1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  

Preamps for accurate tone/recording?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by electrickbass, Oct 23, 2009.

  1. electrickbass


    Oct 23, 2009
    First post here. Thanks.

    Could I please get some recommendations on the best preamp for recorded tone?

    I'll run it down with respect to my equipment and what I am hoping for. Please, if I am off track, don't hesitate to set me straight. I thinks it's a preamp I am after, but I am not certain.

    Recording: I use a computer I built to record with. That's all this desk top machine does. The out board card that's used is an e-mu 1616m. I also use an older metal v-bass module with two American Deluxe P-Basses that are both GK equipped. I output 4 signals simultaneously. That does not mean that I am always utilizing four audible outputs however. The four signal paths originate from 1) V-Bass mono XLR out (not direct, but maybe that's what I should be doing?), 2) P-Bass active output from the bass itself, 3) a stereo 1/4 inch out from the v-bass to an RC-50, 4) 13pin midi interface that writes midi notation to a sequencer/daw that I am recorded into. All signals get input respectively into the out board card save the USB midi signal from a GI-20 unit that gets fed directly into the computer that's doing the recording.

    I use Ableton Live to record these mono and stereo tracks.

    Objective: To achieve a better recorded analog bass tone. That's it. I just want to be able to control a variable number of accurately recorded tones ranging from a dark warm sound, to a mid rich Beatlesque tone, to an angry Geddy Jazz Bass or a Lemmy Rick growling snot fest.

    You see, the v-bass is an amazing modeler with respect to the tone you hear in the room you're playing. The problem is, these tones don't end up accurately conveyed during the recording process. That's what I am hoping to achieve objectively speaking.

    People, I REALLY appreciate your insight here. I am NOT rich, but if I felt it would REALLY do the trick, I would purchase an Avalon Vt-737sp. However, that is a LOT of money in my book, so I am hoping to gain the type of insight from the experience of others here that might prevent unnecessary spending.

  2. Old Cane

    Old Cane

    Oct 17, 2008
    I'm not familar with the V bass but I'm guessing here it is a modeling instrument, not something like a pod. A preamp is a great idea. I like the Pendulum Quartet but like you say, that's a lot of money. I think you might be wanting some plug-ins to use after you record a straight bass sound in. You can make copies of the track and apply different effects/models to them and a/b or a/b/c/d/e, etc. Or blend them into one.

    What this does is let you apply the modeling after the recording so you can tinker to your hearts content.

    Hope this is helpful.
  3. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    I suspect you're playing your v-bass live through some kind of amp. Maybe you've adjusted the v-bass to sound best with this amp. You just need to do the same for DI into your recording interface. Or in your recording SW, there are many many plugins that will EQ and add to duplicate a cabinet and room.

    You always have the option to record straight in the PC interface, then re-amp out through the v-bass and back in on another track.

    If you just want to do plug-ins, on the cheap check out
    Voxengo Boogex
    It comes with some good cabinet impulses, and there's a link for more to download.
    Some Free ones are available here:

    You can't beat the price - free.
  4. electrickbass


    Oct 23, 2009
    So, no one really has any specific recommendations eh? Kind of strange for the dedictated recording section of a "bass" forum.

    I do really appreciate the few replies I did get. THANKS!!

    To clarify a couple of questions that were raised, and I do apologize for not being clearer, here are the facts.

    No, I do not want plug ins to further master the signal that's already recorded. I have plenty of those already and that is not the approach or the objective I am hoping to achieve here.

    No, I am not playing through an amp. I either play through a live PA in a public gig setting, or I play through my KRK Rokit 8s in the studio. Amp rigs are wonderful for recording IF you have a good mic set up and an isolation room. They are also preferable when playing live, but hey, I'm an old geezer. I can't be luggin' around an SVT like the old days here. I had several of those old tube headed monsters back in the day.

    What I am hoping to effect here is the straight bass recorded tone POST their sources. What ends up on the hard drive of my actual bass playing post the e-mu 1616m card that I am plugging into.

    I think I am just going to get a Tech 24 RBI and try it. I was just wondering if the Avalons and other more so "high end" stuff was really any better for recording BASS direct. I emphasize BASS, because I am not interested in recording anything else as much as I am the bass guitar and a hardware synthesizer. That's what this is going to be used for. Not general studio applications.

