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Flat Settings

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jvollrath, Apr 9, 2009.

  1. jvollrath


    Sep 11, 2008
    Athens, GA
    For live shows I always start with my amp set flat and go from there.


    I have active basses and passive basses. I understand the concept of setting an amp flat with an active bass, but do you guys set your amps flat with your passive basses as well?

    Also I see a lot around here about boosting mids - if you boost mids - which frequency do you boost?
  2. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    This is a much discussed topic.

    I guess I will just briefly say that setting the tone controls on an amp at the 'neutral' setting does not mean the amp is actually flat, since most manufacturers have a built in tone based on their voicing goals.

    And... to make things more complicated, once you have that amp head plugged into a speaker, most speakers (virtually all speakers) are not 'flat' through the entire spectrum, so now you are further off 'flat on a scope'.

    And:D, even if you have a head that actually does have a flat frequency response going into a cab that has a relatively flat frequency response, once you get that rig in a live situation (i.e., on stage in a room) it's not 'flat' any more anyway, given all the carpet, drapes, wood floors, walls, people, etc., etc.

    However:), I too like to find an amp and cab that achieve my tone goals right out of the box without a lot of messing around, so that I can use EQ similar to a channel strip on a mixing board... to keep that inherent tone (whatever it is) close to the same in different playing situations (stages, rooms, venues, etc.).

    Regarding active preamps on bass, I view that as just a bit of extra flavoring and variation to be used sparingly in 'real time' without having to go back to your amp (i.e., adding a touch of low end to fatten up a slap tone or whatever), versus actually using those little battery powered preamps to actually define your basic tone.

    Just another way to think about it! If you are reasonably happy with your tone with your amp controls set at the neutral position, IMO you are in good shape!!!!

    Edit: Boosting mids is VERY cabinet dependent. On a very wide voiced, deep cab, boosting between 150 and 250 can add meat and definition and punch. On a very mid voiced cab, dialing back a little bit of upper mids at 800hz-1Khz can smooth and soften the attack.
  3. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Yes. I start flat with all my basses. As far as which mids to boost, that's kinda the whole point to starting flat. You set your rig to the room. "Your tone" will require different settings in each room. P.S. I also start with my active tone controls on flat. A lot of times I can get really close to what I want by using the knobs on the bass.
  4. ga_edwards


    Sep 8, 2000
    UK, Essex
    This is really good advice if you're buying an amp. If it doesn't sounds good with the eq set neutral move along. Yes, it prob can sound good once it's been tweaked and eq'd, but it's just another thing to fiddle with everytime you play.

    I leave mine set neutral, and then tweak it for the room. A lot of the time it doesn't even need tweaking.

    Works for me
  5. jvollrath


    Sep 11, 2008
    Athens, GA
    I do appologize by "flat" I meant "neutral."

    And thank you for the detailed answer. I've been paying bass since I was a little kid and I've noticed as the years have gone by Ive gone from having everything at "11" to barely touching the EQ and letting the Gain and Volume do the work.
  6. bassforce

    bassforce Guest

    Feb 7, 2007
    Yes, I leave my EQ flat but it depends in gig place acoustics.

    I set mine B-200R flat and play on passive P-bass w/ TI Flats.
    Eventualy I cut a lil treble but mostly I don't touch the EQ.

    I know that flat =/= neutral but I think my rig is well matched for me, so I don't have to look for my sound on my amp and bass - I just HAVE it.

    If the acoustics is bad I have to adjust EQ (one night I had to play in "full bass mode" cause there was no lows in pub - that was a nightmare)

    I'dalso agree with ga_edwards - no good sound on flat EQ means that this gear is not for me
  7. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    +1 Liking the inherent neutral voicing of a rig without a lot of twiddling is the definition of happiness to me at this point, and again allows you to tweak the EQ a bit to fine tune the roomn (i.e., 'equalize'!) without pumping in all those peaks and valleys and 'frequency holes' trying to make a rig sound like something it's really not!
  8. rbonner


    Sep 25, 2008

    How about SET ALL THE KNOBS IN THE MIDDLE "WHAT WE SIMPLTONS REFER TO AS FLAT" and then tweek them from there... On most things there are detents, or big lines, or some other force that indicates the knob is in the middle of its range. I don't know why but most manufacturers put them there.

