Getting the most out of "modern" sounding (as opposed to "vintage" sounding) basses?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by sleeplessknight, Jul 29, 2009.

  1. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    So, I'm in the market for a new rig. I've noticed that my current rig (Eden WT 400 through a Bag End s15D) sounds absolutely, utterly PHENOMENAL with my more "vintage" basses (active and passive Fenders with both stock and DiMarzio pickups, a Hofner beatle-bass clone, and my fretlesses), but with more 'modern' instruments (Zon, Kubicki, and recently demoed with Fodera and Sadowsky) it's... noticeably unpleasant and thin-sounding. I spent some time talking with the guys over at Sadowsky and Fodera about why this is, and they seem to think I need a more "full-range" rig to be able to faithfully reproduce the full signal range of more 'modern' axes.

    Now, this whole thing started when I took a trip to NYC specifically to play around with high-end basses like Sadowsky, Fodera, Pensa, etc, and after all that I took the plunge and ordered a Fodera. It'll be here around February of 2010, and I'd really like to be able to take full advantage of the tones its capable of, but I still want my 'regular' basses to sound good. The guys at Fodera seemed to really like Epifani gear (perhaps because the Epifani shop is directly below the Fodera shop :p ), and the guys at Sadowsky seemed to really dig their Sadowsky SA200 amp and a Walter Woods through what I seem to recall was a Bergantino cab. If I were *just* playing the Fodera all day every day, I'd probably get a full Epifani rig and just call it good. However, I still plan on gigging out with the other "children", so I'd like to have a rig that sounds good with them as well. What would be SUPER would be a rig that the Fodera would shine on, ditto my Fender and Fender-like basses, that I could ALSO play my upright through!

    Budget-wise, I've probably got an absolute maximum of $1500 I can front for this, maybe a little more if I find Bass Tone Nirvana. I plan on selling my Eden and Bag End to defray that cost a little bit too.

    Other than that, my requirements are that the head is no larger than 2U (so it'll fit into my existing 4U roadcase with the power conditioner and Korg tuner), and that the cab not be TOO much larger than the Bag End (which is 18.5"x18.5"x15") so I can fit it into the back seat of my car. If I can get the rig smaller than that, and still keep it at a minimum of 400 awesome-sounding watts, then even better!

    So far, I'm looking at amps and cabs from the following manufacturers, and I'm kind of leaning towards an Epifani head through a Bergantino cab. If anyone has any experience with these, or combination of these, I'd be exceptionally grateful if you could share your thoughts! Heck, if you know of a manufacturer that I should be looking at that meets the above requirements, let me know about them too!

    The List (so far):

    Oh, and as far as types of music I play, it's literally a little bit of everything. I do jazz gigs (modern and classic), as well as "modern rock" covers, blues gigs, Top 40, country/bluegrass stuff, folk/Americana, funk (slap and fingerstyle), Zydeco, you name it. I also do a fair amount of theater and studio work, so some kind of integrated DI would be awesome!
  2. rbonner


    Sep 25, 2008
    Boy, I just don't fall for this one bit. Modern vs Vintage.

    Do I play a vintage bass? It's a highly modified American Deluxe Jazz with a modern EQ and SCN Noiseless pickups. Sure Fender tries to keep their guitars sounding like the originals just like Harley tries to keep their bikes sounding like the originals, but I don't fall for this Modern bass sound and requiring a completely different amp to replicate the bass.

    If the bass sounds unpleasant and thin sounding with your current amp I suggest that it is in fact unpleasant and thin sounding.

    It sounds to me like you have played a lot of different basses. I'm having trouble with anybody spending good money on something that doesn't sound right....

    I haven't played anywhere near as many basses as you have. The one I enjoyed the most recently was a CURBOW 5 string by Cort... Sure it sounded a bit different than my JAZZ's I've owned, but not that much different I'd need a completely different rig to play it.

    Either you are severely over critical, or something is broken on that bass....

    Now I have said over and over again, that THE BASS and the CAB make your tone.

    SInce you haven't changed your cab or amp, you have changed the bass... Lets ask ourselves what makes tone on a BASS?

    Not counting adjustable items like tone controls... STRINGS #1 in my opinion. You change the strings from what you are used to and its going to change. Then the pickups... Both these items are easy to change, and YOUR pickups can be hung on a custom built bass easy enough.

    The next thing involved is all esoteric items regarding the construction of the bass...
    Bridge, pickup location, fingerboard, frets no frets... Scale length and finally wood type.

    If you dont like the tone from the bass, either change the items in the build to make it sound like you want it to sound, or don't commission the construction.

    If I test drove the new Corvette and really didn't like everything about the car, I sure as heck wouldn't order one...

  3. shirky


    Apr 7, 2000
    Reading, PA, USA
    I would recommend that you keep your Eden head, and maybe just experiment with a 2x10 cab.

