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in search of amazing tone...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by allan grossman, May 5, 2003.

  1. A thread on another forum started me thinking.

    A friend and I were talking about liking the sound of wood and I said that most of the time EQ just messed up the sound of a good bass.

    I usually run my basses flat and do any tone shaping at the amp - and even then it ain't much. If the bass doesn't sound good I don't think you're gonna make it sound good by tweaking it a whole bunch.

    I like the sound of metal and wood and fingers and don't want too many electronics interfering with that sound.

    What got me started on this really was spending a a fair bit of time listening to Live Art yesterday and deciding that while Victa's midrange and top end are to die for his bottom end sound more like a pipe organ or a foghorn.

    What do y'all think? Do you prefer the sound of wood, metal and fingertips or does a more-EQ'd sound do it for you?
  2. I generally run flat with a Musicman Sterling into an Eden WT-600. I'll boost the low mids a bit to cut through a band sometimes. That's about it. I'm also not a big "tone-shaper". A lot of my sound is in my fingertips.
  3. Interesting question. The following is opinion only and is intended as nothing more than that.

    To play devil's advocate for a minute, I think that wood-metal-fingers versus EQ is a false opposition. When you listen to an electric bass, you are NEVER hearing just wood, metal, and fingers--you are ALWAYS hearing it mediated by electronics, whether passive or active, in the bass or in the amp. Pickups, being far from linear reproducers of sound, shape your tone to begin with. That is, the minute you put a pickup on a bass, you've already shaped (i.e., altered) its sound. All tone circuits also shape your sound, even when you feel you're not using radical settings. Just because your EQ is set flat, that doesn't mean you're necessarily hearing the actual sound of the bass (whatever that actually is), or anything close to it.

    The only way you could know whether a PU-wiring system accurately catches your tone is to know what your bass "really" sounds like without it, and I submit that you can't do that. Sure, you can listen to the way the bass sounds unplugged, but IMO that's not a compelling sound, not the way an acoustic instrument (in the sense the word is usually meant) is. Personally, I've never heard a single bass played unplugged where I'd say, I want that sound, just louder. Any solidbody electric I've ever heard sounds puny unplugged. If I thought that an unplugged electric's sound was its "real" sound, I'd burn it! ;) If it's not clear what I mean, take a good condenser mike and put it in front of your solidbody bass an play it unplugged. Record it, and play it back. I think few if any of us would consider that an ideal sound. YMMV, of course.

    Or you could put your ear on the instrument while you play it, but that doesn't tell you what it "really" sounds like either, any more than putting your ear on a classical guitar tells you what the listener hears. What you hear in that scenario is simply how the string vibration sounds as transmitted through the medium of the body. It isn't necessarily what the pickup hears.

    So I guess what I'm saying is, any time you play a bass, you're getting an EQ'd sound, even if you leave everything flat, or even if you turn up all the knobs of a passive bass. *There IS no wood-metal-fingers sound.* That said, I'm not much of a tweaker with the gear I've been using, but it's kind of a nonissue to me when you get down to it. I'll tweak if I have to and I won't if I don't. If I like the tone, it's good, and I don't care if I had to turn a lot of knobs to get it or not. Also, "good" tone can be a moving target: what sounds killer solo may not sound good in a big ensemble.

    And I'm not sure that as listeners, we can so easily tell the difference between what's EQ'd or not. You mentioned you liked Vic's mids and highs but not his lows; how do you know the frequencies you liked weren't just as EQ'd as, or more EQ'd than, those you didn't?
  4. thrash_jazz


    Jan 11, 2002
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Artist: JAF Basses, Circle K Strings
    I usually run everything as flat as I can and EQ depending on the room.
  5. I don't think I have anything more to add, other than that's always worked for me.

