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How to get a good and clear sound from the PA/To the sound engineer?

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by bassle, Mar 10, 2013.

  1. bassle


    Dec 12, 2009
    Hi! I did not seem to find a similar thread to this basic subject, so I thought that it deserved one (Im also curious about it of course)!

    When I go to concerts and see some of the same bass players multiple times, it seems like some of them who I really like almost always have a good sound out from the PA system. Of course this varies when it comes to sound engineers and the location in terms of the acoustic environment, but there seem to be those bassists who are better to deal with these situations (to wet acoustic, bad sound engineer etc.). I guess really the question is how to make a sound that is good to work on for the sound engineer.

    Personally I often get compliments about my sound, but sometimes people say they didnt hear me because the sound was not clear enough, that it was just rumbling noise. Live I use a passive american standard jazz with no EQ, DI or preamp, so I guess that there is a lot of opportunities to enhance my sound.

    I know that in the end it boils down to how good you play and how good the sound engineer is. But I guess there are dozens of things to do to get the qualities of your playing more defined! So I have some questions about technical stuff and questions about how to deal with different situation in terms of live playing.

    1. Do you use a certain type of DI, does it have a preamp or EQ as well? Maybe a compressor? How does this affect your sound? How do you use this equipment? Is it best to roll of the bottom and enhance the higher mids and treble? And of course what is the model of the DI you are using?

    2. What do you guys think about micing up cabs or amps?

    3. How do you deal with wet acoustic? Churches, halls etc.
  2. tbirdsp


    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE

    So do you have a bass amp or just plug directly into the PA?

    A lot of sound engieers boost the extreme lows too much for my liking.
  3. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    A lot of it is probably the room. Room acoustics really can mess with the low end.
  4. perkjos


    Mar 10, 2013
    You need a Tech 21 Sansamp to plug into. Essentially, it is an active DI box made for passive basses. I also play a passive Jazz Bass and the Sansamp will tighten up your sound through the PA big time. I guarantee it will be the best $200 you ever spent.
  5. Tuned


    Dec 6, 2007
    +1 for the Sansamp, there's also the MXR bass di+ and Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, all very good. In my case I sprang for the SVP-CL preamp, so I'm sending the PA the tone of an SVT. My poweramp and cab are relatively neutral, so if it sounds good to me my sound out the PA will take a concerted effort to not sound good. Sadly it does happen sometimes...

    I certainly don't mind my cab being mic'ed, but I insist on the DI line out my preamp first. It's part of my instrument, I'm playing it as much as I am the strings.
  6. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    IME there is two factors to consider for this particular question:

    1- It all depends on the size of the room/PA and the "garbage" coming from the stage.

    If you play in a room where the PA fights against the stage volume , chances are very high that the overall sound will not be good if Point #2 is not respected.

    2-Your sound (or tone depending what part of the planet you're from) has to be set according to the rest of the band.
    Arrangements anyone ?

    If all guitars , keys , bass has a full spectrum sound and everybody plays together all the time => good luck !
    No soundman will be able to do anything.
  7. uhdinator


    Apr 20, 2010
    1. The room
    2. The stage volume
    3. How much LF in the keys, guitars
    Is covering up the bass guitar

    Even if the sound eng is good he can't do much if #2 is the problem.

    Big rooms require dialing back the LF.
    90% of the time gui****ists have way to much bass dialed up on their amp.
  8. Stone Soup

    Stone Soup

    Dec 3, 2012
    No you don't. :spit:

    If your sound is mud in the room, it's either poor room acoustics or the sound man. There is no magic box that will fix it. Ever.
  9. Floyd Eye

    Floyd Eye Banned

    Feb 21, 2010
    St. Louis
    Most important thing is to have a good sound guy. Next important thing is to have everything Eq'ed properly and have volume levels correct. As for the bass, unless you are using a total POS D.I. or mic, a decent soundguy will have little problem making you sound good.

    Of course, if your PA and other gear is crap, this is all moot.
  10. Tuned


    Dec 6, 2007
    Assuming you're talking about indie bands in <500 cap rooms, about 80% of the time, the bass rig sucks. The room acoustics may hurt, but the damage is done before the sound man has a chance to fix it. But I'm certain only the top 20% visit here... :rolleyes:

    Digital boards offer a lot more fixings, but only the sound tech's skill can fix anything. Best not to break it in the first place. It's simply not possible for a bass rig to provide even tone and dispersion better than a properly configured PA system. The more you try, the harder it is to fix.

