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Digital Bass Guitar

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by markjazzbassist, Sep 16, 2010.

  1. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    I'm interesting in getting a digital bass, meaning i want the signal coming out to be digital (1's and 0's), not an analog signal from magnetic or piezo pickups. I'm guessing this can either be done with MIDI or something like the Line6 Variax?

    is there such a thing other than the line6 variax? What are my options?

    hit me with whatever, and old/discontinued/vintage doesn't bother me, i just want to know what all is out there.

    thanks for the help!
  2. honestjohnny


    Nov 24, 2006
    You could get a MIDI pickup, slap it on a bass guitar body and neck, and you'd be there except for the signal processing, which you can get from Roland and other sources. Check out Graph Tech's offerings as well. Cheers!
  3. colcifer

    colcifer Esteemed Nitpicker Supporting Member

    Feb 10, 2010
    A Galaxy Far, Far Away
  4. Bass-Adrenaline


    Jan 23, 2010
    I believe Graphtech has what youre looking for.
  5. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    There was a Peavey MIDI bass on eBay a few days ago for pretty cheap. I'm not sure if it's still there or not.
  6. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    There are bass options. I also reccomend just playing keyboard, which I don't think is a bad skill to have at any point in your musical life.
  7. Dave Klausner

    Dave Klausner

    Apr 24, 2009
    While MIDI information is indeed 1's and 0's, it's not audio. It's performance data - I played this note, this hard, held it for this long, and applied this pitch modification (bend, vibrato) - which then has to be used to trigger audio, typically from a synth. It can't translate a whole lot of the nuance of your playing, however, since it won't know the difference between a slapped note and a fingered note of equal volume, for example. You also typically have to deal with latency, or the delay in time between when you sound the note and when the system can recognize and translate the performance data. Since that latency is frequency dependent, you'll get more latency with bass than guitar, and more latency the lower the note you're playing.

    If you want to output digital audio, you would still need some sort of transducer (like a magnetic or piezo pickup) which would translate the physical energy of the string into electrical energy, and then an A/D converter to convert the (analog) electrical signal into 1's and 0's. You would then have to plug that into something that accepts a digital output.

    What are you trying to accomplish? If you want to plug directly into a computer, I know there are systems for guitars that output the signal digitally on a USB cable, and you might be able to find something like that for bass, but even then, I'm not sure what good that does for you over an external converter other than convenience. If you're trying to plug into something else, it might be easier to do it another way.
  8. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    look i don't need to be schooled on how it sounds, it's sterile, it doesn't sound good.

    I don't care.

    I'm just asking what my options are for digital bass. i am working on a project that i would like to experiment with some digital equipment. that's all. i have tons of analog and prefer it, just trying something else.
  9. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    When you say digital, do you mean digital audio - take the normal analogue output of your bass and round it through an AD converter or MIDI which is performance data only (think of it as the punched paper roll in a player piano)?

    What do you want to do with the digital output? That will help us make some recommendations.
  10. drewfx


    May 14, 2009
    AFAIK, except for "wired-fret" midi basses, every bass signal starts out as an analog signal, which can then be converted to digital. Most non-wired-fret midi PU's start with analog transducers (like piezos). Even LightWave "optical" PU's are analog transducers. The Variax just digitally processes an analog signal as well.

    If there are "digital" PU's out there - i.e. ones that digitally sample the strings (or vibrations) directly, I'm not aware of them, though I'm pretty sure it would be technically possible to do that.

    If you just want a digital audio signal (vs. midi), where you put the analog to digital converter (ADC) is the only question here. I don't see any real advantage to putting it inside the bass vs. outside the bass, but YMMV...
  11. and of course. obviously

  12. BigRedX


    May 1, 2006
    Even on the wired-fret MIDI basses, only the MIDI note number information (basic pitch) is directly digitally derived. All the other information such as note on/off, velocity and pitch modulation (string bends/vibrato) are produced from the analogue signal.
  13. AltGrendel

    AltGrendel Squire Jag SS fan.

    May 21, 2009
    Mid-Atlantic USA.
  14. fu22ba55

    fu22ba55 Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2009
  15. Roland G-77. I've always wanted one...
  16. honestjohnny


    Nov 24, 2006
    It's amusing to me that some people are trying to make the distinction between binary (1's and 0's) digital and analog. Here's how electricity works--electron, no electron, electron, electron, no electron, etc. Electricity is inherently binary, whether it's generated by an electromagnet sensing the vibration of a metal string over a polepiece or a crystal being vibrated, as in a piezo pickup.

    To the OP, I really think getting an inexpensive bass that you like the feel of, like an SX or something, and retro-fitting it with a piezo style pickup (Graphtech, Fishman, etc. or getting a piezo equipped ABG and running it through something like the Roland VBass, is the way to go. Good luck.
  17. drewfx


    May 14, 2009
    Technically, the LightWave PU is an analog transducer. From their "Technology" page:

    "The optical pickup is a proprietary type of transducer which utilizes an infrared emitter and an array of photodetectors for each string. The emitter casts a shadow of the string onto the photodetectors. As the string vibrates, the size and shape of the shadow changes accordingly and modulates a current which passes through the photodetectors. This current is the basis of an analog electrical signal which represents an accurate depiction of the vibrating string."

    It is different though. :)
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