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Question for extend-range and sub-contra bass players and manufacturers

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by DukeLeJeune, Apr 8, 2014.

  1. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    Those of you who play or build or are otherwise into extended-range basses and/or sub-contra basses, I have a few questions about what sort of "voicing" you'd like from your cab.

    Would you prefer a hi-fi (studio-monitor-like) voicing, or more of a "traditional bass cab" voicing? ("Both" is also a legitimate answer, but harder to do in a single cab of course).

    Are you more interested in how the cab sounds on solos, or how it sits in the mix?

    Assuming the cab can take it, are you inclined to use EQ to get the bottom-end extension you need (realistically the first overtone instead of the fundamental), or would you rather such extension be "baked into" the cab's native voicing, even if it means a significant increase in cab size?

    What are the lowest and highest open-string tunings on your bass(es)?

    Any other comments you'd like to add, such as addressing the questions I should have asked but didn't think to, are more than welcome.

  2. How far below low B until it qualifies?
  3. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    Good question, I don't really know what the precise definitions are, so I'll gladly take input from anyone who tunes south of low-B until someone who knows better than me posts to tell us where the line should be drawn.
  4. chadds


    Mar 18, 2000
    I play all kinds of music but not top 40.

    Even in blues bands I like full range.

    Ever play an upright?

    Overtones and the real tones are a whole lot of tone.

    Whole lotta frequency response.

    For me amplification should be able to do anything you can do today or tomorrow.

    Today 4 string Fender, tomorrow, 5 string "something."

    It's about music.

    It requires whatever it requires.

    Why limit your gear, which can limit your expression?
  5. Well, to my mind a low B is so low in the fundamental that speciality mega subs are needed. I remain unconvinced that contrabass players aren't hearing their 2nd harmonics and declaring awesomeness. So you might want to take anecdotal experiences with a side of salt.
  6. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    Hi Duke!
    I play a 6-string, mostly Classic Rock & 60's/70's Soul, some Blues and Country. I'd like a speaker cabinet that has some low mids emphasis "baked in" to be more audible in a busy mix, and be able to reproduce my lowest notes.

    I play mainly fingerstyle. The Hi-Fi cabinets I own don't seem to cut through in a dense mix. I do get called to play a solo here and there, and I've found that a cabinet that is voiced for Rock works much better for everything I do. By and large, I would rather have a cabinet with a traditional bass cab tone.

    I use a stereo power amp, I like to run a pair of cabinets, but I'm not opposed to a single cabinet solution, as long as it's easy enough for me to schlep alone and gets plenty loud when needed.
  7. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    Thank you chadds, I like your concept of a rig that doesn't limit your expression.

    The fundamental of normal low-E is deeper than most cabs go, and I'm speculating that those who tune lower realize they can't escape the unattractive truth that fundamentals are probably wishful thinking in a gig rig. But even the first overtone of say a low F# is south of what most cabs can honestly (-3 dB) deliver without EQ. I only have one cab that I'd say was low F#-capable without EQ, and I'm talking about the first overtone (second harmonic), not the fundamental.

    Thank you Arthur, that's just the sort of information I'm looking for.
  8. I only have low B opinions to offer. I play Reverend Brad Houser 5-strings. My main cab is an Ampeg SVT-410-HLF. A lot of folks don't care for the cab saying it is too deep or sounds "boomy". For my style, my amp (SVT-CL) and my bass, it sounds great.

    I have observed that I like the sound of cabs that claim - and seem to have- usable (-10 db) fundamental response in the range of my instrument (31 Hz). Even with my tube amp's lack of ability to reproduce those lowest frequencies, the cab still makes or breaks it somehow.

    FWIW, I had a fellow sit in last night on his MM Sabre. Great bass. Took quite a bit of knob-twisting to get a decent sound from it through my rig.
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Does it count if your low notes come from a Boss OC-2?