    I strongly encourage bassists to use their rigs only as a personal monitor, but folks around here just want to blast the room.
  11. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
  12. TimmyP


    Nov 4, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    The biggest problem is the bass amp being too loud within a particular frequency band that is "amplified by the room". Few heads have the EQ necessary to fix this. So the cure is to turn down until the problem is solved, at which point you may not be happy. With only a couple of exceptions the bassists who've sounded really good in the house were using their wedge, a little bitty amp pointed at their head (with PA stage spill to fill in the bottom), or IEMs.
  13. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    you hold the bass up to a mic and pluck it really hard? :p

    whatever amp you use probably has some sort of out to go to the PA.

    anyway, in general you want to provide the house with an active signal (like from the amp) so it won't degrade on its way to the board, and you want that signal to not have too much EQ on it; a flatter sound with more mids and highs and less bass than you might think will come across as clear and even in the band mix, and will make it easier for the soundguy to tweak it to fit.

    sansamps are cool (i lurv mine) but they very much color the sound, so make sure that it's a sound you like first.
  14. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Balanced Lo-Z, yes, but active is not that important. Little or no EQ, I agree.
  15. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009

    a passive bass right into a passive DI (no pedals or anything) might sound a little dull, especially through long snake runs.

    an active buffer in front somewhere (even a buffered pedal like say a boss TU-2) will preserve the highs and overall volume.
  16. iplay5strings

    iplay5strings Supporting Member

    Aug 10, 2007
    Waterford, MI
    You should be using an active DI box at the least if not a preamp pedal with a passive bass. Playing a passive bass into a passive DI straight to the board doesn't give you any gain stages to help beef up the tone/signal, so you end up with a pretty lifeless sounding signal in most cases (unless you have an AWESOME sound engineer).
  17. ggunn


    Aug 30, 2006
    Austin, TX
    Not really. Mics run passive through long snake runs without degradation and their signals aren't that hot. High Z unbalanced through a simple adapter through a snake run, sure. Don't do that.

  18. umm yes/no...usually an active DI will brighten the sound, and can also make it sound a little punchier...more noticeable on an acoustic instruments...however over a long snake run it doesn't mean anything....just affects the overall tone...
  19. walterw

    walterw Supportive Fender Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 20, 2009
    apples and kumquats; dynamic mics are way lower impedance than passive guitar pickups and so less subject to loss.

    yes, the box's transformer is there to "fix" this, but what about the load the box itself is placing on the bass? anything lower than like 500k&#937; input impedance will affect the sound, losing high end.

    the bass will be "OK" passive straight into a passive box straight into a long snake run, but would likely be better (as in louder and clearer) with an active stage up front somewhere.
  20. Rockin Mike

    Rockin Mike

    May 27, 2011
    2 things:

    1. The sound you're producing needs to be something the sound man can work with. That's why most of them want you to plug directly into their direct box which doesn't change your sound and they just work with your bass's natural sound at the mixing board. A lot of bassists hate that but you know what? It works pretty good.

    2. If you want to get "your sound" or put effects/whatever in front of the sound man's DI box, or use the post-EQ DI builtin to your amp, or use a DI like the Sansamp which has builtin EQ and sound character, then it's your responsibility to provide a usable signal to the mixing board.

    If you're not knowledgeable enough about live sound reinforcement to stand in front of the board and mix a band yourself, you're better off with option 1. Honestly. Your audience will thank you.

    I think every bass player has to learn at some point that low frequencies are not your friend. Those low lows are at a wavelength that is about the same as most rooms so they get reinforced and the sound in the audience is way too boomy. I wish they would relabel the knobs as:
    "boomy mush" instead of "bass" (anything below 80Hz)
    "muscle bass" instead of "low mids" (100Hz - 200Hz)
    "punch bass" instead of "mid mids" (200Hz - 500Hz)
    "chunk" instead of "high mids" (500Hz - 1kHz) and
    "shine" instead of "treble" (1kHz and above). "growl" is in around the "punch bass" range, but it really comes more from your pickups than your EQ.

    Next thing to learn is not to step on frequencies that other bandmembers are using. In the music store or at home we all like to turn up the lows and highs, and turn down the midrange. they call that a "scooped" sound. Problem is, in a band setting, the kick drum (and all too often the keyboard) is happening at those low frequencies so if you're putting them out too neither one will be heard clearly. Same with the high mids. Guitars and vocals are in that range so if you're there too there will be garble. Scooping your mids is a great way to get the sound man to turn you down so low nobody can hear you, especially when recording. Find yourself a nice blend of "muscle bass", "punch bass" and "chunk" and you can own your sonic space and be a good neighbor to the other instruments.

    Your best friend is a wireless unit. Get out in the audience area during a gig and listen to yourself, then listen to each other instrument, then listen to the whole thing and how they blend together. A good mix is when you can hear each instrument clearly. Honestly it has not much to do with whether each instrument has "enough" bass or treble or whatever. The human brain is a funny thing. If it's getting good high mids from the lead guitar it won't miss them in the bass guitar.

    Next problem is dynamic range. Funny how the bassists that need compression the most are the ones that avoid it. The best, most experienced bassists use compression. We are fortunate to have a TB'er who provided an "everything you need to know" guide to compression here:

    Apologies if any of this is not news, but I don't know how much you already know and I think a partial answer would be doing the reader a disservice.

    Is a Sansamp Bass Driver DI a wonderful box? Yes it is (although I like their Para Driver DI better). Is it a magic solution? No. Tools are great but it takes all 3 of Tools, Knowledge and Skills to make it happen.

    That's actually more than 2 things.

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