    My 2 cents. I wish you luck.


  4. rpsands


    Jul 6, 2007
    EA head, LDS 15/6 cabinet. *cough*

    I play a Steinberger, arguably one of the most snarly modernish basses, and it sounds full and awesome with this rig. Probably one of the flattest sounding setups I've seen :)

    In reality, you'll get a more "full range" sound using something like a super even preamp into a DSP-capable power amp, crossed over into this cab, but the EA line of amps is extremely flat sounding to my ears. I'd be interested in hearing measurements, but never had an amp I had to scoop so many mids out of ;)

    You can hear some samples of my rig here:

    That's with some mids scooped of course. And some nasty fingernoise (lawlz:)
  5. neatobassman


    Jul 16, 2005
    Antelope CA
    I say buy a new cab and see if that changes your tone to what you like. I can see how a single 15 wouldn't be able to reproduce the sound of an expensive bass like that. My vote would be for a Berg with 12's in it.
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    I'm going to have to agree with Bob on this one. I don't see what having a cab with more treble is going to make a bass sound less thin. Those types of basses have more of a clear clean tone, which sounds thin to some ears.
  7. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Hey guys, thanks for the input! As for the whole vintage vs. modern thing, what really got me thinking about it was the time I spent in Sadowsky's showroom. I tried this one Modern jazz bass through their SA200 and WW amps, and it was just awesome-sounding through that 210 they had in there. They also had an Eden WT400, which is the exact amp I play though now, so I figured "Awesome! An A/B comparison!" I put the Sadowsky through the Eden through the Bergantino, same EQ settings that I have at home (everything flat, the 'Enhance' knob at 12 o'clock) and... it sounded like crap. I'm talkin' noticeable, ***-happened-here, lack-of-booty crap. The huge difference reminded me EXACTLY of my Zon being run through my Eden->Bag End rig at home. When I take that exact same Zon and put it into a friend's Mesa Boogie or Genz Benz rig (granted, they're coming out of a 410 and a 610, respectively) it sounds GREAT! That's where I get the impression that my Eden rig just isn't so hot for 'modern' basses. I love the Zon, it sounds pretty sweet unamplified (for an electric bass) and the feel of the neck just can't be beat. It is, in my opinion, a well-made quality instrument that just doesn't 'pair right' with my current rig. What I *love* about the Eden/Bag End combo is that its very 'woody' sounding (my fretless gets KILLER 'mwah', and my fretted's mids are present in a very pleasant, almost 'warm' way) without getting a ton of trebly high-end (to wit, running a guitar through that rig sounds... sub-optimal).

    My "active" fender is a 75RI with DiMarzio pickups and a John East J-Retro preamp. It was VERY 'trebly' with roundwounds on it (sounded great for rock gigs and Top 40 stuff!), but I tamed it with a set of TI jazz flats and by raising the action so I have to really dig in (kind of like playing a horizontal upright). Now it sounds like sex on four strings, and is my go-to Country bass.

    My other two Fenders are a vintage 1969 Jazz with replaced pots (CTS) and pickups (SD Quarter Pounders) and a completely stock 2008 American Jazz Standard. Both of those basses sound PHENOMENAL through the Eden rig, even though their 'voices' are slightly different.

    My fretless is a G&L L2k with an ebony board and those sweet, sweet G&L pickups (MFD?). It's very aggressive-sounding, even with flatwound strings, so I tend to just play it in passive mode and only on gigs that specifically ask for 'something different', or in my own jazz quartet where I get to do whatever because I book the gigs :D

    As it is, the '69 is my default go-to axe because it just sounds good with everything! My biggest kvetch with it is that the neck will go nucking futs when it gets humid out, and in outdoor gigs it gets noticeably higher action as the afternoon goes on. I don't want to cause weather-related damage to it over the years, so my trip to NYC was to find a bass that could replace the '69 as the 'go-to' axe. Sadowsky was great, don't get me wrong, but Fodera was just THAT much better. Yes, it's substantially different from the Fender with everything set flat and the preamp on, but just dinking around with it in the Fodera shop, I got the sense that (with very little effort) I could MAKE it sit well in the wide variety of gigging situations I encountered. I could get a wide variety of nuances and subtleties to come out just by moving my right-hand plucking fingers around, stuff that I've been "aware of" playing my other basses, but that came into sharp relief on the Fodera->Epifani rig. I've never had that experience where I could get so... I guess "intimately involved" is the best way to put it, with my dynamics and tone. It was very different, but in a good way. If I'm ever in a situation where a bandleader or engineer INSISTS on "that Fender sound", I'll grab one of 'em off my wall. In the meantime, Fodera isn't intimidatingly-aggressive in the mix like the Sadowsky was, felt AMAZING in my hands (to put it lightly), and made it astonishingly easy to dial in a variety of GOOD sounding subtle tones that I can make fit into the wide swath of musical situations I find myself in.

