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New rig? Custom cabs? Low Down Sound?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by misterk73, Sep 16, 2003.


  1. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Several parts to this...

    1) Anyone ever dealt with Low Down Sound for custom cabinets? How do they compare to some of the other "name" brands in terms of construction, sound, customer service, and price?

    2) What other options exist for custom cabs?

    3) What are some good questions to ask both myself and a prospective builder to make sure I'm getting what I want and need?

    Basically, I'm thinking about seling my current, oversized rig (Ampeg B-248 combo with a old Avatar 15" extension cab) and moving to something more modular and portable. Custom cabs are an intriguing option, but I'm worried about my own lack of knowledge/experience/expertise -- not to mention my potentially tight budget.

    Any input at all is much appreciated!
     
  2. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    The only custom cabs I've seen as a discussion item on TB are the ones people build for themsevles.

    Having said that there's a truck load of speaker building knowledge here.

    I guess the best way to approach this is to post whatever specs you can about the proposed cabs, then let the experienced TB'ers help you analize them.

    You might also want to post some details about what sort of music you play, how many strings your bass has, what amp you will be using to drive it.
     
  3. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Hmmm...OK, I play five strings (Reverend Brad Houser model) in a groove-rock trio at the moment. We try to emphasize dynamics and songwriting with a healthy dose of jam-band noodling. I like to use effects on occasion. My guitar player uses some OD but prefers a clean sound. My guitar player also feels the need to play LOUD to get good clean tone from his Fender combo. Drummer does some intricate stuff at times, but can be a little heavy handed as well. They tend to set the volume bar -- it's usually all I can do to keep from being swallowed up when we practice. Whenever we've played out, we've had PA support from the venue. The most we've played for so far is about 80 people, but hopefully that will continue to increase.

    Anyway, I really like the tightness and punch of the 8" speakers in my combo, but they're missing the low-end beefiness -- the presence -- to fill sonic space the way I'd like to. They also don't handle the low B very well at higher volumes. The 15" speaker mitigates these problems somewhat, but the rig as a whole is much heavier, bulkier, and more inflexible than what I want to deal with anymore. (Actually, I haven't bothered with the extension cab for gigs in quite some time.)

    So, as far as this theoretical new rig of mine goes, I want to keep things compact, flexible, modular, and portable. Based on a lot of threads around here -- usually involving an Aguilar GS_12, it seems -- I've been thinking a 112 or two with a pre/power setup might not be a bad option for me. I then came across Low Down Sound online today and started wondering if something custom might not be worth considering -- especially in light of Low Down's self-proclaimed cost effectiveness.

    Cab configurations and specs? I don't really know where to begin, and I guess that's why I started this post. Would it be worth having an operation like Low Down build me a 112 or two if it's cost effective compared to something like an Aguilar GS_12 or should I just go witht he "name" brand? How might a 2x8 paired with a 1x12 or 2x12 sound? Or what about something like the SWR Triad but with an 8" and a 12"?

    Man, I felt like I had option paralysis before I started thinking about custom cabs. Now it's truly crippling. Maybe I should just buy a DI and go through whatever PA happens to be handy...

    Does any of this help? As mentioned before, all input is appreciated. Thanks!
     
  4. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    That's the sort of Info I was after.

    My conclusion. You're not ready!

    The hardest part about DIY cabs is designing it. Knocking it together is tough, but it's MUCH easier than thinking it through. You have to run the options through your brain over and over until you eventually decide exactly what you want/need. This is probably even more critical when using a custom cab builder because they will try to persuade you to use one of their off-the-shelf designs. That's not necessarily a bad thing because those designs are often tried and true, but thay may not suit your needs.
     
  5. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Heh-heh! I guess I can't argue with that. I just want to make sure that whatever I do will serve my short and long term needs -- whatever they may be. Guess it's probably time to stop daydreaming about my phantom rig, go back to lurking in the TB forums, and maybe try out some gear from local shops...
     
  6. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    lushfreak:

    I just may have some of the answers that you are looking for! Last spring, when I was driven by GAS to pick up some new cabs, I, too, found Low Down Sound, and being from Northwest Ohio, it wasn't too far of a drive. As you can see from their webpage, they carry Eden, SWR, Ampeg, Ashdown, Epifani, Accugroove, Bag End, Bergantino, Fender, Hartke, and a few more, in addition to their custom cabs.

