How to find uncolored settings on an amp

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by mrperkolator, Dec 1, 2022.

  1. mrperkolator


    Jan 4, 2020
    As title states, how do you guys go about finding where the amp is just passing signal and not coloring? I've seen some videos where they figured out the curves and made different amps sound very similar. I figured knowing how to "zero" an amp would actually give much more choices out there (if one wanted clean).
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  2. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Inactive

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    I'm sure @agedhorse is the most qualified among us to answer this question.

    Here's what you need to know going in. Plenty of amps do not have a "flat" or "uncolored" settings. They come with their own baked-in tone. There is no "signal just passing through" setting on a lot of amps.

    Plenty of them post "flat" settings in their manuals.
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  3. Verb the Noun

    Verb the Noun

    Aug 1, 2018
    San Diego
    IME you can find the "flat EQ" settings of an amp either by ear or with some help from the internet, but pretty much every amp is going to color your tone to a certain degree just like your bass and cabs will.

    Some brands are favored by the double bass set for supposedly having less coloring but, again just IME, the ones I have tried definitely had coloring. I suspect that coloring just sounds good with double bass.
  4. pepj


    Mar 25, 2021
    I don't approach it like this.
    I find how the bass sounds naturally and how I've set it up and then I am looking for as close an amplified sound as possible taking into account inherrent bias, or not, of the amp and cab.
  5. Depending on your amp, and if you happen to have a passive D.I. you might be able to get close by comparing the D.I. audio with either the audio from your effects send, or amp D.I. post audio. Set your amp's EQ to sound as close as possible to the D.I. that is directly from your bass. Note the EQ settings.
  6. ClusterFlux


    Apr 11, 2018
    Usually, you can bypass the preamp by plugging into the effects loop on many amps. PA systems, as far as I know, also tend to produce flatter responses.

    That said, few amps are designed to be "flat," because it doesn't sound particularly good. That's why most people use preamps, amp sims and/or cab sims when playing ampless through a PA.

    You might as well get an amp that offers a variety of tones, or offers a sound you like, and that allows you to bypass the preamp via the FX loop in the event you want a different preamp sound.
  7. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Most bass speakers are not flat, so why would you adjust the amp for flat? If flat is the goal, the amp must be able to make precise EQ changes that mirror the discrepancies in the speaker's frequency response contour.

    My normal process is simply to twiddle the knobs till it sounds good. If the amp is moved, it's necessary to twiddle the knobs some more. Also good sound is not always possible.

    On some occasions I have plugged in a CD player and adjusted to make the sound as HiFi and true as possible.

    I would love to have a measurement program like SMAART. But my understanding is it's not easy to take accurate measurements in a normal acoustic space.
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  8. mrperkolator


    Jan 4, 2020
    Fair question. I most likely wouldn't leave it at flat. My reasoning for wanting to find flat is so that I have a consistent starting place, particularly when switching between a J and say.... a Ubass. Completely different sounds. Perhaps it's the technical part of me coming out. I like to know where zero is. I zero out meters, etc. Why not an amp?

    All good points. Thanks everyone!
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  9. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Just use your ears and choose a time that you like. Flat doesn’t really matter, most players would not choose flat if it was a choice anyway.
  10. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    I own a fairly large amp collection. The way the tone control network functions varies significantly from some amps to others. The trick is you need to have an intuitive sense for how all of the controls work and also how they interact. It's not just about flat, it's also how where the frequency centers are and how wide the bandwidth is.

    My Ampeg SVTs probably have some of the most predictable and intuitive tone controls you will find on an amp. Nominal flat is fairly close to all rotaries at straight up at 12:00. I can't think of any other amp in my collection, except maybe the Ampeg PF50T, where nominal flat occurs with all controls at 12:00. My GK RB series amps are certainly not flat with this setting. Actually it's possible some of my amps are relatively flat, but in truth I have not checked.

    Probably a better approach is to find an amp and cab that produces a voicing that sounds great to begin with. Then you don't have to fiddle with the controls as much. I think my Genz Benz GBE1200 is probably "that" amp for me...hard to get a bad sound out of it IMHO, but YMMV.

    Also keep in mind the controls in different amps tend to be useful in different ways. For example, I would say the controls on my Ashdown CTM300 work fairly well for getting a longs as you like the native voicings of the amp. This is a set it and forget it type amp, as the controls really don't function in manner that would allow you to compensate for acoustic problems. Don't get me wrong, the CTM 300 is an awesome amp, but I find it's really easy to dial in sounds that I consider virtually unusable.