  5. robnatt


    Sep 14, 2005
    I've had good results with the A Designs REDDI. It's very simple, easy to use, and sounds great.
  6. WalterBush


    Feb 27, 2005
    Yuma, Az
    Full disclosure, I'm a certified Fender technician working in a music store that carries Fender, Yamaha, and Ibanez products among others.
    Yes, Avalon makes great preamps, and they're better for recording anything, including bass. The Tech 24, MXR DI+ and other dedicated 'bass' devices often color sound. It's one of the reasons people buy them, but they don't necessarily record your instrument accurately.

    I can highly recommend the Summit Audio TD 100. Not as expensive as Avalon, great fidelity, and you can leave the tube gain at zero if you don't like it. I've got loads of preamps kicking around my studio, and the TD 100 is still my favorite for studio or live use. The only other preamp I use at home (for bass, anyway) is a dedicated mic pre (Knightpro PreQ). I use it for recording mic'd cabs, or when I'm using a specific DI to affect my tone.

    Dedicated bass devices don't somehow record bass better than a straight-up preamp. Usually they limit or enhance frequency response one way or the other, or have a preamp design similar to the front end on a bass amp so that bassists will ostensibly feel more comfortable with their tone.

    An Avalon, Summit Audio, API, SSL, GT ViPre, or what-have-you preamp for general use will record your bass, period. It may not be what you want your bass to sound like, but it will be closer to what your bass actually
    sounds like. For what you're asking, I'd recommend a more general DI or preamp, not something dedicated to bass.

    EDIT: I looked a bit more closely at your rig; you should be using a DI for the P-bass output. Active outputs are still the wrong impedance for most recording device inputs, and your tone suffers. This may be part of the problem. One argument in favor of dedicated bass pre's is that they include impedance-matching circuitry already, where you usually have to use a DI with a mic pre.
  7. batman1


    Sep 14, 2007
  8. yeah, walterbush makes some very good points. worth noting that the preamp itself is not going to make a bass sound like a beatles esque tone or a geddy tone or whatever. the differences a good preamp makes to your tone is very subtle and to do with the clarity, depth and 'magic' it adds to an already dialed in bass tone. If you want a beatles tone, you need to get that sound sorted before it even reaches the DI/preamp!

    however, you are on the right lines when you are talking of capturing the tone the v-bass has in the room. I assume you are talking about the v-bass tone when coming through an amp? if so then a lot of the tone of your bass is also coming from the amp, and coming straight out of the line out of the v-bass is not going to have the same effect. you could plug the v-bass into an amp then take a line out of the amps head, or even better you could record the amp cab with a mic. that is likely to be the closest you get to 'how it sounds in the room'.

    that does of course mean you need a nice mic pre as well, if you get a stereo pre you can run a mic into the first input and the bass' di into the second, then take a line out of the v-bass and record your midi data as normal. line all these sources up in the program and belnd to taste and you have a wealth of great tones available.

    I'd try and get the sound as close as poss with this setup first, if you get a great sound like this then a good preamp will add depth and clarity to it, but a preamp alone is unlikely to change the character of your tone too much untill you are happy with the basics of how it is being captured!
  9. Ukiah Bass

    Ukiah Bass Supporting Member

    May 10, 2006
    Lots of opinions on preamps. When I go DI, I use the fantastic preamps built into my Genz Benz ShuttleMAX12, especially the tube side where I replaced the stock Ruby tube with a Telefunken. The preamp on a Shuttle 6/9 also worked fine. If I'm miking a cab, results are quite good with a $30 ART TubeMP preamp. If you want to spend the big bucks, check out these recordings of results from a slew of preamps (incl those mentioned above). http://www.basstasters.com/preamps/ You can go crazy on this, but unless you're doing pro-level recordings, the $30 model will do fine. Concentrate on playing well and the results will be admirable.
  10. electrickbass


    Oct 23, 2009
    I REALLY cannot thank everyone enough! Trust me, I am reading, reading & READING everyone's posts like 14 times each. Committing to memory.

    I came across what could possibly be a priceless piece of information from friends in the business yesterday. I wanted to one it by everyone here. I'm old enough to realize I can't just act on impulse

    Ever heard of the Empirical Labs Distressor EL-8M, or better yet, used or even use it currently?

