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Recording bass - mic the amp, or go direct?

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by spectorbass83, Sep 28, 2005.

  1. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    I just recorded my bass tracks for my bands upcoming demo and I must say that I am not impressed with the way they came out. My tone was set just how I wanted it, however when we played it back on the computer after the recording it sounded way different.

    I told my drummer/producer that I am not happy with the turnout of the bass and suggested re-recording everything. He just said to trust him and not to worry.

    What type of microphones work best when recording bass? I used a 4x10 cabinet with 400W head to record bass. The mic that was used was an Apex condensor mic. Should I have just gone direct? What will sound better? Any help you guys can provide me will be much appreciated :D


  2. Juniorkimbrough


    Mar 22, 2005
    Mississippi / Memphis, TN
    Endorsing Artist: Lakland Basses
    it's all preference really.......

    some like direct, some like to be mic'd.........personally I like both, just depending on situation.

    what exactly did you not like about the recording?
  3. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    The bass does not cut through the mix like I want it to. The recording has lots of heavy/distorted guitars so perhaps this is why I cannot hear/feel the bass as much. I think the bass is not loud enough and not clear enough in some parts of the songs we recorded, but my producer disagrees. The thing is, it was coming in loud and clear through the amp, but when it was recorded and played back it did not sound the same. I am gonna ask my producer again to turn the bass track up and see what results we get.
  4. Pruitt


    Jun 30, 2005
    Danbury, CT
    That sounds more like it may bean EQ issue. There may be too many instruments sharing the same frequencies. You may need to use a parametric EQ to cut frequencies from some or all the instrument channels so they'll be more distinct in the mix. Seperating them in left and right in a stereo mix could help a bit also. Just a thought in case you hadn't tried that yet. ;)

    Good luck and have fun! :bassist:
  5. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC
    ^ Agree. Sounds like EQ and to many things sharing the same frequencies. You can fix that by EQ, panning and effects (verb et all). That's how you "make space" in recordings.

    I personally have never heard of Apex mics. But when I went to school (for recording/engineering/mixing/production) a lot of the teachers mentioned EV RE-20's and and other large diaphram mics. Condensor or dynamic. Each mic will have a different 'color' too, so really it's trial and error. But that's also the fun in it.

    As far as direct vs. mic goes, direct will give you a better, cleaner, clearer signal... supposedly. It probably does. However, sound is a disturbance in air pressure. How much sound is disturbed by just running direct? None. So a combination of the two is probably best. Then you can mix them all sorts of different ways to get the best results.

    Good luck. :D
  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.

    How much air is disturbed? That depends, how loud were the room monitors or headphones used for playback? The recorded electronic signal is stored information which translates into sound as soon as it's amplified and run through speakers.

    Regardless, you'll rarely find, no matter what technique used to capture your bass, that any engineer has managed to record an exact representation of your bass. IME, it's more a matter of trying to get the best sound in the studio you can, and accept that it won't sound precisely like your bass on playback. Having said that, if you don't like the way your bass sounds, re-record it. Don't EVER accept that someone will "make it work" or "fix it in the mix" if the tone is complete garbage. One can only do s much after the recording process is over and it's time to mix the track.

    By all means, go DI, use a different mic, try moving the mic's position relative to the speaker and around the room, do both, do 5 overdubbed bass parts, whatever it takes. I would want to point out, though, that if the guy doing the mixing doesn't know what he's doing, or doesn't think that the bass is a priority in the track, it still might get "lost" in the mix.
  7. xbradx


    Oct 25, 2004
    Indianapolis, IN
    i like to do both if i have the tracks available. use a DI box to split the signal and run the DI to one track and the mic to another. then you can mix and eq the two tracks to have more control over the finished bass sound, and since you're using a pc, if you like the sound of one more than the other or both together, you can either mute or delete the other track.
  8. sloppysubs


    Nov 24, 2002
    Swansboro, NC
    Thanks, I meant air. ;)

    Although, you're talking about playback I am talking about tracking. Going direct is good, but it isn't disturbing air pressure. In any case, I think it's all trial and error, and if it takes many overdubed parts to find the one, then go for it.
  9. Tingly


    Jul 16, 2005
    Yonkers, NY
    I agree with jabberwock777. I rarely hear a satisfactorily recorded bass line, even in some of the most "professional" and high level recordings. There seems to be a combination of technical and cultural reasons, from the inability of most speakers to reproduce the proper vibrations, to a simple industry bias in favor of melody.
  10. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Direct - but I like the 'hifi' direct tone. Also, doing it this way the producer / band can feed the direct signal back out into an amp + cab and then record via microphone, or feed into FX boxes and add some grit or dirt post-recording. This allows for some more flexibility as regards different tones etc.

    edit - here's a band demo track with my bass recorded direct (Mex jazz with Dimarzio pickups, roundwound nickel strings, bass -> Bass Compactor (with low compression value) -> PC sound card:

    No grit, but a nice big fat sound that I like a lot. :)
  11. harry manback

    harry manback

    Jul 19, 2005
    I just had the same problem today, I went to the studio and recorded 2 tracks of my bands upcoming album both direct into a Universal Audio LA-610 tube preamp, one of the songs sounded just great, a really clean warm tone, the other sounded like crap, noisey highs (they both were recorded with the same bass). I keep insisting to the engineer that i should bring at least my 2x10 and get it micked, but he keeps telling me that it sounds good and the rest can be done in the mix... i should just beat up the guy
  12. Futurebass


    Jun 22, 2005
    I always use both DI and amp in a mix. If you don't record the amp during tracking you can always feed the DI signal through an amp at the mixdown stage. This gives good results, presuming the DI signal was recorded properly.