    With regard to their custom cabs, I did get a chance to listen to three of them. One was a high power handling 1x12 with a tweet, and while I didn't have a chance to A/B it, they told me that it was going for kind of a GS-112 sound, and I'd have to say that they probably hit the nail pretty close to the head. However, their other 1x12 was the one that really blew me away. It was a coax unit, but only handled something like 200w, if I recall. Don said that he was looking for a driver to use in that cab that sounded as good, but could handle more power. Then I tried their 1x15, and let me tell you, it was one of the best 1x15's I have ever heard. Very tight all around, with the strong low end that you would expect. But, at that point in time I was looking for a more compact rig, so I wasn't in the market for a 1x15 (it was larger than the small Bag End 1x15's). Those two 1x12's sounded pretty darn killer together, and if it were not for the Epi and Accugroove cabs (see below), I probably would have bought them.

    Don also took me back into his workshop and showed me how he builds cabs. We looked at a 1x12 in process, and I can definitely vouch for the quality of contruction and materials that go into these cabs. Very similar in approach to Epifani cabs (as far as the wood cabinet itself goes). I know that Don has built a 4x8 and an 8x8 in the past, and he said that they sold within an hour of hitting the floor. And then there is the 4x8, 1x15 cab on their webpage. I would have loved to have heard that! Obviously, Don will build you whatever you want. He recently built a customer a cab that was layed out similar to an SWR Triad. All of the staff up there (Don, Ryan & Bob) are super nice, and very helpful. They let me stay about two hours past their closing time (on a Friday night, no less!) to play a bunch of their cabs to death before I finally made up my mind.

    So, what did I get you ask? I have posted tons on this already, but in the end it came down to either an Epifani T-112 with a T-110UL on top or an Accugroove Mini Whappo. In the small, portable cab(s) department, these two options really stood out (though I should say that LDS did not carry Bergantino at that point in time). Both setups were very balanced and articulate across the range of both 4 and 5 string basses. It was a close race, and in the end, the Accugroove won on the sonic superiority front (being less - dare I say totally un - colored, and with superior low B handling), but the Epi combo finished a close second in that category, and took first place in the portability/flexability department. So, I walked out with the Epi's. But, I did leave with a burning desire to own an Accugroove cab, as well. The Mini Whappo, Whappo, Jr., and Tri 208 were all very impressive.

    Price-wise, though, the Low Down Sound custom cabs would be hard to beat.

    Another custom cab maker worth mentioning is Joey Nahas. He is a fellow TBer, and from the numerous posts from other players using his cabs, it sounds like he can really work some magic as well. I have had some PM's with him, and he is super friendly and helpful.

    If you are considering any cabs in particular, I'd be happy to comment. I have tried a bunch. Currently, Epi's, EA's, and Accugrooves are my fave's, but I suspect that I would also love Bergie's, if I ever get a chance to audition them. However, they all have their own voice, and it really is a matter of trying them out and finding what works for you.

    The custom cab design option is really cool, too. I know that when I asked Don about building me a custom cab, and then asked "what if I don't like it", he made it very clear that he did not want guys "out there" using his cabs if they weren't happy with them (recognizing the value of good word of mouth), and said that he would work with me until I was happy.

    It's a brave new world of bass amplification!

    Enjoy the search, Tom.
     
  7. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks, Tom. The custom cab thing is really intriguing -- especially if it's cost effective -- but it's also really intimidating for reasons I've mentioned and hinted at above. I generally haven't considered too many of the high end manufacturers due to my student status and the fact that I really don't consider myself to be a high-end bass player ... yet? Regardless, I'm really just trying to gather as much info as I can right now and your response helps quite a bit.
     
  8. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I would suggest that you go ahead and talk to Don, Joey, or both and tell them what you'd like - say, "a portable rig with the clarity of 8"s and the low end punch of 15", but for less than $XXX" - and I am sure that they can guide you in the right direction. Plus, knowing that they will take care of you if your experiment somehow goes awry, and you don't like what you get, is also reassuring. However, with their experience, I am sure that either Don or Joey would help you to avoid any pitfalls, and wouldn't build a box that they know firsthand would work well.

    What is your budget? What kind of head/amp do you have?

    Tom.
     
  9. I find it interesting that folks can use "cost effective" and "custom" in the same sentence.

    This is not a flame to the member above, but an observation about the lack of perceived value given to time, skill and experience. This attitude is widely held throughout our society. Everybody wants something special, for cheap.

