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Running Direct explanation

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by RobCamm, Apr 10, 2018.

  1. RobCamm


    Apr 10, 2018
    Hello, live engineer currently having a discussion where a colleague isn’t quite grasping the variables of running DI well.
    I feel like I understand it in a practical sense and how to and how not to do it but I’m having trouble articulating why, so can someone offer an explanation where I’m swaying and calling the client an idiot?

    Scenario; want to run a DI line as a backup to amp dying However the player refuses to use anything “common” for their high gain playing, aka they won’t plug into any XLR equipped direct gear in the realm of samsamp/ darkglass/mxr m80 etc. for what reason I don’t know, especially when playing low end metal.

    They expect to use (example) bass> pro co Rat> any DI box without any kind of cam sim/emulation which is obvious going to be an impedance mismatch and disgustingly fizzy.

    Now I know this is a terrible idea, and to bend to them slightly I’ve offered the orange Bax preamp with a Cab sim out as a halfway solution for a decent direct line (but they still won’t even use that out, and now for a frustrating reason want to use the usual out designed to hit the amp and go straight to PA..!!)

    Can someone please give a home-run answer as to why, despite there being a signal, this is a bad idea and why it’s impractical, and the simplest explanation to the difference of a general DI signal opposed to how the signal sends from a darkglass/sans/Kemper etc?

    Conor&Bass likes this.
  2. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    Can you not sit them down in a chair in front of the PA and demo these options?

    Blindfold them if necessary and make them choose. Hearing is believing.
  3. A rat is going to filter the signal and pull out most if not all of the low end from that signal, when that signal goes to foh you can not add back what isn’t there. And the lack of low end supporting the guitar/s will make the engineer have to put guitars and bass in the same area(frequencies) of the mix, and the bass will not be heard at all.

    That’s how it works but I’m pretty sure you could explain it any way you want and end with “and the bass will not be heard at all” and they will comply with your suggestions.
  4. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    The player does not have a choice if they want to be in the PA system. This is the Engineer's realm. The player plugs into whatever the engineer provides. The player can put the distortion in front of the DI box if they insist.
    Explain that going against the grain with the person in charge of the mix will likely result in the mixer smashing the tone or keeping volume lower than desired. Some players insist on sabotaging their careers and the band's stage sound by telling sound engineers how to do their jobs.

    If the player has a lot of "clout" and refuses to cooperate, place the cab sim/DI off stage where they cannot see it. Otherwise the Sound engineer risks their reputation by having the PA sound compromised.
  5. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    1. Tone shaping. A good FOH person will use the tools in his arsenal to shape the bass tone to work both with the FOH speakers (which are fullrange) and the venue. The signal that works best for that is as unaffected as possible.
    A signal which is EQ'ed to be perfectly matched with the bass cab on stage might be terrible for that purpose.

    2. Balanced signal. As long as the board is on stage and you can run a short cable, it's no problem sending an unbalanced signal. As soon as you plug into a stagebox, and send a signal via multicore to the board that is on the back of the venue, you will attract unwanted noise with an unbalanced signal.

    The FOH guys I know that are confronted with bass players with unusual stuff like that will usually rig a DI box that is straight from the bass 'as a backup, just in case' and run one signal the way the bass player wants it to be run.
    If the stuff the bass player sends works perfectly FIRST TRY, they will use it. If there is anything wrong with it, they will turn it off and use the clean DI.
  6. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    First off Welcone to TALKBASS @RobCamm !!!!!

    Second, we need to know the politics of the situation.

    Are you being hired by the band to run PA?

    Are you the house engineer for a club or event?

    These are two totally different situations.

    If you are being hired by them, you make suggestions. But, ultimately, you do what they want and keep on trucking. You can't fix stupid and you can't polish a turd. Do the best you can with what they give you.

    As for the second scenario, you have MORE power, but not veto power. You gotta pick your battles. If that one band comes in and refuses to work with you, let it go as is. If anyone comes up to you and says they sound like crap, you can say you tried.

    As a sound guy on occassion I can relate. But, I have to admit something as well. Every now and then I find something that should not work based on all of our "rules" winds up sounding amazing.

    My suggestion? If you have time, hook it up their way. Listen. If it sounds like hot garbage then tell the band it sounds like hot garbage. But admit it and roll with it if it sounds perfect.

    Having this argument before you have heard them live is an exercise in futility. You are trying to prove that something you have never heard will sound like garbage. That's an up-hill climb at best.

