To "HiFi" and Back...

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by ZenG, Oct 12, 2017.

  1. Much talk about how the "hifi" sound is not desired for playing bass unless you headline in your bedroom.

    The bass needs to sit in the mix and bedroom "hifi" tone is counterproductive.

    But yet when you listen to most records, no matter what bass they used the bass sounds "hifi" or close to it when listening on a stereo that isn't using subs.

    Most of the top 40 hit songs over the past few decades, the bass tends to sound as if it's customized for a stereo recording that will be played on a stereo player so that it sounds blended in and congenial.

    I get that you need a bass to "sit in the mix". But I wonder how much they engineer that sound for a record.

    Engineering to the point that what bass you hear on the record is not at all like what they started with.
  2. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    From a player's perspective, there's the moral of the silk purse and the sow's ear: with silk purses, one gets some fundamental options pretty much unavailable to porkers, without a whole bunch of externalities, and appropriation is most often apparent. As is so often stated, there's nothing like the sound of an upright. Good basses deliver. I think most engineers would prefer to start with a little silk, no matter where they're headed with the music.
  3. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    When I think "bedroom" tone its not full range at all. Its scooped mids and boosted bass that sounds great solo but nothing but mud in a mix. Live or recorded you start with a full range tone and let the soundperson/engineer EQ out what they don't want.
    Nephilymbass likes this.
  4. P. Aaron

    P. Aaron Supporting Member

    Mike N has a quote: “Horse power sells cars, torque wins races.”

    Hi-Fi sells gear but a solid rig and helpful PA support gets the bass out there.

    Personally, I don’t think a pub-wedding crowd really concerns itself with hi-fi tone as much as just that there’s a good mix and song choice. Which most of us prefer first.
    IF hi-fidelity creeps into standard PA stuff, yay! The Bose systems gets close but a lousy room can wreck that too.
  5. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    - the sound/tone of a bass instrument on a 'great' recording is important for the 'great recording' and has no consequence (and it is not a formula) for live application. e.g., lots of TB'ers chase tones they hear (or think they hear) on recordings, ignorantly/naively assuming the sound/tone is applicable to 'live' sets.

    - a 'great' recording is a gestalt. the bass sound/tone/presence is modified/adjusted to fit into the 'greater glory' of the recording.

    - the "sit in the mix" construct (as it is used on TB) is for live engineers and has nothing to do with recordings: on recordings = "sit in the mix" can be a helpful construct for things like vocals, lead instruments, snare drums, yada yada (think genre). a bass instrument is not a big deal (i.e., it's easy!) on recordings. recording engineers and producers will adjust the bass to fit into the overall 'gestalt' which is rarely the same as "sit in the mix." on live sets, however, the bass instrument is an obstacle/problem to be overcome/resolved.

    - on a great recording = everything "sits in the mix" --- all tracks are "engineered" to accomplish that.

    - when folks say that they saw a live show and that the act "sounded just like the record" = it's impossible! (but we all accept what the 'fan' means, and we use that term ourselves to communicate a concept). e.g., a recording is supposed to sound great through a pair of earbuds, while a live set could be coming at you through a 100,000 watt concert system. it is not just the differences of scale involved here: it's the way our brains/ears work (both to deceive and to confirm objective reality).

    that is the attempt, and when you come across a 'great recording', it's part of the reason why you consider it a 'great recording'!

  6. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I've been thinking about this post all day since I read it this morning, and I'm curious as to how this discussion plays out given my own experiences with recording, mixing, mastering, and obviously with live sound.

    How are we defining "hi-fi" here? I usually associate "hi-fi" more with clean, full-range (relatively - and probably more towards highs than lows), and mildly scooped more than anything else.

    If that's the case, I personally don't believe that sitting bass in a mix for a recording is really all that different from doing so in a live setting, at least IME.

    Most engineers I know, if given a direct bass signal, will use a bit of compression, apply HPF and LPFs, nudge EQ a bit - (based on arrangement, but likely with prominent mids), and... apply some sort of tube saturation to add some warmth and bring out harmonics that help bass be heard better across a wide range of listening devices.

    That's pretty much the same process that most of us use to achieve a good live tone, give or take a step or two here or there, and at least IMO are all things that make a signal less "hi-fi". At least for rock, I'd say that there are probably more similarities between a good live tone, and good recorded tone than differences - though translating a great live tone, to a great recorded tone is where the real challenge is IMO.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2017
  7. I play what I consider a hifi setup based around my Warwick thumb NT6 and Avalon u5 running direct. I think the misconception here is thinking of hifi as super clean, scooped and or full range. There’s no rule that says you can’t use pedals into a hi fi setup for dirt, different eq, or speaker simulation. The only way I found i can get the best of both worlds is running pedals into a hi fi pre amp or DI like the Avalon. Because for example a tube amp into some 15 cabs with no horns doesn’t have the presence, clarity, or super low frequency content I want in my tone.
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  8. two fingers

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

    Feb 7, 2005
    Eastern NC USA
    Well said.
  9. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I don't think that's a misconception about what most people consider a hi-fi tone, which is what this thread is about - particularly for recording.

    Sure, you can make a hi-fi rig sound like anything you want because it's a relatively clean slate. No arguments there.
  10. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I very much disagree with this. There are many ways of attacking where and how the bass sits in the mix, and it takes a good bit of experience to choose the right plan of attack for any given recording. Especially as bass relates to the kick drum or distorted guitars.

    Style of music also has a huge influence, and it takes a good engineer to take all of those details in and produce a good mix.

