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Help w/Focus Series II

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by RShew, Jan 28, 2006.

  1. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Hi Folks,

    I have been having major issues with my Focus 2 Series II I bought last summer. I have tried numerous cabinets Flite 12, SWR, Porta bass and settled on a LDS 1x8 3 way. I played a gig in china town the other night and with the LDS I had all of the highs up and the bass all the way down and it was still a boomy mess. When I play a lot of other gigs the mid range seems to bark like crazy and the tone is "synthetic" to my ears. Are there any of you that have similiar experiences with these amps? It seem like everyone is so happy with the sound and I have not heard anything bad about them. Is there another way to EQ this thing so it is clearer at loud volumes? A pre amp? I do have a mic channel that I am using with a Shure beta 99 clip on mic. I tossed it after the first set as it was adding insult to injury.

    BTW- I am using a Pollman bass (bright and known for puchy mids anyway) strung with Oliv G (to keep the brightness down) Obligato D and Helicor Hybrid Mediums on E and A (strange set but acoustically the bass sounds fantastic and records well). I am using a realist pickup.

    I appreciate ANY advice on how to solve this problem. I don't want to sell the AI but am really close to going back to the GK combo...which sounds really good with the LDS as an extension BTW.
  2. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    And you're sure it isn't the rooms you're playing in? And you tried raising the cab off the floor too?

    Also, it might be the pickup too? Maybe something else would be more compatible with your pollman?

    I use a Focus SA with a Fishman Platinum pre and it sounds fine to me. But I've never used a realist with it.
  3. Reuben


    Aug 8, 2005
    Brooklyn, NY
    I had a Clarus, and haven't tried the Focus, specifically, but my experience with the AI amps was that the EQ in them was inadequate. I found them midrangey with most cabs. I did use mine once through a Mesa 4x8 (no longer made) which sounded much more even, but I had to use external preamps & EQ to get my sound from AI amps.

    Lots of folks swear by them though, so what do I know?
  4. Adrian Cho

    Adrian Cho Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2001
    Ottawa, Canada
    "Boomy mess" doesn't sound to me like it has anything to with the amp and "mid range barking like crazy" and "synthetic tone" can't be blamed entirely on the amp, especially one that is so neutral as the Focus.

    I think you need to back and look at the whole signal chain beginning with the very first stage. What pickup are you using?

    If you're happy with the acoustic sound of the bass, using the kind of gear you've described and a decent pickup, you should be able to get a pretty decent even if you have to EQ a bit for certain rooms.
  5. LowNote

    LowNote Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2002
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    Yes, there is a way to solve your problem, and it is the use of the High Pass filter that is built into the amp. For boomy pickups like the Realist, I would experiment with which of the two input jacks sounds cleaner as well, although switching on the High Pass filter and turning the knob clockwise until the low boomy mud is out of your sound should do the trick. I'm currently using a series II Focus 1R with one or two Contra EX cabinets for low to medium volume gigs and with a Schroeder 1212 or Schroeder Mini 12+ for loud or doubling gigs, and have been able to get a great fat sound from it that is punchy and not boomy. I'm most often playing an Eastman hybrid bass with a Fishman Full Circle pickup. I did own a Realist a few years ago that I had installed on my expensive carved bass. I know that people love the Realist but for that particular bass, the sound was pure mud. I took it off and replaced it with a Schertler StatB and continue to be quite happy with that pickup. Your bass may want a different pickup but I would experiment with the High Pass filter before doing anything else that could cost money. Hope this is helpful. I'm in Los Angeles--your brief profile says you're in LA--and if that doesn't mean Louisiana I would be willing to get together with you to try and sort you out.

    Erik Hansen
  6. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I am in Los Angeles. I have used the realist for over 8 years with a GK combo and have always been very happy with the sound. I wanted to try the focus as the loud gigs were not as happening with the GK and I wanted to try to mix in a mic. The problem is that when I am at home, I crank up the Focus and it sounds great in my living room but on gigs it is either heavey on mids or so boomy that 8th note lines don't come through. I tried the high pass and it helped but the sound was really unbalanced across the strings. I don't really like maxing the eq in any direction but it seems to be the only way to get a real change in the sound. I would like to try a Full Circle but I am also one of those guys that adjusts my bridge 1/4 turn from night to night and I have been reading that it can really affect the tone by doing so. Thanks for the tips guys. Keep them coming.
    I was very surprised BTW of how good the GK sounded with the LDS. It still is not loud enough however for the "loud" ones...
  7. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Adrian. I am very happy with my tone acoustically and use a Realist. I was hoping with all higher quality gear it would sound better than the GK but I am at a loss. "Pretty decent" is right. I can survive witht the tone but it is not my ideal and as we all know, it affects the way we play. Would you suggest I try another cab or pickup first? If so...what ones?
  8. larry


    Apr 11, 2004
    As good as the Focus is, I agree with Reuben that the EQ is too basic. I like sweepable mids (I'm using an SWR SM900 which has hi and low shelfs, and three sweepable mids). That gets me a good sound. No other amps I've tried came close, except for a Walter Woods I borrowed.

    But before you spend the dough on a new amp, I would try some other pickups. They're cheaper and easy to sell if you don't like them. I found the Realist boomy and muddy. I went to the Full Circle after the Realist. Much better, and worked well with the Focus. Then I went to the Revolution Solo and liked that even better. YMMV.