    But seriously, I have played 5's in the past and still have one, plus the aforementioned OC-2 is a mainstay on my pedalboard, and I'll go down as low as A sometimes with it. I like the same 810e-ish low end I do with a standard tuned 4-string, though. Some folks like a stronger fundamental down there but I'm not one of them. Is not a bad idea to consider their wants, though...the 410hlf does sell.
  10. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Hey Duke,
    I think this is one of the few things we didn't get a chance to chat much about at the GTG.
    For me, I want the tone to come from my playing, my bass, my FX and my amp. Not my cab. So, what I put into it, I want it to faithfully reproduce as much as possible.
    However, at the same time, I don't want a gargantuan sized rig, either. Your TC118 is as large as I'd want to go. The fact that it's pretty light weight is even better.
    So to answer the first question, *I* prefer it to be neutral - i.e. hopefully without a voice or coloration. Studio-monitor like is close, though my limited experience with prosumer level studio monitors makes me think "flat until you go deep, then you need a subwoofer".

    I'm interested more in how my cab sounds in the mix than solo. A lot of my solo practice is low volume and I don't really care how it sounds, just so long as I can hear it well. For solo performance, again, I want dead neutral or close to. I'll EQ in and out mostly for the room, but sometimes I like "boom" too, so I'll throw down some hefty amounts of boosted lows (my Bongo's low is 40Hz up to a stupid-high amount of 18dB of boost).

    Also, add on top that sometimes I kick in an octave pedal, there's occasion for super deep lows.

    In neither case do I want this "baked into" the cab, though, as I don't always want it there. Having it baked into the cab means that I may end up fighting it on boomy stages.

    My low string is an A# (half step down from low B, 29.14Hz), with sometimes an octave or a 4th down (D#, 19.45Hz) being put out by my pedals.

    Personally, I think a Low B or A# is going to be a pretty common lowest string that you'll hear on these boards, so you'll get a wealth of responses there. Going under that of course happens, but you're starting to get more into the fringe, I think.

    My primary band is a Heavy Metal Opera. We play in theatres, so most of the heavy lifting is done by a huge PA. That PA isn't there for rehearsal though, so I need a very capable cab to get me by in those situations. We're heavy metal at heart, but there is a lot of sonic territory I need to cover - slicing through the mix, sitting back in it as a light support role, long drone/pedal tones during dialog, swelling way under the mix laying a fat foundation that's shaking everyone. My cabs have to do all of this, and they also need to be good with electric violin to make my life even easier.

    With all of that said, I'm willing to sacrifice efficiency for this as well. Power is cheap anymore with 1000 or 2000W readily available. Most cabs can't begin to take that before killing over, but if the cab is a less efficient, power hungry monster that suits my needs, then that's better for me, my situation and my playing. I don't need huge amounts of volume - and if I do, I'll just add more of the same cab to achieve my desired SPL.

    Another thing to consider is that low extension is only part of it. I prefer accuracy and "flat" across the spectrum, from my lowest notes up through the electric violin stuff (which is way, way beyond anything an electric bass puts out). Even without the violin mixed in, I want my highs to ring true - not harsh or "brittle". Just true. If I need or want to change how they sound or feel, I'll do it at the amp again - I don't want the cab to have anything baked in.

    Of course, this is also assuming that the cab can take EQ changes well. This is hard for me to explain, but sometimes there's just holes or things a cab will not do no matter how much EQ you throw at it. If you want to say, bring the mids way forward for a section, but you kick them in and nothing happens because the cab just happens to have a weird dip in its response right there, well, there's not a lot you can do at that point.

    Anyway, I'm sure I've gone off on tangents and gave you way more than you're looking for. I enjoy chatting with you though - feel free to drop me a PM or call at any time if you'd like. I like to think that what I put your cabs through is pretty unique in a few ways, and very typical in others :).
  11. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    Interesting, I really hadn't been paying much attention to what the -10 dB point is in my cabs, but maybe it plays a more of a role than I'd heretofore appreciated.

    Sure, why not? That goes in the column of things I should have asked about but didn't.

