Is an outboard preamp what I'm missing? Or is it post-production processing?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by eoinwalsh, Dec 12, 2015.

  1. eoinwalsh


    Jun 10, 2011

    I am able to get a pretty decent DI bass sound with the setup I have. I have a great instrument (Lakland 5594) and a good interface (Apogee Duet 2).

    I also have a nice rig that I could mic up. I have never tried this though.

    I'm very capable of playing the instrument and getting the tone I want from it. I'm well aware of the many techniques and approaches for manipulating the tone of the instrument. At the moment I'm using medium Elixir strings.

    However, there seems to be something missing in the sound I get when I record bass. On the records that I like, the bass sound seems to have some standout quality that I can't identify. I don't it's eq or colour because I can get the colour of these sounds with my bass direct into the Duet. But the character/quality/presence isn't the same.

    I've come to the conclusion that using the Lakland bass on passive mode as opposed to active definitely gets me closer to these sounds. Passive mode on this bass disables all eq controls (but I can add in frequencies after I have recorded the bass so that's not a problem) but it gives that "classic" tone which is closer to what I'm after than the what the active mode gives.

    I have attached 2 samples of recordings I've done with my setup, one fingerstyle and one short slap one. These were actually both done with the bass on active mode.

    Here are some examples of the sounds I am interested in.

    (Ok maybe that last one is more of an active sound. It still has that quality I'm looking for though.)

    • I've heard a lot of people talking about what a good preamp can do for your sound and so I'm thinking that some outboard preamp could be what I'm missing. If this is the case, could anybody here tell me why exactly certain preamps can give your sound this character? Also, what should you be looking for in a piece of outboard gear? I know some focus on eq and some focus on compression and some do both.

    • Or is it post-production processing that creates the sound I'm looking for?

    Any advice is much appreciated.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 14, 2015
  2. Entirely speculation without hearing your current results, although lots of those tracks have various amounts of chorus/flanging which gives them richness and presence.
    Icemanaroonie likes this.
  3. eoinwalsh


    Jun 10, 2011
    Thanks for the reply. I should have included samples of my recordings in the first place. I have uploaded two recordings of mine now. You can compare them with the bass on the youtube links I've provided. Thanks for your help.
  4. Icemanaroonie


    Sep 6, 2015
    Yeah, in addition to that it's also the lack of other instruments. Even having a simple drum track will change the entire texture of a piece. I think the bass tracks sound fine, they just need to be accompanying other instruments.
  5. AngelCrusher


    Sep 12, 2004
    Mesa Boogie, Tech 21, Taylor
    About everything I do is studio work and I know the struggle.

    The first thing is that many of these bass examples you posted are different basses. The slap sound you want is probably the sound of a Jazz bass with both pickups at 10. The 5594 ( I owned one) does not record like a Jazz bass. I tried to love it in the studio but I ended up selling it on here. Main thing I did not like about it is the Q on the mid knob is super wide so when you scoop mids you lose a TON and when you boost, you gain a ton.

    All that aside, you can still get good tracks with the bass, it is just not the bass I'd use for "that sound" in the clips you posted. I really like those styles of bass and less is more in this case.

    The first thing you need is a DI. If you go passive you want an active DI. An Active DI does not have EQ or anything, it just boosts the signal of the passive bass so you get the best gain staging into the preamp. This makes a big difference.

    Signal chain is huge in bass. Tracking in through a real 1176 or similar compressor, even with light compression, can change the sound that makes the bass stick out in a mix better.

    The bare minimum is that the mix needs to be EQ'd well so the bass is audible. That means other instruments need to be high passed properly and the players need to know how to EQ their tones before this even happens.

    There is a lot that goes into it. The basic part is that I think the tone you actually want is a passive Jazz bass or an active Jazz with some light bumps on the bass and highs (either works, personal preference).

    The second part is that you will need to get really good at learning how to use EQ and compression, and that just takes a lot of time and experience. It's fun though.
  6. Another consideration is that most of the examples you linked to, have at least one or two other instruments doubling the bass line. Heavy compression and try both pickups on full with only one coil of the rear MM pickup on using either the front or rear coil of the bridge MM pickup and the neck pickup. On my Lakland I prefer the MM bridge pickup with front coil only, active EQ BYPASSED, and use the balance control as a "pseudo" tone control to dial in the sound I want. To me it sounds like a jazz bass this way and I use passive mode more than active mode on my Laklands ! On one of my 55's I have a Sadowsky Preamp with VTC (vintage passive tone control) and I use that mode the most, passive, volume, balance, and VTC, and to me sounds the best for the sound and style you are looking for.
  7. I've only been in two studios that were multitrack analog. Some of your examples are were done analog tape. The way it was explained to me is that the bass will probably be compressed at least twice by outboard compressors and also twice by the natural tape compression (orig. track then to stereo track). As I've heard with digital, don't try to squeeze the signal all at once.
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