Bass distorts on Outdoor Stages

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Al Bass, Feb 25, 2013.

  1. Al Bass

    Al Bass

    Jan 11, 2004
    Lake Worth, Fl
    Many times when playing on outdoor stages at festivals, my bass sound suffers to the point of distortion. Makes you think that perhaps you've blown a speaker or maybe your amp is about to crap out. I suspect bad power from the power generators that are typically used to power the stage. Or bad power filtering, which makes it prone to line noise from all the equipment, lights, etc., that is plugged into the same circuit. The other instrumentalists doesn't seem to be affected. My question: Would a power conditioner help even out the power and to prevent this? If not, what else could I use to help with this problem? Thanks!
  2. morgansterne

    morgansterne Geek U.S.A.

    Oct 25, 2011
    Cleveland Ohio
    this might seem obvious, but since you didn't bring it up I will . . . perhaps you're turned up louder than your amp can handle?
  3. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    Though line power could be an issue,

    How many watts is your amp?
    Speakers used?

    PA or no PA?

    Very loud drums and guitars to compete with?
  4. modulusman

    modulusman Banned

    Jan 18, 2004
    Play a real festival that has real PA and problem would be solved. Let the PA/monitors do the work.
  5. Al Bass

    Al Bass

    Jan 11, 2004
    Lake Worth, Fl
    My rig consist of SWR 750x with a HT322 Bergantino. Volume halfway up (controlling overall with volume knob on Musicman5). I rarely get a monitor, and yes, I'm going thru the PA. The festivals we play usually have 4-5 other bands on the bill with an occasional national headlining act. I'll just continue to monitor my sound, however, in clubs and other venues, I never have an issue with my sound. Thanks guys.
  6. john m

    john m Supporting Member

    Jan 15, 2006
    How do the bass rigs sound with the other bands?

    If they sound good on stage, I'd look at your levels in the signal chain. Be sure you're not over driving the input to the SWR.

    You might be plucking/picking harder with all of the adrenaline of the moment.

    OR, you need more speakers to move more air.
  7. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    IMO it's unlikely to be a power problem. The power supply inside an amp is high voltage DC, transformed up and rectified from 120VAC. If the AC waveform were disturbed enough to affect your sound, your amp would probably be making all sorts of obnoxious noises without you playing a note.
  8. Al Bass

    Al Bass

    Jan 11, 2004
    Lake Worth, Fl
    While listening to the other bands (Jazz Big Band, Rock), from off stage, the bass sounds great! Full and fat. I'm told that my bass sounds great as well from audience members. While experiencing the distorted bass sound on stage, I kept an eye on my input gain level on my amp and compressor. Both were ok.

    After talking more to our guitarist, he said although his amp was ok, he did have more than usual hiss/static when using his pedals this time out. The distorted bass seems isolated to the stage (my rig) only.

    It could be that I need more speakers for the outdoor gigs, but as I've gotten older, it just hard as hell to drag around the 2X15 cabs.
  9. audioglenn


    Jul 14, 2012
    This is a classic problem for a bass player. What's happening is you're playing your bass harder than you usually do in an effort to get the sound you're used to. But, a big part of the sound you're used to comes from the fact that you are inside. Remember that bass frequencies are omnidirectional. So, you're used to hearing the sound of your rig being reflected off the walls behind it. Then, when your rig is outside those walls are gone. In order to compensate for the loss of those walls, you will play harder.
    What may be happening is that you're playing so hard, you're distorting the input of your amp. You may need to turn your amp up louder when you play outside. If that is not an option, have them feed more of your bass back through your monitor. Hope this helps!
  10. OtterOnBass


    Oct 5, 2007
    Power conditioners can only limit power, not 'even-it-out' and add more when there isn't enough. The problem may be the voltage drop caused by running a long extension cord. The solution is a heavy-duty (thick gauge) extension cord or moving closer to the power source.
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Make sure the SWR limiter is on
  12. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    I wouldn't bother; it would be counterproductive. The more stage volume, the greater the probability of delay-related cancellations in the bass range between the PA and the stage kit. By adding more stage SPL, you'd actually be hurting, not helping, the sound the audience hears. (Not to mention making life miserable for the sound person.) Playing on an outdoor stage is just a different experience than playing in an indoor venue -- and requires an entirely different set of expectations and goals -- something you just have to let your brain get used to.

    If you need more of "yourself" in the sound you hear on stage, consider going to non-fitted IEMs, which will allow some leakage so you can hear the other members. You could still use your (smallish) amp/cab, but in a new role: as side fill, so the other band members can hear you.
  13. Marley's Ghost

    Marley's Ghost Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 9, 2002
    Tampa, FL
    try a compressor?
  14. PotsdamBass8

    PotsdamBass8 Supporting Member

    Jan 23, 2005
    Long Island, NY
    I experienced a similar problem last summer playing an outdoor gig. To me it sounded more like I had a TON more growly mids and no bass, which coming from my Stingray5, sounded almost like distortion. It was determined that it was because of playing outside, the bass frequencies dispersed all over the place while the directional mids came through loud and clear. Is it possible that you're hearing the same effect?
  15. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    I had a prob like this with the d.i. out, since i got a new amp it hasnt happened, could be that although its a drastic fix , thats if ya use it.
  16. 4dog


    Aug 18, 2012
    But i like this!
  17. Runnerman

    Runnerman Registered Bass Player Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2011
    I've experienced this also. The air movement also changes the sound from the cab. If there are fans or any wind this will come into play.
  18. Al Bass

    Al Bass

    Jan 11, 2004
    Lake Worth, Fl
    After further investigation and by process of elimination, my problem of distorted bass sound on outdoor stages has been isolated to a piece of gear I recently acquired from my guitarist: the Alesis 3630 compressor - aka " dirty six dirty". It seems that this unit does not handle the low B string notes as well as the other notes. When bypassed, my low B string notes sounds full and fat. However, when the unit is engaged, the low B string notes become distorted and choppy, a glitchy grunt. Tried adjusting the threshold/ratio/release to no avail. So that unit is outta there.