    Warning Bassists! Recording engineers are lazy mother****ers and will be happy to compromise your sound for their own laziness. They also have a tendency to think that every bassist has the same intentions and same tone. You must protect your sound because they won't. Be vigilant.
  13. el_Kabong


    Jul 11, 2005
    Yes they are all the same. Unlike bassists, who as you point out are unique individuals, each and every one.
  14. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    You guys all provided awesome feedback. I am going to rent a DI box and go direct, and I will also mic the amp. I like this idea and hopefully my producer is up for it. To him the bass sounds good in the mix, he says "Don't worry it's fine, trust me" :meh: well it does not sound like I want it to, so it will probably need to be re-done.

    I want to try different EQ settings, but am not very knowlegable with "Parametric EQ". Can a Parametric Equalizer be rented at most music stores? Will it be hard to adjust?

  15. RevGroove

    RevGroove Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2002
    Burlington ON Canada
    Manager, Account Services: Long & McQuade Ltd. (Burlington); MTD Kingston Basses International Emerging Artist; Bartolini Electronics Emerging Artist
    Which amp are you using to record? You may not need to use a DI box if your amp has a decent XLR out. Also, which Apex Condensor were you using...how experienced is your producer?

    Again, it'll sound different once it's properly mixed...
  16. WOOOOOOOO......that is a pretty unfair generalization. I am not only a bassist but an engineer as well, so I take a little offense to that comment... :D You are right that SOME engineers are lazy mother****ers, I mean after all, some of them are people who wanted to be in music but were to lazy to devote the time to learning an instrument!! :eek:They ARE lazy mofos!!

    Anyway, to the topic, I use both miced (EV RE20, AKG D112, Sennheiser 421, Shure SM57/Beta 57 in a pinch, Audix I5 in a pinch, AKG C414, Neumann U47, U67, or U87 - there are many others you COULD use but shoot for a larger diaphram mic wherever possible) cabs and a GOOD DI. DO NOT skimp on the quality of the DI or you may as well keep using the cheapest thing you can find.

    As far as micing is concerned don't necessarily think that the best place for the mic is near the cone of the speaker, unless you LIKE the sound you hear with your ear on the cone. :D I have found that with experimentation of placement it is possible to get a fairly accurate micd sound from a track. You may be surprised that the BEST spot to mic the cabinet is at a point about 4-6 FEET away from the cab and UP at ear level (which is where you are hearing the tone you want!!) This will vary and could even be further away from the cab in some rooms. Think about this for a second, if you are listening at one point why would you stick that mic on the cone anyway? Room accoustics, bleed from other instruments, ambient noise...these are ALL (plus many others) good reasons to put the mic in close.

    So what do you do? First of all, I ALWAYS run a DI. Whether we like it or not, a GOOD DI will yield a very good representation of the instrument itself. By having the DI there you can also blend it with the mics to have the best of both worlds. Then I use SEVERAL different mics!!! A 57 or an Audix I5 (I prefer the I5) are VERY good inexpensive mics you can use in tight right in front of the cone. If you have a horn or tweets in the cab, keep the mic toward the cone!! You may want to move the mic so that it is putting the high end OFF Axis to the mic. I like the Sennheiser 421 or EV RE20 as a midfield mic about 3-4 feet from the cab at about waist level. An AKG C414 or a Neumann U47 at about ear level about 6-8 feet away from the cab (or in a corner of the room up high) is an excellent ambient mic and typically you will find that a blend of all 3 will yield VERY close to what the cab sounds like in the space. (Assuming your channel EQ is Fairly flat)

    Keep in mind that if you hear to much of "the room" in the blended sound pull back the distant mic first and "listen". Did it go away, solo the channels one at a time to find the offending source. Adjust where necessary and blend these with the DI signal. I ALWAYS PRINT THE DI CHANNEL TO TAPE. IF there are phase problems or frequency masking later, I always have the DI as reference. If I have the tracks I like to print all 3 or 4 or 5 or 6 (you can get as creative as you have the tracks to do) BUT you can blend them all into 1 track and have the DI on the other and when done properly you will have 1 heck of a bass sound. (people book me for my bass, drum and guitar tracks alone!!) By the way, you can use these same techniques for great guitar tones and FAT drum tracks as well. EXPERIMENT!!! There is no right or wrong, only good sound or bad sound!!

    The best advice I can give you is EXPERIMENT a lot...Each room will be different no matter what!! Have fun and Rock on!!