    Yup, I've noticed that people who want that extension are very happy with the 410HLF. It's -10 at 28 Hz, and I believe Ampeg's specs.

    Now taking a deep breath before replying to Selta...
  12. JcRico


    Feb 28, 2013
    I play 6 string tuned f# to g, and I prefer more bass heavy cabs. My cab of choice at the moment is actually a 410 by Peavey, which is tuned crazy low. I don't really use the f# for intricate riffing though, I usually only go lower than a B during slower progressions to create the feeling of hugeness on the low end. I like the oomph the cab gives the low freqs, it sounds very prevalent in the low harmonics which seems to sail under the guitars and keys instead of battling them for sonic space. Hope this helps!
  13. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    That's okay, you wrote a paper on the subject and posted it here on TalkBass!

    Okay, it sounds like for your purposes, I'm off to a good start with the TC118.

    My cabs normally come with a choice of two tuning frequencies via port plugs, and the 118 I brought to Seattle was tuned to 45 Hz with all ports open, and to 32 Hz with two ports plugged. I mention this because the tuning frequency plays a role in where it's safe to boost the lows, and where it isn't. We can safely boost the lows at and above the tuning frequency, but not too far above; but we don't want to boost below the tuning frequency or we'll get fartout fast.

    I don't have enough room inside the box to shift the two available tuning frequencies downwards while maintaining adequate port cross-sectional area, but I can shift them upwards a bit, to 48 and 35 Hz. That 35 Hz tuning frequency is in a better spot for boosting the 39 Hz first overtone of your D#. There may be other possible options for your cab well... we can talk about that when the time comes.

    It was so cool to see and hear your wife playing her electric violin, and enjoying it, through a 118 bass cab!

    Obviously significant boosting of the deep end is demanding of amplifier power, woofer excursion, and woofer thermal power handling. If I do a cab that targets even deeper second harmonics than your D#, (which is what I'm investigating), I'll probably have to go with a heavier and more expensive woofer, which won't have as much top end so it would probably end up as a three-way cab. Fortunately for your cab we'd only be starting out -6 dB at 39 Hz with the shifted tuning.

    Something along the lines of a "clean palette" is the sort of voicing I'm most comfortable with. The location of those goal posts is pretty clear.

    This has been very helpful, thank you so much Selta for taking the time.

    Thank you JcRico, yes my impression from hearing Skip Fantry's low G# tuned Quake bass is, you don't play that sort of tuning fast; you use it to create the feeling of hugeness (if you don't mind me borrowing your choice of words). I haven't yet figured out the implications of that playing style as it relates to bass cab design.

    And with the kind of low efficiency we can expect in a portable cab that goes deep, fighting the guitars and keys for sonic space would be a losing battle.
  14. What does the human ear actually hear concerning these super low notes?
    My contention is that it takes training to truly hear the fundamentals below 40-50Hz (conservative- i know we can hear below that but what I mean is to really pick out pitches, or hear them internally). I believe that what our ears hear when listening to super low stuff is the overtones, which are still low notes. Without the overtone very few of us would be able to distinguish the lowest pitches at all. Typically, a sealed cab offers greater clarity in the fundamental down there, but of course requires more power and a bigger box.

    The frequencies that hit us in the chest are usually 70-100 Hz. The frequencies we think of as bass are 50-300. The the frequencies that define us in the mix are 100-2kHz. I know these are subjective figures-please don't bash me on the numbers I chose. My point is that if the design goal is going for lower frequencies than the ear can distinguish, I suspect the results will not be very musical, and the effort may be in vain. Providing good response in the frequencies the ear can hear should be, IMO, the most important aspect of design.

    But hell, I don't ever play below a B anyway! ;)
  15. Duke understands all that. I was probing the question of reliability of info that comes back from those that don't.
  16. DukeLeJeune

    DukeLeJeune rational romantic mystic cynical idealist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2008
    Princeton, Texas
    Owner & designer, AudioKinesis; Auth. mfg, Big E (Home Audio only)
    At this point, my goal would be to deliver the first overtone at no weaker than -3 dB, mainly because of the technical and practical hurdles in the way of delivering the fundamentals.

