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The eventual death of bass heads

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by taowin, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. taowin

    taowin Not me. That's Louis Armstrong as a kid! Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Berkeley CA
    I sometimes gig just using a Zoom B3 and a powered PA speaker and I notice that maybe this is where, tradition aside, amps are heading. When it comes to bass playing our hands are tied and our feet are free. I don't need dials, I need foot controls for all the variables represented on a bass amp's face. Why not put all the bass amps controls on the ground? There's no need to have them up on top of the speaker. Most monitor and audience sound comes out of powered PA speakers anyway. Maybe we'd need powered speakers specially tuned for bass but it seems far better to put the power in the speaker box not the same unit that has the controls on it. I'm picturing a whole new realm of amp systems, foot pre-amps with controls, and separate powered bass speakers. What do you think?
  2. AngusHasMoxie


    Mar 11, 2013
    Easthampton, MA
    Formerly endorsed by Carvin, Basson and Dimarzio

    Why? The cost. Powered speakers cost more, and offer less flexibility than an old passive box.

    Although, I do think things like the Axe FX with a massive footboard is a good idea, there will always be traditionalists, so the old fridge with a tube amp on top will remain, as it has for the the last 50 years.
  3. Gab124

    Gab124 The path is greater than the destination

    Dec 30, 2006
    For the time being I do not see a large exodus from dedicated amps and cabs. Yes, there are great benefits from running ampless with IEM etc, and that is common. But high quality stage sound is highly sought by many and there is currently not much that can compete with the many flavors of amps and cabs out there. Just my .02
  4. taowin

    taowin Not me. That's Louis Armstrong as a kid! Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Berkeley CA
    Do powered speakers really cost more than a speaker plus the power amp on a bass head? I doubt it, in part because there's a much larger market for the former than the latter.
  5. tbirdsp


    Sep 18, 2012
    Omaha, NE
    Do you really need to change the "variables represented on a bass amp's face" that much? I can see having some kind of switchable drive control, but I personally don't tweak the tone controls much after getting them set.
  6. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    With modern bass heads being so lightweight and powerful (smaller than most preamps back in the day), I actually see the interest in powered cabs declining.

    A good all in one head with EQ to keep your tone similar in different rooms, and a pedal board will get you where you want to go.

    Also, amp designers/engineers are much better at melding a preamp with a power amp (gain, impedance matching, etc.) than a player 'randomly' attempting to match a given preamp to a given powered cab's input circuitry.

    That being said, I think small powered speakers that can be scaled up for 'club' and 'privates' PA systems is a big idea that seems to be growing. I just subbed with a band with a digital board that was the size of a phone book, with 8 inputs and 6 separate monitor out mixes. Small powered monitors and mains.... amazingly simple, small, scalable system.

  7. I go both ways... but honestly the head and cab gives me more flexibility. Have 5 cabs and 4 heads yet only 1 powered speaker. I am a tiny bit amp crazy at the moment, but I think I finally found my sound. I am currently, though, working on get my B3 setup to presets I like and probably switching to a power amp and a cab. I also use a VT Deluxe so I have lots of redundancy in my arsenal.
    BTW I am not a huge effects guy so the B3 has way more in there that I will every use.
  8. mystic38


    Dec 4, 2012
    Mystic CT
    If you dont want tradition...they why not just email an mp3 of your performance and request direct deposit for payment?... no late night, no hangover, and no schlepping gear.:D

    PA cabs just are not designed for bass...they dont have the bass response and are clinical in tone.. in a pinch who cares, but I have a DSP engineered 600W PA cab with a (very unusual) extended frequency response to 45Hz..and for bass, tonally it doesnt hold a candle to the BG250 which is $200 cheaper, 20lbs lighter, and no zoom pedal required.

    My streamliner weight nothing..goes everywhere, can be the EQ and DI or i can take any cab that fits the venue..micro heads and a couple of different cabs is where bass is going..not pedal+PA
  9. taowin

    taowin Not me. That's Louis Armstrong as a kid! Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Berkeley CA
    My, what a bunch of conservative traditionalist nay-saying. Maybe I should reframe the question to see if I can inspire a tad more blue-sky thinking. Amps are changing right?, perhaps more rapidly than ever. So what would you guess will be the configuration of choice maybe 20 years from now if we survive the climate crisis? ;-)
  10. AngusHasMoxie


    Mar 11, 2013
    Easthampton, MA
    Formerly endorsed by Carvin, Basson and Dimarzio
    they do cost about the same, but think about stereo systems. Sure, you can get everything in one box, but the people who are really serious about it buy component by component instead, for flexibility.
  11. AngusHasMoxie


    Mar 11, 2013
    Easthampton, MA
    Formerly endorsed by Carvin, Basson and Dimarzio
    Advanced Neo cabinents, you probably wont be able to find ceramic speakers besides from specialized sources. I think we'll see wide scale composites being used to build bass cabs. So we'll have lighter, sonically superior sound reproduction, and JimmyM will plop a 1960s SVT on top of them, and proclaim "THIS IS TONEEEEEE"
  12. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    More powerful, smaller bass heads, and more powerful, smaller neo cabs:D

    Again, powered cabs just move the amp section to the speaker versus the head... nothing much innovative there.

