Can't hear bass in the mix - recording/PA gurus help.

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by fragmoider, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. Hi Guys,

    My recreational band has started experimenting with recording our sound in order to find out what we all sound like together and help balance our sound.

    So last night we all turned up without amps and had our effects pedals and headphones all ready to try a new experiment.

    The setup was as follows..

    OLP musicman 4 string into Boss GT6-B into motu ultralight into Laptop then output through a behringer 8 channel headphone amp. The output was the mixed source of the entire band.

    first problem - I really had to max out everything - Boss level out, Pre-amp and effects levels on it and IMO sounded quite crap. However on it's own the bass levels seemed okay.

    Now when everyone started playing though it was like, "hey where did I go?" and I could not for the life of me hear anything but a tiny,tiny bass sound. It was essentially like an unamplified sound so suffice to say I don't think I played all that well last night although everyone else could hear me.

    The singer also mentioned that he had trouble hearing himself.

    We both had cheaper headphones but when swapped for a set of Sennheiser 205's it was still improved just a little and not enough to make a difference.

    I don't mind not being up in the forefront of everything as I'm just a beginner BUT I do need to hear myself.The signal from the headphone out on the Boss is always loud and clear.

    Is there anything technically wrong with this setup? Do I need to have additional bits of kit to make it work?


  2. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Check out the Rolls personal monitor station. Make your own custom mix to hear yourself while you play.

    Only on playback can you really judge how you really sound in the mix.
  3. Yes..I should have said this. The playback is fine, just can't monitor myself while playing.

    So it is likely that I will need something like a small 2 channel mixer?

    Seems a lot more hassle than just bringing along an amp - supposed to be easier on lugging, ears and setup.
  4. Kipaste


    Jun 27, 2006
    Helsinki, Finland
    I'm unfamiliar with the boss unit so I can comment on that. But I assume you didn't get the only preamped input in the motu ultralite and went with the line in. (I guess that the preamp went to your singer and I'm guessing he/she is using a low output dynamic mic, something like a shure 58. These mics can on some occasions need more powerful preamps than some standard audio interfaces have) So if the playback is just fine and needs no more volume, the personal monitoring would be the solution. However, if you're looking to do plenty of recordings this I'd also consider buying a decent preamp. It gives more controls over your tone and more headroom if needed. A decent preamp and one of those personal monitoring units would both be able to fit into your pockets.
  5. nsmar4211


    Nov 11, 2007
    Also, if you're running through a laptop, it may be a soundcard issue. On my laptop I can baareeeeeeeely hear myself when recording but playback is fine.

    Is your bass active? Passives tend to be quiet ( You may also check your input levels on the laptop, you didn't say which OS you're running but in vista it's set pretty low.
  6. There's your problem, a DI from your head would probably give a better signal even if you didn't mic up your cab or even use your cab for monitoring volume. What kinda mics have you guys got between you? If you haven't got any/many then it might be a problem obviously (although I assume you had something to record drums with).

    What kind of input(s) have you got into your laptop? What preamp are you using and how many channels has it got?
  7. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    Hard to tell from here, but to trouble-shoot and fix, I'd start with verifying the gain structure of the bass signal all the way from instrument to headphone amp, then listen to the arrangement/instrument eqs for masking, then use multiple headphone mixes (and/or panning) so everyone gets what the need in the cans, and--if all those potential culprits don't turn up the problem--throw better gear at the problem (namely, buy or borrow headphones with better isolation and better low end response).

    If you mean that the bass signal is always loud and clear, then I might rule out gain structure as the culprit. Make certain of this first. Are you able to get the bass signal to the recording interface near clipping (before backing it down slightly to avoid clipping the track while recording)? Is the bass signal coming back for monitoring unattenuated? If you've got a strong, full signal going into your DAW and coming back from DAW to headphone amp, the problem is likely elsewhere. If not, fix the gain structures.

    Could be frequency masking and/or monitoring volumes. What to do depends on what kind of masking you have.

    When tracking with headphones in the same room as acoustic drums, the drums can mask a lot of the bass, especially if the room has a lot of active nodes in the low end, if you are including the drum signals in the headphone mix, if the headphones you are using don't have good isolation, and/or if the headphones don't have good low end at the volume you require. If that's the problem (or a big part of it), better headphones are in order. For tracking live bass + drums, I favor sealed ear phones with full bass response.

