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My AI lacks juice – what are my options?

Discussion in 'Amps, Mics & Pickups [DB]' started by elvinstheman, Sep 23, 2005.

  1. elvinstheman


    Jun 16, 2005
    Seattle, USA

    I just got a series one Acoustic Image Contra and last night I took it to a session and the band was sort of loud (not a wall of Marshall stacks or anything but fairly loud) and my sound was totally getting lost.

    So what are my options for improving the output? The first thing that came to mind for me was to get an extension cab. Aside from being sort of expensive (possibly) it would also be a real pain to haul around all the time. Is there any way to get more power out of the AI Contra combo? Do preamps boost your power at all? Transducers?

    Any advice would be much appreciated.

  2. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    I too have been evaluating the Contra. Although the model I have is a Series I. I just played out with it on a piano less trio gig with trumpet and sax for a art gallery reception. It worked very nicely for that particular gig and actually made my old Clevenger EUB stand up and talk.
    Unfortunately, when I tried it at a trio rehearsal last month with a very musical drummer and a excellent pianist, I just couldn't hear the instrument as well as I do with my EA VL 108's .
    The difference is that I use a Realist on my DB and the Clevenger
    has lower out wafer piezos. I've ordered a Revolution Solo from Upton Bass
    to evaluate the amp with a different PUP. Many of the players on TB have had similar experiences to yours. You should be able to fine them in the Newbies links under Acoustic Image.

  3. jazzbassnerd


    Aug 26, 2002
    I have the Series two combo. I find that the amp's position makes a large difference in the sound. The website says that the amp is omnidirectional, and I believe them, but, I think that up close to the amp its "aim" needs to be good. At times when I've thought that I was kinda soft, people I have asked have said that the volume is fine (sometimes even a little to loud). I don't know if this helps any.

    One more thing: how much did you turn the amp up? This may seem like a silly question but I have always been weary of turning an amp up too much. Then I saw quite a few people with there volumes really hot and the sound was fine. So you may want to just crank it.

    Hope this was beneficial to someone.
  4. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    It is omni direction below 800 Hz. Most of the complaints are about the amp cutting through the mix...some of that will be in the 250 Hz range, but most will be above that 800 Hz mark. That is why you are noticing that positioning the amp correctly is key.
  5. LowNote

    LowNote Supporting Member

    Jan 31, 2002
    Edinburgh, Scotland
    A couple of suggestions that have made the Contra I used to own and the New Yorker that I now own work well for me. First, if you're using a Realist, try the upper or LowZ input. This tends to reduce the boominess/muddiness of the Realist on some basses through an AI amp.

    Second, I always try and get the Contra/New Yorker up off the ground, generally on a chair or on top of an extension speaker (see below). This reduces the boominess and improves the cut through as well.

    Third, I generally set the Bass and Mid controls down to about 9:00 depending on the room and the band. Reduces boominess and improves cut through.

    Finally, using an extension speaker like an Acme B1, a Schroeder Mini 12+ or a Bergantino HT112 will dramatically improve the volume and sharpen up the tone. This is my preferred solution when I need to play an outdoor gig, play behind a big band in a large ballroom or in general be loud.

    Erik Hansen
    Los Angeles
  6. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Saw a concert last night with a jazz quartet backing a singer and the bassist was playing through a Series IIa Contra. Great sound. Didn't "cut" very well, but that was the nature of his bass' sound acoustically.

    Then again, I've never liked the sound of a bass (or any instrument) "cutting" through the mix, so take that as you will.
  7. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    Aaron, I think you hit the nail on the head. The nature of the double bass is to sit back in the mix, not cut through...that is what the bass guitar is for. ;)
  8. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    You may find some of the info you're looking for about going "louder" with the Contra on the FAQ page of the Acoustic Image web site, if you haven't checked it out already:


    I've also found that omni-directional or not, I really prefer to have the 5" driver in the Contra facing right at me. You might be surprised how much of the overall sound you hear comes from that 5" driver versus the downfiring 10" woofer.

    Also, standing right over top of the cabinet is probably not giving you a representative sound. Move away from the cabinet and get out in front of it a bit if you can. As some of the posts here have indicated, the sound out in the audience can be somewhat bigger than what you perceive if you're standing right over top of the Contra. When I get out in front of my Contra say at least 6 to 8 feet or so, I notice a real difference in what I hear.

    Regarding EQ, I used to turn the bass EQ control down from 12:00 to about 9:00, usually finding that the more the overall volume went up, the more bass I had to cut. But lately I've set the bass back at 12:00, and now I am boosting the mids to about 1:30 or so to achieve more or less the same effect ... namely, cutting through a little bit better.

    Hope some of this helps.
  9. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    Ric, I could be off here, but I'm guessing you'll find:

    (1) You'll get a sound that is perhaps better defined and "cuts" better with the SOLO than the Realist, but

    (2) the Contra will always sound like a Contra.

