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Opposite tone on a recording?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by phoenixjmw, Feb 9, 2014.

  1. phoenixjmw


    Jul 9, 2013
    Looks like this is the right forum so:

    I am wondering why I seem to get a completely opposite type of tone on a recording playback than when I am playing something at the time? If it makes a difference I am using a Jackson JS2 with stock pups but I believe they are the HO pups. Anyhoo, the amp and settings do not seem to matter nor does the room or recording method as the recorded playback sounds the same regardless.

    Basically no matter how deep/low/muddy I set my tone at, on a recording it always comes out bright and plucky/clanky sounding. How do you go from an "ampeg" sound live to what I will describe as a "funk bass" sound on the playback?

    Is this common to bass recordings? (guitars and other instruments recorded with the bass seem to sound fine)
    Or is this a trait of the bass I use?

    The only thing that I think has solved this (and I cannot say for sure as I was not involved in the mixing) was when I was recording via a direct out to a mixer>computer software.

    I have only been playing bass for about a year and do not have a lot of recording experience so sorry if this is a :rollno: newbie question but if anyone can solve this mystery it would be greatly appreciated!
  2. testing1two

    testing1two Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 25, 2009
    Southern California
    The short answer is that the amp and the speaker cabinet do a lot to shape your tone. When you plug your bass directly into a recorder you are only hearing the sound of the bass pickups, which are typically clean with a very wide frequency response. Your amp will add a lot of coloration to the sound and your speakers will smooth everything out.

    Here are 3 things you can try:
    1. Instead of plugging your bass straight into the recorder try putting a microphone in front of your speaker cabinet.
    2. Get yourself a recording preamp/pedal like a VT Bass or SansAmp. These will simulate the sound of an amp rig.
    3. Try using an amp simulator plug-in like Amplitube in your recording software.
  3. phoenixjmw


    Jul 9, 2013
  4. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Start by cutting all highs over 5000 and all lows under 40.
  5. t77mackie


    Jun 13, 2012
    Wormtown, MA
    What's the signal path, Phoenix?

    I take it you are recording direct - out of the back of your amp, a DI or into and out of a board?
  6. It totally could be the choise of mic. Some dont respond well in low freq, but curve up in the guitar/vocal range, so you dont get the boom and only hear the clank.

    It could also be the position of the mic. The tone changes significantly between the center of the cone to the outer edge. Also to consider is distance from the cone, or whether it is aimed directly at the cone or not. There is a LOT of voodoo, secret recipies, and tribal knowlege about micing an amp. Experiment around and see what works best. In the past I have used multiple mics at one time, recorded each mic on an individual track, and then compared them on playback to see what the effects of position, distance, and angle had.
  7. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    +1. It's the best way to give you any sort of advice.
  8. phoenixjmw


    Jul 9, 2013
    Keep in mind I am aware this is ameturish but:

    I have used 4 different amps in basically each situation of -
    * recording on a cell phone next to amp
    * mini recorder " " "
    * Web cam " " "
    * An actuall digital music recorder but don't know what model - uses an old large SD card and I think is in MP2
    *mic'd directly to PC software
    **mic'd to a mixer to PC software
    ** direct out to mixer to PC software

    ** I am not sure about when these last two were as I was not really paying attention to how my buddy had things set up at the time and it was ever changing. And I am aware most of the above experience is very LoFi. However one clue is that on recordings over 3 band practices one recording actually has a good bass tone. I was using an old Peavey Keyboard amp at practice.

    So as I try to answer my own question, could it be that the one "good" tone came from when I used the Amp's DI out to a mixer?

    I guess I am perplexed a bit because as mentioned at no time did any other instrument sound strange on the recordings - just the bass. This would fit with Chainsaw's post.
  9. Chromer


    Nov 28, 2012
    Play it back as loud as the amp was playing. If the monitors are even capable of it. Odds are your perception of the recorded sound will change.
  10. Plucky The Bassist

    Plucky The Bassist Bassist for Michael "Epic Mic" Rowe

    Jul 30, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Might need to do some post-recording EQ on the track in your DAW program. Even if I EQ it and it sounds perfect through the monitor mix in my flat-response headphones, it can sound different when playing back the recorded track in the same headphones. See if there is an EQ you can apply to the track individually and tame some of the highs on it.
  11. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Even "good" cell phones tend to not reproduce a bass sound very well.

    Mini recorders (depending on their quality) can produce a pretty good sound, but in my experience you are better placing them farther away instead of right next to an amp. Our band has had the most success with a Zoom (H4? H2?) placed in the middle of the rehearsal space where we balance everything acoustically. It's basically a "fly on the wall" for archival type stuff, but it gets an ok sound.

    Web cams again really vary in quality, especially their microphones. Typically speaking they are designed for human voices, so they aren't especially suited for basses.

    I have no idea what your digital recorder is, but if you are going DI then as has been previously mentioned, you are going to get a significantly different sound than your amp sound. If you are micing the amp, then the EQ of the amp, and the mic channel are going to heavily influence the sound, as well as the microphone itself.

    If by "miced directly to PC" you mean the cab is miced and then you plugged that mic into your audio interface which went direct into your PC software, then the microphone you are using is going to be the biggest influence there, although the EQ on the program can change things too. The same thing goes for mixer-PC.

    DI from the amp varries by amp. Some of them are the same as using a DI box, some of them give a "wet" signal that has been processed from your amp. That "wet" signal can vary from what is actually coming out of your cab, as the cab itself often continues to colour the sound.

    Likewise, ALL of those options are going to sound significantly different coming out of monitors or headphones instead of your bass amp.

    My suggestions are to take a DI line and either put it through something like a SansAmp or other amp simulator, or do that in post production somewhere, and to get a decent mic and mic the cabinet. Even if you are doing it "on the cheap" you can usually rent decent microphones from most music shops for a very reasonable daily rate. I am guessing that the other instruments sound ok because the gear you are using is a little more forgiving to those instruments, but cheap mics (especially those intended to be vocal mics) usually result in some pretty terrible bass sounds.