    Markbass originally spec'd a 'powered speaker/floor preamp' like you describe for their Alain Caron model, but moved away from it after I assume some consumer feedback. Jim Bergantino produced a very nice powered cab with DSP circuitry to 'flatten' the box a bit, and also provide targeted compression to get a bit more overall volume out of the boxes. Nice execution, relatively little consumer interest, from what I saw anyway, and some difficulty with the gain matching, etc. of various pre's that I mentioned earlier.

    I would guess that, in the future, you would start to see some easy to use and understand DSP circuits on bass heads, so that you could more exactly match a head to a cab.
  13. In my secondary band, which has powered 15" PA cabs, I sometimes play without a bass cab. I use a floor box as you indicate and it runs through the PA mixer. However, that is just set flat and I control everything on the floor and with the two magic knobs on my P bass.

    Works fine for certain venues. However, I would never give up owning bass cabs as well, because I need/want them at many venues, including my next two gigs coming up.
  14. taowin

    taowin Not me. That's Louis Armstrong as a kid! Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2007
    Berkeley CA
    Kjung says "Again, powered cabs just move the amp section to the speaker versus the head... nothing much innovative there."

    I'm not asking about tech innovations but changing market demand. And ask Jobs, a few early prototypes don't dictate what's possible or what will happen to demand over the long run. Maybe you're all absolutely correct. We'll never ever get desirable pre-amp footpedals and we'll never use them as subs for amp heads. And maybe demand will change.
  15. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    +1 Just don't see the need that would fill. Anything you want to do in your first post, you could do easily now. Not sure how putting the power amp in the cabinet would make that any more useful.

    Again, I am one who rarely touches a knob on stage, and gets all my tonal variation on a gig from my hands. I know there are guys who use huge pedal boards, and I guess I can see the beauty of eliminating the amp head, putting a small preamp on the pedal board, and then just having a powered speaker to schlep. I get that. Not sure what the demand is though. Seems small, but again, we tend to hang out with other bassists who are similar to us (at least I do). So, just one small perspective from me, who is more into a relatively neutral amplification system without bells and whistles.
  16. Tuned


    Dec 6, 2007
    In 20 years bassists will start with whatever is cheap in their area, and progress towards more expensive equipment that addresses shortcomings of their cheap crap, based on what they've heard work well for others. There will never be one dominant configuration as there is way too much room for personal bias. Same as it is today, same as it was 50 years ago.
  17. markkoelsch


    Sep 6, 2008
    Personally, I think a blend of traditional and what you are saying is more likely. In a sense though this has existed for quiet some time.

    For instance, I would like to have a great sounding preamp, with both tube and solid state, flexible eq, and a good compressor. I would also like all of those parameters to be loadable via preset and selected via a midi footcontroller. In my experience, I have not heard a preamp that I liked much that has these features. I have only tried one or two modeling preamps, and frankly did not care that much for them. The only pre I liked at all that had some midi preset capability was a Trace about 20 years ago or so, but then again it has the trace silid state vibe going, which is great if you want that, but a warm tube amp it is not.

    Conversely, if you are willing to haul a bunch of gear you can do this using a Rocktron/Bradshaw switching gear and non-modeling preamps, effects as you choose, and power is only limited by your wallet, strength of your back, and your sanity. I started to go this route, but ran out of the desire to do it. I have not gigged in a long time so the need for this much flexability on the fly became a mute point. Really, I just need the tube pre, a compressor, and the midi controller. Anybody want a Rocktron loop switcher with about 40 hours on it?

    Alas, I hit a point where what I want now is simpler. A Mesa M6 Carbine would probably do, or a Shuttlemax 9.2. Throw it in my rack with a power conditioner, Korg DTR-1 tuner, and my Frequency Central OD on the floor and I would be a happy guy.

  18. NightTripper


    Oct 20, 2011
    I imagine that in twenty years, a big, old SVT rig will still sound better than anything else. ;)
  19. If a bass was just a bass then I could see the OP's point. It's not, it's a tool of musical expression and what comes out is different for each and every one of us. Some like to sound like an upright. Others want "grit" or "hair" in their signal. Still others want that full tube overdrive colouring their sound. The palette is truly vast and no single amplification system is going to do it all. That's why so many differing amps are out there.
  20. stingray96191


    Jul 27, 2001
    Pittsburgh, PA
    Unofficially Endorsing Ernie Ball Music Man Guitars
    Do professional players use any zoom pedals? I never came across a zoom pedal that wasn't a bad sounding plastic pile of crap, that did nothing for bringing me useable tone.
    Now in the field of micro recorders they do a good job. But effects pedals. Really...

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