    The bass can also be masked by too much low end in the guitar or keys signals. If that's an issue, first address the arrangement, then the instrument eqs so each has a piece of the spectrum. As a temporary tracking fix, you could use multiple headphone mixes or (if you can't multiple mixes with your current gear) cludge by panning the clashing instruments to opposite sides so you can at least hear yourself in one ear.

    Cheaper than the 205s? That's likely at least part of the problem. I haven't used the 205s; and while they might be better than I'd expect, I wouldn't expect great things out of them. Here's an excerpt from an on-line review suggesting that while offering decent isolation, the 205's bass response at tracking volume could be a problem:
    If that's an issue, the cheaper headphones you and the singer started with are likely even worse. Low end headphones don't often have very good low end response or isolation, both of which are needed if you're tracking with a drummer.

    Hmm, could even the singer (who was sporting similarly miserable headphones to yours) hear you during tracking? If you swap headphones with the guitarist/drummer/singer and everyone else can hear you through the same gear that renders the bass inaudible to your own ears, then the problem might be expectations regarding the mix. Could be the guitars are swamping the mix, and the guitarist's notion of "hearing the bass fine" is that he can tell there is a bass playing if he occasionally turns his full attention to listening for the bass. Or, it could be that you aren't able to "hear" yourself unless that bass is fat, full, front-and-center.
  8. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    That's the key here.
    You need a different mix while playing. It's human nature. You need to be louder in your own mix to hear yourself over the other instruments.

    It's totally different situation to listen.

    This is why IEM and those fancy personal monitor mix systems are popular. They really keep down the arguments over who's too loud, and prevent stage volume wars.

    When you play live, hopefully you have a sensible sound person out front who can set the levels for listening.

    I played a large gig recently where the monitor mix system had two people, watching over a big monitor mix board on the side of the stage. They constantly watched the stage and adjusted things with a simple wave of the hand from anyone on stage. There was only one sound guy out front.

    A giant plus for IEM/Headphone practice sessions besides the monitor mix, is that you can practice late into the night and not disturb the neighbors. Best if you can get the drummer to play electronic.
  9. Rolls PM351
  10. OutsideUrbia


    May 15, 2009
    simple and short. I had this issue starting to record rock and heavy music
    <Assuming all of your recordings of bass tracks took well and captured enough low end and pluck or growl typical of good bass sounds.> (mics, direct input devices, cabs. all aside).

    Stereo imaging is very important to balancing a mix and especially getting a good bass sound. I am no guru but I have mixed alot.

    I know bass needs to have its own stereo position separate from other low end instruments. Drums and Guitar.

    1. Stereoization. I pan guitar wide left and right Almost Full stereo (100% stereo), I don't as much with bass. Bass is usually 50% stereo (give or take) , Drums are close to full mono.

    2. Equalization. The same thing you do with the stereo image you do with equalization. Separate.... but mainly bass from the kick drum, and bass with the low end guitar. Trade frequencies to make the bass stand out yet maintain the tone of everything.

    If you can get the stereo imaging right and the equalization right you will get a good bass sound. Hope it turns out well.
  11. derrico1

    derrico1 Supporting Member

    Apr 12, 2005
    Charlottesville, VA
    I'd recommend approaching the headphone mix during tracking differently than your final mix, especially in a project studio. When mixing, I'm generally aiming to blend elements; when tracking, I want everyone to hear themselves distinctly.

    For one thing, your situation sounds as if you can only have one headphone mix and everyone is in the same room. In that case, I'd have as little drums in the mix as possible. Your drummer can cheat his headphones a bit off his hats/snare-side ear and typically get all he needs, since bass and guitars are going directly into the board.

    I'd also save stereo guitar tracks for the mixing stage. For tracking, they're likely to be a distraction.

    There are no hard rules, but if I had a simple trio and only one headphone mix to work with, I'd generally start with guide vocal and touch of snare panned dead center, guitar (just a mono signal at this point, even if you're printing multiple guitar tracks) panned about 20-30 degrees L, and bass 5-10 degrees R (L/R don't really matter here, as long as the voices that will tend to mask one another are favored on opposite sides. If I need any kick in the headphones, I'd pan that slightly (5 or 6 degrees) off center, away from the bass. Adjust volume and panning as needed to hear everything.
  12. Wow thanks guys,

    There seems to be about a 1000 things to try however but I just got a copy of the track recorded on the night and bass was all good (apart from the playing).