    A custom cab is one that is not mass produced, and where economy of manufacturing scale does not come into play. It takes X hours to properly design a cabinet, and X more hours to build it.

    The designer/builder's time has value. He has to eat, pay the rent, and go to the dentist like everybody else. No business man gets out of bed and says, "I hope to break even today," and stays in business very long. He can't lose money on each sale, then expect to make it up in volume.
     
  10. Lush
    Maybe I can help
    Bergantino HT-212 excellent condition. $650.00
    I'm only 50 miles from Chitown. This cab is punchy and goes low. 83 lbs. w/casters.
     
  11. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Me, too...

    Which is why part of this post is to gauge the accuracy of the following claim from Low Down Sound:

    "We'll design your equipment/bass cabinet and give you those special features and materials you've been looking for, and we'll keep the costs lower than those of the larger, more commercially orientated manufacturers."

    Pretty compelling stuff if they can deliver and do it well.

    I'll be back with more responses later...

    And thanks to everyone for the thoughts and input so far!
     
  12. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    Although it is somewhat contrary to the cost savings associated with mass production and standardized products, having seen and heard their cabs firsthand, and also knowing what they charge for them, I can honestly say that they do deliver on the above claim.

    Tom.
     
  13. You can't lose money on each sale and make it up in volume. So, they have to cut costs somewhere.

    1) Crap drivers
    2) Good drivers purchased in huge lots

    1) Crap wood
    2) Good wood purchased in huge lots

    And so forth. Carpet purchased by the mile, buying out an entire manufacturing run of corners from Penn Fab, etc etc.

    The big part is the labor costs for assembling these cabs. Bang-bang staple gun or quality joints with glue+screws? Do they skip the internal bracing?

    I know how LONG it takes for me to build a cab. I'm not a production wood worker by any means, but I know the amount of steps involved, glue, screws, caulking, t-nuts on the speaker board, cutting the dish hole, mounting/wiring the dish and connectors. Do they bother tuning the cab, or just cut a port based on a formula? I have yet to install a port that tunes the same as predicted by calculation.

    Avatar puts out a solidly made product by using vast economies of scale. Dave works his butt off at that business while his minions build cabs. He buys wood, drivers, and hardware by the pallet load to control his costs. I'm sure they have all the cabinet panels templated, for fast and repeatable cuts. But... these are NOT custom cabs.

    The high end cabs can be manufactured just as efficiently as the commodity types. The high-end difference is the selected components and engineering of those components.
     
  14. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    In response to bgavin, and with all due respect, allow me to share my first hand observations of Low Down Sound's operation, along with some theories of my own. It is certainly prudent to be wary of "get rich quick" schemes as well as "Cadillac quality at Yugo prices!" marketing. But from what I can tell, Low Down Sound offers a quality product at a competitive price.

    First off, not only did I audition the Low Down Sound cabs (and they sound great), but I also was invited back to Don's workshop, and saw several cabs in the process of being built. There was a 1x12 in particular that I paid close attention to (and even stuck my head inside to look around - no driver installed, of course!). The wood is all void free baltic birch. I can't recall the exact number of plys, but I believe it was something like 17 ply for the front and 13 ply for the rest. Yes, there was ample internal bracing. Yes, they used glue, fitted joints, screws, t-nuts, and caulked every line, nook and cranny. Really, really nice work. The carpet and corners were admittedly a bit generic looking, but certainly on par with, say Epifani. The grills are very nice, and the "Low Down Sound" emblem is very professionally done.

    I do not know how they design their dimensions (either by computer modelling, book reference, or trial and error), but I do know that they have tried a lot of different drivers (all good quality, like Eminence) through the trial and error process to find what works and what doesn't.

    So, how do they offer a "custom" cab at lower prices than other companies sell their "mass produced" cabs? I would suppose the two obvious answers are that they don't pay for advertising (except for a webpage) and they have low overhead. There are only three employees, and only Don is the one making the cabs. I get the impression that the store is his money maker, and the cabinet building is his passion that is subsidized, in part, by the store.

    I don't know how Joey runs his operation, and in fact, I don't even know what he charges for his cabs. But he does seem to know his stuff. But for LDS, at least, I hope that I can dispell some of bgavin's fears or initial assumptions. They really do sell a qualilty, great sounding cab, for less than the big boys do.

