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Better EQing vs. Buying A Different Bass?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by john nam, Nov 10, 2010.

  1. john nam

    john nam Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2000
    Orange County, CA
    Has anyone bought another bass simply because they didn’t like how the old one sounded, but later realized that with the correct EQing on a decent bass and amp, you could’ve achieved that sound you were looking for? I know I have. We all like to have our basses sound amazing with the EQ flat, but I’m coming to realize that most basses can achieve most sounds, but the trick is to know how to EQ in that sound on your particular bass and amp in a band situation. IMO, the one sound you really can’t EQ if your bass just doesn’t have it is that compressed burpy sound for fingerstyle playing. Any thoughts?
  2. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Finding tone that makes you happy can be a lifelong process. After all, you have to juggle many factors:

    • Playing technique
    • Gear: instrument, strings, amp, speakers
    • EQ settings
    • Gain settings (e.g. overdrive if desired)
    • FX and/or compression if desired
    • Last but certainly not least: personal preference

    I've sold gear for the wrong reasons, especially when I was less experienced and wasn't really sure what I wanted. I would like to think I've never sold a bass merely for having dead strings, but it's a possibility. :p

    As for EQ specifically, there's no such thing as absolutely flat: "flat" settings are nothing more than a reference point for a particular piece of gear. If you don't need to tweak to get good tone, then cool. But if you can get good tone via EQ, then that's equally cool (no pun intended).

    The only problem might be if you have a difficult time finding the setting(s) that make you happy. If that's the case, and your strings aren't dead :D, then gear swapping might be in order.
  3. kcole4001


    Oct 7, 2009
    Nova Scotia
    I traded an amp because I didn't 'get' how to EQ my particular bass (Rick 4000) at the time. IE: using the wrong advice in the pre-internet days.
    I didn't blame the bass, just the amp.
    Oh well, it was all a learning experience.
    Now I know better.
  4. craig.p


    Sep 28, 2008
    New Hampshire
    John, I think you make a valid point. I remember one day a couple of months ago when I had an hour to kill before driving to a rehearsal, so I did my best to dial in, EQ-wise, four separate signal sources:

    1. A Ric with a nonstandard wiring scheme,
    2. An '80s Charvel/Jackson P/J with just the P pickup enabled,
    3. Same with just the J pickup enabled,
    4. Same with both pickups enabled.

    The Charvel/Jackson had active EQ but I left the tone controls centered.

    I have to say, I got all four pretty close to one another using just the controls on the amp(s), and certainly close enough that no one would ever notice in a live setting.

    The extremes were #2 and #3, requiring the most dialing-in. #1 and #4 required far less, and more or less defined the middle.

    This was limited, however, to traditional two-finger playing. No slap, no pick. Those styles might've brought in different results.

    Bring in an EB0, though, or one of those '70s Telecaster basses with the big shiny pickup up near the neck, and all bets could be off. And a Telecaster player could rightfully say all bets would be off if he were to bring in a Music Man with a single pickup down near the bridge and, using only the amp's controls, try to get it to come close to the Telecaster. I think sometimes there's just too much distance between two specific instruments and it can't be bridged by any amp's controls.
  5. plangentmusic

    plangentmusic Banned

    Jun 30, 2010
    A "tone" is more than EQ. You can't EQ a Rick to sound like a P.
  6. john nam

    john nam Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2000
    Orange County, CA
    I have a similar story. This morning I EQ'd a Sadowsky Modern to sound just like an American P5, just by tweaking a LMII combo (Sadowsky was panned all the way to the neck pickups). I played them side by side to the same song playing loud on my stereo and they sounded exactly the same; ballsy, mid-foward, yet hollow, P bass tones. To be fair, I don't think my P bass would be able to replicate all the sounds that a two pickup bass can do just by tweaking the amp, but I haven't tried it yet.
  7. john nam

    john nam Supporting Member

    Sep 23, 2000
    Orange County, CA
    Plangent, try it on a decent amp and turn down the tone control on the Ric and I bet you'd get pretty close to a P (I haven't tried it though). By the way, I'm pretty particular on what is a legitimate P bass sound; I'm not one that thinks that a P sound is anything that is simply bassy and boomy.
  8. unclejane

    unclejane Guest

    Jul 23, 2008
    I never have. None of the instruments I've bought and sold, or were stolen or that I still own and don't play could be made to sound the way I want with EQ, effects or different amps.

