NS Design Audio/ DB Emulation Recording Using Impulse Response

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by RRWesner, Aug 22, 2020.

  1. RRWesner


    Jan 10, 2010
    Hi everyone, I have been asking a lot of questions in this forum for the past couple weeks so I finally come bearing content!

    I recently purchased an NS Design NXTA which I am using with a line 6 helix to get as close to an upright bass sound as I can. (I have linked the audio below). There is a lot of info below but the TL:DR is that this bass sounds really nice once I got it all tweaked to the way I wanted it. If anyone is interested I will post my Ampeg Baby Bass emulation tomorrow.

    The Audio:

    Here is my setup:

    -NS Design NXTa
    -Innovation Super Silvers? (I think, honestly I'm not sure what these strings are but they are synthetic, thick and low tension.)
    -Line 6 HX Stomp
    -Foam under the strings (Similar to how you would do a P Bass)
    -3Sigma German Bass Impulse Response

    My helix settings:

    3sigma audio German Bass Impulse response 5bu -> La Studio Comp (Moderate Compression) ->Cali Q Graphic ([email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]) -> Gain block (Clean gain +7.8) Hit me up and I will send you a couple patches for you to try but you will need the impulse response.

    My quick review of the impulse response:
    This is a pretty killer addition, if you guys want I can record another without the impulse response so you can hear it but this really works to give it the "airiness" of an upright. For 10 bucks you really can't go wrong but you need something capable of running an impulse response if you want to use it live but there are free impulse loading software if you just want to record.

    My quick(ish) review of the NXTa (Yes another one to add to the thousand already here haha)

    I bought this primarily for it's portability. It is small and portable but still not small. The sound out of the box is pretty horrible in my opinion. With the crossover strings it really just sounds like a fretless electric to me. (If that's your thing great! I'm not gonna piss on any parades). I think that a lot of people looking for an upright bass in a travel size will be disappointed. Once I got the crossover strings off and put on some really dampened upright strings things started to get closer to the sound I wanted. It came even further when I cranked up the bridge as high as it would go. Then when I added the helix with the Impulse Response, compression, EQ, I became really happy with the sound.

    The negatives: The tuners on this bass are pretty bad. I could feel them stressing to get even these low tension strings up to pitch. The stand is also another weak point of this bass, For almost 2k we still get a stand that wobbles and tuning pegs that feel like they are going to shear off? I feel uncomfortable playing because I don't have good resistance from the bass and can't really 'dig in' well. I will be buying the endpin stand shortly but it is not cheap! I will also be getting the thumb stop for the D position because that is another thing that I miss from the upright. And lastly before I quit my complaining, I can't find a super comfortable position for my right hand thumb. (Waaah :crying:)

    The positives: This bass is beautiful! I'm a big fan of portable silent instruments as I travel more than I'm at home and have a Yamaha silent guitar as well. For craftsmanship this bass blows Yamaha out of the water on that front. The neck is perfect and the tuning dots are in the perfect position. The tone is good if you are willing to give it a chance.

    Final line: If you are willing to mess with it until you get it right this bass is great, if you are looking for a plug and play upright emulation look elsewhere.

    Overall, I am very happy with this setup. I've certainly had worse live sound than this even with my "real" upright bass which I love acoustically.
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
  2. Oneirogenic


    Nov 10, 2009
    Dang, that sounds pretty good! I'm running a passive NXT with several year old spiro mittels right now straight into an amp with minimal effects, just a light reverb when I'm bowing to give it extra air. You've got me wondering if I should start playing with impulse responses and a Helix!
    Michael F Clef, Zbysek and RRWesner like this.
  3. RRWesner


    Jan 10, 2010
    How are the spiros on there? I’m interested in trying those but I only have a heavy set and I’m worried about the tuners. I would recommend the impulse response if you have something that can load them. For 10 bucks it’s great. For 10 bucks plus the price of a helix or fractal it’s a bigger step.

    You can also get the impulse responses and try them in your DAW first for free
  4. RRWesner


    Jan 10, 2010
    Sorry, not “free” you still would need to get the impulse response. But there’s free IR hosts
  5. Oneirogenic


    Nov 10, 2009
    I like them better than the Helicore Orchestrals that were on it when I bought it used and the spiros were transplanted from my Ergo. Installing the E was a bit rough so your heavy set might not work without some modding. The E did break on me at the peg box at one but I reinstalled that string at least three times because I took it off to repair my Ergo and to clean the NS one time.
    Ric Vice likes this.
  6. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011

    To my ears it sounds a lot like a fretless P-Bass with flats.. I do think it sounds really good, and fretless P-Bass with flats sounds more like an upright than many electric uprights, so :thumbsup:.

