upgrade" plunge.
  10. pickles

    pickles Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Are you plugging the bass into the "active" or "low gain" input on your amp?

    If the onboard pre is weak, you'd be much better off replacing it than adding another preamp into the signal chain. Active basses in that price range usually don't have good electronics in them anyway, so putting something nice in there would probably imporve the tone as well.
  11. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    Agreed, and if the existing pre is of marginal quality then it's probably noisy as well. But I'd still lose sleep over it only if the system just simply didn't play loud enough with the volume on the ax at full and the volume(s) on the amp at 1/2. A/B'ing with another bass would be a worthwhile test as well.
  12. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    A couple of thoughts.

    First, replace the battery in your bass if you haven't already done so. (I have EMG actives in a Tele that get weak and eventually distort when the battery goes low.)

    Second. For the most part I run the vol controls on my basses flat out all the time and control dynamics with my right hand. So don't worry about having the vol control wide-open. Frankly I would consider that normal. On a passive bass, rolling off the vol control often rolls off sone of the highs and then as you bring the vol back up you also get brighter. So mine are usually all the way up anyway ...

    On an active bass I wouldn't have to run the B&T controls up as I rarely need that overstated sound. If they are passive tone controls, then I'd have them all the way up. Passive tone controls are usually cut only so all the way up is the absence of cut which is closer to the natual sound of the pup. That doesn't really matter to me as much as I just like the sound with the passive tones all the way up though ...

    Try both the Hi & lo positions on the Mag. Any difference in the level ? (Bring the volume down before changing the input and bring it up slowly. You wouldn't want to discover a whole bunch of new power all of a sudden ...)

    I gigged with a GK 400 (the original version) for a few years. A screamin 140 watts into 8 ohms, 200 in to 4 ohms ... Not exactly a barn burner by todays standards. I ran the Master all the way up, all the time and varied my vol using the input gain. I like it clean, clean, clean. If the room was beyond the capabilities of the amp and two 15's, then I used more FOH support. If the stage volume got out of control then I got some monitor help as well. My bandmates were pretty reasonable though so that wasn't generally a probem. We all sang in that band and that tends to keep people reasonable by itself.

    ...moral of that story is is it possible that you are expecting more out of this setup than it has the potential to achieve ? Maybe you could try your bass in another amp of similar wattage just for a reality check.
    Good luck with all this. I'll be very interested to hear what the resolution is.
  13. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Thanks for everyone's help.

    To address what others have said in no particular order:

    -My battery is fresh

    -on my amp I use the HIGH input for "passive" basses. Sounds too thin on LOW, but the thin is good for in-bedroom alone practicing.

    -Given that my bass was on the cheaper side, I think I will save up the extra scratch and have the on-board electronics upgraded rather than use a "band aid" fix like I was originally considering.

    Playability is killer on my bass. It's the tone that's kinda lacking. My housemate has a Yamaha BB 5-string with similar specs (alder body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, 2 soapbars with a 2-band EQ) and his sounds fantastic through my rig and I'm able to dial in more usable tones. Probably because his bass has better onboard electronics.
  14. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    OK that is a pretty definative test. I'd say your are down to two choices. Your first thought, using an outboard pre (Fishman, Sadowsky, Aguilar, MXR , etc ...). Or you can add an onboard pre. Aguilar, Bart, etc ...

    If it were me, I'd looking seriously at the outboard pre. If you divorce yourself of the Samick at some point. It's going to be tough to get your money out of the upgrade. Either route
    will work though. Time to demo some pre's then ...

    Good luck with that !
  15. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    Thanks once again. 4mal- your querying has been a great help.

    Heh, thing is with that Samick is that I can't find a 6-string neck as comfortable for me as that one is (and with a 3.1 inch heel width, no factory 6-string bass I know of has a neck *that* skinny so far up; 2" nut width is common.)

    There is a possibility I could eat my words, but that bass is a keeper to me for playability alone and it always feel "right" when I play it. To some, the wiser decision may be to save up for a better bass... but I've tried out some higher end 6's, and I always come back to my Fairlane. What can I say? I adore that bass, perhaps more than I should.

    Although, yeah, on the surface it *does* kinda seem like those guys who put loads of go-fast components on their li'l 4-cyl Honda Civic hatchbacks. After all, Samick isn't exactly a WOW name brand. When people find out I play a Samick they usually cock an eyebrow and sneer "Samick?" but that changes when they actually see and feel my bass.
  16. 4Mal

    4Mal Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2002
    Columbia River Gorge
    Fact is if it works for you, that's all that really matters. Luck to you!