    That device coupled with a good preamp might be JUST the ticket to monster direct tone.

    Any thoughts on this "Distressor"?
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    All I can think of is you've haven't explorered what you already have. You just may have something setup wrong.
    v-bass is a fine preamp. You don't need to use the modeling path. It can function as a regular pre-amp. Roland knows what they're doing.
    Break it down to bare minimum. Just 1/4" input, and not modeling, the back up from there.
  12. fokof

    fokof One day ,I'll be in the future

    Mar 16, 2007
    For that kind of price I would go for this instead;
    It's even cheaper than the Distressor....

    You'd have a SS and tube , so depending on your mood , you'd have the option......

    Is your VBass the first gen or the new VB99 ?
    I have the VB99 and some emulations are quite amazing , no need for a preamp with this. My VB99 can also act as preamp for my magnetic pickups, don't know if the old one do it. And it sounds pretty good too on that job.
    Not as good as my BMP2 preamp but it's 1/3 of the price ....
  13. well, once again, the distressor is not going to change your tone that much, not much more than a good pre amp will, the pre amp's job is to capture the tone that it is given, and the compressors job is to tame the tone it is given, it won't really alter your tone fundamentally in the way you seem to think it will!

    A lot of good advice on this thread, explore what you have already, its more than capable of getting a great tone. you CERTAINLY don't need a compressor to capture a great tone, though it can certainly add some magic to something thats already good.

    the tone comes from everything before the pre amp pretty much, the processes from the pre amp on are not tone shaping devices really they are there to capture and tame your tone!

    as for the distrssor, its a bit of a classic, it is a little sterile and boring to my ears on the clean setting but on either of the distortion settings its really cool. It has a slight thinning effect on things, so its not for every source, its not good on a vocalist with a shrill voice, for example, it'll just accentuate it! But it can compress hard and stay in controll. nice to use in conjuntion with a plump mic to have a rich, warm, balanced, controlled sound.

    Its one of those bits of gear you see in every studio for a reason but I'm pretty sure that buying one will not change your tone in the way you are talking!

    Its ALL about the the player, the strings, the bass, the AMP's preamp, the amps power amp, the amps speakers (of you are recording with a mic) that makes up the tone. then you choose a variety of methods, micing, di's, line outs, different pre's etc to capture it in the most useable way.

    edit - although I have used it for bass before the distressor isn't often my first choice for bass, I normally use a Tube Tech lca-2b or CL1a, those things are top, or a good old fashioned urei 1176. The 1176 does something magical to the high end while compressing. If I ever get to use a urei 1178 then i'm all about that on bass, its kind of like a stereo 1176 but its slower and adds real magic to the low end!
  14. Ronan


    Jun 5, 2006
    Los Angeles
    If I am reading the original post correctly you are trying to simultaneously record a wide range of tones/styles from your bass. IF this is the case the idea is flawed from the get go, because getting all of those kinds of tones has more to do with how you play and what you do to the bass more than the pre amp you use. Get the right sound at the source and the rest is easy.

    The previously mentioned REDDI by A Designs is a great choice. It is also self powered and has a pretty hot output, so if you have a compressor or line amp with some gain you do not really even need a mic pre for it. the REDDI into a distressor is a pretty mighty combo for bass. I have used the combo on everything from metal bands, to upright bass to the pick up on a guitaron.
  15. electrickbass


    Oct 23, 2009

    I like this post even though it's a tad humiliating. :meh: I agree with everyone going on about how good the V-BASS sounds in and of itself. I purchased the Unit I am using now the week it became available about 8 years ago. This is the exact model with respect to generation release:


    Has anyone used this generation and the newest comparatively? Is there an obvious and REAL audible difference between the two?

    I wouldn't mind "upgrading" if it is in FACT an upgrade. I don't like the way the new plastic model is for several reasons.

    It's PLASTIC and it doesn't seem to be aimed at live performance. If you are going to use it for performance, you must have to purchase a separate controller with respect to easy floor operated patch switching and expression.

    As far as Roland being the "be all, end all" , I don't think so. I could go into that deep but won't as it doesn't lend itself to the constructive nature of this post. Don't get me wrong, I have a ton of their stuff, HOWEVER, there is no such thing as "leaves nothing to be desired" when it comes to Roland.

