Do some basses simply not amplify well?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by bassbuddy, Jan 11, 2006.

  1. Folks, I'm having real problems getting a decent amplified sound out of my URB - an Englehardt M-1 strung with Velvet Garbos. It sounds great in the room, but amplified there's simply no body to the tone - no warmth, no "air", just a big "pop" at the front of each note and scratchy piezo ugliness. I've tried A Realist (just a big low-mid foghorn kind of sound), a Bass Max, and a Rev Solo, which is on there now. I've also tried both K&K and Fishman Platinum preamps, and am currently running through an EA iAmp 350 and an Ampeg Portabass 112, which should be ideal (or at least more than acceptable). I've also been through Obligato and Eurosonic strings, although the Garbos sound so good acoustically that I'm not inclined to change. Nick Lloyd did the bridge and setup, so I doubt there's a problem there. I have no trouble getting a decent sound out of another bass at our practice space, again an M-1 with a Realist.

    Can it be that the bass doesn't lend itself to being amplified?
  2. Francois Blais

    Francois Blais Supporting Member

    Dec 11, 1999
    Québec, Canada
    Did you have better results with the other strings?
  3. Nope. Pretty much the same no matter which strings I used.
  4. Do you have good EQ possibility ? Try cutting out a lot of sound (6 - 9 dB) around 130 - 180 Hz. That might help.

    It seems people using these strings get good results using the Schertler Dyn-B pickup. I owned one and did not like it, so I don't know about that.

    Which version of the realist do you have ? David sent me the newer one recently for my Czech Ease, and it was much brighter and truthfull to my sound.
  5. PB+J


    Mar 9, 2000
    arlington va
    I had an M-1 and got the best results with a fishman full circle pickup--with most other stuff i also had a big thump problem. The sound was quite good with the full circle
  6. glivanos

    glivanos Supporting Member

    Jun 24, 2005
    Philadelphia Area
    I would try either a Fishman BP100 or Underwood with a Fishman pre-amp.

    You generally can pick them up used for about $60-$70.
  7. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    The a big "pop" at the front of each note suggests a potential overdriving of the front end of whatever amplifier you are using-- I don't speak Ampeg, but watch the position of the input volume control on either amp.

    I'd also doublecheck the fit of the bridge feet against the body (no shot at Nick Lloyd, things can move and/or crack after being installed)- a shot in the dark but a potential issue since these mid-bridge rely on the sound coming back from the bass body as well as down from the string contact point. Given the wide range of gear you've tried one would have to start to look closely at the bridge, to continue to eliminating possible faults.

    The Bass Max fit should have contact with a decent amount of the bridge wing/pickup sides, and my rule of thumb for fit is-- a gentle tap should not make it move from its position, but a firm grasp of thumb and forefinger should make it move readily.

    Good luck in resolving this mystery - it sure is an odd one.
  8. OK, well I guess the general consensus is NO, any bass that sounds good acoustically should be able to be ampified successfully, but that maybe it's just a matter of finding the right pickup. Expensive, but cheaper than buying another bass.

    Bob, I've got the Bass Max (and Rev Solo) in at the tension you've described. I can try lowering the gain at the input stage; you know how much headroom the EA's have, though - I can't get the input led to clip even using an active EBG and playing hard!

    Well, Nick and I are going to get together and try to figure it out. Awfully frustrating, though. I need something to blame!
  9. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    You could also try going for a mic instead of a pickup and put up with it's associated problems.
  10. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    The strings you're describing do not, in my experience, tend to amplify particularly well (my experience has been that very stiff strings tend to amplify better, although I can't say why), but I think there's more going on than that.

    It's possible. I had an old original American Standard that was an absolute cannon acoustically, but didn't amplify worth a crap. I never did figure that out before I sold it. I'd try PUFFY's suggestion about the mic first, though, and also dampening the hell out of the afterlength - on my old standard, that made it a lot better.
  11. All will be tried. I'm not sure the mic idea would work; this project is an alt-country/Americana band, and it can get fairly loud. Probably no more than your average country band, but certainly loud enough to make me have to deal with feedback on most gigs.
  12. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I've found that really live basses, acoustically, tend to be difficult to amplify. But -- not in the way that you mention. They generally tend to be muddy, mushy, etc. Also, plywoods tend to be the easiest basses to amplify, with hybrids and carved being more tricky.

