"Head" aches cured with the FX Return trick

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by astack, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. astack


    Nov 12, 2011
    St. Louis, MO
    I've recently started a tone overhaul after 5 years of the status quo. The current setup is my trusty MIA Jazz Deluxe and some of Ampeg's short-lived PortaBass gear (PB250 head and PB212). I bought the Ampeg stuff as much for the ease of transportation as for the "Ampeg sound." (Coming from an SWR SM-500 and Senior Goliath 6x10.)

    I love the feel and direct sound of the Fender, but the PortaBass stuff always seems to struggle. The combination of the relatively weak 250W and a dismal low 90's SPL of the cab seems a likely source of my tone woes, I assumed.

    Anyway, to the point here, I'd never thought of it before, but heard someone here mention plugging straight into the FX return to bypass your head's preamp. In the spirit of making sure this isn't simply me GASing for all those new shiny micro's out there, I thought this was a great way to isolate the weak link.

    Since I've got an awesome active bass, I started to wonder why I need two preamps...

    And... WOW. Just tried it mid-practice and it's so much cleaner. It should have been obvious, but it actually sounds just like when I record direct, which I love the sound of. The Master goes from 12:00 to 3:00, but somehow it feels like there's MORE headroom, too.

    So by exorcising the preamp from my tone chain, I feel I've gotten a lot back. I'm a big fan of K.I.S.S. (the simplicity philosophy - glam rock's got nothing to do with this discussion), and love the simplicity of this setup.

    Just thought it might help others out there like me struggling with some less-than ideal gear. Anyone use this method as their go-to?

    Rock on dudes,
  2. Edword


    Jun 23, 2005
    I have a Portabass 228, may try this at next week's practice.

  3. bobcruz


    Mar 10, 2004
    I've done it with SWR amps to bypass that baked-in 6 dB cut at 250 Hz. I have an 18V onboard preamp in my bass with plenty of tone-shaping so it works fine.