    Good luck with it. This kind of thing is one of the most discussed topics here.... only from the viewpoint of the bass player who insists on sending "his sound" or "her sound" to the board. It's tricky for sure.... and almost impossible to keep everyone happy.

    Take a breath. Go at it with an open mind. Try to work with them. Amplify hot garbage if you must.
  7. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    -but as the sound person, they are responsible for the sound quality. It becomes the failure of the sound person, who will likely not be rehired.
    -I highly suggest not letting members of the band replace established engineering practices with voodoo.

    If I were that sound engineer I would probably get a DI of my choice straight off the bass, then mic the bass cab like a guitar cab and mix the two to catch the Rat.
    FerK, TheDominoKid and Aqualung60 like this.
  8. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I feel like I'm missing something, what exactly is wrong with this scenario? As long as the DI in question is a decent one (cab sim or no).

    I'd dare say that the majority of cab sims are probably just a combination of high/low rolloff with maybe a small bit of EQ in between - probably nothing that couldn't be done at the board to a bass signal unless I'm mistaken.

    Is the primary issue with the way that the Rat is being used - e.g. not a great tone?

    There's probably less difference there than you might expect... unless it's really a sub-par bargain-bin DI. Sure the "darkglass/sans/Kemper" stuff will all have other tone shaping abilities, but that's usually stuff tuned in by the artist, not the sound engineer. If his tone is the sound of his bass simply into the Rat, then as long as the Rat isn't ruining the tone, I'd see no reason to not roll with it. Just my 2c.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
    Bassbeater likes this.
  9. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Again, it depends on the particulars of the contract... which we don't know. If the engineer is being hired by the venue or event promoter, he has a fiduciary responsibility to act in the best interest of those entities.

    If he is being hired by the band, thay same responsibility falls on him to act in the best interest of the band.

    If the engineer believes this is such an egregious act so as to hurt the reputation of his sound company, he should refuse the work.

    Showing up that day and putting a foot down is not the way to go about it.
    Wood and Wire and BooDoggie like this.
  10. Bassbeater

    Bassbeater Guest

    Sep 9, 2001
    I have this question too, I assume that the bassist is using the Rat to "drive" the amplifier preamp. If it were only very light pedal distortion I think it would be fine as described.

    -With all due respect, the sound person's job is always to make the venue sound good. To not do so is to fail as a sound engineer. Blaming the band for the "failure" or going with the flow and accepting the blame is not really an option if the sound person is serious about their job.
    I agree that ideally it would be nice to refuse the job in the first place, but the bands don't realize they are going to be self-sabotaging, so this situation typically comes with no warning. This is why I think the solution is to treat the bassist like another guitar. Mic the cab for the amp/distortion sound, and blend it with the pre effects DI at the board.

    If your reputation is on the line, you are being set up to fail, and it is too late to refuse the job, then it is time to politely call the shots. Better to have one band angry with you than for the venue and the crowd to think you are incompetent.
  11. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I guess that begs the question of what amp is in use also.

    The fact that this conversation is taking place before the show obviously means that there's a good bit of thought and care being taken - which is awesome. I wish I had such dedicated sound engineers for all of my gigs.

    Given that there's that level of concern, if you have a few extra bass-appropriate DI boxes around, maybe take a feed direct from the bass, and one post the Rat just so that you have a clean signal to fall back on if the Rat signal isn't working for whatever reason. Just be careful that mixing those two together isn't causing other issues if you go that route.

    Or you could just take the second feed from the amp's DI if it's a good one, set "pre" or "post" if your comfortable - and then mix or swap at the board as you see fit or if there are issues. Having options is usually best if you have time to set them up, and then you can promise your friend that you'll try to give him what he wants as much as possible, and will only deviate if necessary to address issues from the house.

    I'd say that micing could also be an option to include in the mix, though honestly given some of the issues that can arise from mixing mic'd and direct signal(s), that might be something best left off the table unless it's something you're very familiar with.

    None of those solutions require a fancier than usual DI though, or anything with a cab-sim.
    Bassbeater likes this.
  12. two fingers

    two fingers Opinionated blowhard. But not mad about it. Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    With all due respect, are you a sound engineer? Are you in customer service of any kind?

    Again, we need to know the particulars of this situation.

    But let me ask you this, hypothetically.

    You show up to run sound at a gig. You have been hired by the band, not the venue.

