Amp tone in live situations

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Rockin John, Feb 3, 2003.

  1. I tried a Yamaha NE-1 preamp box on saturday. It seemed quite good and I nearly bought it. But I kept my money in my pocket.

    Playing a cheap Musicman copy through a tiny practice amp is not the best of tests, I agree, but it dawned on me to consider how the bass tone comes across when playing live.

    The NE-1 produced a range of subtle can most amps, I guess. But those subtle tones are totally lost in the mix when we play. I don't do bass solos so they wouldn't be heard then, either.

    The bass comes through but the subtle tones don't. That's why I didn't buy the box. Atop that, I'm going to fit TI Jazz flats on the BBGS so there's not going to be that much high stuff from the bass, anyway.

    I'm not suggesting tone controls aren't necessary on a amp I'm just thinking they might not be as important as I first thought.

    Am I misguided? Am I talking rubbish again?

  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Probably!! ;)

    What you have to realise is that tone is almost entirely subjective - so people talk a load of technical jargon (Bollocks?) - but in the end all that matters is how it sounds to you!!

    So - you could be talking to somebody who likes Death Metal or somebody like me who plays Jazz and wants a clean undistorted sound with low noise.

    Anyway - the point is that probaly every single person on this forum has their own idea of a "good bass tone" and every one is different!!

    So - I hardly ever use the tone controls on my amp - I always set flat and then adjust from my bass's active electronics - but it's all just personal preference!!

    You talk about the sound "coming through live" - well in the situation I play in, a lot of detail of the bass tone comes through - but then I don't play with Heavy Guitarists and I am mostly playing with "acoustic" instruments.

    As I say - every situation is different and you can't generalise about "Tone" or "Cutting through" - it's just what works for you in your situation and what gets you a good tone.
  3. Hello Bruce.: how's things?

    Perhaps I'm just trying to persuade myself that I did the right thing by passing up on the Yamaha box.

    You see, I've got a fairly swish parametric preamp that I designed some years ago. I decided to begin building it last summer, and got about half way through. Then time ran out - and I got a bit fed up with it, to be honest - so I'm just wondering whether it's really worth doing the rest. If I can't really hear these subtleties, I may as well forget it.

    I accept what you say about it depending on the type of music. A 3 piece rock band doesn't really rely on nauiences from the bass player, does it?

    In my heart of hearts, my cobbled together Laney valve head rig probably is good enough.


  4. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well I think there is an unhealthy obsession with gear around here - so you get the impression that people think their whole band's standard of performance will go up dramatically if they buy another piece of gear!!! :rolleyes:

    I think you can affect the tone on bass far more by the way you play - technique and feel - than by any pre-amp or effect. Well - for the better, that is - it's pretty easy to make you whole band sound horrible by buying a cheap and inappropriate effect and then using it on every song!! :D

    I wasted so much money in the 80s by buying effects and pedals that I never really used except for mucking about! :rolleyes:

    In the end, what people like hearing most is good solid bass sound that supports the band - grooves,swings, rocks whatever and they will notice bad tone, but will tend to feel like good tone is just part of the whole band .....
  5. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    There's a lot of stuff to discuss here.

    If you have a great bass, know how to use it and have a specific piece of outboard (like a Sadowski/Overwater/Sansamp/Yamaha/whatever) IMHO you are going to get the same results regardless of what amp you are using. I often play support or multiple band gigs and normally the headliner or promoter suppliers the backline.

    I personally plug my bass into the house amp , fiddle for 10 mins then set it flat.
  6. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    No doubt that what sounds good playing solo and what sounds good with a full band kicking can be two very different things. That doesn't mean that you can't sound good amidst a lot of other sound.

    I agree with Bruce - there is definitely too much attention paid to gear fetishes and not nearly enough attention paid to specifics in using that gear to get a great real-world bass tone.

    I have a little rule I impose on myself - I never tweak my amp tone when playing alone - or if I do, I return settings to where they were before playing with a full band. My sound isn't optimized for solo playing, but rather for sitting pretty in the mix. I make full use of the two channels of semi-parametric EQ on my amp (one for fingerstyle, one for slap).