    I like to sit in on mixing as much as I possibly can, and I assure this stuff is labored over - even with engineers with a ton of experience.
    Nephilymbass likes this.
  11. Ok, how would characterize it then? I don’t know what others think. I can only assume based off what I’ve heard and read from others.
  12. I agree with you. I can think of recordings for example the first korn record where the scooped bass tone with lots of low end covers up the kick to the point where half the time it’s hard to distinguish the two from one another. I watched a video of Amos from Tesseract talking about eq and how he cuts 500hz to help seperate the bass from the guitars in the mix so the bass can be loud without riding all over the guitars. Did that on our newest album using the eq on the Avalon 737 and mix wise I think it’s our best record. No ones complained that the bass is too loud or not loud enough in the mix.
  13. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    i very much agree with your observation: "there are many ways......"

    which is why i stated that it's "easy" = if there are a 'million' great ways to deal with a bass signal, choose one and move on (if that doesn't please you then choose another, yada yada).

    we're all 'bass-centric' here so we spend a lot of time cussing/discussing all things bass. but in the real world of recording: a clean bass signal can be twisted into just about anything for the production. if you're spending a lot of time in the studio (on the bass track itself) i would submit:
    - problematic signal/track/playing and/or
    - engineer(ed) indulgence = pleasing the customer (it pays to take the time to indulge the folks paying for the session!) and/or
    - OCD (fear of imperfection) on the part of the customer and/or the engineer and/or
    - improper (self-defeating) use of studio gear/appliances and/or
    - other

  14. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Maybe laboring is the wrong word - how about "much care is given" to how a bass sits in the mix.

    I would however argue that the same level of care is given to how a bass sits on recordings as to how it sits live. I stand by my assessment that while the methods may differ for each (while still being similar), the amount of care and reasoning for doing so is probably about the same.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
  15. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    I guess to understand hi-fi bass tone, you have to compare to to the more lo-fi standard.

    I associate a non-hi-fi sound for bass as a relatively low wattage vintage tube amp into a sealed cab. Less lows, less highs, a bit more harmonic distortion.

    Hi-fi tone I feel is generally considered the opposite - prominent lows, sparkling highs (this can lead to a more scooped tone, but it doesn't have to), and clean.

    This is why you can make a hi-fi system sound more lo-fi (like you and I both do with our rigs), but not the other way around.

    Since these are terms that are associated with perception, there is a ton of gray area and space left for interpretation, but that's how I generally see it.

    For lots of pop music where there's a more sparse mix, you can easily get away with a hi-fi tone and have it sound great. Try it with a dense rock mix, and it may or may not sound like mud and step all over the other instruments. Distorted guitars can take up a ton of sonic space if permitted to do so.

    Hence the trend for studios to have on hand an arrangement of vintage bass equipment to mic up and record... and frequently mix in with a direct tone with any other number of plugins, patches, and FX from the console.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2017
    Nephilymbass likes this.
  16. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    In my realm of real world recording, bass is given as much care as the other instruments. No more, no less. And a lot of that is me just sitting on a couch keeping my mouth shut and letting the engineer do his job.

    A mix is only as good as its weakest link, and a poorly mixed bass tone can absolutely ruin an otherwise great mix.
  17. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    we could agree that the bass track, in the recording process, is really important! and i think we can agree that the live bass sound is really important!

    my original point: bass in the studio = mostly easy. bass on the gig = often difficult. how much time and "care" in either application is relative to the real task/goal at hand.

    but if you ask 100 experienced studio engineers what their most difficult engineering task is: none of them (0) will say that getting the bass to 'sound right' is the most difficult thing they do. (all of them might say that it's the most important! ;))

    and good for you for "sitting on a couch keeping my mouth shut." you are a producer's/engineer's dream client. :thumbsup:
  18. Kro

    Kro Supporting Member

    May 7, 2003
    New Jersey
    Yeah, you're right there. After years of working with experienced engineers, I'm working now with a band with extra low funds who is trying to self produce tracks. I feel like sitting a bass in the mix is actually the most difficult thing for our engineer (drummer) despite any helpful direction I try to provide... so you may have hit a nerve by saying it's easy. Pros make anything look easy, regardless of how difficult or how much experience it actually takes to get to that point.

    Oh yeah, I'm well aware that we're paying him for his ear and experience. A little general direction at the beginning to what I'm trying to accomplish, and then everything after that is pretty much just speak as spoken to. ;) Thankfully the guys I'm used to working with are excellent, so all that I really have to do is tell them how good it sounds when asked. :thumbsup:
    JRA likes this.
  19. I think it's producers jumping on the bandwagon. Rather than blaze new trails they try to avoid anything that may make waves and consequently cost them their jobs by not selling. Up until the Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man, most records had the P bass thang goin' on. By the time disco and Larry Graham hit that all changed. Jazz had a similar transformation thanks to Marcus Miller. Active electronics weren't available to James Jamerson. Digital technology is arguably cleaner and more sterile than analog, that probably factors in as well. With the advancement in speakers and sound systems more wattage means more usable power than before, excluding headroom. As for the FOH techs, maybe their training or their ears tend towards "brighter is better". They must think the "best and brightest" business leaders often refer to is to be taken literally. Music isn't taught in public schools as it was in the past, so youngsters have to learn what they can how they can. Not a recipe for musical excellence, that's for sure. On the other hand, we might be getting old. Nah. Just my $.02.
  20. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Hypocognitive Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    Good point, among many. There is a moral here - it's simple mathematics really. With sound, among other things, it's much easier to add than to subtract :smug:
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