    Some were slam dunks for just-plain-sounds-crappy (my old 70's Jazz bass, my rick 4001/3's) and some I tried harder than others (like my old Gibson tobias which was thankfully stolen out of my apt. about a year ago).

    The one I worked with the hardest was my G&L L2000. It's a lovely instrument in all respects and came the closest to sounding the way I like (the burpy sound), but it took lots of knob turning, switch whacking and I've lost count of how many types of strings I've tried on it. I finally gave up on it here recently and decided it was impossible. Almost, but no cigar.

    Only one bass I've ever had sounds exactly the way I need - good clear smooth sound that sits in a mix without drowning everything else out or being inaudible, etc - as soon as I plug it into the amp, my Carvin BB76F. It's perfect right out of the box with no knob twisting on the amp (other than turning down the treble).

    So, IMO, it depends on how much EQ'ing and fiddling around is needed. Now that I got the Carvin I'm pretty spoiled because it sounds exactly right from the start (I don't even keep batteries in it, its run passive all the time) and I don't have to screw with it. So if it runs into turning a bunch of knobs, I pretty much don't mess with it anymore.

  9. Martin89


    Nov 8, 2010
    Glendale, AZ
    Unofficial Endorser: Ibanez, D'Addario, Zoom
    I sold a bass based on pu configuration(2 passive humbuckers vs. a p/j w/ active boost) because I thought EQing the sounds from the controls on the bass to get the variety of tones was better(I don't want to have to change my amp settings unless absolutely necessary). There were more factors than that of course including weight, neck feel, cost benefit, maybe dead strings lol...

    Overall I wish I still had the bass(Les Paul Std) because of how awesome a looker it was, but I needed a players' bass and could only afford/justify one bass at the time. I almost feel guilty flipping it but I know the guy had been looking for one, genuinely interested and is taking real good care of it.
  10. I have gotten rid of basses because I couldn't get the tone I wanted and never regretted it. However, I usually try many different settings before I make the decision to change. I have had the same bass for several years now and have been happy with my tone.
  11. Yes you can. It's actually not that hard.
  12. Chrisk-K


    Jan 20, 2010
    Maryland, USA
    Maybe possible with a 28 band graphic EQ I once owned :)
  13. darkstorm


    Oct 13, 2009
    If you have to do a lot of eq'ing to get the sound you want. Its the wrong bass. Much better to get one that has the sound you want with very little eq'ng needed. You get a better bass that way for what your wanting.
  14. dwm74


    Nov 8, 2009
    Phoenix, AZ
    That was my tough decision after owning a Ray34 for a few months. I soon realized the Ray sound wasn't for me, I was a P-bass guy. After installing flats, and EQ'ing it every which way I could, I still couldn't get the Ray to replicate that definitive P-bass sound I was after. Oh, I could get the E & A to sound like a P, and others settings to get the D & G just right, but never could get all four strings right at the same setting.
  15. plangentmusic

    plangentmusic Banned

    Jun 30, 2010
    You can get anything "close." But there's an inherent timbre to each instrument.
  16. deliciouspesto


    Jan 18, 2009
    EQ won't make a bad instrument sound good, all it does is add or remove elements from the existing spectral makeup at one point in time. The tone of an instrument comes from the pattern of the spectral information (I'll consider them formants), much like in voices, so without EQ that adjusts to these formants for every different note, EQ is static and wouldn't really help. Some people have good singing voices, some don't. You can't EQ Chris Tucker to sound like Frank Sinatra, and you won't get a good sound out of a bass with just EQ. The only way you could possibly save a bad sounding instrument would be to move the formants dynamically, but you can't do that well or in real-time so the solution is to get a new instrument (or new strings or whatever else changes the formant pattern).
    Winter likes this.
  17. BassBuzzRS


    Oct 18, 2005
    You got me convinced with that statement.
  18. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Probably not, but EQ can make a mediocre instrument sound good. I think that's the boat most of us find ourselves in. Meaning, if an instrument sounds that unpleasant to our ears then we'll likely just sell it. OTOH, if the default tone is just kind of meh, then the right EQ tweaks can bring happiness.
  19. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Also, some prefer colored bass tones... nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of famous players who don't shy from signal processing: Tony Levin, Geddy Lee, Flea, Les Claypool, Marcus Miller are just a few examples.
  20. deliciouspesto


    Jan 18, 2009
    It can make it less bad, sure, but you are still working with the spectral makeup of that particular instrument. If you can remove parts of the signal to improve it, you can help it, but you can't move the elements and you can't move the EQ points every note so you can only do so much.

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