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AI Contra; different surface, different tone

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, Aug 17, 2005.

  1. I've had my AI Contra combo for about a year and a half, and for the most part I'm very satisfied with it, with nothing but compliments from other musicians for the tone and volume/size ratio.

    I do, however, notice a great deal of variance in the tone depending upon the surface that the speaker is firing down on. Being somewhat averse to knob-twiddling, this is a minor but growing annoyance.

    The best tone, I notice, is when the surface is highly reflective, such as linoleum or hardwood. The worst tone was last Saturday, when I played an outdoor gig on a slatted wood deck (probably sounded great if you were lying under the deck). No gigs on shag carpet as of yet.

    I've mulled over a possible solution; schlepping around a hunk of particle board, melamine, or some other such material to make the surface consistent from gig to gig. Any other Contra owners have this problem or hit upon a more inventive solution?
  2. anonymous8547j7d7b

    anonymous8547j7d7b Guest

    Jul 1, 2005
    I've been told that carrying a carpet tile to sit the amp on helps. Unfortunately I can't speak from experience as the units are so damned over-inflated in price here in the UK :spit: (£959 = $1668 !!!). However, since hearing this I've put my miniBrute on a carpet tile whenever I'm not setup on a carpeted surface & it does seem to warm the sound up a little. maybe there's something in it?
  3. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    How about trying a piece of that foam material for mounting posters? You can pick up a piece at the art supplies stores. It may be firm enough to deflect the sound. It's about 3/8 or 1/2 inch thick and very light.

    If that doesn't work then try the next hard material (that is light) like underlayment plywood (the real thin kind).
  4. I know of one guy who puts the contra on its back, supporting it with a crescent - shaped bracket. So basically you get a front-firing woofer and upward facing midrange. Probably more consistent but I guess you'd sacrifice some volume this way. Might be better for boomy rooms, though.
  5. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    When I got my first Contra I did tote a small piece of 1/4 panelling in the back of the van for a while. After a while I stopped, as I fortunately didn't run into any situations where it was needed, there were only minor differences with various floor materials and I didn't encounter any extremes.

    However, if I were headed for a dreaded outdoor gig, I'd try to find that piece of wood. A slatted wood deck or any other permeable surface is an obvious impediment to any downfiring speaker, and for that matter, not all that friendly to any forward-firing speaker cab. The potential for grass or dirt surfaces would also send me looking for a slice of wood to bring along.

    Outdoor gigs are almost always a problem with sound unless you're on a hard surface with perpendicular surfaces (walls, band shells) nearby, and even then the results are mixed unless there is a professionally designed and installed system in a venue intended for music.
  6. I agree about the price but it is very good - and robustly constructed - not that I intended to test that aspect. I think it is best on reflective surfaces but whilst you would expect what the speaker is firing on to have a huge difference and it makes a difference but IMHO the characteristics of the room matter more. This is so for all speakers. Again, IMHO, the AI is less sensitive to placement (eg - how near or far away from a wall you are) but using that screw in lifter - not a very classy arangement perhaps, works very well as does the eq. I suspect that most DB player are like me and are not big eq twiddlers.

    It is something I could do with getting on top of coz when I figure it right it makes great improvement and the AI eq is a good one. Also, learning to knob twiddle on an eq teaches you what the charateristics of a room are (that the eq has to compensate for).

    Someone could join in and say - 'if you played accoustically' but of course they'd be wrong - no matter what it is and how its played the room with modify (or kill stone dead) the sound - often in a manner that is undesirable - ie, IMHO make certain features/frequencies/colours in the sound you want to project unintelligilbe to the audiance.
  7. oystein


    Sep 15, 2001
    Norway, Leikong
    When playing loud gigs I do it in a similar way, actually I have faced the tweeter down but that's only due to lack of brackets. I find my sound to be clearer and cutting through a lot more this way. For smaller gigs I prefer the downfiring solution.

  8. Tbeers


    Mar 27, 2005
    Chicago, IL
    I started doing something similar in the last few months I used the Contra. I found that on carpet my sound would lose some oomph, and instead of cranking the bass I decided to tip the thing over. Helped a lot.
  9. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
  10. buffalobillh


    Jul 20, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Samuel Shen Basses, NS Design, D'Addario Strings

    If one big piece is to much for you to schlep around, you could always get a piece of plywood w/ laminate, laminate fiber board, counter top material, etc. etc. and cut it into two or three sections, put hinges between the pieces, fold it up for easy carry. I no longer play gigs that require such small equipment, so it's not a concern for me (throwing out my back is, however). Finding what works doesn't have to cost a lot of money.

  11. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    I have experimented a little bit with the Auralex Gramma and the Contra. Like Ric I also bought the Gramma originally to help with front firing cabs that get too boomy on raised wooden stages and risers.

    Is the Contra better with the Gramma? I dunno. More consistent regardless of floor surface? Yes, I believe so. Seems to reduce boominess and provide a more controlled sound.
  12. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    I actually called Rick Jones at AI a while back to ask him about using the Auralex Gramma and/or other things underneath the Contra.

