Rate things in order of impact on your tone at a GIG

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by IvanMike, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    I originally posted this in the "what cables do you use" thread, but i thought it might be fun to post it as a seperate thread. Yep, I know It's been done before to an extent, but i'd get a kick out of seeing how y'all order the items used on a gig in terms of the effect on your final tone.

    Note that the emphasis is on an actual gig situation, and not in a solo playing situation where you can listen for nuances all day long. At a gig many differences become subtle, while others are more apparent. All bets are off when the whole band gets going.

    For example, My GP swears he can hear a big difference switching from a fender vibrolux to a fender vibroverb at the gig itself. I've stood 30' from stage, and sure i can tell when he switches amps (usually), but it's not as apparent as when he does it while playing solo. The whole band playing tends to obscure many nuances, and FWIW, the audience (i.e., the paying customers) usually can't tell and almost never care. :p

    I think that lots of things have significant impact on tone, but if i had to rate things in order of most to least impact on my/your tone at a GIG, It would probably look like this;

    The player
    Speaker cabinets
    The Bass/Strings
    Preamp (stand alone or in a head)
    Poweramp (stand alone or in a head - reverse order of this and preamp if the poweramp is a tube one)
    What sort of socks you wear.


    FWIW, To my ears, effects processors tend to fall in the same area as preamps as far as effect on tone, but IMHO, the effect is usually negative at a gig, with some notable exceptions such as very high quality processors like the alembic sf-2, which can have a dramatic positive effect on your tone (or very negative if you dont use it intelligently). For the most part i don't use anything in my signal chain at a gig other than bass-amp-speakers.

    How would you order what you use from most to least impact on your tone at a gig? (don't forget to include yourself) ;)
  2. Crockettnj


    Sep 2, 2005
    North NJ
    imo / ime comfortable socks (that fit right ) should be above typeof cables, provided the cables are at least the correct type (instrument, speaker, etc)
  3. The Regulator

    The Regulator

    Aug 10, 2005
    The one thing that has the biggest effect on my final tone is how many drinks I've had before going on stage.
  4. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words Supporting Member

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV
    1. Socks, closely followed by undies.

    2. Poweramp - This ranks above player. Why? The bass must first be heard.

    3. Player - This needs no explaination

    Now it gets hard

    4. Preamp/effects - More emphasis on effects. This is what really distinguishes your actual sound once the audience hears it.

    5. & 6. Bass and Speakers - Having already established that your sound is audible this is focusing souly on tonal characteristics of the speakers. With these two the nuances are too small for most audiences to really notice...they'll just know it sounds more appealing(maybe, not always)

    7. Cables - This only matters to the person using them
  5. Player

    The End
  6. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Staff Member Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    man i shouldn't haven't included the socks.......... :p

    but for clarification on my views (feel free to disagree and explain why)

    The player - This should be obvious. I always sound like me, and many of the better players i know get "their sound" thru anything.

    Speaker cabinets - This is the last stage of the chain, what really makes the sound. IME, the voicing of the speaker cabinets puts the biggest audible thumbprint on your tone.

    The Bass/Strings - I put this after the cabs as i really feel that the cabs have a bigger impact. However, the bass is pretty darned close.

    Preamp (stand alone or in a head) - These have a big impact on tone, but i generally hear the 1st three much more clearly. In a gig a lot of preamp nuances get lost really quick. Ditto for processers, although ones that choke your tone or suck out mids are anathema to good tone at a gig.

    Poweramp (stand alone or in a head - reverse order of this and preamp if the poweramp is a tube one) - I agree that adequate power is necessary. However, in this thread i'm assuming that you have enough power. Debates rage on about the differences (if any) exist in the tone of ss poweramps, and at a gig i cant hear much or any. Tube poweramps put much more of a stamp on tone, and as i suggested, this can be much greater than a preamp, especially at a gig.

