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My amp, distortion, and an active bass...

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by jenderfazz, Mar 25, 2005.

  1. Playing at our pad with my V-4B (100 watts, all tube) is perfect... my bass is slightly overdriven but you can feel the bass and all sounds good. I play an active Fender Jazz.

    I always noticed that my old Squier (passive) is much louder at full volume when I switch them out. I was under the impression that active basses were generally hotter with a louder signal. I might have found out the truth at a recent gig.

    The setting is a hall/auditorium with no PA system. Competing against a Marshall half stack (100 watts, all tube), un-mic'ed drums, and a 30 watt keyboard amp (!) I had a lot of trouble being heard with my Fender. And so I cranked up the volume and all I heard was distortion. Actually, I turned the gain down to minimize distortion. Now, all I heard was a farting bass amp. Not a lot of low end from a 4x10 + pretty large room = not much bass. I was forced to crank mids and highs very high, and still I was barely heard, with not much low end at all. It even took me a bit of time to notice my jack had fallen out during our last song... :meh: My Squier was noticeably louder, but just how loud I couldn't tell from the stage.

    However, the other band playing didn't have such a problem. The player had a passive P+J, and he was heard very well against 2 (yes, 2!) 100 watt tube Marshall half stacks. There was some distortion, but it sounded great. Exactly how I wanted to sound (maybe a bit more high end, but anyways...).

    Is this normal? Can anyone give me a basic rundown of the situation and any way of relieving the situation? Also, does it make much of a difference that I had pretty new stainless steel strings on my Fender? The other guy had more worn in nickels and my Squier had flats... thumpier, of course, but could that have been an issue? Thanks in advance.
  2. Tash


    Feb 13, 2005
    Bel Air Maryland
    Active basses are indeed hotter coming out of the jack. That doesn't translate to louder, that's the amps job. Its intended to give you more headroom, especially when pushing a signal down a long string of pedals.

    An active bass straight into most amps can overdrive the input. This will introduce small amounts of distortion, which you won't notice at lower volumes (especially if you play with some growl in your tone anyway).

    When you crank the volume up your amp boosts this distortion along with the rest of the sound, which starts to sound bad real fast.

    This is why many amps feature switchable active/passive inputs, with a -10 or -15 Db cut on the active ones.
  3. Well, my amp does have a -15 Db input, which I ended up using (it cleaned up my sound slightly). However, it meant less volume, obviously.

    So, basically, my bass will never be as loud as my passive Squier... I guess I need more power, or at least a 1x15 cab or something that can put out a bit more low end without clipping. Either way, most gigs will have a provided PA, so I should be fine anyways.