    I don't mean this in a bad way - I still really dig my Series I for certain applications.

    But due to its unique design, "it just is what it is," if you know what I mean. And I think I'm actually paraphrasing Rick Jones when I say that, based on a conversation I had with him some time ago.
  10. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    Aaron and Jazzman, I agree with you. Maybe using the phrase "cut through the mix" is not the best word choice. To me one of the Contra's most unique and defining traits is the way it creates a nice diffused sound, which is not exactly the same as cutting through the mix.

    But sometimes I feel like that diffused sound is just a little too blurry w/ my Contra, especially on the G string and in the upper register. I feel like I just can't hear myself well enough. And this hurts my intonation.

    Other band members gripe too sometimes about just not being able to hear me well enough. Granted, the bass sound they have in their head is probably not as rich & mellow as the sound in my head. They would probably pick a harsher tone than I would if given the opportunity.

    And granted, they all play too loud most of the time if you ask me.

    I definitely prefer an old school type of tone that is supportive and not way up front necessarily.

    And I still dig my Contra.
  11. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Yeah, I have a feeling that might be the case. Contras are very
    lightweight and in lower volume situations they sound very nice.
    I'll have the Rev Solo installed very soon so I can do a shoot off between the two pickups.

    Fortunately, I don't own the Contra that I'm checking out. My only amplifiers are two Walter Woods they should sound very nice indeed with the SOLO.
    I was hoping that I could use one for those gigs that involve long hauls and small stages. I have my EA VL 108's for those kind of gigs, but what I'd like to have is a single ultra light combo.

    My choices seem to be the MB 150S (I don't like the midrange eq on the 150S), a new Contra, or that Ampeg Portabass 228.

  12. macmrkt

    macmrkt Banned

    Dec 4, 2002
    Ric - you could always try my "combo" - an LDS 1x8 3way with a Clarus SL. Tuki made me a pocket for the 1x8 cover to carry the head. It's about a 25lb option I'd guess.
  13. bolo


    May 29, 2005
    Apex, NC
    elvinstheman, here's one more idea if you're still with us.

    Some folks have suggested laying the Contra on its side in louder settings, in an effort to get more punch.

    I think you lose something in this configuration when the 5" driver is not pointing out into the room. Or rather the audience's ears lose something, and a pretty important something at that in my opinion.

    But on the other hand, it may help you hear yourself better on a tight stage, which can in turn help you hone in on any intonation issues, since the 5" driver is pointing up at your ears (and the ceiling ...).

    I know it's not really the way the amp was designed to be used, but like I said it seems to work for some folks.
  14. Ric Vice

    Ric Vice Supporting Member

    Jul 2, 2005
    Olivette, Missouri
    Thanks, that's a very nice offer. I have 2 EA VL 108's so I can
    cope, what I really want is an amp the size of a transistor radio.
    The EA's are 27 lbs. But you know me, I'm still lookin' the ultralite ultimate.

  15. elvinstheman


    Jun 16, 2005
    Seattle, USA
    To Bobo, Ric Tice, Adam Sanders and everyone else, thanks for all the ideas. I am so used to slab that I have modiified my thinking a bit about my place in the mix with this band. And setting it up accross the room from me has helped as well. I might try setting it on its side as well though last practice, in a bigger room, it seemed to cut through better.

    Anyhow, thanks again!
  16. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this yet....

    If you have a series II contra (although it might work with the first series too), you can separate the head of the contra from the cab. There are instructions out there on the internet where you can detach the two with a simple screwdriver. Once separated, you have a clarus head (basically) and an extension cab. Just go match the head with some other speaker cab, like a EA Wizzy. Should get you some more oomph than the AI cab.
  17. Phil Smith

    Phil Smith Mr Sumisu 2 U

    May 30, 2000
    Peoples Republic of Brooklyn
    Creator of: iGigBook for Android/iOS
  18. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY

    Exactly what I love about TB.
  19. elvinstheman


    Jun 16, 2005
    Seattle, USA
    This is interesting but, first of all I'm not sure if this will work with my Series 1, but the main poiint is I'm not sure what this would give me in terms of increasing the output of my amp. I could pair it with another cab but how does that give me more power? Maybe a powered cab? I would be inclined to get an IA ext cab if I was going to buy another cab and just run it off my combo if I'm going to shell out another $400-600.
  20. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    Richmond, CA
    No no no. You wouldn't get more power. You may not need more power to get louder.

    We're talking about getting a louder, maybe more high efficiency cab that can give you more VOLUME for the same amount of wattage.

    For instance, an AI cab comes with a 10" speaker with those other drivers too. For a similar amount of power, your AI head could drive an EA Wizzy with a 12" speaker. I've never tried either cabs, but I'm willing to bet that the Wizzy is going to be louder for various reasons.