    A thought that I have is to deaden the afterlenght of the strings (between the bridge and tailpiece). Maybe you're EQ'ing out the mush and mud and are left with crap. The vibration of the the tail piece and afterlength are nice acoustically, but can be a real pain with you are using pickups like the FullCircle and Realist.
  13. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri

    I would agree with everything said here. It's good information. About all that I can add is that comparing two identical basses even by the same manufacture doesn't always work either. There are all kinds of variables that can make one Engelhardt M-1 sound great and another sound average. That's why some of the older plywood Kays sound really great!

  14. brooklynbassguy

    brooklynbassguy Supporting Member

    Feb 8, 2004
    maplewood, nj, usa
    Funny, I had the same problem with an old 7/8 german bass. It had a great acoustic sound for pizz and arco, but always sounded like crap through an amp. My plywood with a full circle sounded great through an amp-??? Some basses destinies are to be miked-studio, acoustic gigs, other amped...
  15. Another thing:
    Is the problem all over the fingerboard or is it stronger at certain positions on specific strings?
    Extremely silent noises can be relatively louder when amplified. Try to listen to the very subtle noises produced when you play acoustically.
    The sound of a DB can be varied by replacing the wooden stick slightly next to the bridge under the G-string between the front and the back. Are you still with me? We call it a 'stapel' here in the Netherlands. When you loosen the strings this stick can be replaced easily with a special tool. If you don't wanna take any risk, ask an experienced bass builder to assist. Try different positions of this 'stapel' until you get the best sound to your ears. It's a lot of work, not to mention timeconsuming, but when done the right way it can pay off eventually.
  16. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Your obviously going to a top notch luthier in Nick Lloyd, so that kind of rules things out in that department. Over the years, I can remember a couple of awful noises coming through various pickups that, baffled my luthiers.

    One, believe it or not, was that red A String filter that comes with every new set of Tomastick Spirocores, once we removed it the low frequency feedback that it was causing totally disappeared on my bass, another was a hair line crack in the top directly under the upper portion of the fingerboard, the nasty went away as soon as it was closed up.

    So it may be a good idea to go "exploring" with Nick! Just a thought. Make sure that you take that pickup with you if you decide to go.

  17. Before I set up my 7/8 German bass for orchestral playing I used it as a jazz bass and had some of the similair problems you're having. I rarely needed an amp because it is a very loud instrument, but when I did use an amp I found the best success with the K&K double big twin. Lower output than other pickups but also has much more clarity. A mostly string sound, but with good body and with a preamp not very scratchy. On my Kay I found the underwood to be much better. It's like the search for your favorite strings, etc.....good luck.

  18. Well, I learned a lot this week from various sources, and my conclusions are as follows:

    1. Having only gigged out on URB maybe fifteen times or so, I've just got to be patient and give myself time to get experienced enough in knowing what I want and how to work my eq to get there;

    2. What may sound terrible alone in the house may be just what you need to be heard through a full band; and

    3. I may have unrealistic expectations of the sound that ANY equipment can provide.

    I did a couple of things this week. First, I borrowed a friend's bass, a very nice laminated Shen strung with Spriocores and a FC pickup that Brent Norton put together. While this bass with the FC gave me the warmth I was missing from my bass and less of the front end "pop", it sounded very dark and didn't have the clarity and feedback resistance I think I need to cut through in this band. Also, comparing it to my bass, both of them needed a significant bump in the bottom end to really give me any "push", something I'd been reluctant to do in the past for fear of muddying things up. Just comparing both basses in the house, though, I preferred the sound of the Shen to mine, both acoustically and amplified.

    So for last night's gig, I elected to go with my bass instead of my friend's. I cut the input gain as Bob suggested, dampened the afterlength with a little foam football, and added in a significant amount of bottom. Also, even though I'd cut the top end a lot at the beginning of the night to get rid of the piezo quack, I ended up adding most of it back in by the end of the night to help cut through the mix. All of this helped me to get a MUCH better sound than I'd had before, and one I think I can live with and hopefully improve on with time. It didn't hurt that two of the violinists from the Cincinnati Symphony were in the crowd, and said it sounded good.

    Now, if only I could find a pickup with the warmth of the FC and the clarity of the Rev Solo, I'd be set. Alas, I suspect no such beast exists.

    Thanks to everybody for your input. It really helped! :hyper:
  19. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Now, that's a pretty tall order, but you could use a two channel mixer and combine the signals from the two pickups. How well that would actually work, I have no idea.

    I think that I would eventually add some kind of mic to this rig, whether it be a the AMT, Toby Timber, or the Golden Trinity Upgrade. I think that will give you what you are looking for.