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Please share your impressions of what the "Trace Elliot" sound is

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by mexicanyella, Mar 26, 2018.

  1. mexicanyella


    Feb 16, 2015
    I tried a TE Elf at Guitar Center the other day, and liked it. Seemed pretty simple, intuitive and natural-sounding, although I wish I could've cranked it up at band practice to see if I still liked it at higher volume. Went home, downloaded the manual and checked to see what the EQ centers were (80 Hz, 400 Hz and 4.2 kHz) and read that the EQ was intended to preserve the legacy of "Trace Elliot sound."

    Having never played through any other TE amps, other than trying the TE model in my Zoom preamp, I got curious since I don't know what sound that company's amps are known for. I just remember them as visually striking black-and-green amps on various stages in the 90s.

    I have a general idea of what the SVT sound is, and the Marshall Superbass sound, and the really clean, wide-range hi-fi sound that I associate with high-end active basses and clean preamps and megawatts and multi-way cabinets. But how would you characterize the sound(s) of TE products?
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Meaty grindey tubey goodness. Kinda "British SVT". Not so much hi-fi, but wide-range.

    Trace Elliot Rig Of Doom.
    rtav likes this.
  3. I have never heard the valve ones but the SS is very hifi oriented and with all the EQ you can shake a stick at. Punchy is an overused meaningless descriptor of bass but fwiw Trace owns punchy.
    rtav, steelbed45 and bholder like this.
  4. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    I suspect, in marketing terms, what they mean with regards to the ELF retaining the legacy "Trace Elliot sound", is option between a clean, loud, hi-fi tone, and the mid scoop of their trademark pre-shape.

    If you look at where those tone controls are centred, that's pretty much the key frequencies for the pre-shape, which was :

    6dB boost @ 50Hz

    6dB (broad Q) cut @ 400Hz

    6dB (moderate Q) boost between 2kHz & 5kHz.

    I suspect if one were to apply the correct degree of boost, and cut, using the ELF's tone controls, you'd get pretty close to the classic pre-shape.

    To me, the Trace Sound could mean any of several things...

    1980's - early 1990's : clean, and loud, hi-fi amp / DI, with powerful EQ.

    Mid-forward, full range speakers, with a slightly nasal honk, that really helps them sit effortlessly in a mix.

    Ported cabs, with tight bass response.

    Or, if the pre-shape is engaged - super hi-fi slap bass / gut rumbling scooped rock bass.

    Mid-1990's onwards :

    As above + multi-band compression & 2nd pre-shape option + pre-amp tube warmth.


    Clean, warm tube amps.


    Clean / filthy tube amps.


    As above, but Solid State (made by Peavey).
    Wasnex and LeftyD like this.
  5. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Of the AH500/GP12 with 2 4x10 in 1985, I recall smooth thick but 'unmuddy' bottom end with a biting top end and endless clean headroom. An astounding combination to someone who until then had only used 100W HH amps and a 2x15 mud-box.
    rtav likes this.
  6. mexicanyella


    Feb 16, 2015
    Good info and descriptions here. Thanks, folks.

    The pre-shape EQ settings listed in Wood and Wire's post do not sound like settings I'd arrive at on my own, but I tend to like less hi-fi, slightly grindy P-bass tone with a gentle mid peak between 1-2 kHz and rolling off past 3 kHz. Some of that might be to help mask my technique slop! But I sat down for a few minutes with that Elf, into the TE 2 x 8 cab (which, incidentally, uses the same drivers as my AK cab, but half as many of them) and with my normal band-practice EQ settings in mind, just rolled the bass knob to 9 o'clock, the mids to 3 o'clock, and the highs to about 1-2 o'clock, and that was in the ballpark, at least. Took me about ten seconds of dinking around. I brought up the gain to maybe 2-3 o'clock, just into the range where the multi-color LED started showing some red flashes indicating that the compressor was activating, but not so far as to sound "into the distortion range" of the control. I liked it!

    Because I play guitar too, and because I like the way the Faital 8PR200 drivers in my AK cab sound with guitar, I grabbed a Fender Duo-Sonic off the wall and played that through the Elf/2 x 8 combination and it sounded pretty good! Turning the gain up to 3 o'clock and beyond, combined with the sort of snarky bridge single-coil in the Duo-Sonic, put me right in 70s Joe Walsh riffing tone that would sound clean and bright when played softly and snarly when you dug in.

    That is a pretty impressive smaller-than-a-VHS-cassette amplifier, right there. I'm not in a position to drop 300 clams just to be able to fit an amp in my gig bag pocket just yet...but it could happen at some point.