    You start the "polite debate" over whether or not the dirty signal is the only one you will accept. The player flatly refuses to run direct. He/she simply will not allow any kind of DI or preamp of your choice coming off of his/her bass. He/she is going to run one cable from the pedal board to the amp. You have exactly two choices.... line out from the amp or mic it. There will be no negotiations. The player's foot is down. End of story.

    What do you do? Refuse to run the bass signal? Stand there on stage and argue with the bass player? Stomp your feet and throw a fit? Go tell the venue owner?

    Nope. You inform them during sound check that it sounds like hot garbage but that you will do your best to make it work.

    Let's take it to the other scenario. The band is one of 8 bands performing that day. Same story. The bass player refuses, and I mean REFUSES, to plug into the DI of your choice and blend signals.

    What do you do? Go tell the promoter in a whiny tone stomping your feet "Zack won't let me use my toys. He only wants to use HIS toys. I'm mad!" (Because no matter how professional you try to be, that's how it will be interpreted.) Are you going to tell the whole band "Either this guy plugs into my box or you guys are not playing today!" (I have never run sound in a situation where I had the authority to make that call.... and it wo uld be asinine anyway.)

    Again, I'm with you on the tone issue. I have been in the position of having to tell all kinds of musicians that their favorite bedroom tone sounds like fresh poop... in a diplomatic way, of course. Sometimes they take my advice. Sometimes they don't. I'm not debating that musicians can show up to a show and insist on using a horrible tone. I fight the good fight..... to a point.

    But there's a point where you cross over from trying to help to battling windmills. You are fighting and imaginary demon in a battle that can't be won. Even if you stand them down amd get your way, you've lost. You will quickly gain the reputation of being a DI Nazi in the local music scene and that will hurt your company.

    We have already spent way too much time debating this not knowing the particulars of OP's situation. That's the next step. More information.
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
    Mushroo likes this.
  13. Aloe


    Apr 10, 2016
    oh, come on. I've been in places when if in-house sound engineer is too lazy to make your band sound good, you just won't play there anymore. And they will stop you after a couple of songs even at this time.

    last time I encountered this in Central Bar Odesa, where the sound "engineer" could not make not terrible sound of our condenser mic (we had very good experience with it in other different conditions).

    this all sucks, of course, but happens sometimes.
  14. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    A bass signal degrades every time it goes from electrical to acoustical. When it hits a speaker, it's changed somewhat. If that's mic'ed, it's changed some more - both phase and amplitude response (commonly called frequency response) issues are introduced at every one of these conversions. Then it hits the PA, and is converted back to an acoustical signal at the main PA speaker. The fewer of these conversions you have, the better things will sound - especially at the lowest frequencies. I play through a pedalboard - I send FOH my signal, which does have some overdrive at times, but it's done so that it isn't fizzy - there's enough eq at the right places to avoid that. As such, my bass signal comes straight out of the PA - only one conversion from electrical to acoustical. It sounds great - with only one conversion (typically a great PA), you can have plenty of room shaking rumble, if you want, and without all the degradations, it won't sound muddy.

    When I've been the FOH guy, I have, if someone asks, mic'ed their amp. I will, however, use a DI to make the low end sound good, and add their amp sound into the mix at higher frequencies to season it. As that is usually a church situation (I'm not hired by a band to do what they want, I'm there to make it sound good), I have more latitude than some folks might have to do things right - I can ask musicians to turn down, and they're trained by the worship leaders to do what I say - we don't have time for attitudes or egos.
    TheDominoKid likes this.
  15. micguy


    May 17, 2011
    By the way, a cab sim isn't typically necessary to de-fizz a distorted signal. Most decent mixers nowadays will have a high cut filter available in the channel eq that can be used to good effect - if you'd backed into that corner, hopefully you have that tool to pull out of your back pocket. I've used high cuts a lot - distorted guitars almost always sound better with one of those set to take out some of their fizz, even when the amp is mic'ed. I also use 'em on toms and kick - they sound better without the top octave or two as well.
    jimfist likes this.
  16. jimfist

    jimfist "Cling tenaciously to my buttocks!"

    Mar 28, 2011
    Boston, MA (USA)
    One thing that goes missing from a lot of the new digital consoles - especially in the lower end pro-sumer market, is the channel insert. But if you do happen to have the ability to channel insert on a raw bass DI that includes a distortion pedal, then I'd just simply carry with me a cabinet simulation device, of which there are many, and channel insert it at your discretion AT THE FOH DESK. This is no different than utilizing a compressor, noise gate, or reverb on an instrument or vocal so that it suits your style/taste.