    Yes, the V-Bass sounds excellent in the room you are in while playing it live. However, what you hear in ANY live setting or room via the V-Bass I am presently using, does not translate accurately to what you hear from the unit as a source when recorded via high quality sound cards.

    This may have changed however with the new generation of Roland's release. Maybe the outputs are more accurate or something.

    What I am hoping for specifically is two fold.

    1) Just an out and out clear, warm & sensitively dynamic signal from my p-bass. (I am aware of what my fingers mean to my tone, yada, yada)

    2) The v-bass is amazing. No question. With the Jazz Bass Slap setting, or the Music Man setting, there is an unquestionable Marcus Miller or Flea tone commanded by any competent finger player. However, said likeness of audible tone does not presently translate to recorded signal accurately. Case closed.

    Of course one can fiddle with plug ins to emulate mixed tones until the cows come how. But, what's the point of having a modeler for recording direct if that modeler doesn't bring the tone "home" to the hard drive as evidenced by what you are hearing audibly in the room you're in. ? That's what I am HOPING a preamp will accomplish. I am hoping a good quality accurate preamp will allow me to go mono 1/4 inch out from the v-bass's user/pre set patch network, to the preamp, and then into my e-mu card, and finally on to the hard drive more so accurately with respect to what the v-bass source actually sounds like.

    Maybe it won't accomplish as much at all. That's a distinct possibility, but the results I am hoping to achieve is certainly not based (no pun intended) ;) in a personal need of mine to further explore the equipment I have.

    After being a serious bass player for the last 32 years, owning and playing the v-bass practically every week since it came out, and doing a good deal of computer based recording, I am fairly certain this is the case.

    Although, it is more than possible that the new V-Bass units may do the trick with respect to my desired recorded results.
  16. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    There's two approaches I see here.
    1. Use v-bass, vg-99 to get an ideal sound then direct track record it. Hoping to be the perfect recorded track.
    2. Get a dry accurate track recorded - then post process it to the perfect track.

    #1 is difficult. It's why multitrack recorders were invented. You need to get a track down, then play with it to get it ideal.
    No matter how hard you try #1 you'll end up doing #2 to get things to fit in the mix.

    There's no magic in a good preamp. It just matches the impedance of your bass to the recorder's input. There's a lot of good preamps, but there's a lot of overpriced hype out also. V-bass will take a bass level input and convert it to a line level input. I'm not sure why using the v-bass as a straight pre-amp doesn't work out for you.

    You could buy an interface that has input level setup for bass and guitars. Line 6 and Edirol have them.

    Once you get a good accurate signal down onto a track you can process it many ways to bring it to life. The track you put down may not be the end-all track, it may need more processing. That's common. You could re-amp through the v-bass if that's what it takes.

    Your issue with the not hearing the room - try a convolution reverb. Given an impulse repsonse from any room. it will sound just like the room.
    Sir1 is free but with a fixed latency, sir2 has zero latency, and well worth the cost.
    You can read articles on how to take an impulse response of your favorite room to duplicate it on recordings.

    Best of luck.
  17. well, the sound you like from your v-bass is after it has gone through your amp then speakers, and then possibly through a front of house PA etc. It will never sound the same coming direct out of the unit into a pre amp, and the pre amp will never replace the sound of the v-bass going through an amp/speakers etc.

    so, if you want THAT sound, the only way is going to be to mic up your v-bass going through your amp, this would be my first thing to try anyway but it is a bigger setup, of course, and you will still need a good pre or two for the mics.

    no dry, direct signal is going to sound quite like we are used to our basses sounding when we normally play, that includes DI's, line outs and speaker outs (using a hot plate or similar). The models on a vbass are focused more on the sound of the bass than the sound of the amp, so putting the vbass direct into a soundcard is likely to give you a DI-like sound, with a bit of added character. this may be what you are unsatisfied with, and I'm pretty sure that adding a pre amp, and especially adding a compressor, will not get to the root of the problem by any means.