    So, I'd say that... 1.) How you use the gear you have is more important than having this or that fancy toy in terms of getting a good sound, so you shouldn't necessarily feel that you HAVE to drop a bunch of cash just because everyone else is. 2.) I disagree that having a great tone is pointless - it's just that the definition of what a great tone is changes when you add a loud band to the equation.

    Well, as usual, just my 2¢, YMMV. Tax and title not included... :)
  7. I'm not into gizzmos, gadgets, pedals and the like. I saw the NE-1 as a preamp, that's all. My rig is very....well, strange is a good description.... and I've been considering smartening it up.

    I run a home made 200W slave from a Laney 50Watt valve head: the Laney is, therefore, effectively, my preamp courtesy of more home brew electronics. Now, my first thought was to sell the Laney, forget the 200Watt and replace both with a a proper bass head. But then I thought another option would be to replace the Laney with the preamp I've half built, or the NE-1.

    And then I considered the whole business of bass tone in the live situation and actually wondered whether I need a preamp at all, other than straight gain with no tone shaping and into the 200Watt slave.....And then I became confused so posted this thread.

    (I guess another option for me would be some light compression + a gain only stage)

  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Avoid compression - it is the work of Satan!! ;)

    Get a decent head that is high quality and it will last you for many years!! But it needs to be 300 watts minimum - ask Munjibunga!! ;)
  9. I think Munji would at least double that....probably stick a 0 on the end;)

    I've never used compression therefore, I guess, I'm not in a position to say. But I considered that just a smidgen mightn't be so bad, just to bring in the dynamic range a bit. I dunno, Bruce.

    Your comment on getting a good head is wise, though. Mind you, it's probably more important to look at the cab first (your advice on another thread welcome). I'm going to try a few tricks at rehersal on Thursday. I've knocked up a flat response preamp. I'm going to jack the bass into that, then that into the slave to see what happens. If I can get some good tone I've almost answered my own question, I suppose. The slave's good for 20Hz so the shortcomings of the cab will be easily noticed without the Laney colouring things: I doubt that's good for anywhere near 20Hz.

    We'll see Thursday night.

  10. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    Bruce has an aversion to pedals and compression. In fact there is quite a famous compression thread around ;)

    However joking aside there are some issues...I own a Boss LM2 Limiter that can work..what's the term? invisible gain riding but and it's a big one there's a lot to be said for controlling the volume from your fingers. If I remember rightly you sing lead vocals. One less knob to worry about cannot be a bad thing (no knob gags please). Try setting the volumes so you have to play very lightly when the drummer is rimshotting/holding back. Now increase the pressure as he lays into it. Also you should het some touch sensitive overdrive or saturation from the power valves.
  11. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    An excellent thread with many great points.

    Some things you have to keep in mind is your sound is going to be different in every room you play in. It's really difficult to pin-point the exact tone of what your amp can accomplish because what it sounds like in a wood room is going to sound different in a brick room, or outside.

    My whole philosphy on amps is, "Whatever it is, I can make it work". I can basically have any amp thrown in front of me and I'll come up with a tone that I'm at least half way happy with. If it doesn't have enough wattage I'll either mic it or line it out into the PA. (which I do with my current amp at gigs.) Most people who know me, know that I very much dislike Ampegs, but even so, when I have to play through one, I'll come up with something usable, even though I would probaly do everything but trade my soul to be playing through an Eden right then.

    It's funny how your taste in tone changes also. I remember a while back, I thought that "A good bass tone" was the "boomy" type of tone. I would totally scoop out or, almost scoop out all of my mids. The tone isn't very versatile. It can work in some rock and country music, but that's about it. I wanted to solo more, play slap, tap, harmonics, ect. The tone just wouldn't work for any of that. Plus it usually sounded just like a big clipping ball of mud. A light eventually went off in my head, so I cut my lows and started putting some mids in my eq. I also use to just set my amp up, then my bass, and never touch any controls on my bass. Now I find myself constantly switching picups, messing with the eq, with the tone knob, ect. I just find that so much can be done on the bass. Espcially if you want different tones for different songs, or parts of songs.

