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Clean, natural power vs. signature sound ?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by doublestop, Jul 20, 2004.

  1. Guys, I am discovering the world of bass amps. Please tell me if I'm right, and give your thoughts.

    In bass amplification, there seem to be 2 schools of tone:

    * the Clean, Natural school. In this school the goal of the amp + cab is to represent as natural as possible the sound of the bass. Pros: a very detailed and honest sound. Cons: it sounds sterile !

    * the Signature Sound school. In this school the amp + cab is an instrument to with its own voice, that you may or may not like. Trace Elliot. Ampeg. Etc. Pros: a warm, recognisable tone. Cons: you don't hear the natural tone of the instrument. Muddy.

    Do I see this right?

    Which 'school' do you prefer?

    Which school is best for what music? Do you need Ampeg or Trace for good rock sounds? Or can one use Glockenklang or AI as well?

    Thanks for all thoughts,

  2. Peter

    For myself I prefer the Clean, natural approach. This is because I subscribe to the theory that you can always add something to a clean natural sound to get a wide variety of different tones, sounds etc. Whilst if an amp/cab has a "signature" tone, it is harder, if not impossible to remove it and get a natural more cleaner sound.

    I use a Clarus AI into an Epifani 1x10 UL and a Accugroove Tri 112L. A very clean neutral tone. It can on occassions be described as a little "sterile" as you put it, so I have added a Sans Amp stomp box at the front of the chain to give me some grunt if I need it. I use a Sei fretless bass which has both magnetic and piezo pickups so I wanted something that would reproduce the sound of the bass and my fingers and for me I think I have succeeded.

    However I went to watch a friend playing in a pub gig last week where he used an Ashdown ABM 500 and an Ashdown 4x10. It really kicked and for the music, which was rock covers it was perfect. Horses for courses!

    This is probably a debate which might not have any difinative answer because each person hears the bass in a different way and has their own idea of what sound they are after. I also suspect that the choice depends to a degree what gear the local shops. stock.

    An interesting thread what do others think. And Peter, what do you use, or what sound do you like/are you searching for.


  3. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    there really is no right answer
    i have found in the context of a full band that many approaches sound good
    what sounds sterile by itself ends up cutting through a loud band in many cases
    which do i prefer?......it depends on what day you ask me :p
  4. Ericman197


    Feb 23, 2004
    I used to believe in hi-fi, until I realized that it sounded horrible. I then went to the old school tone to find that it was muddy and didn't cut through enough. Right now I'm sort of in a compromise.
  5. Hi Matthew,

    As a new bassplayer (long time guitarplayer though) I use a G&L Tribute L-2000. I love and listen to all sorts of music (world, jazz, fusion, r&b, metal, pop, blues, grunge) but what I play is mostly rock music. I like a good solid, meaty but NEVER mushy bass tone. It should be clear but very warm and woody.

    I know my stuff when it's about guitar amps: I play vintage, all tube amps (this includes a tube rectifier) only. Don't like solid state or modeling amps for guitar. But I'm very open to new things. All tube bass amps sound too 'unprecise'. I want warm but detailed tones, and I hate hernias ;)

    Guess I'll look for some of the better solid state amps. I guess (from what I've read) that Acoustic Image wil be too dry for me. I'll look into Eden....Or maybe a cheaper solution (Hartke). I'm only just starting on bass, but I've learned that sometimes being cheap costs more money in the end...

  6. smperry

    smperry Administrator Staff Member Administrator Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    I'm in the clean, natural school. I'm pleased as punch with my Demeter preamp/Crest poweramp combination.

    Marshall :bassist:
  7. Right now I'm in the process of re-thinking my approach to tone. I have always liked an old school thud but I am growing an appreciation for a more modern hi-fi tone. I believe at this point I would prefer a more transparant rig to bring out the instrument but ask me tomorrow and I may change my mind.
  8. i have all three...

    my power amp is a very flat, clean crest Pro 7200. my cabinet is a bergantino HT-112, which has some color to it, but it is generally a very accurate and neutral sounding cab. my preamp is a warwick quadruplet, which is fairly colored, even if it is articulate. i have a bass with active EQ for tone tweaks.

    it all depends, though. this rig is great for covers because it can get quite a few tones. when playing originals, it's my basslines and playing that create my signature sound, not my amp. so i'm more likely to try just about anything when i'm recording to get the tones i want.

  9. DaveDeVille

    DaveDeVille ... you talkin' to me ?? Supporting Member

    it's good to have both !!
    Ampeg SVP-PRO pre-amp { sig.sound ? }
    QSC RMX2450 { clean power }
    -- on top of --
    Bergantino HT310 { clean , punchy cab.}

    i see the good things about both , but tone is a very personal choice .it might not be right for you...
  10. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    I like both approaches. I have a Demeter/QSC/Bergantino rig which fits the hi fi bill. Its what I use all the time actually. Im currently thinking about a different preamp to use with my Ampeg 410HLF for a heavier/dirtier sound. Im also thinking about getting a vintage SVT and an NV610.
  11. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I'm into the Trace Elliot sound, but if I need to, I can pull out the Bmax/RMX-850.(Which, IMO, sounds a lot like the Trace). So, I guess I'm a Colored Sound Man.
  12. jim primate

    jim primate bass guitarist.