    thats why there are all these products on the market to capture the signal at different stages in the chain, all the direct recording methods don't sound quite like the 'real thing' when going through your amp, the way we are used to hearing bass. The speakers have a lot to do with this. In practice, if you can't use an amp, you tend to spend a long time trying out combinations of different signals, time aligning them and balancing them to find a good tone. for example, a DI mixed with the v-bass premap out mixed with the line out of your amp's pre amp and so on.

    you can try this out with any soundcard with cheap preamps and enough inputs, once you have found a balance or two that you really like then upgrading recording preamps etc will capture the sound with a little more depth.

    relating it to photos, a better pre amp is like bringing things into focus a little more, not like saturating the colours to look nicer/warmer etc. though some preamps with tube stages/sound processing circuits do this as well, as an additional thing!
  18. electrickbass


    Oct 23, 2009
    Thanks to you both very much. I "see" what both of you are stating here for the most part. I do believe, if I am understanding correctly now, that I was wrong concerning the notion of using a preamp to obtain source specific recorded signals. I think it would still be good to have a moderately quality preamp for the specific purpose of matching the impedance of the bass guitar's output with that of my interface.

    It's a little bit sad, boo hoo :crying: and all, but nothings easy. I guess I have just become somewhat spoiled with the v-bass. It's wonderful to have 4 or 5 different comprehensive high quality tones from the same instrument. Especially when you are the type of bassist that does not like how playing different basses feels. I just thought with respect to recorded "image clarity" that a really nice transparent preamp might get those tones to my hard drive in a more accurately successful sense. I guess in some silly sense I was thinking that "quality preamp" translated to a magic audio signal replicator.

    In closing, do you think that the Mic preamps on these cards are quality enough to use exclusively for my condenser mic? I just have a Rode NT2-A.


    I certainly do wish I had room to mic a rig. I would already be doing that if I did.

    If the answer is "yes, they are fairly decent preamps and you would be pressed to hear a real difference unless you spent bookoo money", I will probably get the RBI unit for active bass output impedance matching. I WOULD like to do a bit of coloring, especially with respect to tube distortion, so that would be ideal I believe. If the on board e-mu preamps are basically too inferior, I may opt to go with the Summit Audio TD 100 instead. I think MR. Bush (not that one!) stated that the Summit had tube distortion on it. I wonder how it would be compared to the RBI unit itself? Good grief! :confused:
  19. Jehos

    Jehos Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    DFW, TX
    I fully agree with this. I'm betting that what you hear when you play isn't what you hear on tape, and it's because you're hearing your amp in a room, but you're recording direct. Either put a mic in the room with you so the tape can hear what you hear, or tweak your V-Amp thingy using a direct signal to your studio monitors and keep recording direct.

    I had to do the same thing with my Pod X3--I found out that what was coming out of the PA didn't sound like what was coming out of my amp, so I hooked direct to my PA and started tweaking patches there, so I know that what I'm sending sounds good through a PA.
  20. Jehos

    Jehos Supporting Member

    Mar 22, 2006
    DFW, TX
    Hmm, reading through the rest of this thread (probably should have done that before I posted), it seems like you're missing a couple fundamental things here:

    1. Your monitoring situation is somehow flawed if what you're listening to when you record isn't what you hear during playback. My home system is pretty basic--signal -> mixer -> Apogee Duet -> iMac. Monitoring is iMac -> Apogee Duet -> KRK Rok-It 5's and a KRK 10" sub. To record bass I've got an Eden head with the direct out going to the mixer. When I play, I hear signal coming out the KRKs. What I'm playing when I record and what I hear back when I push play are the exact same thing. When I hear a good tone coming out of the KRKs, I know it will record exactly like that.

    2. You can't capture a Marcus Miller or Flea tone using a pedal, period. Especially if you're a fingerstyle player. You either learn to slap like them, or you find a different sound. I find it kind of funny that you posted earlier about "the tone is in your hands", yet complained when some pedal didn't give you the tone some other player has.

    Finally, I'm not sure what you're talking about when you say you want an "accurate" recording. Accurate relative to what? If you want accurate, just get a decent DI, plug it straight into your e-mu, and record that. It's probably not going to sound like what you want, but it will certainly be accurate--that's what your bass really sounds like.

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies to help personalise content, tailor your experience and to keep you logged in if you register.
    By continuing to use this site, you are consenting to our use of cookies.