  17. spectorbass83


    Jun 6, 2005
    I am the head seen here http://www.yorkville.com/products.asp?type=71&cat=33&id=85

    It is hooked up to a 4x10 Yorkville speaker cab.

    The mic I am using is a Apex415 Three-pattern large diaphragm condenser microphone.

    My producer is self taught. he has been doing this for about 1 1/2 years...
  18. RevGroove

    RevGroove Commercial User

    Jul 21, 2002
    Burlington ON Canada
    Manager, Account Services: Long & McQuade Ltd. (Burlington); MTD Kingston Basses International Emerging Artist; Bartolini Electronics Emerging Artist
    Ah, old faithful!

    Okay, you can go lineout from the bass head to the DI, but I would also using a quality DI or pre ( including but definetly not limited to Sansamp BDI, BBE DI100x or BBE DI1000) if at all possible.

    I myself prefer to use a Bass/Kick drum mic...if you're using Apex, that would be the Apex 125, but any kick drum mike will do...so would a Shure SM57. If I was miking, I'd close mike the cab with an "instrument mic", and then place the condenser mic some distance away to catch the ambience of the room...follow? I'm probably not explaining it right...but the practice of recording using more than one method and then mixing the sum OR selecting the best sounding track is a good one.

    Which 4x10 are you using, the blue covered one or the one painted black?
  19. 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.

    I'm very sorry to hear that you don't hear satisfactorily recorded bass lines very often in the studio, and I didn't mean to give the impression that recorded basses tend to sound bad, just different than they sound in the room, due to factors too numerous to list, and often the difference is imperceptable to 99% of the listening public, or the bass player just hasn't heard their bass that closely isolated before.

    For the record, one of my bands is mixing down it's 5th studio release, and we just decided to toss all the mic'd bass tracks in favor of the DI alone. The extended midrange response (500hz-2khz) response I like from my bass cab was stomping all over the mix. The DI signal alone was much clearer and sits in the mix better. Although it's not quite what I would like for a bass tone, it moves air when turned up, and compliments the band better than my "ideal" tone.

    For the record, we went Direct with a prototype SansAmp Bass DI (yup, the prototype from Tech 21 itself that later became the BDDI) into a Groove Tubes ViPre, into an LA-2A, into Pro Tools. The mic'd track was recorded using a Neumann M149 and an EV PL-20.

    DI is not evil, just another option, and one that I would highly recommend printing to tape (or hard drive) no matter what else is going on. At the very least you'll be able to reamp it later. To be blunt, part of the reason a lot of bassists complain about a DI sound is that their own instrument doesn't cut it tonewise, IME--an amp is required to bring out its character. If this is you, I'd recommend that you just EQ it after the fact, find an active EQ to work with, or run a line out from your bass amp, whatever it takes, and record a direct signal somehow along with the mic'd track.

    When I first started playing bass, I insisted that a studio always mic me, and it created hassles for the engineer and often resulted in a sound that was difficult to work with and limited in dynamic and frequency range. The bass tone sounded awful direct, but that was because I had my SR400's tone set to drive my amp, not sound good by itself. Expiriment when in the studio, and you'll start to isolate what works for you from what doesn't. The key, in my mind, is not to get hung up on one technique over the other, and always be open to change your habits to better suit a given project.

    As always, just my opinion and experience. It just looks like some people were starting to gang up on engineers and DI's, and since I am frequently an engineer using DI's myself, I kind of took umbrage to that.

    After all this, you ARE going to post clips, right, spectorbass83? :)
  20. DaveMcLain


    Jun 19, 2005
    Cuba MO
    Over the years I've experimented with all sorts of ways to record my bass including direct and with a mic. What I've found that works the best is a large diaphram condenser in this case a Groove Tubes Model 1 close mic'ed on a 2x10 cabinet. I put the mic on the speaker where the dust cover meets the cone. The cabinet is placed in isolation and I never play it all that loud pretty quiet actually. I listen to the studio monitors while playing. I just use my live rig for an amp to power the cabinet and right now that's a SansAmp RBI preamp and a Crown Macro Tech 1200.

    I don't think it matters all that much which cabinet you use, I've used a Carvin 2x10 as well as an EA NL210 with equal results, I don't run the horn tweeter at all but I guess you could, I don't think it would help the clarity being close mic'ed but you never know.

    What I get back from the recorder is a very smooth tone will lots of low frequency detail and that's something that is hard to explain. It's not like the sound is extremely bass heavy or trebbly but the low end has a real clarity with balls and the trebble is clear and not overemphasized.

    My theory is that even though it's not real loud the speaker still moves a lot during the recording and this makes it easier for the microphone to pick up all the nuance of the sound, I'm not sure exactly why, but it works. I've also found that it works better using a large condenser mic than a dynamic, again I think it's because of the close mic'ed situation, the dynamic gets too boomy and the low end lacks the clarity that I like.

    I did all the tunes on our new CD with this basic setup except for one song where I played a fretless bass, on that track I used a Groove Tubes Brick preamp which worked fine and gave a different sound that I needed for that song.

    I would experiment and find out what works best for you, I think you'll find one or two 10 inch speakers will work great and they will produce enough cone movment to capture what you want without causing other problems.