    I haven't played the NXTa series. Years ago my organization ordered a pair of the early US series basses. The current EU series is almost identical. Mine was a 6-string and it was ordered with the proprietary NS Design strings...I believe they are called round wounds now. This bass had incredible sustain and almost no thump. I did not enjoy using it for traditional 40's era swing, but it was very cool for more modern music.

    The other NSD bass was a 5-string, and I think standard upright strings were installed because I remember it was a hassle getting to the battery compartment. I don't remember there being any trouble tuning either instrument to pitch.

    I did eventually experience the problem with my bass rotating on the tripod stand. I don't remember what I did about the stand, but I believe the problem is the original washer/clutch dries out and looses friction. You could probably fabricate some sort of fresh washer out of rubber that would control the rotation. I also had a problem with the 1/4" plug vibrating in the jack. I stretched a rubber band from the plug to one of the adjusters on the stand to control the vibration.

    I don't know if you are aware, but there is an adjustment to raise the action. From the manual:
    Adjust bridge height via the two Phillips head screws under the bridge, accessible through the holes in the back plate.​

    If you can raise the action, it should allow you to dig in a bit and also reduce further reduce sustain a bit.
  7. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    Than you for posting your recording. I like it. I have been on a similar quest to make my NSD NXT sound as close acoustic upright as possible.

    I would suggest slightly different approach to EQ: I would boost 80-180Hz, cut 200-400Hz, boost somewhere between 1k-3k.

    Good luck!
  8. Michael Eisenman

    Michael Eisenman Supporting Member

    Jun 21, 2006
    Eugene, Oregon
    Coincidentally I just picked up the 3Sigma Prescott IR (based on an 1830s Prescott) to use with my Eminence EUB (with a Gage Realist Lifeline pickup). I loaded all of the included IRs into a Mooer Radar unit, and then I recorded a couple of lines covering a good deal of the fingerboard straight into a looper with no EQ.

    Now I’m listening to the IRs through headphones to see which I prefer (many of them sound quite similar), though any of them is an definite improvement over the bare pickup—“airiness”, the OP said—and can be EQ’d as dictated by the venue. Later I’ll repeat the process with my Shen. It is likely to have different requirements, even though it uses the same pickup.
    Zbysek likes this.
  9. Wow, you dialed that baby in nicely. Sounds very nice. I like the way my NXT5 sounds, though some upright purists might wince. My jazz jam buddies like it so that's cool. I have the NS Stock D'Addario "Contemporaries" the bass came with. I just purchased the D'Addario "Traditionals." We'll see how the bass sounds after I put them on. And although I'm happy with the stock tuners - my bass stays in tune for weeks- I purchased the Hipshot Ultralite Tuners. We'll see how that goes. I'll be recording and posting before and after sound checks.
    RRWesner, Zbysek and Wasnex like this.
  10. Manuelo


    Sep 15, 2017
    Nice tone! I also play a NS Design WAV4 (passive) through a Stomp. Before COVID, I gigged quite frequently with a salsa orchestra, so I'm very curious about your Ampeg emulation.
    RRWesner likes this.
  11. RRWesner


    Jan 10, 2010
    Hey Manuel, I will work on getting that recording done and post it here soon.
    Manuelo likes this.
  12. MikePlaysBass


    Oct 3, 2011
    I went down this rabbit hole recently trying both the TC BodyRez and a NUX Optima Air loading a few of the 3 Sigma IR files. I have an NSD CRM5 and was running through an Epifani rig with the piccolo amp set flat. There were several times where I thought I had reached the sound and tone I wanted, but the next day it just didn’t sound as I remembered it.
    What I eventually did was to set up a big condenser mic about 10’ away from my amp and recorded the same set of licks with every combination. (Straight to the amp, through a few different setting of the BodyRez, through the NUX with IR files for Prescott, The Hawk, and German bass, then through both the NUX and the BodyRez, etc...) That way I had an objective recording of what each sounded like through my amp for live performance, which is what I was most interested in. I listen though headphones and studio monitors over several days comparing one to another and really listening to them.

