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Bass sharp through PC

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by My ears hurt, Aug 4, 2012.

  1. My ears hurt

    My ears hurt

    Aug 3, 2012
    Hi All

    Apologies if this is an obvious question or one that has been asked before...(I did a search & didnt find anything that seemed to be the same)

    I recently bought a cheap bass & practice amp kit so I could teach myself to play bass. Both of these work fine, and I've set up the bass intonation OK and got it in tune OK. It sounds fine for what it is, and most importantly it plays in tune.

    In order to not disturb the neighbors late at night, I wanted to run a stereo line from the headphones out socket (1/4") of the amp to the line in on my PC (3.5mm). That way I can jam along to music on my PC, and listen to the combination of music plus my bass through headphones and record the bass on the PC if I want to. I've done this many times before with an electric guitar and it sounds OK (i.e. the guitar sounds in tune)

    When I do this with the bass, some of the notes (especially the lower notes on the A & D strings) sound sharp - horribly out of tune sharp. So I ran some tests: amp alone sounds fine (so it's not the amp.) Headphones directly into headphones out on the amp sounds fine (so it's not the headphones or the headphones socket on the amp.) This leaves the cord, the 1/4" to 3.5mm adapter, or the PC. Or something I'm missing.

    I also tried a mono TS instrument cable from headphones out, through 1/4" - 3.5mm adapter and into line-in on PC. This sounds in tune OK but is only mono!!! Also I tried the Bass directly into the PC line in (via both instrument cable and 3.5mm stereo cable - both through adapters) and again the bass sounds in tune, allbeit thin and in mono.

    I also tried all of this through a different PC - all with the same results.

    My guess (anyone please correct me!) is that the bass is producing a mix of frequencies - and my cable or PC is introducing some effect on some of those frequencies which is skewing some them (supressing or accentuating) with the overall result being out of tune.

    Could I just need to buy a better, more suitable cable (perhaps a better 1/4" TRS (stereo) - 3.5mm TRS cable - would that help? - I currently use a cheap (and quite thin) 3.5mm TRS with a converter to 1/4" on one end, as the headphones on the amp is 1/4")

    Or is it just a known thing that basic sound cards on PC's affect frequencies this badly and give undesirable results.

    Or am I missing something more basic (or something more complicated?) Any thoughts or suggestions greatly appreciated!
    Many thanks
  2. Ender_rpm


    Apr 18, 2004
    St. Louis MO
    Sounds like the nut needs to be set up, that the strings are too far off the board in that fret area, which means you are pushing it out of tune by fretting notes. Or that it is out of tune/intonation with the material you are playing on our PC. Get a pro-set up, see if that helps.

    But I would also look into a proper interface for your PC. A signal directly off a bass SHOULD only be a mono signal, there is no stereo component in most bass wiring. Could also be that you are overdriving your sound card, as it may not be designed for this sort of use.

    But I'd start with a good set up/nut dressing.
  3. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    I plug into my PC all the time with dollar store cables and adapters with no problems. I find that youtube videos are out of tune frequently.

    If you use a mono 1/4" to 1/8" adapter that you plug into your bass, then use a stereo cable to go from that to your line in wouldn't that make it come out in stereo in your headphones? IDK, I only have all stereo stuff and end up in mono - but I don't use headphones so it's not really an issue for me.
  4. paparoof

    paparoof Supporting Member

    Apr 27, 2011
    fEARful koolaid drinker
    When you run the bass into the PC it sounds sharp.... relative to what?

    Does your tuner have a mic on it so you can check your tuning while it's running through the PC speakers?

    As the others hinted, you may be in tune and whatever recording you're playing along with is wrong. This happens all the time.

