1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Bass guitar through a PA

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by gdhadden, Jul 15, 2010.

  1. gdhadden


    Jan 15, 2007
    Hello. I play bass in a 5 piece band which also includes guitar, guitar/dobro, guitar/steel guitar/mando, and a female singer. For outdoor gigs, I use an Eden WT-800 through a four ohm 4x10 Epifani speaker. I think the amp is around 1100 watts. The PA we use is a 600 watt (or so) through four 12” speakers. We run four voices and all the non-bass instruments through it.

    One of the guitar players also runs the sound, and he would like me to play through the PA. I think this would be a bad idea for a couple of reasons.

    First, since bass requires more amplification for a given sound level than most other instruments, the sound of the band would be worse (this is why I need a 300 watt MarkBass to keep up with my (different band) guitar player’s 25 (or so) watt Princeton). I believe putting the bass through the PA will reduce the quality of the overall sound because it will “use up” a good portion of the power leading to distortion, etc. for all of us.

    Second, even if the first point were not correct, the sound of the bass itself will suffer. The PA was not designed for bass; my system is.

    The aforementioned sound guy when questioned about this expresses two reasons for his position. He says:
    1. If you don’t play through the PA, your sound will change pitch. The same effect as a train whistle. (!?)
    2. There will be a noticeable delay between the bass and the rest of the band.

    Well, OK, my response to 1 is: no, the train whistle thing is called the Doppler effect and requires that the sound producer and the listener be in motion relative to each other and that motion must change from approach to recede or vice versa. Also, why would this (very odd) effect be produced by my amp but not the PA.

    My response to his second point is that the distance between my speaker and the audience is about the same as between the PA speakers and the audience, so that shouldn’t be an issue.

    So, any opinions? Is there something I’m missing? Thanks for your thoughts!


  2. I think you will be fine running through the PA.
  3. JohnMCA72


    Feb 4, 2009
    In general, I think it's a great idea. Just not with that PA. Need subs, more power, & more speakers (& power for them) of all types to balance out & so that it all runs "cool". Nothing sounds worse than an over-driven PA, & nothing over-drives a PA more than low end.
  4. D.I into the P.A no worries..
  5. stflbn


    May 10, 2007
    Maybe not 'hammering' through the PA, but having it in there definitely would help with an overall 'fuller' mix and more of an 'even' sound.

    IMHO - if they don't blow their own PA... it can't hurt to have it in there.
  6. M0ses


    Sep 11, 2009
    Los Angeles
    Eeeeeeh. I wouldn't do it without a three-way system. You need a subwoofer(s) with a separate amp(s), plus those 12" woofers and tweeters.
  7. Tim C.

    Tim C.

    Feb 4, 2010
    Get subs and go for it.

    Of course, get crossovers as welland keep everything that isn't the bass guitar and kick drum out of the subs.
  8. A440Hz


    May 31, 2010
    Phoenix, AZ
    Digital Audio Developer, ScratchAudio.com
    You're right, OP-- the gui****/sound guy is blowing smoke. The Doppler Effect is not an issue, and delay is not an issue. We can tolerate something like 10-20ms of delay between sounds without perceiving separate sound sources.

    If DI-ing into the PA makes things better for the band for other reasons (set-up time, stage space, whatever), then go for it, but otherwise, your rig is fine. Is this guy just wanting more control over the final sound product?
  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    We usually run everything through the PA, even if we don't "crank it" just to give everything presesence. It makes for a more balanced sound. Not necessarily loud, just balanced.
  10. metzgermeister


    Aug 5, 2009
    I'd stick with your rig over the PA. I had to go through a PA that already had two vocals and a violin with effects going into it, and my sound was awful from being mixed in with all of that.

    That sound guy sounds like he needs a few physics lessons!
  11. gdhadden


    Jan 15, 2007
    Yes, well I offered.:D
  12. I don't read anywhere if you have already tried to play only through the PA, in a normal band situation.

    I believe that the correct chronological order should be:
    1- one tries
    2- one argues about this experience


    IMHE, when the PA is not too "wrong", i always prefer going direct to PA and listen myself through a monitor.
  13. gmarcus

    gmarcus Supporting Member

    Apr 4, 2003
    You can also get a comb filter effect because the P. A. speakers are separated and both producing your bass. This means that straight down the center of the room the bass will be loud, then as you move off at an angle to the stage the bass will go through several peaks and mulls. Some areas in the room will have plenty of bass and others will be soft. You can fix this by using one sub or putting both of your subs right next to each other. There is a link to a good article on this effect somewhere on talkbass try searching.

    Your sound man's worries don't make any sense to me. If you are willing to lug your bass rig and adjust it according to the sound mans ears in the audiance than everything should be fine.
  14. Why don't you run your rig AND provide a feed to the P.A.? If I were the one running sound I'd want more control out front too - and as a bass player I'd want my amp on stage. Everyone wins this way.

    And yes, subs would be a welcome addition if they don't want you to run any amp on stage. Plus a kickass monitor system so the bass doesn't bury all the vocals in the stage sound.
  15. Lowend65


    Sep 21, 2006
    San Jose, CA
    I prefer to play through the PA.
    De-localize the sound and overall quality will be better

    Keep your amp quiet and run a XLR off the head or mic the cabinet
  16. A question for gdhadden:

    is the mixer that your sound engineer uses digital? .........
  17. gdhadden


    Jan 15, 2007
    nope. analog. ... and only 600 watts. outdoors!
  18. I wouldn't bother going through the P.A. unless it goes through a nice crossover into some subs. I've run sound and played bass in both of my long term gigging bands, and I've done it both ways in both bands. Sub's are a must to run through the P.A. otherwise you'll lose tone, and punch.
  19. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    Bass guitar and kick drum and toms and sometimes keys.
  20. joegrant413


    Dec 6, 2009
    I have basically run bass > VT Bass > PA > house for my first bass rig. This way I get all the stage volume I want and feed the house well too. Works great, and I've been complimented on the tone by some persnickety musicians (non-bassists I should say).

    I've only been playing bass since last fall, but I like knowing that the tone I hear on stage is what the audience is getting. Also my QSC K12 is pretty sweet to play with guitar MFX boxes at home.

    -- Joe