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Best string to limit distortion

Discussion in 'Strings [BG]' started by cman227, Apr 20, 2017.

  1. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    I have an active 5 string and even with the preamp flat and the volume down, if I pluck the string just a bit to hard it distorts. I am using medium gauge strings (blue steals). If I change the string gauge will this help at all? If so, do I go to a heavier or lighter gauge or maybe switch from steal to chrome?
  2. Gorn


    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    Seems like more of an electronics issue than a string issue.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I would be really surprised if different strings would help.

    Have you checked your battery? Have you tried the bass into a different amp? Have you tried a different cable?

    In short, what have you narrowed out of the equation that leads you to believe that strings might be an issue?
    Element Zero, Honch and Roberto Nunez like this.
  4. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    Checked the battery, played with the preamp and volume settings. Tried cranking up the compression on the amp (Hartke 3500). It sounds ok as long as I keep a light touch on the right hand, but if I dig in a bit, it distorts. Most noticible on low B and E string. I have had this bass for some time and don't remember this happening so I think it could either be the strings I put on or the preamp is going.
  5. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Honestly, I'm leaning toward speakers. But that's just my gut feeling.

    I would try the same bass through another amp when you get a chance. Also, take your cable and another cable when you try it. Roughly where are you? Is there a music store nearby?
  6. sevenyearsdown

    sevenyearsdown Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    I agree with the others, that this doesn't sound like an issue with the strings. EQ, cabinet, gain structure,....something in that neighborhood.
  7. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    I have another passive bass and it sounds fine through that amp. So it's something in the bass. There is a GC nearby though, I could take the bass there and try it just on the off chance that it is the amp. I also notice if I plug into the -15db jack on the amp the tone is terrible, so I plug into the passive jack.
  8. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    So, you're plugging an active bass into the passive jack? If you turn down the volume on the bass, does the distortion go away?
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Based on that input jack part, I am very interested to read your observations once you try the bass at the store. Report back. What kind of bass? Stock preamp?
  10. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    Yes, but the distortion is present no matter which jack you use.
  11. cman227


    Dec 21, 2014
    The bass is a Spector. It has a stock preamp which was working fine. I did put lighter strings on it so I just assumed that it might be the strings but after getting several replies I'm thinking it's the preamp.
  12. Jon Moody

    Jon Moody Commercial User

    Sep 9, 2007
    Kalamazoo, MI
    Manager of Digital Brand Development and Product Development at GHS Strings
    I've heard of a lot of guys having to replace the stock Spector preamp, so sounds like the culprit.

    Only reason I asked about the active/passive input on the amp is that my NS Radius (the one in the pic) has a SUPER HOT signal, so if I don't engage the dB pad on my amp or turn the vol on the bass down, I distort the amp like crazy.
  13. el_Bajo_Verde


    May 18, 2016
    Perhaps a twisted string, or pickups too close to the string?
    Jamvan likes this.
  14. ^yeah try that pick-up height thing^
    Jamvan likes this.
  15. Honch

    Honch Guest

    Sep 7, 2006
    1. Check battery. Check battery again. A brand new fresh one. If you have two batteries, check those. It's always this when it distorts WHEN YOU PLUCK HARD, and lean into it.

    2. No string gauge will change this. Why do you think this? The G-string of your bass IS ALREADY OF A THINNER GAUGE than the rest aren't they? Just bring that one down to D and see what happens: Nothing. The low B-string is of a thicker gauge than the rest. Now bring that up to low E and see what happens. It's the very same thing as changing string sets to thicker or thinner gauge. Same with tuning D to G or and everything in between. They will still distort. The D-string of a lightest gauge set, is the same gauge as a G-string of the heaviest set. Period.

    3. Check the pickup to string distance. Maybe it's too close? Back the pickups down a bit.

    4. The only thing that will mitigate it somewhat is the use of Pure Nickel bass strings. But with it comes a vintage warm broken in tone, which may not be to your liking. But this is a very very last resort, and it should be exactly the same gauge that you've used. I think this is very unlikely, and a new battery - even lithium - would be cheaper than changing to any strings to buck this.

    And since you haven't told us anything about what your bass is, brand, make and model, or active EQ or active pickups is, how can you expect us to give a proper answer? Like there's one solution fits all.

    5. Which bass is it?
    6. Has it been like this always?
    7. Is the active pickup/eq/preamp some added on mod later on, or it came with this configuration? I e have something been re-soldered inside since the bass was new?
    8. Which pickups is it? Which EQ/preamp is it? Stock Spector?

    My qualified guess that it would be EMGs. Since if you have another onboard preamp/eq with a switch you can turn it off, and thus the battery is not active, and the bass is not active, and it shouldn't distort at all. EMGs can't be turned off at all, and will distort whenever a battery is on the rocks. Especially when plucking hard.
    Jam Jarman likes this.
  16. Nickweissmusic

    Nickweissmusic Knows all intervals from one Fred, to Juan octave Commercial User

    Jan 26, 2014
    San Diego, CA
    I teach lessons and perform live music in and around San Diego CA. Sometimes I even make money doing it!
    I'm very doubtful it's the strings or pick up height. If you went from heavier to lighter gauge strings, that would probably make them quieter and less prone to clip.

    Definitely positive it's a fresh battery? Didn't put the old one back in by mistake? I have to say, what you're describing sounds exactly like a preamp battery dying. I suppose the preamp itself could be going bad as suggested above, I have had another brand preamp to go bad on me, it didn't manifest itself that way but it's possible.

    I am most confused by the part where you can turn the volume down, and the first goes away, but the fuzz is present in both jacks on the amp. Maybe it is just the amp, so let us know when you try the bass somewhere else.
  17. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    Since its a Spector, it might have a trim pot in the electronics cavity with the on board preamp. If your bass has one, try adjusting it. Roll back as much as possible. I have owned several Spectors. One did not have a trim pot and I was getting distortion when I played even a little aggressively. I ended up selling the bass.
    Honch likes this.
  18. Jamvan

    Jamvan The Bassist Formerly Known As Meh Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2014
    Easiest thing to attempt. Solo each pickup to see if the distortion appears with each of them or just one. If each, lower them both. If just one, lower that one.
    Honch likes this.