    I have to agree with Bruce and Donkey though, I personally think some people put to much thought into gear. I know something around here had a quote from Marcus Miller that the just of it went something like "get the gear you want so you don't have to worry about it more, then you have plenty of time to worry about being a better musician". Which I agree with wholeheartly. Nothing wrong with getting gear, talking about gear, wanting gear. But you should put majority of your energy into being a better musician. I can't tell you how many times I've seen guys with Gibsons and Parkers who can barley play get smoked by a guy with a 400 dollar Strat. My advanced theory teacher, who's a monster guitarist, graduated from Berkley, ect. just recently bought a new guitar. It was one of the new Squier tele's. For Acoustic stuff, he plays a 300 dollar Stratocoustic. Why? Because he doesn't feel the need to pay 4k for a Martin. Again, not a dig at expensive equipment cause lord knows I would buy a Warwick Dolphin if I had the cash, but I truly see Bruce's point and think that some people worry to much about gear. So many times I've heard kids talk about how they are going to buy some expensive guitar, but still can't even pick a simple melody out by ear.

    Okay, rant over. :) ;)
  12. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I just use a GK head, eden 210 and fender 115. I use it's eq, a bit on my bass, mostly flat. And I use the boost control for some growl, depending on the song.
  13. Petebass


    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    Amen, someone who agrees with me. Non-bass players in particular have trouble understanding this. I could go on forever about "Soundcheck" protocol but that's another thread i guess.....
  14. On the subject of bass tone within the mix, I listened to some music last night. There was a piece of (what might be called) 'mood music'. It featured what I believe was a 5 string fretless. The woody tones came through well as the bass was forward in the mix and the other instruments were 'light'.

    Earlier I'd listened to Hendrix's, Purple Haze. This was quite a tame studio version. I listened quite carefully: Noel Redding's bass contributed nothing but bass fundamentals...the deep stuff...and the rest of the bass tone was lost in the mix. Didn't he play with a pick? If so there should have been some click each time he struck a string. But there seemed to be none.

    The clicks, brighter harmonics must have been there, though. It seemed to me to be like pouring a cup of water into the ocean: it MUST have some effect, but it's unimaginably small.

    I also checked out some Chris Squire and some of the slap kings. The brighter stuff was there but was well masked (depending on the song) until the bass was prominent, then all the brights were there.

    Not conclusive, I suppose. But I'm still inclined towards placing less emphasis on the need for a preamp (or to have one but not use the EQ much).

  15. Well, what an interesting experiment last night. I fed the bass directly into the slave via that variable gain, flat response preamp. First off, it wasn't really loud enough; especially when the guitarist and drummer got a bit excited!! The Laney valve amp was clearly offering some compression; no surprise there, I guess. But the real surprise was the tone. It was clear, strong, powerful and fullbodied. What more could I ask, especially as the only control over tone was on the bass itself? Clearly, too, the Laney has muddied the waters, so to speak. That will now be put up for sale.

    A couple of points I've learned:

    1) Some compression could be useful.

    2) The speaker cab I use is woefully short of bass response: that has to be the next project.

    3) Any preamp I use from now on can be done so in the full knowledge that the sound without one is really quite good!

    Which brings me round to my opening post. The Yamaha NE-1. I heard enough of this unit last week to appreciate that it might be useful with the right gear.....if I can get one at the right price.

  16. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I don't think you can compare - "live sound" with what you hear on records. Most rock/pop records will have gone through months of mixing and subtle tweaks with gear that cost thousands and wouldn't stand up to or be practical for continuous live use!

    So - compression used subtly via a mixer in the studio to improve the overall sound balance can be a good thing - playing live through cheap compression pedals is always a very bad idea!! Especially for bass !! ;)
  17. On your first point, Bruce, I agree that what I listened to wasn't live so the test wasn't really of that much use. It was just a try out to see what I could hear. It was instructive but not in anyway conclusive.

    On your second point, the jury's still out. I've not tried compression so don't know how it would work. The other side of that coin is that the setup used last night is still experimental. The slave won't drive that much into 8 Ohms but will do a couple of hundred into 4. Haven't got 4 Ohms. :eek:

    Next rehersal I might try the PA slave (200 into 8) to see what headroom I've got. That should take care of the peaks in the signal whilst still allowing plenty for the decay in the note envelope.

    Like I say, it's early days. And if I can get the loan of a compressor I'll give it a whizz and make a judgement then.



    How much do those EV cabs cost?

  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Do you mean EA Cabs - depends - mine cost about £800 - but there are cheaper ones now - I think the website is :
  19. Yes. Sorry. EA