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Doubler Setup: Avatar SB112 and AI Focus SIII 2R Amp

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by Jazz Cat, Jan 24, 2013.

  1. Jazz Cat

    Jazz Cat

    Mar 31, 2009
    Chesapeake, VA
    For all of you doublers out there, as you know, it can be quite difficult finding the right combination for different venues and various applications. Having been a doubler for over 15 years now, I'd like to share one of the best setups I've found for a universal application. Of course, every application and taste is a major factor, but this particular solution I've found is too good to keep to myself. So, here's the gear:

    Playing various electric bass guitars both 4 and 5 string (Spector, Tobias, Steinberger, Precision, Jazz, etc.)
    Playing both acoustic and electric uprights such as the NS Design CR-5M (5 string with a low B)

    Amp: Acoustic Image Series III Focus 2R
    - 2 channels with high pass filter and effects
    - 450w into 8ohm, 800w into 4ohm, 1000w into 2 ohm
    - weight: under 5 lbs.
    Speaker: Avatar SB112
    - ceramic magnet version
    - 500w RMS, configured as 4ohm
    - weight: 45lbs. and very manageable using a small hand truck for longer distance hulls.

    Overall thoughts:

    With the ability to have separate EQ for both the upright and the electric, no compromise has to be made to get the appropriate timbre desired. The AI amps have a high pass filter, otherwise known as a low cut, which is perfect to remove the boominess in certain settings and also helps during larger outside venues where you don't want the speakers to over-travel or over-exert for higher volume. For those who use an electric upright, the reverb options on the AI amp are somewhat useful to reintroduce a little body and resonance into your sound. Since I often play larger venues including those in an outdoor setting where I'm competing with horn players as well as loud guitars, drums, etc., I chose to go with the ceramic version of the Avatar SB112. The neodymium version is lighter, but I've yet to find one that doesn't color the sound of the natural upright in the low mid frequencies (400-500hz). The other issue is that I wanted to keep to one cabinet if possible and at a Neo rating of 250w RMS, I'd much rather have the 500w RMS associated with the ceramic magnet version.

    OK, enough of that, how does it sound???

    The sound is clear and you can dial in most tones for most applications. The good news is, it's not a hi-fi sound unless you choose to voice it that way. What you won't get is what I consider a muddy tone associated with some of the older setups (like Ampeg) from years past. The low B for a 5 string is no problem and doesn't breakup at high volumes. While many systems may have a different tonal character when compared between the E and the B string, this system doesn't sound any different. One of the toughest things I've found is finding a system that will handle the NS Design 5 string upright. Due to the polar pickups and blending options, to get that true upright sound, you end up with a very heavy thump related to the transient attack. When I've run the low B with these characteristics, the resulting thump often causes even the most robust systems to over-exert the speakers, exceeding the XMax. This particular combination doesn't suffer or struggle from this common occurrence.

    Now, for the validity of my comments and feedback, I'd like to share some of the other systems I have tried from most of the major manufacturers around the world. You won't catch me saying anything bad about anyone's setup or a particular manufacturers sound, mainly due to the fact that they are voiced for other applications, so I'll leave manufacturer names out of this equation.

    OK, to the point, here are some of the cabinet configurations I've used over the past 15+ years: I've tried dozens of 2x10 cabinets, several 2x12 cabs, 4x8, 8x8, countless 4x10, many 8x10, many 1x12, several 1x15 and 2x15 new and old, etc.

    As you can guess, I've been looking for the right combination for many years and I've finally found it. The genres I play in include everything including traditional jazz (bebop), big band, Chicago-style bands with horns, fusion jazz, funk (with slapping), punk, rock both classic and through modern, Caribbean with 15-piece steel pan group with bass and drums, country both old and new, bluegrass, folk, Celtic, alternative and industrial (including dark-wave), metal both old and new, etc. etc. Plus, I've done a ton of studio stuff since I was a professional recording engineer in large studios in a previous life.

    Please feel free to ask any questions you may have and I'll try to address them to the best of my ability. I started to make some recordings to demonstrate what this system is capable of, only to realize that it is a poor representation that may not apply to all tastes. So instead, I have tried to describe some of the advantages and how this particular combination exceeds all other setups I've tried including custom purpose built designs.

    Final Thoughts: While there are many lower power systems that sound great for smaller venues, one of my challenges is a consistent setup that can accommodate the demands associated with large stages and outdoor gigs (amphitheaters). This system is likely going to be the last I buy or ever use, regardless of the latest technology that comes out. Now I just need to secure a full spare so that I'll never have to compromise again.

    Good luck with your personal endeavors and setups. If you find yourself trying to solve the same issues I've had, consider this setup and at least give it a try. Both the amp and the cabinet are easily sold should you choose not to keep them. Note that I am in no way associated with either manufacturers, nor do I subscribe to the 'sponsorship' mentality. Unfortunately, no one can tell you what will work for you, you just have to try some things and see what you like. Have fun and keep plucking!

    Note: If anyone is around this Saturday, 26 Jan, in the Norfolk/Va Beach area, come on out to the Sandler Center and you'll get to hear this setup in person. The gig is the 40th anniversary of Elvis' "Aloha from Hawaii" concert benefiting the American Cancer Society / Relay for Life. This will be a 15 piece band, complete with horn players and will be a lot of fun. The group is comprised of musicians who have toured with many household name acts as well as several horn players who are current/retired military.
  2. Jazz Cat

    Jazz Cat

    Mar 31, 2009
    Chesapeake, VA
    A few pictures from the show:

    IMG-20130126-00019. IMG-20130126-00016.