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An issue of tone

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by Phil Smith, Sep 19, 2000.


  1. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
    Greetings folks,

    Is there really a distinct difference in the audible tone from one amp versus another given the wide range of equalization that's available, including valve and solid state blending? How does the tone of the instrument fit into all of this? How does the type of cabinet fit into all of this? Is the ultimate rig one that offers the most transparency so that the tone of your instrument comes through above all?
     
  2. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    So many questions...so little time :D

    Is there really a distinct difference in the audible tone from one amp versus another given the wide range of equalization that's available, including valve and solid state blending?

    Yes. In addition to EQ and tube/SS blending, damping comes into play, the design of the amp will affect whether it has a smooth sound, for example, a brittle, sterile sound or something in between. It's pretty tough to EQ in warmth;)

    How does the tone of the instrument fit into all of this?

    In my case, my basses have recognizable tonal differences that I hear, even when unplugged. The job of my amps is to make them loud enough to play along with others. My amps are
    not what would be considered to have a flat frequency response...and I like them. I keep the amp's EQ set flat and don't use compression or limiters. The instruments are very important because I'm not trying to fix them with the amp's tone controls.

    An extreme example would be trying to make a P bass with flatwounds sound like an Alembic Series I played by Stanley Clarke. That would take some serious EQing.

    How does the type of cabinet fit into all of this?

    The type of cabinet also plays a big part in the sound you produce. While you could possibly tweak a Cerwin Vega 18 for RHCP style funk, there are much easier ways to get that sound :D

    Is the ultimate rig one that offers the most transparency so that the tone of your instrument comes through above all?

    Depends. I've tried some of the cabinets that have been touted for their flat response and didn't really like them. They were too transparent. It's highly subjective. The mid bump of some regular cabinets is actually something I think I put to good use... I get a warm sound with lots of punch and a smooth though not overly extended high end. As a budget audiophile ;)I've had big, flat response systems before (bi-amp and tri-amp) but finally realized that the sound I preferred was in a more traditional vein. The bottom line was I need something that sounded great no matter the situation. I have that.

    My main rig didn't cost a lot of money and is the culmination of years of experimenting... and I like it. 400w head, 1-15 and 2-10T cabinets. For me it's tone first, volume second... with what I have neither is an issue so it may very well be my ultimate rig. I don't particularly want to carry around an 85lb. tube amp/preamp combo and most of the really popular amps leave me cold.

    It all comes down to the player. What kind of sound do you want? How do "you" play "your" bass? Serious tonal changes can be made, not with drastic EQ setting, but simply changing how you play the bass.

    Hope that helps.
     
  3. Matthias

    Matthias

    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    Brad said it all.

    Just two comments I'd like to add:

    How I would rank influences (I found that affirmed in a bass magazine):
    1. your playing technique, your bass
    2. cab
    3. amp

    If you dislike the flat sound of your setup very much, no EQ in the world will help. Especially adding 'warmth' is nearly impossible, as Brad already said. And if your amp has e.g. a certain upper mid honk you will always hear this.

    My 2cents,
    Matthias

    BTW I'm with Brad regarding coloured sound versus flat response. I need beefy low mids.

    [Edited by Matthias on 09-19-2000 at 03:07 AM]
     
  4. Bravo Brad! I'm beginning to think Brad could answer the questions as to why we are here and how the universe began!


    I'd say that tone is most affected by fingers and instrument, then cab, then amplification. The first time I went shopping for cabs many years ago (Cretaceous era) I was blown away by their difference in tone and sound shaping.

    If you mail ordered a popular amp, cab, and bass without hearing anything else, one could be happy. But go to a store with both "high end boutique gear" and the more common items, start playing around, and you'll hear the differences, some subtle and some obvious. Some are more versatile, some are warmer, some have a flat sound while others are not, etc.

    Transparent or not? Neither is better. Which ever pleases your ear more.