    My final conclusion? Although, I liked the sound of both pedals while I was using them, I really liked the sound of the bass better by itself. I think it was that music store effect where because it sounds different you interpret that as an improvement. There were some nice things that the different combinations did, but I always heard something less clear and defined that was missing from the vanilla signal. I bought the Body Rez and the Optima Air used, so I can sell them for close to what I paid for them and am only out the thirty bucks for the IR files. I really wanted this to work, and really tried to, but it just didn’t do it for me. If I had to pin it down, I’d say that they both sounded too digital.

    What gives me the best Upright sound is primarily in my fingers with both left hand control and plenty of flesh plucking the string with my right hand. I then run it through an EBS Dynaverb with just a hair of small room reverb and then through a Broughton HPF/LPF filter. The reverb gives it just enough air to sound a bit like a body and the cutting the rumble and ultra-high frequencies gives it more definition.
    jharms80439, Zbysek and Wasnex like this.
  13. Zbysek


    Mar 23, 2017
    Czech Republic
    That’s interesting...and honest post. Thanks for sharing. I am in the similar proces right now. I own Bodyrez. Today, I bought BOSS AD-2. I plan to buy Nux Mini Studio loader and load it with 3 Sigma IRs.

    If it turns out that I come to the same conclusion as yourself, I am fine with it. The proces of experimenting is fun...
  14. MikePlaysBass


    Oct 3, 2011
    Absolutely. The process was fun and you learn as much from what doesn’t work as what does. That’s also why I usually buy pedals used. If I don’t like them as much over time or want to swap out for another, I can sell them for close to what I paid. I like to think of the out of pocket difference after the sales fees as a “rental cost”.

    This modeling stuff really depends on a lot of things. Are you using the modeling to go directly into a DAW or for live performance? How does the character of your amp setup and/or PA modify the applied tweaks? It’s hard to make accurate judgements by doing A/B comparisons while you’re playing. I find that the ear hears differently real-time versus listening to a recording of it when not playing. No doubt you’ve listen to recording of band practices and at times had totally different impressions of how you thought it sounded. Bass is also hard because it can sound so different close to your amp, a few feet away, and at different places in a room. Close mic-ing is great for recording, but not necessarily what the audience hears at the end of the signal chain, so a room mic is a better reference for what the audience is more likely to hear.
  15. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO

    Thanks again for posting your experience using IR files. I was headed down the same rabbit hole with a Line 6 Helix Stomp and 3 Sigma IR files. Your post halted my purchase.

    I'm also running Broughton HPF & LPF pedals, the EBS Dynaverb and a Frog Pedals Alembic F-1X pre clone to warm things up on EUB (All in Fifths Tuning - CR4M, Spirocore CG/TI Belcanto DA). EBS tone is usually CCW but is sometimes up to noon, Reverb is on small room with just enough reverb to give the hint of a bigger body DB through the headphones.

    FWIW, I also play through a wireless headphone system (MIPRO MI-909 and Sennheiser DT 990 open back headphones) for practice and a set of Mike Arnopol MA-108 & MA 208 cabs and an Ampeg PF-50T for live. Tone on the CR is ~1p on treble and ~11a bass. Piezo/Mag setting is ~2-3p on the control. Arco/Pizz control is ~1-2p. Volume is below clipping level on the MIPRO - but generally is at ~1p on the bass - otherwise I'll overdrive the MIPRO input and it'll distort when I whack on it. HPF varies between ~40 Hz and 100 Hz, LPF is usually set at ~10 KHz. Volume on the headphones varies...

    IMHO, strings and bridge height on the CR makes a huge difference in tone. Even with all of this, the CR is still shy of a true DB (and yes, I have an acoustic DB too - same setup and same strings, Realist & FC pickups) - but it is VERY close to the DIRECT sound (not mic'd). There is still the missing component of the DB body resonance, but dang it's close.

    If you're saying that the above setup isn't that much better than with the IR's, I'll keep it as is. I'll buy more beer/whiskey with the ~$500 I'll save from buying a used Helix and the IR files. :)

    Where I notice the biggest difference is not necessarily in the tone/signal between the NS and my DB, but in the percussion aspects of me on my DB. The NS piezo just doesn't pick up the acoustic aspects of the DB - but it works great for picking up the string vibrations. As for tone, which is why I listed everything above, it is still the best that I've found with the NS, AND the NS is much better for the dry/cold Colorado winters.

