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Question and Opinions about Graphic EQ's on Bass Amps

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by agedhorse, Jul 6, 2020.

  1. agedhorse

    agedhorse Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 12, 2006
    Davis, CA (USA)
    Development Engineer-Mesa, Product Support-Genz Benz
    Several of us were looking through some old brochures and magazines and noticed that there were quite a few amps built with on-board graphic eq's (of some form or another). Lately, it appears that much of the industry has gotten away from including them (me included), but we did include them on amps like the Bass 400+, and Strategy as well as many of our earliest guitar amps. There were also a number of GEQ pedals on the market.

    How important do you think GEQ's are?

    Are they still relevant or have modern speaker improvements made them less necessary?

    Have GEQ's been made obsolete as more manufacturers have ventured away from the Fender Tone stack type voicing?

    Are they more trouble than they are worth?

    Why do you think they have fallen out of favor?

    If you were to choose a GEQ for bass, how many bands would you want, and what frequencies?

    Is this discussion and ponderings just a waste of time and I should go feed my horses "carrots" (yes, there has to be carrots in here somehow ;) )

    This should be an interesting discussion...
  2. How many bands of EQ? All of them! Make them digital display with up down buttons.

    Oldfangled sliders get noisy and the caps fall off the levers.
    nuage420b, diegom, burgerdj and 12 others like this.
  3. rickdog

    rickdog Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 27, 2010
    I have an SVT-3Pro, which has a graphic equalizer, so I guess I qualify to reply.

    I've almost never used it. I find the Ampeg bass/selectable midrange/treble controls (very unlike Fender tone stack) give me good enough tone shaping (on top of some nice tube drive from turning up the gain knob). I've played around with it a little bit with a new bass I just bought (Epiphone Jack Casady, with that "DC-to-daylight" pickup). I might find a use for it there, not sure yet.

    When other people have used that amp, some of them have switched it on and adjusted it. The most extreme was looking for a good reggae tone, and found it by pulling down the top bands completely. Worked great for that.

    If I'm playing somewhere with a big room that needs correction, I expect the PA to take care of that. They're going to have better EQ than my bass amp.

    If I felt I really needed a GEQ, I'd get a nice rack-mountable one.

    On the other hand, an all-tube preamp with HPF, LPF, and a couple of bands of semi-parametric (frequency + boost/cut) EQ would get me interested....
  4. jnewmark

    jnewmark Just wanna play the groove. Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2006
    Stax 1966
    Third St. Cigar Records staff musician.
    The only amp I ever had with a GEQ, was a Carvin BX1500. It was switchable, and , if you switched it off, there was a semi para EQ also onboard, or you could combine them. I actually preferred the GEQ over the Para EQ quite a bit. I liked the more precise, immediate results on the different frequencies; more " surgical " with the GEQ as compared with the Para EQ, which seemed more nebulous or passive. I wound up using the GEQ exclusively with that amp. It was the only time I've ever had an amp with that type of EQ. I've read where some users felt that they were too harsh sounding, and maybe that's the case, but I rather enjoyed the immediate response of the GEQ in that particular amp over the more passive results I got with the Para EQ. I'm pretty much a Genz Benz guy now, but I would definitely consider a GEQ on a future amp head, especially if it was designed by you . ;)
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  5. I have never been a fan of of them on bass amplification.

    They are great for ringing out a monitor system but always seemed like a fad on bass amps. I ended up using them in broad strokes anyway so two mid bands, sweep or not is enough for me. GEQs in the past were always the weak spot. Always the first componet to get dirty, frozen, bent, broken, or completely smashed in.
  6. I find a GEQ is not a must-have, but is a nice feature provided it is footswitchable. A switchable EQ makes using multiple basses easier. This would apply to single channel amps; if an amp has 2 preamp sections with individual controls I can set them up for different basses.

    For my uses, modern developments do not apply as I still need to make adjustments for the 2nd bass.

    Modern designs like the WD 800 and TT 800 have the sort of flexibility I like without using a graphic EQ. I don't know enough to decide the bands and frequencies, I'd rather leave that to the professionals.
    gtlover and agedhorse like this.
  7. For me, I wish most amps featured a switchable GEQ. I use them for bad room/hall fixes, cutting a hot freq on a bass cab, adding some clarity with a specific band, etc.. GEQ's sometimes help me play without having to avoid certain notes that jump out with some bands or rooms. I also use a notch filter sometimes for my upright. I once joked with Demeter about making a bass specific GEQ with octave choice switch that featured the bass note freq's for boosting notes that were weak or cutting those jumping out too much. What a dream come true that would be for some rooms and basses.
  8. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    Effective use of a GEQ requires the end user to understand what the frequency labels on the bands mean and then use them intelligently. I don't think most people are equipped to do that. (present company excluded)

    In the time since GEQs were popular on amps the context of amp use has changed. The norm in recent years has been to send a pre-EQ DI signal to the PA, where a sound person EQ's the whole band for the room. The player uses their amp primarily as a personal monitor rather than having to carry the room and sculpt their tone accordingly. That eliminates most of the usefulness of the analog GEQ on an amp at gigs.

    Hand in hand with that, as pedal board use as expanded people seem to prefer pedal based EQ solutions rather than being limited to only the one on their amp. This also gives them the ability to use a DI on their board instead of the one built into the amp.