    my sound is completely colored. it's all subjective though you play what you like. my setup is:

    stock fender p-bass or modded (DM ultra jazzes, badass 2 bridge) fender jazz both strung with DR hi-beams and played with brass picks->traynor ts50b-> qsc rmx 1450->2 ampeg 4x10HEN's w/ the tweeters turned all the way down.

    it's a grindy, slightly overdriven sound, really clangy and bright. like someone banging on sheetmetal really precisely. like i said completely colored, but it's the sound i like and i can make it work in any song my band plays.
  13. I have gone through many amps. I a preferring old school tube grind lately, but with a very solid low end. My best sounding amp is a 72 V-4. The thing is, I can still have a pallat of sounds using different touches. S.S. Amps can get ckanky and my experience with them is they are loud, but the sound is hard to hear. I am talking about a loud setting. A quieter setting may be different. I have heard some fantastic sounding SS amps, just not when I play them. I usually have to put a BDDI in front of a SS amp to make it sound good for me.:meh:
  14. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I use both. I think a processed sound is more fun: a midrange peak helps cut thru the mix, and blending in some overdrive can make a bass sound either warm or aggressive. But for some styles of music, clean works better.

    As IvanMike said there's no overall right answer. Only you know what's right for you (well, your bandmates' opinions might also be important!) :)
  15. Kelly Lee

    Kelly Lee Yeah, I'm a guy! Supporting Member

    Feb 17, 2004
    Marana, AZ, USA
    I have the signature Trace Elliot sound. I don't think it is "muddy" in anyway. It has, IMO, a warm yet very punchy tone. I play everything from blues up to metal and never have a problem cutting through the mix.

    Like its been said before, you have to let your ears decide for you.
  16. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    well there you have it, no consensus.......... :D

    one other thought, you can always "color" a cleaner tone with eq, preamp pedals, etc but you can't add clarity to a "colored" tone
  17. Bob Lee (QSC)

    Bob Lee (QSC) In case you missed it, I work for QSC Audio! Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 3, 2001
    Costa Mesa, Calif.
    Technical Communications Developer, QSC Audio
    It's a matter of preference.

    If you can get the range of sounds you want at the range of volume you need, you've got the right rig for you.
  18. wneff

    wneff Supporting Member

    May 27, 2003
    Woburn, MA
    If you play direct (without PA) I don't think it matters if you get a good sound the "old school" or the "hi-fi" way.

    The situation changes once you record or go through a PA.

    If you have an "old-school" system you have two or three choices:
    1) Mike the bass amp.
    + Gets the sound of the amp and your equalizer settings on PA
    - This may be problematic - where in a 15"+4x10+horn do you aim the microphone? (+feedback + corsstalk +...)
    2) Take a DI signal "post EQ"
    + Gets your EQ setting to PA
    - You don't get the speaker sound through PA
    - EQ settings are optimized for your signature speakers. What you give to the PA may be quite aweful and the sound engineer has to correct the coloration of your speakers.
    - If you take care of the steile sound by your speakers, you're sending it now through the PA.

    3) Take DI signal "pre-EQ"
    + Avoids the issure of bad EQ settings
    + If your bass is half -way decent the engineer has something resonable to work with
    - May be really sterile now since you bypass all tubes etc.

    Also, if you use effects a certain setting may only sound good with your speakers, but not through the PA.

    If you have a "Hi-Fi" bass system (especially if the speakers are good and linear) your stage sound and your Post -EQ sent to the PA should sound very similar.
    So, if you EQ your stage sound so it sounds good and warm you'll have something similar on the PA.

    With my EA CXL112 as cabinet sound engineers usually take my bass signal "as is" and don't have to correct for the speaker.

    Also, the CXL112 sounds good in combination with any other cabinet. Signature sound cabinets may sound good in some combinations and not so good in others.

  19. Doner Designs

    Doner Designs Steve Doner Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 2, 2012
    Metro Chicago Area
    Doner Designs is an alias for Steve Doner
    I know this is an ancient thread, but the topic is roughly where I was headed, so why start another. :)

    Today, just for yaks, I lined up my three rigs side by side in the basement. I have a Markbass 1x12 combo (with matching ext cab), a GK 1x12 combo and an Acoustic 1x15 combo.

    When comparing the three set to flat (12pm), the brightness (primarily defined by presence of mids, since my flatwound strings and playing style kill the highs) of the three varied dramatically. It was a real eye opener on how different amps/cabs are voiced.

    Ironically, the Acoustic (a 1x15) was the brightest closely followed by the Markbass. The GK was very deep and maybe scooped.

    I know what tone I like but I don't know what is truly "flat".

    Interestingly when the VLE and VPF controls on the Markbass are both set at noon - an easy way to roll off highs and mids ("flat" for those two dials is 7am) the MB roughly matches the GK flat setting.

    To make the Acoustic match the GK, I had to put the bass up to 3pm and dial back the mids to 9am.

    The GK also has a scoop (contour) button which I did not have in the scooping position.

    I dont really have a question here. Just thinking out loud and really surprised to see how much amps/cabs vary.
  20. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    A lot of classic gear is muddy, but not all. There are pretty hifi, bright, and detailed Signature Tones too.

    For me OD is almost a whole category of it's own.