    It's purely a monitoring issue so will attack with the following.

    1) Get Better Headphones - Sennheiser 215's are about my max allowable budget currently so I will grab a set of those.

    2)RTFM on the Boss GT6-B preamp and make sure I'm using the correct levels.

    3)I have a cheapo mixer so I might bring that along and test the personal monitoring solution and grab one if that sort the issue out. Or could I plug in via PA and loop back to the motu?


  13. What are you recording into your laptop with though? Using directs from all your guitars isn't gona sound that great, personally I don't think DIed (at least DI only anyway) bass sounds great either. Depends what kinda sound your after, if you want it to sound quite processed then your probably best of doing what your doing now and getting to the route of the monitoring problem.

    I assume you saying it's a monitoring problem the recording sounds fine.
  14. Recording from my gt6-B into a motu Ultralight mkIII - using the non preamped ports. first 2 are for the mics (drummer and vox).

    I wasnt at all happy with the sound nor was the rythmn guitarist as both sounded very electronic.

    Think we can figure out the monitoring situation but I was wondering if we were doing it a bit wrong anyway and should just be recording dry sound and then adding effects in the mix.

    It's just for playing around though so I guess there are no right and wrongs.

    The other issue is that upon listening with an impartial 3rd party they went hey where is the bass, can't hear any. drums are too loud, guitars too loud.

    The moral of this story (if there is one)?

    Don't trust your fellow band members to mix your sound especially if they are guitarists :)
  15. I assume your using one of those interfaces that you can mount into a computer with a mic input or two, a line input, head phones out etc, something that pretty much has a fair few varied inputs and outputs. If that's the case it probably has a phono input (the red and white things if you don't already know), if it does what you can do is try borrow a mixer with a fair few channels and then make use of having more inputs.

    Two problems with that would obviously be that your gonna have to record onto 1 stereo track so you'll have to keep playing about until you get the levels right through trial and error listening to playback, you do however get the benefit of getting a good signal level from all your signal sources.

    As far as your bass is concerned you'll probably get a much better sound putting your multi effects board through your amp and then using your amps DI. Personally I think most multi effects boards sound horrible and over processed, even if your after a processed sound there's probably better ways of getting one cos it's not even so much them sounding processed for me it's how sterile most of them seem to make everything sound.

    Personally I've NEVER heard a decent direct sound from a guitar either, so if your doing any recording try to get him miced up, also don't be afraid to try and pool a decent set of gear together from any musical people you know, might even be able to find someone who's up for recording you guys for the fun of it. When we did our last EP DIY we got loads of nice mics lent to us by a mate of ours that does live sound and has quite a bit of nice gear, that helped us out a hell of alot getting a decent recording (not to mention the preamps our guitarist that was doing it for a uni project got for his birthday).
  16. Brent Hahn

    Brent Hahn

    Jul 25, 2009
    If you guys are just starting out, I'd take the opposite approach.

    Just set up as you usually would -- amps, drums, PA and all -- and record that. No headphones. Just business as usual. Sure, it'll be leaky and trashy sounding, but you'll be much more comfortable. Besides, when it comes to making records, the big issue for beginners isn't recording quality, it's songwriting, arranging, and musicianship.

    Even if you never get to that level, in the long run you'll be much happier with so-so recordings of great playing rather than the other way around.
  17. NOVAX


    Feb 7, 2009
    Q: when is the bass too loud?
    A: when you can hear it.
  18. We are just really messing about, none of us but the guy with the recording gear is really that keen on recording.

    IMO we just need to jam much more, get everything sounding tight and then think about recording stuff.

    Novax: lol - you are so right
  19. jaywa


    May 5, 2008
    Iowa City, IA
    Compression would be a good idea, as well. Not of the whole mix (God knows we have too much of that these days), but just on the bass track.
  20. If your just messing about then brent is right, my main band record our new songs just by having a condenser in a reasonable spot in the middle of us all on a 360 degrees pickup pattern, seems to work out pretty well for just making out what everyone's playing a writing lyrics and stuff.