    Similarly, sophisticated EQs in DAWs have greatly reduced if not eliminated the need for GEQs on amps in the studio.

    And, correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't using one or two mid bands, with a relatively wide Q, rather than four or six narrow band sliders on a GEQ result in a better signal to noise ratio when both are adjusted to the same curve? Assuming the same build quality in both systems. As well as requiring fewer parts and less labor to assemble?
  9. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I wonder from your perspective if sliders can be a liability due to dust, breakage, etc. But IMO a knob does the same thing as a slide does the same thing as up/down buttons and LCDs so my best guess is that all this comes and goes in fashion. When you guys designed the new TT800 didn't it need to have some/most/all of the favorite features of the 400 and the WD but also be just different enough that players who already own an amp would still want it?
    So the other part of your OP, I actually like the parametric types because that removes the guesswork. The PM and/or engineers don't need to predict what my favorite settings would be so that's a win-win. I think I'm happy enough with 3 but thrilled with 4 parametric bands. Any more is fine but this would not be a dealbreaker.
    franvarin and agedhorse like this.
  10. When I roll into gigs, showrooms, concerts or whatever, the sound person gets a pre DI from me and usually just turns me up or down and that's it. If you are booming out on some notes in the room they will usually just turn your bass down and that's it--lol, or maybe just compress the hell out of your bass. I would recommend everyone invest some time learning about why there are anomalies in some rooms or in their tone. If there is a problem with your sound in the room (and you will hear it) most engineers are not going to try to chase down the hot spot or work on your bass tone. They have a lot more on their mind than fixing a bass tone, and some wouldn't know how to fix it, sadly. I travel a lot, and I play different theatres each with their own audio issues. Most touring bassists just show up and a backline is there, and you just deal with it. I bring my bass, an EQ, and a notch filter. When I'm sound checking I suss out the room, listening for any problems that I hear on stage and in the house, and I deal with them either with volume or EQ. I really like a rig with bass and treble, and an added GEQ. I'm covered with this setup. I have parametric and notch EQ's for specific problems.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2020
  11. i think they look cool, when the sliders aren't broken or aren't missing their knobs
    more trouble than they're worth for dialing in tone
    diegom and sharpiemarker like this.
  12. ddnidd1

    ddnidd1 Supporting Member

    I'd much prefer a parametric - the more full featured the better - adjustable Q, etc.
  13. I use old GK RB amps and like their tone controls. Simple, solid stuff.
    My ‘78 Fender Studio Bass has a rotary GEQ which has been handy on that particular amp (tone stack) for taming bottom end or boosting mids/low mids. Probably much like the Mesa 400.
    Otherwise I personally find a GEQ pretty redundant and prefer simplicity. I never use it on the backline SVT3 I sometimes use. Less is more for me.
  14. Gibson Victory

    Gibson Victory Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 21, 2019
    I recently got an Ampeg B4R with the EQ for a side experiment. The EQ does make a difference, and works well for me. I have a SVT 6 Pro, three SVT 5 Pro’s, and a USA V4 BH. All are really good, the B4R was an unexpected pleasant surprise. Maybe a lot of people just want this kind of thing in a pedal or something.
  15. callofcthulhu


    Oct 16, 2012
    I've always been partial to them visually, and honestly if the choice is between a rotary eq with fixed points and a GEQ I'd just as soon take the graphic.

    If the choice is between anything and sweepable frequency points, I'll take the sweepable every time.
    equill, agedhorse and Monterey Bay-ss like this.
  16. bradd

    bradd Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2008
    Minneapolis, MN
    I found the GEQ useful on my Acoustic 320, but that was mostly because of the 408 cab that it was paired with. I pull frequencies down on my SVT II but rarely add them. Never touched them on my old Mesa 400.
    agedhorse likes this.
  17. QweziRider

    QweziRider Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2008
    Northern Nevada, U.S.
    Personally, not very. My M9 Carbine has it, of course. But I have never used it beyond experimenting to see if I could put it to use. It stays off, as I get all the variety I seem to need from all the other EQ onboard. My D-800+ is an example of also being great as-is, getting all the variety I've ever needed without GEQ. Same for my Subway DI+ for ampless-gigs.

    I've just never found a use for GEQ yet.
  18. This post sums it up perfectly.
    red_rhino, Silthis89 and lz4005 like this.
  19. sharpiemarker


    Feb 15, 2013
    I find it over kill. I know there are really no rules to eq an amp but there is a smart way. Most people don’t know the best way to use a graphic Eq in my experience when they were more popular. People just unintentionally counteracting what other tone shaping in the signal chain is trying to do. A one band parametric is usually enough, two band parametric is golden
    Silthis89 and Funky Phantom like this.
  20. Monterey Bay-ss

    Monterey Bay-ss Supporting Member

    I strongly prefer graphic and/or (semi)parametric options on bass amplifiers. I tend to find fixed EQ points are never quite where I want them, and while the right pedal can do a lot, that’s one more box and patch cable and power supply connection—one more thing to go wrong. I find I tend to emphasize 150–160hz and 1.5–1.6khz, with a pronounced but narrow cut somewhere between 300 and 500hz depending upon the particular combination of instrument and amplifier, and it seems I always need a graphic or (semi)parametric to get it right.

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