    I did not get a chance to try the Fodera specifically through an Eden/Bag End mix, but Vinnie Fodera himself (along with Roger Sadowsky) seemed to have heard my lament before with their instruments through Eden/Bag End gear, and their opinion was that their instruments are "full range", whereas that particular combo is voiced more towards "good ol' fashioned standard bass", whatever that means. I am totally open to the idea that that sentiment is complete and total BS, and I welcome experiences that support that! I will definitely try a 210+tweeter cab out on the Eden, and see if that helps with the 'no booty' factor I've been experiencing ;)
  8. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    It's the 15 that's killing you. Modern basses need at least four 10's.

  9. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Really? 410s?! Damn! Any reason why that is?

    Also, as to the suggestion that I might be being super-critical about my tone, I try to be as easy-going as I possibly can. I don't use effects at all, preferring to go straight from the axe into the amp (alright, I have ONE Q-tron micro that I break out when I wanna screw around, but that's IT!), and what I love about the Eden is that I never have to touch the EQ. Everything's set at 12 o'clock, and I don't think I've ever moved from that in the 4 years or so I've had the amp! :p
  10. rpsands


    Jul 6, 2007
    That is a bunch of bullcrap. Seriously.

  11. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    What do you mean?
  12. usually Munji knows what he's talking about, but I also don't understand this one :meh:.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    What rp means is that for a moden cab, the 2 or 3-way cab with the high excursion woofer + mid + tweeter is a pretty good way to go that throws more air than a 410 and can be made way smaller. It's a different tone, but it does kick. But a 410 is still a much liked config for bass, and in a typical bass cab, I don't think Munji is off base at all.
  14. sleeplessknight

    sleeplessknight Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2002
    Montana Mountainside
    Ah hah, fair enough. My big concern with the 410 is portability. I'm diggin' my 15 because its so portable and easy to throw around. What sort of compromise would a well-made 210 or 212 with tweeter give me?
  15. garmenteros

    garmenteros Bass Enthusiast

    Aug 24, 2008
    Dominican Republic
    I have vintage and modern basses. even an alembic in the mix. got vintage and modern amps. b15n and mesa400+ into a powerhouse 1000 (got 4 10s a 15 and a tweeter) and all the basses sound good through both. the b15n lacks headroom and a bit of clarity but the sounds coming out of it own. my active stingrays come out beautiful as well as my vintage ibanez lawsuits. I think a good amp is a good amp and you just need to mess around with it to find your sound. Unless your amp is total crap or damaged im pretty sure you can find suitable sounds playing any bass.
  16. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Yamaha, Ampeg, Line 6, EMG
    Depends on the cab itself...very hard to generalize anymore because you can make cabs do pretty much anything you want nowadays.
  17. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Well, as someone who's owned several Eden amps and more "modern" basses than I should admit to, I'd say the EQ settings are the first thing I'd look at to fix your problem. (It doesn't hurt that it costs nothing to try!)

    First, in my experience, the "Enhance" control sucks way too much of the mids and low mids out of the sound. "Modern" or "hi-fi" basses are often a bit scooped sounding to begin with, and the "Enhance" control--while it gives vintage basses a bit more "modern" sound--can cut all the growl and guts out of basses that are more modern sounding to begin with. Turn the "Enhance" all the way down to start with.

    Second, the EQ on the WT400 is ridiculously powerful and flexible. There's no reason you can't bump up the lows and/or low mids a bit to fill the sound out.

    Third, though this doesn't apply to your test in the Sadowsky showroom, I'm with Munji on this one--the Bag End cab is not necessarily going to reproduce the "modern" bass sound very well. Don't believe the stereotypes about 15's vs. 10's--a 15 is not necessarily deeper sounding than a good 2x10 or 4x10 cabinet. You're going to lose the lowest lows, and without a tweeter or a horn, you're going to lose some of the top end tranparency as well.

    My $.02,
  18. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Don't know about Fodera's, but I'm really surprised that Roger said that about his basses. My experience (2 nyc's and 3 metros) is that Sadowsky basses sound great through ANY amp. I did a gig through a behringer 410 rig, and it SMOKED. Before I got rid of my PJ5 I played a gig through an SVT and liked it just as much as my Aguilar rig. EVERY single time it sounded excellent. IME of course.
  19. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
  20. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Retired Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    Look, everyone knows that 15's are notorious tone-sucking muff monsters (with the possible exception of the Bergantino HT115). Fifteens give you that cruddy "vintage" tone. I don't know if Jack Bruce used 15s in Cream, but it sure sounded like it. That is absolutely the most dismal tone ever heard. If you want the modern tone, 10's are the way to go. Try a D410XST, and you'll never play through a 15 again.

    Also, don't question me or argue with me. I have over 18,000 posts. 'Nuf said.