    A week and a half ago my paradigm was abruptly shifted by hearing Skip Fantry's G#00-tuned Quake bass, and that was through a cab that couldn't even really deliver the second overtone (third harmonic).

    Thanks for the vote of confidence! Despite my ability to talk a good game, I've still got a lot to learn in a lot of areas.
  17. spankdaplank


    Jan 19, 2003
    I usually stay away from contributing to these kind of discussions although I always enjoy reading and learning from everybody. I have had an experience that seemed to give me a little insight into how the sound processor in my brain works:

    I wanted to be able to practice anytime without disturbing the rest of the family. Of course headphones are the obvious solution, but I always found them somehow lacking, even the high end ones.
    So I built a rig which consisted of a Korg PX4B with wireless infrared headphones; these phones were pretty mediocre at best. However I also took a signal from the output of the Korg to an EHX Magnum mini amp - about 40 watts I think. The amp fed two Aurasound Bass Shaker tactile transducers (actually an older cheaper version of this):
    which I mounted to the bottom of the seat of my practice stool right under my butt bones. Let me tell you that this combination sounds (in my brain) like the biggest, baddest, lowest bass amp in the world, without really high decibel level in the phones.

    The tactile transducers have zero tonal quality or fidelity. The cheesy headphones carry that. Of course better quality headphones would give better fidelity and articulation, but it seems all my brain wanted was to receive the tactile information along with the tonal input from my ears to synthesize the concert level percepton of sound. It really "sounds" great.

    I am not sure how this is related to extending the low frequency response in a speaker system, other than this is evidence to me that there is a lot more going on in the brain, as opposed to just the ears, than I ever realized when listening to the sound of my bass.
  18. Selta


    Feb 6, 2002
    Pacific Northwet
    Total fanboi of: Fractal Audio, AudiKinesis Cabs, Dingwall basses
    Hah! I wish I was a better wordsmith so I could more appropriately speak what I hear and feel about these things.
    Pretty much my thoughts exactly. My only, minor thought on that is such that I do sometimes use mild distortion, where I think a Hathor may shine a little better. But, tonally I liked the TC more, especially for Violin.
    This is getting beyond my realm of actual knowledge, but it makes sense to me. For the most part, I play a pretty clean tone, with very little FX mixed in. Mostly just me screwing around more than anything.
    Honestly, when I buy a cab from you, I'll just take one of your standard offerings. I'd hate to ask or have you make modifications on my behalf.
    Glad we could help! :)
    Honestly, I wouldn't put much effort into anything below even my A#. Anytime I'm truly using the D# or even lower, the PA is truly doing the heavy lifting, and I don't really expect my on stage rig to really help with that.
    Sounds like we pretty much think alike. Hah, what a surprise :smug:
    Again, I'm always glad to try to give input and be helpful. You know how to find me if you want to chat more outside of talkbass.
    I agree, which is why I wouldn't put a ton of emphasis on going a whole lot deeper. I'd also be a little afraid that we'd lose a little bit of the tightness that I seriously LOVE about the TC's.
  19. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    We can't hear very well down at the bottom of the human hearing range, especially for pure tones or noise bands.

    "Pitch discrimination as a function of frequency:
    • a 3 Hz change at 30 Hz (only 10% discrimination: two semitones)
    • 4 Hz at 400 Hz (~ 1%)
    • 5 Hz at f > 1000 Hz ( < 0.5 %, 0.08 semitones)"

    see, http://faculty.tamuc.edu/cbertulani/music/lectures/Lec15/Lec15.pdf page 18.

    3 Hz is a lot of "pitch" at 30 Hz, nearly a whole step. Gulp. :eek:
  20. Korladis

    Korladis Supporting Member

    I tune to low B on one of my basses, and get good results from a regular old bass cab. *shrug*