    I was recording in the weekend, I didn't need any EQ on my bass, and I was going DI. I'd like to think that it was my fingers..... but I had none of the controls on my bass boosted (or cut) and the EQ on the desk was flat, so....?
  6. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    Given the varied nature of a playing environment I fiddle with the knobs until I get the sound I like. I prefer to run relatively flat, but I will tweak things until I'm happy. I mean that's why basses and amps have knobs, right?
  7. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Well, to me, it kinda depends. I'm fortunate enough to have a bass and an amp that sound great (to my ears) when I leave everything set flat, or nearly so.

    That said, my bass has 2 soapbar pickups. When I'm trying to get more of a P-bass sound, I roll the blend to favor the neck p/u. When I'm trying to get a more growly, J-bass sound, I'll favor the bridge pickup. When I choose the latter, however, I HAVE to turn the treble down, at least a little bit, or I get a nasaly, honkin' midrange that I hate.

    But, to get different tones, I do play a little with the eq. I find I don't have to adjust much, and can enjoy the character of the bass through all the eq variations I choose. But, I do consider it a point of versatility.

    That, and Richard Lindsey's opinions above are brilliantly stated.:D I couldn't agree more.
  8. Brendan

    Brendan Supporting Member

    Jun 18, 2000
    Austin, TX
    I kinda go for the sum of the parts. I think a good bass should be left flat with it's on board EQ, and then messing around at flat, or very nearly flat on the amp should get you to where you want to be.

    I preffer a setup that I don't have to tweak and twiddle very much. I do like to do a bit of EQing, but I generally, set the amp on "Not suck" and do the fine tuning on the bass. Pretty basic, I suppose.
    Really, I could get by with no EQ on the bass, hell, even the head, but I like a little variation from bass to bass..
  9. I prefer an EQ'd sound.
  10. ConU


    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    As little as possible between the bass and the amp,anything in the way alters your sound,even if it's bypassed IME.Recording is another thing though,whole new ballgame.Throw the kitchen sink in there if it works.;)
  11. xush


    Jul 4, 2001
    mobile AL
    I guess it's controversial, but I tend to believe one can't hear that much 'wood' in the signal. Wood may have some effect on the tonal signature of the instrument, but I don't think I 'hear' wood.

    It takes electronics to reproduce the sound. I think you have to live with that, embrace it, make your peace with it. There's no way to remove that link from the chain. Definitely a 'sum of its parts' scenario, to borrow Brendan's words.

    I still take exception to Warwick's motto, but hey, who am I? I don't build basses, they do. I just think the concept doesn't make a whole lot of sense when you're making electric basses.

    As usual, Brad Johnson could be wrong...
  12. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    I wouldn't call that opinion, I'd call it eloquently stated fact.
  13. I think Richard might be getting tired of all the praise, but, his statement was so good, I'm printing it out to save it for future reference. ;)

    As for sound, the end justifies the means. If the end product coming out of the speaker sounds good, that's all that matters to me.

    As far as bass EQ versus amp EQ, I get a much different tone adjusting the controls on my Stingray than if I leave the bass flat and mess with the amp. I usually have the bass at 7, the treble at 5 (flat) and the mids at 3 on my 'Ray. At these settings the tone reminds me of an old Jazz bass. If I do nothing but move the mids to 5, the sound changes A LOT!

    If I leave all the controls on the bass flat and then adjust the amp, the sound doesn't change nearly as much. Then again, a lot of this could have to do with my amp. (Ampeg B100R)

    Who knows? If it sounds good, listen to it.

  14. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I would absolutely agree with Richard.

    The only thing that I would add is that sometimes you use EQ to REMOVE color, not add it.

    As mentioned, amps, mics, effects, speakers, etc. all tend to notch or swell certain frequencies. In addition, the setting can cause certain frequencies to either stand or be soaked up.

    So you are often EQing to try to get back to "base", not alter it.

    As to whether you use the bass or the amp, it really depends. For me usually the amp, but mostly I use whatever isolates what I need the best.

  15. Shucks. Glad I could help.:bassist:

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