Recording an active bass - do's and dont's - please advise - (I don't slap)

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Heroinsheep, Jun 12, 2020.

  1. Active bass direct sounds great, no problem

    64 vote(s)
  2. Active bass direct sounds weird. Rent/Borrow a real bass amp

    1 vote(s)
  3. Twin Reverb is badass . Active signal will not ruin your amp, chill

    4 vote(s)
  4. Better to record it passive, use EQ and Compression to make it sound as good as the booster

    10 vote(s)
  1. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    Sorry but I have to start with a bit of backround:
    I'm a passive bass guy... Just to give yall general reference I'd compare my playing style to Colin Greenwood (not trying to be pretentious, he's much better... just trying to give you an idea of the style of music in question without having to say what I think about people who slap :p).
    So passive is my go to, and it's favored by all the recording engineers I ever worked with... but... I was given this active bass that's just beyond amazing.
    I never recorded an active bass, curious about public opinion on this one

    So I'm trying to prepare as best I can for an upcoming session. Some songs feature a more vintage, sweet sound. (old dark sounding Rick). will be using my vintage Twin Reverb (guitar amp) as a bass amp, in addition to DI - this I have no worries about.

    Other songs feature a more frontal, 80's approach.
    The bass I will be using for them is a monster, a friend's 81' Special P Bass, the first ever to feature active electronics. It's an amazing bass, and it's booster truely sounds like a good studio preamp to my ears, unlike an average active bass. It's extremely bright and present. Sounds prefect, and the booster makes it much much better than it's passive sound.

    My worry is the Twin Reverb won't be able to handle this hot signal, and that the DI alone will not do justice with the boosted signal, which sounds insanely good when pushing a nice GK RB-800 or SVT... But we do not have this type of bass amp on hand.

    So the questions on my mind are:

    1. Is my fear of damaging the Twin Reverb with mega loud active P bass with endless sustain a rational one?

    2. Do you guys record active basses direct?

    3. Is there any truth to my suspicion Active+Direct won't sound as good as it does through an amp?

    (When recording passive basses I do know how to get a pretty full, warm sound with a direct signal and no amp, using studio compressors/preamps... Just don't feel like the full glory of this specific bass can be captured by a DI alone... again, in passive mode this bass dosen't shine as bright...)

    So feel free to share any thoughts or tips :)

    Thank youuuu
  2. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Have you actually tested the signals to make sure that the mega loud active P is actually mega loud? I'd take a look at the signal strength on the meter going straight in. If it's too hot, just turn down the volume a little on the instrument itself.

    I have in the past, it's fine. More often than not I still also use some other sort of preamp, either in pedal or amp format first. Just my personal preference, as opposed to using plugins for it.

    Edit: wait I misunderstood. Yes if you like the sound of an amp, you may miss what it adds. Depending on what flavoring you use your amp for, it may not sound as good to you compared to going direct. Test it out and use what you like best!
  3. Roland GR 88

    Roland GR 88 Commercial User

    Sep 16, 2013
    Ontario Canada
    Retail store manager
    My simple version is to just get the levels right going direct and see if you like the sound. The D.I. will pass - or should if it's halfway decent - whatever you put in it. The Twin doesn't care what type of signal you put in it either, again the input level is key. It could suffer only if you're running it very loud and even's a Twin. :)
    Kro likes this.
  4. You won't damage the amp with a hot signal but the speakers won't like it. I wouldn't use a twin reverb for any bass personally
  5. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    The issue won't be because of the hot signal from the bass though, the issue will just be due to the speakers handling bass frequencies at higher volume levels. If volume is kept low, it should be alright.

    Even a very low output bass would cause the same issues when the amp is turned up to similar levels.
    Heroinsheep likes this.
  6. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    Have you tried? It's quite amazing. with low output or shy sounding basses it gives lots of tubey presence.
    Good to know the signal won't damage the amp itself. I can test... but It's like a crazy 200% boost or something on these old P Bass Specials.
  7. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    I've recorded direct with my Tobias Growler, an active bass, with no issues. All interfaces I've encountered have a gain control on their input and as mentioned you also have a volume knob on the bass. Between the two you can find that happy place.
    nbsipics, Helix and Heroinsheep like this.
  8. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    Nice. Yeah with passive basses also the speakers start crying at about 3.5 so I like recording it at like 3 normally... But I fear with the P Bass the speakers have tears in their eyes at like fkin 1 volume... Thats what made me think "is this good for the amp itself?"
  9. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    It is true I didn't give enough thought to lettin go of that OCD of "ITS A P BASS VOLUME 100% ALL THE TIME WOOOO".
  10. Kro


    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    It's there for more than just looking pretty. ;) I would say that proper gain staging is the key to getting the best tone. :thumbsup:
    J_Bass and thetragichero like this.
  11. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    how did you know it was pretty? unnamed.jpg However after experimenting a bit the pots are weird when the volume turns like 75% within in the first 5% of turning the knob. Weird 80s vibes.
    Kro likes this.
  12. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    First of all, if you have found your voice, record that. But be flexible with the EQ on the bass. Only suggestions if you are recording with an active bass are to make sure the battery is reasonably fresh (some last a long time, some preamps eat batteries) and flatten the EQ on the bass. If you record your bass basically flat you might find it easier to adjust in the mix once the band lays down the guitar and badgermin tracks, you won't want to drown out in the mix:
    Heroinsheep likes this.
  13. Heroinsheep


    Oct 23, 2017
    Holy fk man.
    That's intense.
    As for batteries... I have spare ones but does a fresh battery sound different/better?
    dkelley likes this.
  14. honeyiscool


    Jan 28, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    If you get a clean DI signal, you can always put it though an amp plugin.
    TheDirtyLowDown likes this.
  15. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I personally don't stress about the battery being new, I just keep an extra in my bag. I've been using some John East preamps that consume batteries pretty quickly and some Rays where they seem to last forever.
  16. JeezyMcNuggles

    JeezyMcNuggles Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2018
    Santa Maria, CA
    I suck, but nobody really notices
    You just adjust your gain to a clean signal. No problems at all.
    Heroinsheep and Kro like this.
  17. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Active basses have volume controls, which turns down the output. Why a twin reverb?
    pcake and Kro like this.
  18. ahc


    Jul 31, 2009
    No. Virginia
    The Twin Reverb amp section is essentially the same as a Dual Showman. No worries playing bass thru that. The speakers, especially an open back cab, are the weak point. Keep your volume and bass eq in check and it will be ok. If the speakers complain cease and desist and reduce volume and/or bass eq. Long ago and in a galaxy far far away I would occasionally play thru a Twin or Super Reverb and at lower volume it worked and sounded ok.
    Heroinsheep and Rabidhamster like this.
  19. Paulabass


    Sep 18, 2017
    Of course, you follow your bliss, but it sounds like a lot of work when using a bass amp might solve all your problems. I used lots of Showmans in Europe, they used to be the standard backline bass amp, and I found they all distorted way too early.
    Any the solution to you output problem is still- turn down your bass.
    Rabidhamster and ahc like this.
  20. Rabidhamster


    Jan 15, 2014
    The twin into a load box or a real bass cab will be just fine. It'll sound great. You COULD trash the twins speakers playing bass through them loud. If you're using the twins speakers and care about them much I'd keep it at bookstore conversation levels. Great thing about recording is you don't need to make it loud, you only need to make it sound good, loud enough to record.

    (TLDR: dont use your vintage twins speakers for recording bass very loud at all. amp itself OK)
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
    Heroinsheep likes this.