    If I remember correctly, Rick wasn't too familiar with the Gramma (this was a while ago), but he did say basically the same thing that Mike stated above. In Rick's opinion, the room itself (walls, or lack thereof, ceilings, room shape & size, glass surfaces, etc.) make more of a difference in the way that the Contra sounds than the type of floor surface.
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    I am unfamiliar with the Gramma device. A quick bit of research indicates that it's primary mission is to provide acoustic isolation. Now, the Contra not only uses the floor as a reflective surface but the acoustical coupling to the floor is quite (most) often very desirable. To be sure, there are venues where this coupling results in too "boomy" a sound. I would think, for the most part, decoupling a Contra from the floor would result in poor sound.
  14. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    Yup, I understand your comments completely. I kinda wondered if the Gramma would "soak up" the sound from the downfiring woofer myself, in an undesirable way.

    My experience (which I will qualify here and previously as "a little") with this configuration told me that it still sounded like the Contra, but with slightly less boom and more controlled low freqs. The Gramma did not stifle the Contra's sound in the way that I thought it might. In the two particular situations where I tried it, to my ears, it was an improvement.

    Regarding floor coupling, I'm flexible! With my EA cabinet I go one of three ways in different rooms, sometimes with the cab on the floor, sometimes on the Gramma, and sometimes up on a chair. However as you pointed out, with the Contra, floor coupling probably takes on special significance.

    The question might also be constructed like this: How reflective is the top surface of the Gramma?? The isolation or decoupling seems to come from the space age foam rubber blocks or strips on the bottom, and hard top surface and its carpeting probably has its own reflective (or dampening) qualities.

    Interesting questions ... Perhaps others with experience will chime in.

    All that said, if I was playing on a nice hardwood floor, I'd leave the Gramma at home for sure!
  15. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    And that my friend is why I no longer own an AI cab. My first system was a Series I Coda. People would ask me about it and I would ramble on about all the advantages of the downfiring woofer, spewing out all the marketing hoopla I'd read about. I loved it for the functionality in the head and the compact size of the cabinet (although the roundness of it actually become cumbersome). In the end however, the real problem was the downfiring woofer. I had a Series II Coda on trial for quite a while too and couldn't live with it for the same reason. I ended up using the Pub although now I'm an AI customer again having bought a Focus but I'm using it with forward-firing cabs. The whole downfiring woofer thing sounds great on paper (marketing) but isn't so great in practice although it does obviously depend on your specific playing situations.

    The technical aspects of the downfiring woofer it have been argued to death already but in the end your experience and specific requirements will dictate what you need to do.

    As for carrying around the piece of plywood. I tried that a few times too and found it didn't help all that much. My personal opinion is that even in an ideal situation, the design just can't cut it when you need more volume - the more you crank it, the muddier it gets. And I'm not talking super high-volume - I never play in those kinds of situations.

    I think the idea of a compact four-way system where the downfiring speaker is a second (sub-)woofer and not the main woofer, is interesting but I personally don't want the bulk of my notes firing into the floor.
  16. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    If the opportunity presents itself, check out one of the newer models. The newer combos don't "break loose" on the lower notes as the Series I could at times, the newer units are much tighter sounding and have a bit more headroom as well. I also find the high pass filter useful in boomy situations.

    As far as Gramma goes, it doesn't really soak up sound, but tries to decouple cabs from the stage floor. My son lent me his to try it; I used it in a boomy stage situation, an ebass gig with a pair of EA cabinets, and it did it's job, though the different was not at all dramatic. I could get him to bring it down here again so I can try it with a Contra, but I don't know that it would be necessary or all that desirable as opposed to a slice of wood if faced with a permeable or absorbent stage floor. The Contra's footprint is far smaller than the Gramma, which is much larger than necessary. Still, it could be an interesting experiment.

    Disclaimer: I am an Acoustic Image dealer as well as a longtime user.
  17. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    The Gramma is just about perfect for the good old VL-110's but
    it's bigger than the VL-108's, Acme B1, and LDS 1-8. I don't know if it was designed to work with a substaitially smaler cabinet footprint and I'm sure that they weren't taking a down firing
    10" speaker into consideration when they built it. But, since I have
    a older Contra at the house at the moment I'll give it a try
    and let you know what happens.


    PS Auralex now has a carrying bag for the Gramma, cool.

    I do not work for Auralex Audio.
  18. I appreciate what Adrian is saying, but all said, the Contra works great for 97% percent of my playing situations (wood decks and shag carpets not withstanding). Rather than sitting at the bar, if I spend a little extra time twiddling knobs before the downbeat, using my hit-or-miss method, I usually can dial in a consistent tone. Sometimes I luck out and just plug and play.

    I just have to remind myself to heed Rufus Reid’s admonition to “practice your amp!!!” so that I know how to make the proper adjustments quickly and accurately.
  19. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    Well if it does work for you most of the time then that's great. As I said, it depends on your specific situations. AI would not be manufacturing those cabs unless people were buying them.