    For the record, I am not in any way associated with Low Down Sound. In fact, I don't even own any of their cabs. But that's not because of any apprehension regarding their products. I just somewhat preferred the Epifani T-112/T-110UL combo that I bought. One thing that I respected greatly out of Don was that while he was certainly very happy to show off his own line of cabs, he was also very proud of the other lines that he sells, and didn't try to steer me in one direction or the other.

    I hope this helps, somewhat. If you do a search on this forum, several other TBers have bought cabs from Low Down Sound, and all had positive remarks.

    Later, Tom.
     
  15. alexclaber

    alexclaber Commercial User

    Jun 19, 2001
    Brighton, UK
    Director - Barefaced Ltd
    It sounds like Low Down Sound is primarily a retail shop, in which case maybe the guys can build/design the cabs in the dead time between customers coming in. Maybe they're not too bothered about really (i.e. figuring in labour time etc.) making money on the cabs as if they weren't building cabs they'd just be sitting around doing whatever guitar shop people do whenever they've run out of admin or customers to occupy themselves. What do they do? Widdle? (That's a technical term for trying to be Yngwie/VictorW/insert-chop-heavy-idol-of-choice)

    Alex
     
  16. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to pass for now. I think I've talked myself into going after a couple of small cabs instead of one larger one. A couple of 112s instead of a 212, for example...
     
  17. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Well, at the very least I think this thread has taught me that it certainly can't hurt to get in touch with Don and Joey and see what they think about all of this.

    As far as my budget goes, it's whatever it has to be to get what I think I need and want.

    I've already started selling off superfluous gear (bass and otherwise) to raise funds. At this point, I have about $800 to play with. I'm assuming that I can sell off my existing rig and a couple of basses to raise another grand or two if need be.

    Preamp wise, I've got my sights set on an SWR Interstellar Overdrive or -- I know this will raise some eyebrows around here -- a Mini Mo'. (I love to use effects and sold off my pedals last spring.) An RBI seems like a good alternative, too. So, I guess that means I need between $300 to $800 for a preamp.

    Power wise, I figure a QSC PLX 1602 or 2402 should do the trick. That's that's another $550 to $750 I'll need to come up with.

    Cabinets wise, I'm using Aguilar GS112s as my baseline, my measuring stick-- so $800 for a couple of compact cabinets?

    Yikes! All of the sudden it seems like an awful lot of money to spend on a hobby -- especially while slugging my way through graduate school. At least I can pretend it's not coming out of my pocket since it'll all be paid for by selling off other stuff!

    Any other input out there?

    Thanks again to all who've piped in so far!
     
  18. Petebass

    Petebass

    Dec 22, 2002
    QLD Australia
    It may seem like a lot of money, but I've found spending that bit extra actually saves you money in the long run. Partly because the stuff doesn't break down, partly because it sounds good enough to make you want to keep it.

    Secondly, many a TB'er has paid for their gear over and over by gigging regularly. I know I have and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
     
  19. misterk73

    misterk73

    Apr 11, 2002
    Flagstaff, AZ
    Good point. My band just recorded a few demo tracks with the intention of wrangling more gigs. Hopefully, before long, we'll be able to cover the costs of the recordings, our practice space rental, and ... dare to dream ... my new gear. However, gigging -- let alone practicing -- regularly as a full-time graduate student with a near-full-time job is a bit of a challenge. Maybe if I stopped spending so much time at Talkbass ...
     
  20. tombowlus

    tombowlus If it sounds good, it is good Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 3, 2003
    North central Ohio
    Editor-in-Chief, Bass Gear Magazine
    I'd say that you have a number of options in that price range. Shopping used will give you even more. I dig the sound of two smaller cabs, myself, though I have found a 1x10 paired with a 1x12 to be more articulate. However, that said, a setup like the LDS "traditional" 1x12 with a separate tweet and their coaxial 1x12 (which had a good bit more high end) might also be a good route.

    Talking to Joey and Don would be a great first step. At least that way, you would have all of your options on the table from the get go, instead of playing the "I wonder what I could have picked up XXXXXX for?" later.

    I think that you are also on the right track to pick up a preamp and a PLX series power amp. This is a tried and true arrangement. I will add, though, that although I experimented with a number of rack mounted effects and preamp/effects units (haven't tried the Mini Mo, though - although it looks like a decent unit), I have found that quality (dare I say boutique?) effect pedals have served me much better. Sonically, many of them are superior; you have more flexibility in arranging the order and placement of effects; you only have to buy the ones that you will use; and I have found that a straight forward preamp (no effects) will be a better value over the long run.

    Hope this helps, Tom.