    Without changing amps, you can add a $100 small parametric EQ like this one:
  9. Roger - I would consider other cabs first. The LDS 1x8 is great for low to medium volumes only. Don Oatman will be the first one to tell you it's just not meant for higher volumes. Right now I have the 1x8, an EA cxl-110 when I need to get louder but stay small, and a Vl-208. The 110 is a very efficient cab. Oddly enough, at similar volumes the 1x8 sounds deeper and has more old-school low end warmth than the 110. However, for boomy or muddy rooms that might be the thing to avoid. The 110 is not in production, but you can find them used. I've also been itching to try an Epi UL110.

    I am happy with my Focus, although as you have noticed the EQ is more on the subtle side. I am also resigned to the fact that some rooms and environments (people talking) just sound bad and no choice of gear or tweaking will compensate for it.

    EDIT: The Realist is also known for being muddy at higher levels. BTW, I can turn the top 2 EQ knobs all the way up or down with the Realist and it will have almost no effect - that's a property of the pu, not the amp IMO. So, the other pickup idea could also be the ticket.
  10. B String

    B String Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    One of the biggest positives with the Focus, are the notch
    and high pass filters. They're VERY useful for taming wierd
    rooms and stages.
  11. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    I have recently discovered the Notch/High Pass filters on my Coda. And boy did I find out what I had been missing. I would suggest checking those out.

    I'm sure someone knows how to use it better than I do, but I just start with it off and if I don't like the sound I turn it one and slowly adjust the "Filter" knob until I'm pleased. Its worked great so far.
  12. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Thanks again everybody. Tom, I think I will try and get a Full Circle. I have been needing a new bridge and I might as well throw it on there. I will however leave the Realist on as it does sound very good with the GK and through the Focus in certain situations. I don't know how I feel about having all of these gizmo's hanging off my bass but if it is for the sake of sound....
    I guess I will also have to look for a more high powered cab for certain situations. I still have to try hooking up the Flite 12 and the LDS 1x8 together. That might sound quite good and then I wouldn't have to spend more dough. So you think a pre -amp is a futile idea? I am not really looking for yet another component to add to the chain anyway.
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    One problem with higher end amps is that they amplify the GIGO principle to the point that the "GO" part becomes a lot more clear and noticeable. In my experience with amps, the sweepable EQ thing is a pretty cool idea at first, but quickly becomes a drag unless you are playing in the same room all the time. While I liked the multi-faceted EQ options on the iamp800, after a while I found them a burden, so I just ended up finding a decent all purpose setting and doing the rest with my hands.

    The advice about the HP filter on the Focus is spot on. With the FC/AMT combination, I keep both channels set with the treble rolled all the way off, the bass rolled off slightly, and the HP filter set at roughly 12 'clock. When it comes tweaking time, I only need to deal with the HP frequency setting, and occasionally an adjustment of the midrange knobs - but even that always feels nitpicky. I'm looking forward to getting the Focus III and having the HP filter on both channels. That feature is the most useful EQ control I've ever had on any amp.
  14. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    When Ric Vice and I A/B'd a number of different heads with his DB and Realist pickup, the Focus sounded very pillowy, mushy and non-distinct vs. the Walter Woods and Thunderfunk that we A/B/C'd that day. The treble and brite controls on the focus had virtually no impact on the sound whatsoever, since they are voiced so strangly high. Even using the filters, the amp went from too boomy to not enough bass.

    The Walter and Thunderfunk, on the other hand, sounded great, and the bass was very responsive to the EQ.

    Maybe there is something in the output of the Realist that just doesn't work well with that head, since I've heard other DB/pickup combinations sound wonderful with the Clarus/Focus.

    Maybe Ric can comment on his recollection of out test, or you can PM him.
  15. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Come to think of it, I've not heard a Realist sound good through my Clarus or Focus either. Hmm...
  16. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    RShew had mentioned getting the Full Circle. I think that that combination (Full Circle and AI amp) will sound great (it's the one I use).

    In general I haven't ever been pleased with the sound of the realist. I've never used one, but I just always wish for more clarity.
  17. RShew


    Mar 11, 2004
    Los Angeles
    I need a new bridge. Mine is 5-6 years old and been through a lot including grad school, 3 cross country moves, and severe climate changes. That being said, after reading some more I am curious also about the Vektor since it is also an installed job. Can anyone comment on the Vektor and Focus? How does it operate at loud volumes? Tom, do you use your Realist through the Focus with results you like? I was alos wondering Tom about your cabinets. Do you use the LDS WITH the CXL 110 or just then CXL 110 by itself when you need to play loud? When do you use the VL 208? I know many of you are giving bad revues of the Realist but on my bass (which tends to be on the brighter side) it seems to do well through other amps other than the Focus (GK mainly). It sounds like the Realist and the Focus just don't work at all together.
  18. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    I've never had luck using the Focus with the Realist (or Clarus). The combination just sounds REALLY dark. I always liked the Realist with my SWR Workingman's 12. The Clarus/Focus really likes the Underwood the best, I've found.

  19. In my opinion, the Realist is definitelly one of the best pickups - one of the first where the player can almost forget that he's not playing acoustically. It sounds great through any bass amp - except AI amps. So why should we blame the Realist??? Let's not forget, that the AI amps are NOT bass amps. They are amps for acoustic instruments - that's why the equalizer makes very little sense for bass - of course, its not intended for a bass. They can call them high end amps but can't call them BASS amps. I would definitelly look for a bass amp, if I want my bass sound like (more or less) a bass. Any GK amp, for instance, is a heaven compare to any AI amp (assuming you want to use it for bass...)
  20. Freddels

    Freddels Musical Anarchist

    Apr 7, 2005
    Sutton, MA
    Huh? I thought the guy at AI IS a bass player and designed the amp for the accoustic bass. Please correct me if I'm wrong here.