    My acoustic DB doesn't leave the house much at all anymore, but the NS travels well year around - and sounds convincingly DBish doing so.

    More FWIW, I keep searching for that last bit of acoustic-ness to wring out of the NS. I was hoping that the IR route would be it..my guess is that it's not quite there yet.

    MikePlaysBass likes this.
  16. MikePlaysBass


    Oct 3, 2011
    I think of EUBs as not ever totally capable of sounding like an acoustic double bass, but more like the sound of an amplified acoustic double bass with a bridge piezo pickup. And for that, the better ones do a great job (for lack of a body) plus the benefits of portability and consistency. I do believe that DB sound is still mostly in the fingers and string height, because hearing Tony Levin in a small venue has a very DB like tone and he plays a stock NSD CRM model. I wouldn’t be surprised if he also had some HPF/LPF and a very minor bit of reverb by the sound engineer through the house system. Effects are great, but they can only enhance what they get. Trying to use effects to cover for technique doesn’t work unless you muffle everything to just a pitchless thump. Improving your technique at the front of the chain has the biggest effect of all. As in many things, there aren’t a lot of shortcuts that can replace time spent in the shed.
    jharms80439 likes this.
  17. MikePlaysBass


    Oct 3, 2011
    It was never my attempt to dissuade anyone from trying the IR route. Some people do express great success with it. I still have to wonder if part of that is self justification for investing a lot of time and money in a Helix system, but that’s not a call I could ever make. I just wanted to weigh in with my opinion and experience as one more part of the discussion. It may be exactly what you’re after. It just wasn’t for me.
    jharms80439 likes this.
  18. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO
    @MikePlaysBass - Well said!


    FWIW, your bass recording sounds good. I’d agree that it’s more Precision-ish than upright-ish in tone, but live you’d more than get away with it with good upright playing skills. :)

    Unfortunately the NXTa pickups (as least when I tried that bass) aren’t the best and the CR series pickups/controls are a significant upgrade over the NXTa.

    That said, raising the bridge, getting actual upright strings (NS Traditional’s are “okay”, but not the greatest), and using an upright bass playing technique - goes miles towards getting a more upright sound out of a stick bass.

    Look, the NS is a great instrument in the EUB range of basses - and it’s been my choice for years. I don’t think you’ll ever get it exactly the same as an acoustic upright, but (the good news is) you can get close.

    Like Mike posted above, much of what we hear comes from the players fingers/technique. After ~30 years on BG and almost 20 years on upright & ~10 on EUB, I’m still working on it. :thumbsup:

  19. jharms80439

    jharms80439 Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2004
    Evergreen, CO
    There’s been quite a bit of TB mumblings around the new Yamaha SLB-200 (300?) with the new electronics (which makes me ‘think’ they’re using IR technology) - but I’ve not experienced the new one in person and don’t really know for sure.

    This (the above) appears to me at least to be driving the interest in using IR’s with other EUB’s to get a similar/fuller DB tone. I know it did for me - hence going down my own rabbit hole.


    Got it. I didn’t expect that you were trying to dissuade anyone from going down the IR path either.

    IMHO, my bass as set up above, is still missing the DB “noises” that my own acoustic upright makes when I play it. It’s not necessarily a change in tone that I seek, it’s all those other sounds when I play - string hits, body taps, etc. that are often missing on my NS. Maybe it’s just me and my crappy playing in a live/band setting when we’re all getting after it...

    Tone wise, I’m pretty happy without an IR setup. Of course YMMV too.

  20. MikePlaysBass


    Oct 3, 2011
    Good summation. Tapping the muted strings is picked up big time, but no body taps (actually no body to tap). I also find that Arco is considerably louder than Pizz when I try to use them together. I adapted a volume pedal I had so that it now lowers the volume just a bit when pressed and then springs back to normal and it seems able to compensate for when I occasionally bow in a piece that’s mostly plucking. I haven’t tried this yet in a gigging environment, since bowing is still fairly new to me and I’m still working on getting my technique up to where I won’t embarrass myself too much in public.
    jharms80439 likes this.
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