Muddy or tight? B strings and low frequencies.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sequimite, Oct 16, 2012.

  1. I've noted the many threads in which the B string in particular and low notes in general are described as muddy and solutions are sought. I've wondered about disagreements over the same model bass and in general have assumed that getting a tight sound meant hearing less of the fundamental and more overtones.

    I'm reading "This Is Your Brain on Music" by Daniel Levitin. He writes, based on laboratory studies, that most people have difficulty hearing pitch definition below 55hz and above 2000hz.

    In the continuum of pitches there are tones too low to hear at all, tones we don't hear clearly, tones we hear clearly, higher tones we don't hear clearly and higher still tones we dont' hear at all. In addition, not all hearing is equal. Some may hear a 37hz D fairly clearly while to others it may sound muddy, despite accurate sound reproduction.

    Good read and a good reminder that when we have different opinions about a low note being muddy or clean it may be due to the end sound produced or it may be because of different abilities to hear the tone.
  2. Blue


    Jun 19, 2004
    Central NC
    Often I hear the really low notes (by others) as - apparently - below the reproduction frequency of the amp; the tone def' goes ... let's say different.

    That said - in the right song my dropped "D" can kick some arse ... maybe lower too, I just don't go there.
  3. AlexanderB


    Feb 25, 2007
    "Muddy" vs "Clear" tone in the lowest range is mainly a product of the harmonics' distribution. Below 100Hz the fundamentals gradually get duller and harder to discern pitch-wise.
    Different scale, design, materials etc will highly influence the balance of harmonics.
  4. khutch

    khutch Praise Harp

    Aug 20, 2011
    suburban Chicago
    I think there is a good deal of truth to this notion. A lot of what I read here on TB about low Bs makes no sense to me. I go to stores and play the same basses that others rave about or pan, sometimes consistently and sometimes with radical disagreements, and they all sound and play pretty much the same to me. When I go to online hearing tests that explore low frequency perception I usually get different results from the reported norm. So we don't all hear things the same way and some of our disagreements have to come down to this rather than to the inherent quality or lack thereof a given bass possesses.

  5. Ric5

    Ric5 Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 29, 2008
    I convert 4 string Rickenbackers to 5 string basses.
    When I listen to old vinyl 45s and then listen to a modern song usually there is more bass and or low end on the modern music. Modern pa systems have sub-woofers then can reproduce frequencies that are below the human hearing range. Modern bass amps also have more low end than the old 60s bass amps.

    So modern bass players usually play with more bass on there bass guitar. But if you turn up the bass and also play a 5 string you end up with muddiness.

    The solution is to turn up mids. Many amps have a high mids and low mids dial. Also many modern basses with active electronics have one or 2 mid controls. Mids will give the bass definition and clarity and growl as well, and bass gives it the fullness it needs.

    As per a tight B string that is not floppy. That is more setup then EQ.
  6. pmad_bass


    Oct 24, 2004
    So here is a question…..and pardon my ignorance…but I have to wonder if there aren’t others out there that have the same thoughts/questions. Also pardon if this reiterates sentiments/observations that may have been made in previous posts (I didn’t find any on my initial search parameters).

    I imagine that while sales of 5 and 6 string basses may not have outpaced those traditional 4 string basses….there is obviously a large percentage of bassists opting to go the low B route. So if basses with a low B string are so prominent ….why do the specs on so many cabinets hover round the 40-thru-44 Hz range, rather than properly accommodating the 31 Hz of basses with low B strings?

    Replies to the question above may well answer my next question and that is, if a cabinet that is “rated” at….say 40Hz……what is happening to the other lower frequencies (40-thru-31)….or for that matter….what are those lower frequencies doing to the speaker? This question assumes that the bass settings on the amp and an active bass are set flat. I find that on most modern amps/speakers that I’ve tried….the speakers would likely be destroyed if the bass frequencies (on the amp or bass) were cranked and the volume was high….and that’s just on the E string.

    I’ve been thinking about getting a new amp/cabinet of some sort for a while….but have procrastinated. The Epifini AL 112 combo ‘looks’ very appealing…and though I’ve yet to see/hear one in person…the Epifini website lists the amps response as 20-hz-thru-25kHz, while the cabinet is rated at what might seem like a mere 44Hz (on the low side) thru 16kHz on the high side. Interesting to note that the specs listed on the AL 112’s tone controls state: “Bass- Shelving + 22db @ 40 Hz.” Is there some sort of disparity with having a tone control on a combo amp that would appear to deliver more than what the speaker can accommodate?
  7. pmad_bass


    Oct 24, 2004
    My post above may be dove tailing more into the Amps section. Will give it a while and then perhaps post there.