  9. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    North Dakota
    All true, but I think for the sake of discussion here, we can accept that "flat" means flat as far as your rig is concerned, not in comparison to "truly" flat - whatever that means.

    I think "flat" is a great place to start and then shape from there with what the room/situation dictates.
  10. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    Um, +1, just trying to clarify and perhaps add some information that might be interesting to the OP, since many do equate 'neutral' with flat.

    Manufacturers put those detents there to make it easy for you to get back to what the manufacturer thinks sounds good. As long as you agree with the manufacturers ears, that's a good thing:)

    I enjoy this topic very much. I'm sorry I bummed you out with my post. I admit I'm a little bit fanatical about these topics.
  11. JTE

    JTE Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2008
    Central Illinois, USA
    My amp is there to translate what my basses sound like mostly. I'm not naieve enough to suspect that any part of the signal chain is really flat. What I do know is that the amp/cab with the EQ set to a certain starting point sounds right to me no matter whether I play the passive or the active instruments. That setting on the Eden WT-400 and the D410XLT combination was essentially flat on the EQ knobs. A little bit of "enhance" and depending on the room I'd tweak the mids. But I opted to play the Precision because of how THAT bass sounded through the rig, and I opted to play the Lakland because of how that bass sounded through the rig. All with the same EQ settings on the amp.

    On the P I'll alter tones by how hard I play, where I play on the string (both hands affect this), etc. I'd use all those on the Lakland, along with the PUP blend, the coil split, and the EQ. It's just differetn voices. I'd never consider trying to EQ the Lakland to sound like the P, nor the other way 'round.

    So, the upshot is that the nominally flat setting on that amp works great for me, and my nominal setting on the Laklands is the EQ flat, the PUP blend just slightly favoring the neck PUP, and the bridge PUP on both coils. On the P it's both knobs wide open. If I play another amp, especially Ampegs, Hartkes, and Peaveys, I jerk the EQ around a lot to try to get rid of the goofy voices those amps have.


  12. badboy1984


    Mar 27, 2007
    United Kingdom
    I set my amp and bass complete flat.

    90% of the time the amp and is flat, i only boost abit of low mid and cut abit of high mid to get my tone.
  13. Mikio


    Feb 21, 2009
    Santiago de Chile
    hmmm... I'd mostly go flat with the Active one, or cut the mids, but with the passive one I boost the bass and highs, and cut the mids [because the Jbass has a LOT of natural mids, so I take them out and it's still pretty "middy", love the way it sounds]

    thankfuly, my amp has 4 sound matrixes that allow me to play a lot with tone, so it's like having 4 different amps.
  14. If you're changing active and passive basses live I'd think about some kind of switchable pre, preferably one with a couple of inputs (like Raven Labs? :cool:) that will give you the ability to mute/boost/eq to even up your basses with the flick of a switch.
  15. rbonner


    Sep 25, 2008
    You didn't bum me out, just teasing you a bit. I know you get worked up on this topic, makes it just that much more fun. It's all rock and roll. :D BOB
  16. R Baer

    R Baer Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 5, 2008
    President, Baer Amplification
    Not to sure I completely agree with this theory. True, an amp shouldn't need a ton of EQ to sound good, but I have also dialed up some really great tones in my day with a good dose of EQ. I remember my Sunn Colliseum 300 and 215 cab that needed a lot of tweaking to sound good...but, man did it sound great! An amps EQ is a tool and it is there for a reason. Don't feel like you are somehow cheating by using it to get the sound you want.

    Point is, if you find an amp that gives you a great tone, don't get hung up on where the knobs are pointing. Does it really matter? What really matters is that you find a tone that works for you.
  17. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    I deserve all the ribbing I get:p:)
  18. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    If I remember correctly each of the tone controls on the Sunn Colliseum 300 was a pre. So dialing up a good dose wouldn't be the same as on other amps where there can be gross interaction. :)
  19. honestjohnny


    Nov 24, 2006
    Is it new tech? No. Is it a new adaptation or improvement on old tech? <shrug>

    Every new development has been met with resistance and skepticism (rightly so), but eventually someone does build a better mousetrap and people are forced to recognize it. Just saying.

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