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How do you set gain when...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by namuxtree, Feb 8, 2014.

  1. For a long time I set my bass in the same way. Bass and treble boosted, pick ups both fully open, volume all the way up and then I would roll up the gain until right before it clips. This gave me great signal integrity (not sounding thin) for that particular setting, but lately I've been switching between pickups and changing EQ and it's been causing various problems for me. If I wanted to use just the bridge pick up or drop the bass and/or mids, I wouldn't have enough gain and sound thin. On the other hand, if I favored the neck pickup or boosted bass and/or mids, I'd be clipping. So my question is, how should I be setting my gain to accommodate any setting I have, WITHOUT sounding thin from having too little gain.

    PLUS, I'm thinking of building up a pedalboard soon with delays, reverb, OD's, distortion, fuzz, etc and that can do a number on having various stages of gain.

    I use a TecAmp Puma 900, 2 Schroeder 12PL's, and MTD basses

    Thank you all for taking the time to read and reply!

  2. Kmonk


    Oct 18, 2012
    South Shore, Massachusetts
    Endorsing Artist: Fender, Spector, Ampeg, Curt Mangan Strings, Nordstrand Pickups, Korg Keyboards
    Most pro players will run the tone and volume controls on their bass around 3/4. That way they have the ability to boost or roll back.
  3. Neener

    Neener Grumpy Old Dog

    Feb 25, 2007
    Mechanicsburg, PA
    Back off the volume on your bass when you're using your "normal" tone. Then when you switch to one of your other settings that sound thin, add more volume.
  4. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    Someone smarter than me should design an amp input circuit that provides automatic gain.
  5. Mr. Foxen

    Mr. Foxen Commercial User

    Jul 24, 2009
    Bristol, UK
    Amp tinkerer at Ampstack
    Sort your pickup balance with height.
  6. Bassmec


    May 9, 2008
    Ipswich UK
    Proprietor Springvale Studios
    Not a problem this has been addressed as early as 1956 and has been so popular in radio stations and recording studios that a clone of the original unit is still in production today:
    There is also a very effective solid state AGC (automatic gain control) made by the original manufacturer of the Sta Level called a Gates Solidstatesman.:bassist:
  7. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    That would be a compressor.
  8. nashman


    Feb 11, 2011
    I thought about that. Auto gain would eliminate the need for a compressor, no? Compression is also post eq (I think) where as an auto gain circuit on the input would provide a clean signal to the eq section/amp no matter what was plugged in on the front-end - passive/active, pedals etc..
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Backing off the gain a little so it never clips would be easier ;)
  10. Dave in LB

    Dave in LB

    Feb 11, 2011
    So Cal
    On my TC the recommendation from the factory was turned gain up until it clips then back off until it almost clips then use master volume from there. I use a bunch of different pick up mixes and tone setting on my bass so having the amp "fixed" works well.
  11. Ummm....no.

    A compressor is a gain reduction tool. It automates a reduction in gain, based on a threshold. Exceed the threshold at input and it reduces the output on the other end based on a ratio.

    Before the threshold, 1 in = 1 out. Exceed threshold and it might do something like this 4 in = 1 out.

    So while the OP could use a compressor to achieve what he wants by making sure when his bass output is low the compressor does not act, and when he switches to high output it kicks in, that's not what has been described.

    And in the event that someone points out the "make up gain" function of a compressor, yes I know about that. But, it is not a tool to be used to, well, make up for a lack of gain, if you will.
  12. I use the same method. I like my bass having the optimum amount of gain, but that optimum level changes and I change the settings of my bass. It's frustrating not having that ideal gain level when I change settings. :(
  13. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    You do realize that you are contradicting yourself, right?
  14. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    There's a bit of room for semantic interpretation, but I actually agree with what 62JB said. The make-up gain of a compressor is not "smart", it does not change with your input level. And while the normal gain reduction of a comp does react to input levels, it means your stronger sounds will be more compressed, which might not be desired.

    The ideal solution, apart from the vol knob on the bass itself, is a volume pedal or boost pedal that the user applies as needed when changing pickup settings.
  15. Dave Curran

    Dave Curran Lilduke

    Jul 27, 2013
    Set the gain based on the loudest you will play, with both vol, and tone all the way up on your bass.

    Set the Volume based on the quietest you will play, with the pickups set where you found them "thin".

    Use the volume on your bass when changing pickups/tone to roll back the excessive volume when you don't need it. But when your playing thin, it's there.

    My tele has a baritone setting on it, that is a hpf. It sounds very cool and retro, but I loose 1/3 the volume when I use it. So this is how I set my stage volume.
  16. soulman969


    Oct 6, 2011
    That's because you're optimizing your gain with the bass volume maxed. Don't do that. Roll back on the bass volume then optimize the gain. When you shift to a pickup or EQ combination that needs more roll up your volume or cut it if that shift adds boost. The bass volume alone can control gain.

    The method Dave in LB uses that TC suggests I believe works best on most SS amps. IMHO you should be using both amp gain and amp volume to optimize your settings. The gain control is there to adjust for input and the volume for output. You need to balance both.
  17. No, explain.
  18. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Seeing compression as a gain reduction tool is telling half the story. It is a dynamic range reduction system. This is exactly what the OP is describing IMO. He states that when he sets the gain staging for optimal average level for the louder parts of the program, the levels for the quieter parts are too quiet. Or when setting the gain staging to be optimal for the quietest parts, the loudest parts are too loud. What he is saying in effect is that the volume difference between the loudest and quietest sections is too much. So by reducing the gain, once it starts to get too loud, allows the OP to set the low volume part of the program louder, i.e. more to his taste. This is what specialized types of compressors, leveling amps and hard limiters do. In this case, he would set the threshold high so that only the loud parts of the program are effected. Then use a fairly high compression ratio, short attack time, and moderate to long release time. AND NO MAKE-UP GAIN.

    Now a side effect is that the signal peaks are squashed, which can sound bland, but with careful setting of compression parameters, threshold, ratio, attack and release he can find a satisfactory compromise. For example, by lengthening the attack time the OP can let more note attack dynamics through while still keeping the average volume within a desirable range. Optimal values will depend greatly on the material and the style of play. There is no one-size-fits-all here.

    So, in his case there will be some compromise in the overall gain staging to allow for a best average case. By this I mean, there is no way to gain stage optimally for one input level and expect it to be optimal for another, much higher input level, especially when that gain swing is at the beginning of the chain. So by reducing the dynamic range, this compromise should be more acceptable.
  19. Excellent post, and fair point about my (deliberately) brief and overly simplified description of compression.

    Upon re-reading the OP, I agree that the best compromise solution would be a compressor.
    That said, a compressor can be a dangerous tool in the wrong (most) hands. ;-)
  20. BFunk

    BFunk Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Absolutely. Compression is often a very difficult tool for anyone to get comfortable with. Yet, it is one of the most important signal processing tools to a bass player IMO, (besides EQ). Its impact is often too subtle to the novice. So the tendency is to either overuse it or to conclude that it does not provide any noticeable value. Then I hear others say is used to mask bad technique. IMO, a bass player needs to have good dynamic control to effectively use compression. Otherwise the dynamics varies to much to make effective settings, which leads to over-compression to compensate.