    Anyway, thanks again for the tone info!
    Wood and Wire likes this.
  7. HauntedDave


    Mar 7, 2016
    Houston, TX
    Dirty, sweaty, grease under your fingernails tone.
  8. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    IMHO the old solid state Trace Elliots were awesome because they could be dialed in to sound deep and bassy without getting woolly and loose. Not sure how this translates to the ELF as a lot of the magic in the old heads was derived from liberal use of the amp's graphic EQ, which were a little noisy but very musical.
    RolandMHall, rtav and SteveCS like this.
  9. I used to take lessons from a great jazz guy with a TE system in his studio. I remember it sounded creamy. I don’t mean like the rock group Cream—I mean it sounded unharsh, like the edges of tone had been polished and rounded off. I suppose, technically, it was a tube induced flexion, give and take, slack and reel thing that smoothed out the tone and made it spongy, but when I thought about it? Just now? After all these decades? “Creamy” is what came to mind.
    bholder likes this.
  10. quickervicar

    quickervicar Supporting Member

    Jul 21, 2006
    Lancaster, PA
    Live's "Throwing Copper" is what I think of for the classic '80s/'90s Trace tone.
  11. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    I'm not sure which is the riskier advertising campaign, for the ELF :

    The girl's backside, or...

    "ELF - the small size, and high quality of Betamax / the popularity of VHS!"

  12. rtav

    rtav Millionaire Stuntman, Half-Jackalope Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Chicago, IL
    Is there a “sound” to my Trace stuff? I don’t know if it’s unique to TE, but I only use TE amps (AH500X Series V and later) ss amps through classic Trace cabs and if I had to describe the tone, it would be anything I want with the 11/12 band eqs and other features. Scooped? Maybe sometimes. Snobby upper mid jazz tone? If I want. Bone crushing low end B string punishment? Sure if I feel like it. Aggressive? Dirty? In your face? Yes, sure, ok... if I want.

    It’s all an eq change, a volume adjustment, or a preset switch away.

    My Trace gear is uniformly efficient (very loud when compared to comparably spec’d amps [ok... I know that’s extremely variable but you gotta start somewhere so chill]). TRACE WATTS are a thing for a reason.

    Low end is never compromised at all (I play mostly prog metal with 6 string basses), and I crush metal drummers, Marshall stacks, and 80s hair.

    The previous owner of my AH500X (a long time TB veteran) swore it pushed out noticeably more deep low end than his DB750 side by side. “Deep” and “loud” are how I would describe it, but that’s effectively meaningless.

    Back where I started: is there a “sound” that defines my Trace gear?

    I don’t know but in light of the huge tone possibilities, deep and loud are a consistent but basically meaningless description.
    Marihino and quickervicar like this.
  13. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    central NY state
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    :woot: You wind the internets today! :D:roflmao:
    rtav likes this.
  14. Coolhandjjl

    Coolhandjjl Supporting Member

    Oct 13, 2010
    The SWR of the UK?
  15. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    The hi-fi goal was common ground, but they sounded quite different from one another, and achieved their goal via very different means.

    SWR bass amps were were originally designed with studio engineers in mind.

    Trace Elliot bass amps were originally designed with giggin musicians in mind.
  16. cnltb


    May 28, 2005
    I always heard them as 'cheap' sounding.
    But that's years ago.
  17. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017

    Until they released a budget range of combos (BLX80 etc) in the early 90's, they only made hugely expensive, enormous, professional gear.

    Certainly not a sound that everyone liked (and that was usually pilot error), but I've never heard them referred to as "cheap" sounding.
    SteveCS likes this.
  18. RolandMHall

    RolandMHall Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2004
    St. Louis, MO
    When I think about Trace Elliot, I think about Paul Denman (Sade). Want a feel for that sound, listen to the early Sade stuff......
    Marihino likes this.
  19. SteveCS


    Nov 19, 2014
    Hampshire, UK
    Same era but at the other end of the Trace spectrum - Mark King of Level 42. Those old AH500 could do anything...
    Marihino and RolandMHall like this.
  20. Charlzm

    Charlzm Supporting Member

    Mar 25, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I had a "real" TE rack head back in the early 90's and currently have a Peavey-made 1210H combo. They strike me as being clean, deep, articulate and a little rude. I love the scooped mids pre-shape when playing solo at home or practicing, but in a band setting, it gets turned off. Bass guitar tends to disappear in the mix with those settings.
    quickervicar likes this.

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