    I do the majority of my practicing for my cover band by playing along with youtube videos of the original songs and they are commonly sharp or flat from what is actually correct (my bass). I just keep clicking on different videos of the same song until I find one I can play with, sometimes I have to re-tune my bass to match the video which is a hassle cause you gotta change it again for the next song, etc....
  5. My ears hurt

    My ears hurt

    Aug 3, 2012
    Hi all

    Thanks for the replies. To clarify some questions:
    1. The bass sound out of tune compared to the correct pitch note, as defined by the tuned bass not plugged into the pc.
    When plugged into the pc with a stereo cable between amp and pc, I play notes on the bass - say on the A string - the notes just sound very out of tune. Open A is fine, A# is ok, B is ok, C is ok, C# is too sharp, D is horribly too sharp (almost d#!), d# is a little too sharp and E is pretty much ok. If play the bass without plugging it in to anything, or if I just plug it into the amp, or if I run an instument mono cable to the pc line in all notes soundperfectly in tune. If replace the amp to pc cable with a stereo cable that's when it sounds bad..

    2. It is so bad that I can't play along with anything so the music I jam to is not the issue.

    Thanks for the suggestions - the overdriving of the sound card sounds like it could be the most likely (all other things considered). I'm thinkng of buying a cheapish mixer so that I don't have to run the bass/amp into the pc at all and instead mix the signals in the mixer. If I found one with a USB interface I could then record the bass part (or the entire mix) back to the pc. Anyone else think this could work well or have any experience with this?

    Many thanks again to everyone and best regards
  6. 1958Bassman


    Oct 20, 2007
    Are you using a tuner? Is it one that used your ear to make sure it's tunes, or one with some kind of light that centers, or lights up? If you're using your ear, get a tuner that gives a visual representation for when it's tuned. If you're tuning it at a low volume level, this matters- one of the weird things about how our ears work is that some sounds seem to shift up in frequency as the SPL increases. This is called 'psycho-acoustics'.

    Otherwise, make sure, as others posted, that your nut and intonation are set correctly. If the open strings sound fine and sharp as soon as you fret, especially near the nut, the slots need to be cut deeper.
  7. My ears hurt

    My ears hurt

    Aug 3, 2012
    Hi 1958Bassman

    Yes I am using a proper tuner (lights etc!) - so I can be sure that the bass is definitely in tune.

    In any event, and irrespective of if the bass is in tune or correctly intonated (which I believe it is), the key point for me to note is the bass sounds the same at a specific fret when either played without amplification, through an amp, of through a mono cable into the PC line in (either going or not going through the amp first). It's only when I plug the amp into the PC via a stereo cable from amp headphones to PC line in I get the problem.

    It really is very obviously wrong in this latter case - it's not in my mind ;-) In actual fact I got my wife to listen to the difference (to prove to myself I want going crazy) and when I showed her the difference she said "Oh no...that doesnt sound right at all!"

    I'll try and arrange a recording to post, to show folks what I mean.

    Many thanks again
  8. You may have your playback editor set to up/down a pitch.
    look in the control panel of your PC and see if you have
    sound manager software like "Realtek sound effect manager"
    You can set the playback pitch from that program.
    Just a thought.

  9. Winfred


    Oct 21, 2011
    Can you set it up this way? (It's late, so forgive me if this is goofy)

    I do this set up all the time:

    • Plug my bass into my amp
    • Plug headphones into my amp
    • Plug my pc into my amp (I use the headphone out jack on the pc, and the Aux in on the amp)
    • Turn on the amp (you can now play your bass and hear it in your headphones)
    • Fire up an MP3 on the pc (you should now hear that on your headphones)

    The difference is, the sound of your bass is now coming directly from your amp. Your pc is just playing the song.

    Mix the two volumes (bass and pc) so they're close, then play along.

    I hope the works.
  10. Hey, after tuning your bass with the external tuner, plug your bass the way you want to, to the pc, and then use an online or software tuner to see if you're getting different readings.

    If you're getting the same readings then either your ears are playing tricks with you OR the songs that you're trying to play with are pitched lower by the pc or player.

    Also, the eq on the amp, turn down the bass and increase the mids and treble. The bass freq maybe tripping up the tuner.

    Sometimes the producer of a cd would raise the pitch of a song, simply because it sounds better, during mastering. DJ's do this all the time when they're doing re-mixes of a song.
  11. jarrydee


    Oct 22, 2011
    make sure on your computer that the input or volume is set for stereo, it sound like you are hearing a sort of phasing due to a stereo signal coming out mono. I have got some weird sounds before when I used to do this!~

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