    In contrast, I find the controls on my GK RB series to be really good at balancing the sound in different acoustic settings, but I don't consider them all that great for dialing in a variety of sounds. I tend to tweak the controls on this amp at every gig site. I feel like I can balance the tone very easily, but I don't necessarily get the type of tone that I want. IMHO this series of amp sounds really great for slap or aggressive, growly rock tones, but it's not great for meat and potatoes fingerstyle.

    I think some other characteristics are also really important. Is the low end tight and focused or loose and woolly. You can make some impact on these qualities with tone control adjustments, but generally you can't totally overcome them. Another factor is how the amp transitions from clean and punchy, to compressed, to distorted.
  11. basscooker

    basscooker Commercial User

    Apr 11, 2010
    Northern KY
    Cab fan, hobbyist
    Reddi into studio monitor. Then try and reproduce that?
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  12. beans-on-toast


    Aug 7, 2008
    Look up RTA. Get a phone spectrum analyzer. The mic will not be calibrated well but good enough. Tweak by ear to taste afterward.

  13. . . . . and a Jazz Bass and a U Bass are completely different animals, by a lot. I'm with Andy, find the settings that work best for each and call it a day.

    'Flat' on any guitar or bass combo or head/cabinet rig is an entirely different proposition from flat on a recording or PA board and studio monitors or professional front of house. Instrument amps (and their speakers) are inherently voiced or colored, if you will, to work with their instruments in a manner the designer(s) intended for their intended audiences. Hard to 'zero the meters' and work outwards on an SVT or Subway or most any good bass amp as you would in other audio setups.
  14. Jogobass


    Feb 5, 2013
    Groningen, NL
    I use my headphones and interface as a standard. I like the sound of my bass best on that. Then I find that sound on the amp. Or as close as I can get it. Live situations might require some boost somewhere but it depends on the band setting as well.
  15. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    Everything in your signal chain colors your sound. Even the flat settings.
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  16. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa Boogie, Development Engineer-Genzler (pedals), Product Support-Genz Benz
    Different basses through a "flat system: can sound entirely different. What works for one bass may not be close for another.

    There are good reasons why bass amps are rarely flat. For example, there are 3 distinctly different voicings between the D-800, WD-800 and TT-800. Each voicing appeals to different players, otherwise if flat was so wonderful there wouldn't be a reason for the number of popular bass amps in the marketplace. Ampeg is different than GK, which is different from Mesa, which is different than Hartke which is different from Fender. None are "flat".
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  17. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    One other consideration, your choice of speakers can also color your sound. I would also suggest that finding flat is going to be different from amp to amp, and impossible to find on some. Best wishes with your search.
  18. I think we tend to rely on single measures like frequency response curves for more than they can actually tell us, and things like "seeking flat" work out to mean a lot less than we think.

    I saw what I thought was a pretty good analogy on the usefulness of frequency response curves and that fact that there are other aspects of sound that impact its subjective two frequency response curves that appear to completely similar can sound different to you.

    The analogy was about ice cream. What a frequency response curve can tell you about sound is like the capability of a curve to tell you which flavor ice cream is... "This is strawberry ice cream" but even if you like strawberry ice cream, it can't tell you whether you will like this particular ice can't tell you whether or not it's what you consider to be good ice cream to begin with. You might like Edy's but not care much for Breyer's or your local store brand of the same flavor. The aspects that go purely to which flavor aren't necessarily the same as those that go to texture, firmness and other things that create the overall experience.

    Same with sound; frequency content/levels alone won't tell you how those things will strike you...whether you will necessarily like it. The curve can tell you that the level of the bass relative to the midrange (give you the flavor...that has more chance than another of being something you like) but not tell you if it's a smooth sound or more aggressive than you actually like.
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2022
  19. darwin-bass

    darwin-bass Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    I've found flat settings on many of my amps over the years. I use an MP3 player and go back and forth between the input and the effects return, tweaking amp EQ until the two paths sound the same. I may also use an RTA app plus some pink noise to get another view.

    Knowing where the neutral points are on the tone controls has been enlightening but the usefulness of the info is limited.
  20. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Google helps a lot :)
    Educate yourself a bit, and of course use your ears.

    There are amps that are as flat as they will go with everything at noon.
    There are others. For example, Orange amps will typically be flat with the mids turned up quite a lot and bass and treble turned down.

    Plugging into the FX return will bypass the EQ on most amps (not on Markbass), yielding a flat response. You can use that as a reference and then turn knobs until the FX return and normal input sound as identical as they will go.
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