    When musicians don't understand the problems they foist upon sound mixers, it is up the the mixer to anticipate this and have a game plan ready if at all possible and practical. The OP's post is an all too common one these days, and when you can grab something as simple as a +/-$100 box to insert on this DI channel to "tame" it, then IMHO it's a no brainer.

    Now, if your digi console doesn't is lacking channel inserts, you'll have to do some crafty routing in order to insert a cab sim device (not to mention accounting for latency when you do this if combining with a second bass channel). If you have the extra aux sends, you can get this done. It's a lot do dedicate, though, when all you need is for the bassist to understand that his DI needs treatment, and you could easily run it in line.
  17. 74hc


    Nov 19, 2015
    Excuse my ignorance as I don't have a RAT, but how is that a problem for you? I assume the DI box has the appropriate XLR balanced out. I would not call it a DI otherwise.

    Whether the RAT filters out too much of the lows, or sounds too disgustingly fizzy is going to depend on the filter and the distortion settings. I'm not familiar with the newer models, but a RAT can filter out either the highs or lows depending on what the player wants. It can be used as for distortion or a boost. It's really just like any other pedal, imo.

    I've not played one with a bass, but my son bought a used one for his guitar. I don't understand the aversion to use it. Just like any other distortion pedal, it can be overused that results horrible and fizzy bass tones.
    pbass2 and SLO Surfer like this.
  18. BrodieBrodie


    Jul 6, 2015
    Mike the Cab, take the bass out of the monitors, sit back and mix a good F.O.H sound.. it ain'
    t that tricky.. even without a DI !
  19. Wood and Wire

    Wood and Wire

    Jul 15, 2017
    I think you need to have a conversation with the bassist, asking them exactly how they want their instrument represented - what's most important to them / most integral to the sound of the band - and also what the most want to avoid / what their fears are regarding a DI signal.

    It really depends on how they are using effects : for example in your description, it sounds as if a parallel blend of clean DI (pre-effects) and either a mic'd cabinet, or a post effects/pre-EQ DI would be the best option.

    That would give the house, the defined bottom end from the instrument, and the distorted character of the effects, and even the cabinet.

    The problem with a post effects DI, is that there may be a radical swing between the relative volume of certain effects - which may be desired, when hitting the pre of a tube amp - but a total cluster **** when dealing with a DI (in which case, mic the cab).

    But there are special cases, where a parallel blend of a clean DI, with the effected/amp & cab signal will not work...

    An obvious example would be a bassist who is entirely reliant on effects - such as someone creating ambient effects with huge reverbs.

    In that scenario, the actual notes they are playing on the bass, may be utterly nonsensical, and non-musical, but excite the chain of effects in the intended way.

    If the FOH engineer insisted on putting a clean DI of the bass, through the PA for all to hear, it would be a total train wreck.

    I suppose it's entirely possible that the bassist you are dealing with, is intentionally using the Rat to thin out their sound, during the passages it is active, and that a clean DI would ruin that effect...???

    However, I suspect that they simply don't want the tone of an amp/cab simulator imparting a tone that is in conflict with the tone of their own cabinet (people do buy cabinets because they love the tone, not just because they're loud/affordable).

    Some people hear the name Ampeg, and think bright, crunchy mids - others hear Ampeg, and think dark, scooped mids. So it could be that they dislike Sansamp et al, either out of misperceptions, or from a previous conflicts of interpretation, between themselves, and another FOH engineer.

    There's nothing inherently wrong with taking a DI signal (without amp/cab simulation) directly out of their Rat, with regards to impedance, and who knows - maybe this bassist likes that fizzy sound.

    You can, of course, patch in the amp/cab sim on the console, without them ever knowing, if that helps the show.

    Where things get controversial, is when the FOH engineer decides not to include the mic, or effected signal - but only allow the clean DI to be audible - which completely misrepresents the band, the bassist, and their genre of music.
    Bassbeater and Stumbo like this.
  20. jimfist

    jimfist "Cling tenaciously to my buttocks!"

    Mar 28, 2011
    Boston, MA (USA)
    In case there are some of you who have missed this key point. Mic'ing a cabinet does not solve the problem of the amp dying, right?

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