    Cables - i've heard some differences in a quiet room. at a gig? forget it.
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I'm the player, so:

  8. unlined4string

    unlined4string Supporting Member

    Mar 18, 2000
    Baltimore County, Md.
    I'm surprised no one has mentioned "the room". I've played some rooms that were so awful sounding that the only thing I could do was set the EQ flat and hope for the best. For example, I played an event last year in DC called "ArtOMatic". It was a very artsy multi media scene, set inside of a large complex that was formerly a convent. There was so much room ambience that nothing could save the sound.
  9. Interceptor

    Interceptor Supporting Member

    Mar 29, 2005
    Madison, WI
    PA Supported gig -
    your engineer.

    Stage mix gig
    Pre amp

    Everthing else is lost in the mix and the noise floor.
  10. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    You beat me to it. I find the room has a huge effect on my sound. I can't rate the room in order of importance because it varies so much, but it certainly plays a role.

    Power amp
    How my bandmates use dynamics; if the drummer is playing harder than normal or if the twang-player is blaring or sets his EQ a certain way it affects how I set my volume and EQ.

    As far as cables are concerned I can't hear a noticeable difference between one brand of good quality cable to another. At this time I use George L cable for my instruments and patch cords because I find them easy to repair.
  11. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Power amp and cables - interchangeable commodities that have very little affect on tone (unless you use something really cheap)

    Other players
    Power Amplifier
  12. Plain Old Me

    Plain Old Me

    Dec 14, 2004
    Keep in mind I run all tube:
    That hot chick in the audience ;)
    The player
    FX/Signal Chain
    Power Amp

    Cables don't make it onto the list, unless we are recording.
  13. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    Being well rehersed and relaxed.
    Not playing too loud.
    Having a loud enough amp so you're not pushing it too hard.
    Good setup and fresh strings on your bass.
    No crazy brick wall slapback, no wierd resonances in the room.
    Good monitors and mix.
    Good crowd.
    Brands of amps and basses are way down here, but do matter.
  14. seanm

    seanm I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize! Supporting Member

    Feb 19, 2004
    Ottawa, Canada
    What affects me most is position. I mainly play with pick-up bands or as part of the house band at open stages. In this role, NOTHING affects me more than "can I hear the lead". If I can't hear properly, I can't play properly, period. Equipment, as long as it is working and is loud enough, is unimportant.

    So I guess I am the weak link :p
  15. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    Yeah, player (obviously), bass, age of strings, EQ etc all important. But also...

    On stage - cab position makes a huge difference to the sound YOU hear. I've been using just a 210 recently on most gigs on stage and angling it up towards me on a stand has really helped me to hear myself properly without blasting out the rest of the band.

    Out front, the sound guy is the biggest factor on what the audience hear if you're going through the PA. It doesn't matter what bass/rig/strings you're using, the soundman can make or destroy your tone. Better buy him a drink :D
  16. jgsbass


    May 28, 2003
    Floral Park, NY

    Without a doubt, the most influential aspect of trying to get your sound. Its the reason you go through all the changes in equipment, just to battle this beast.
  17. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PA

    for me, it'd be bass, strings, cable from bass, then the DI.

    hate to be a wet blanket, but in the end, that's all that really matters. *shrug*
  18. meh.. I could take this to the max and place the cables before the poweramp. I had this very old cable and replaced it with a better one, guess what? There was the treble and clarity! So they do matter.. but only to a certain level. I'm using Hotline cables for a year now and they cost like 15 and never seem to break, although I abuse them a lot.

    I won't make a list, I tried to. But then I came to the conclusion that when I put pre-amp at the third place, you can always adjust the pre-amp so that it sounds different. :scowl: Definitly the player at number one though, because he or she can use a pick or pluck somewhere else and harder or softer etc. At two come the strings, they can make a bass sound totally different. And then it is guesswork for me.
  19. Player

    Not to forget: the audience, the room-ambience, the stage-mix, how many beers I had before the shows, how many chicks I had before the show ;-) ...
  20. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    1. Speakers
    2. Bass/strings
    3. EQ/amp

    IME a bad room trumps everything, while a good room is neutral (very little effect). So that's why I didn't place room acoustics in the list.

    As for the player:

    To emphasize Munji's point: you asked about what impacts "your tone", and in my case, that's my tone. So, the player is always going to be me. Not that I'm perfectly consistent (I'm not), but I still sound like me on bad nights as well as good. All the other variables can change dramatically from gig to gig, including the gear I use.