bass thru PA

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by Lizooki, May 19, 2008.

  1. Lizooki


    Feb 24, 2008
    I know that playing a bass thru a guitar amp is a bad thing.
    But I have heard that basses can be played thru PA systems.
    Will this not hurt the PA speakers? or...are they broad ranged enuff to handle a bass?

    This could save me a lot of lugging the amp around.
    Small church with a good (even tho' it's only 40watt) PA system.

    IF the PA can handle it, do I need a bass head or how do I do it to run the bass thru the PA.

  2. modulusman

    modulusman Inactive

    Jan 18, 2004
    If the PA is only 40 watts it won't handle it. PS there is no such thing as a good 40 watt PA. :rollno:
    SoCal80s, AGCurry and lokikallas like this.
  3. SERPENT865


    Jan 1, 2007
    Wichita , KS
    If your system had more power and the speakers were adequate you might be able to play though it.
  4. Guest043

    Guest043 Guest

    Apr 8, 2008
    gennerally a PA is used for your bass anyway. most older players that dont want to lug huge cabinets bring rigs like 1x12" or 2x10", just enough to hear themselfs on stage. the rest comes out of the PA for the audience..

    but in your case i dont think its a good idea.
  5. OtterOnBass


    Oct 5, 2007
    Yes, a PA is very broad-ranged. It's designed to handle everything, which is why so many people run bass through it instead of through their own amp.

    I'm going to assume the least knowledge to help explain this to you. With a regular bass and bass amp, here's how it works. The bass plugs into the preamp, which creates a sweet-sounding tone (hopefully), which then goes into the power amp, which then makes it loud, and finally the power amp send the signal to the speaker. The bass amp head contains both the preamp and the power amp.

    The PA works the same way. Signals go into the mixing board (like a preamp) where there are mixed and equalized, then sent to the power amp, and then to the speakers.

    So you can run the bass directly into the mixing board, but it's not designed to make bass tones sound sweet, so it won't sound as good as a bass amp. What many people do is use a bass-specific preamp/direct-in box (kind of like a pedal) between the bass and the board to get the sound they want. You can also run the signal from your bass amp's preamp to the board. Some amps have direct-out jacks just for this, other times you run the plug from the effects send jack. Don't plug the output of your power amp into the input of the mixing board, it will cause damage.

    The PA has a power amp that's only 40 watts? That seems really small. Unless the PA has over 150 watts, you definitely need to bring your own amp. Maybe your church has great acoustics and you want quiet music though, so I can't say for sure.
  6. Lizooki


    Feb 24, 2008
    Small church....and my 30 watt combo will fry the folks on the back bench.
    I am also the sound guy/ elec. tech/general geek. We , I , am looking at upgrading our simple PA to a mixing board and PA set-up and was just wondering of I could stop lugging around the combo.

    Thanks for the info guys!

  7. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    Because PA's utilize a crossover network to split and separate the frequencies, It does not replicate a straight signal from a bass amp speaker. I do not favor them.
    Read a rant from John Entwhistle once when he toured the US and he refused to let a PA company contaminate his sound. At that time he used a Stramp Pre Amp which was like a mixing console and had 4 x 300 Power Amps under it.

    I played a 5 Acre room once and they wanted to put me through the PA and I refused and went dry with my amp and Alembic. The engineer came back to see me after a set and asked about the guitar as he never heard a bass guitar cut through like the Alembic. Me either.

    Still hate going direct as someone who is not me, is controlling "my" tone.
    dbase likes this.
  8. I really think you may have just won the internet for like a month...maybe two
    Element Zero likes this.
  9. Element Zero

    Element Zero Supporting Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Right? Resurrecting a 13 year old necro thread brings some clout with it.
  10. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    This mindset will only work as long as no more than one person in the entire band has it and the others are fine with it.
    When you refuse to go direct and use your amp to carry the room, you form a constant around which the rest of the band has to be mixed since FOH has no options to alter the bass sound or volume.

    Furthermore, in a scenario like that the bass rig is not set for stage monitoring, but for the crowd. What sounds good a hundred feet off through a bunch of people often sounds less fun when you're standing 6 feet away from the source.
    I played a lot of gigs where my rig had to carry the bass alone or had to help out because the PA could or would not suffice. Dialing it in so it sounded well in band context down in the crowd often led to settings that were not so much of an enjoyment for me.
    It is something entirely different when you're John Entwhistle, when you can simply sketch a rig on a piece of paper and then have your tech(s) build it and then go ahead and declare that this will carry every venue you play. There will be multiple people working all day to make that possible and that's cool in it's own regard, but that is one of the perks of being a rockstar and something exclusive to that caste.

    Way more important is this line of thought:

    If the FOH person is bad, your band will sound bad. It's that easy.
    Does it matter that the bass sounded great? People usually do not have a good time listening to a terrible sounding band, even with a stellar bass sound.

    If the FOH person is mediocre, your band will sound anything from bad to great, depending on the difficulty level of the job. Every musician can add to the difficulty by bringing some special needs that will have to be accommodated - and of course every musician can subtract from the difficulty by working together with FOH.

    If the FOH person is good, you can still mess up their day and your gig by sabotaging them, but they will usually tell you because they can identify what stands between the current situation and a great sound.

    The thing is, FOH is responsible for making the BAND sound good. That might or might not entail sacrifices/compromises for one or more audio sources and their wishes and desires.

    If the room is a boomy echo chamber and you want your bass to be all lows and no definition, it'll not go well together. That's where FOH comes in to highpass, compress and equalize everything until it works.
    You might not have sounded like you want to sound, but the band sounded good.
    losov and Naigewron like this.
  11. Mushroo


    Apr 2, 2007
    It's like bringing your own syrup to the diner, LOL.
    tshapiro and Striver like this.
  12. Naigewron


    Jan 5, 2018
    And if you're in a decently sized venue, you now have to turn the amp up loud enough for the people at the back to hear, which will blow the heads off the people in the front row.

    There's a reason PA speakers are mounted far above the heads of the crowd.
    tshapiro likes this.
  13. tshapiro

    tshapiro Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Aug 25, 2015
    Jax Florida
    If I’m in a situation where my rig has to carry the room, than I set it up to the side of the stage and scoot it a bit forward. The band, especially the drummer, doesn't want to be pounded with that the whole show. I much prefer to let the PA do the heavy lifting and use my amp to get a good onstage sound.
    dbase likes this.
  14. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    Haven't you ever brought your own wine to the meal?
    Food for
    Mushroo likes this.
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