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Heavy String Gauge Distorting my Amp, or Something Else?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Thunderbird90DB, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. Thunderbird90DB


    Dec 29, 2008
    Ive got heavy guage strings on my five string and it seems the top b string is distorting the amp, and im sure its due to larger vibrations as the string is so thick. am i right? ive bought some medium guage strings and will string em up soon so im hoping the distorting will stop then. any advice?
    Then again, my bass is active and im sure the preamp is just too powerful for me to harness. I also play through an MB30, so maybe theres too much power coming from the bass for th amp to handle?
  2. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    It's all a system, the gauge of the string, the attack of your finger, the height of the pickups relative to the strings, the preamp on the bass, the preamp in the amp, etc. They all work together, and you can't just focus on one element (not until you have worked on all of them first). Try adjusting the strength you use to pluck that string. A lot of bassists find that with a powerful active bass with a low B, they have to treat that string a bit differently than the others. Also try lowering that end of the pickups, especially the neck pup if there is one.
  3. Thunderbird90DB


    Dec 29, 2008
    thanks! i plan on properly setting my bass up this summer when i get some time, so ill keep that in mind :) also, would it be worth getting a bass compressor? would that get rid of any distortion, and also would that make me sound better?
  4. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Since your 5-string is active, how do you have the tone controls on the bass set? I'd start by making sure the bass control is set flat (no boost), or even try cutting the bass to see if the distortion goes away.

  5. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Did I read it right, you're using a Marshall MB 30 as an amp? If that's the case, don't even think of compressors, or anything else. It's a small practice amp, with a very small speaker. Get a bigger, more appropriate bass amp first, before considering adding any pedals to the mix. Those small practice amps are quite easy to overload, especially with an active bass, and heavy attack. Your string gauge is most likely NOT the problem.
  6. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Good point--little bitty practice amps don't necessarily handle low notes very well, especially if you have the bass control boosted!
  7. a compressor can control the overall signal level of the bass but if it is distorting due to you being heavy (it doesn't take much on a B) like bongo said then the compressor will only make it worse.

    it sounds silly but go back to basics set EVERYTHING flat (bass and amp) then work up till you have the tone you want, if it is your attack technique then it will happen early, if its your settings it will get worse over time as you increase your boost/cut of certain frequencies.

    i also find strings with a tapered winding at the bridge can help 'focus' the basic tone of a B and to an extent the E too if you can find those strings. the theory being that the less string diameter that cuts off over the bridge saddle the more of the fundamental comes through (the basic note is clearer with less overtones)
  8. JanusZarate

    JanusZarate Low End Avenger Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 21, 2006
    San Francisco, CA, USA
    As Bongo said, strings aren't necessarily the cause. Specific to the pickups: You can easily use a screwdriver to lower one side of a pickup by tightening the screw on that side. I'd recommend trying that first.

    That should never be the case, realistically. You can always turn down the volume knob on your bass! :p

    AFAIK, your combo doesn't have a control to manage the input level, or an active/passive switch. So, all you need to do is turn down the volume on your bass. Also, you shouldn't be dialing in extreme EQs on a combo this small... it won't do you any favors. Start with the combo's EQ set flat, and try not to boost the Bass knob much (or even at all!).

    Your amp has a built-in compressor, but either that nor a separate compressor pedal is the solution:

    A) It won't get rid of the distortion. Compressors level dynamics, and can make more softly played notes sound louder.

    B) Compressors do not make you "sound better." Although they can smooth out the results of your playing by leveling dynamics to a degree, the secret to sounding good begins with proper technique.

    A lot of players try to "solve" their sound problems with limiters and compressors without realizing what it is that these devices are supposed to do.
  9. Thunderbird90DB


    Dec 29, 2008
    ah! thanks! :) i had a suspicion it was my amp and my bass was too much for it. if i start gigging with a band i will definately get a bigger wattage and two speakered amp, probably not a marshall either this time. fantastic advice thanks :)

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