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Tube vs. SS Sitting in the Mix

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by betardfoosier, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. betardfoosier


    Feb 13, 2011
    I am not starting a battle here. I just know that I have heard certain types of amps SIT in a mix more naturally than others. I know ampeg 810s do this well, although I think they lack a little bottom end. I currently run a GK 700rbii into 2 PV 410TX cabs. Although I like the solo tone, it just doesn't SIT in the mix, it either disappears behind the guitar/synth, or covers them up. I know, mids cut, fighting freqs between instruments, etc, but do tube heads naturally sit into a mix better, or is it entirely how settings are manipulated?
  2. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
    Are tubes natural or are transistors? Yes, they aren't.

    Seriously, I don't think there is anything here except one's own preferences, which of course are fine.
  3. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    +1 it's more just a matter of how your amp is eq'd, and whether or not you have adequet speakers for the job. Nothing more.
  4. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    What sits well with you when you listen to your favorite songs, favorite groups?
  5. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    Tube vs. SS has absolutely nothing to do with how the bass sits in the mix. There are tons of variables that come into play but tube vs. solid state is going to be on the very bottom of that list. Without a doubt the biggest influence is going to be the mix engineer. They are responsible for sculpting the mix. One thing a lot of people don't understand is that something which sounds fantastic by itself often sounds terrible in the mix. The producer will have an influence as well, and even the arrangement of the song will make a difference.

    The kick drum and the bass line are often locked together and they of course often cover competing frequencies. One technique often used to get a kick drum to cut through is to put the bass through a compressor with a very fast attack and trigger via the sidechain fed from the kick truck. This quickly ducks the bass so that the two aren't competing as much. That's just one of a myriad of techniques that are used when you have two instruments that compete for the same frequency range.

    The way you apply EQ on your preamp or even on your bass can potentially play a roll. The mix engineer can make a grand piano sounds like a toy piano in the mix but they can't make a toy piano sound like a grand piano. The point there is that if your bass sound is all fundamental and you have the highs and mids rolled off, no amount of EQ at the board can bring that back. Of course most engineers will at the very least take your bass direct in to the board. I'd want options myself so if I was recording bass, I'd take a direct line from the bass (not from the amp's direct out) and I'd also mic the bass cab as well (and here's another place to point out that my choice of mic is going to make a MUCH bigger difference than whether or not the pre and power amp are tube or solid state). If your tone works in the mix, I'm going to favor that but if it's simply not something that works with the producer's vision, I'm going to use the DI track.

    Cheers, Joe
  6. jmattbassplaya

    jmattbassplaya Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2008
    Tampa, FL.
    There's no more difference between tubes and SS and how they 'sit' vs how different amps just sit differently in a mix.
  7. Russell L

    Russell L

    Mar 5, 2011
    Cayce, SC
    Very good post, Pete. If only all FOH folks understood it so well.

    When there is no PA support I find that my mids are my best friends when it comes to cutting through. Of course, it only takes one other instrument that is eq'd wrong to mess me up, no matter what I do. Keyboardists are most likely the culprit, sometimes guitarists, and kick drums when they're mic'd. Lord knows, I fuss about it when it happens.
  8. shewhorn


    Jan 30, 2012
    Boston, MA
    :D:D:D I just caught my error here... I have no idea what a kick truck is.... perhaps instead of buses some marketing department has decided that their product has trucks? :p

    So umm... track. Yeah. Kick track is what I meant.
  9. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Maybe it's just a case of the natural compression from the SVT working for you in this instance?
  10. chaosMK


    May 26, 2005
    Albuquerque, NM
    Hi-fi into an old tube amp
    Sounds like you have an EQ issue. Dial it in kind of "harsh" solo and you might blend in in the way you are wanting to.

    If you overdrive a tube head a little (or add mild OD otherwise), the grit often smooths out in the mix and you get a little more presence without having to increase actual volume. My experience at least. If you listen to a lot of classic bass tracks solo'd, you might be surprised how dirty they are.
  11. recording (and some live sound engineers) have been using some kinds of vintage technology to make instruments "sit" better. Transformer based designs sound more pleasing to my ears than electronically balanced ones. Almost all tube amps are transformer based, so you would think that by going tube you would reap the same benefit that a transformer brings to a TAB v72 or Neve 1081. But then there are also some pretty blah sounding transformer designs too. On the great end of the spectrum you have a lift in just the right freqs, a sight compression, and a taming of transients. On the other end you have mud and poor headroom, narrow bandwidth.
    Ofcourse transformer does not mean tube only. There hve been transformers in solidstate for decades!
    Me I like as much of that fat magnetic field sound in my music as possible, but for some kinds of tone it gets in the way.
  12. billfitzmaurice

    billfitzmaurice Commercial User

    Sep 15, 2004
    New Hampshire
    Owner, Bill Fitzmaurice Loudspeaker Design
    It's the speakers. The sealed cabs typically used with tube heads don't have the low bass capability of vented cabs usually used with SS heads. As a result the sealed cabs tend to be more midrangey, and that cuts through the mix. You can get the same result with SS and a vented cab, you just have to know how to use your EQ. Pull down a bit on the lows, boost the mids. You like the solo tone simply because it is solo, there's nothing else present to mask your mids. What sounds best solo seldom sounds all that good in a band setting, so if you adjust your EQ to sound great solo it won't sound great when you're not.
  13. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Well said and a concept that most won't accept.
    I spent years as a teenager trying to disporve this.

    Yes a hi-fi, full range bass (or piano) sounds great in your living room. If you have 10 instruments all with a full freq range of 100 Hz to 10kHz, they will sound killer individualy; when you put them all in a mix without individual tonal characteristics it often times into a big bowl of unidentifed slop which is also called mud, poop or trash in a mix down session.
  14. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Yep, wasted many years with that sound here too. Nowdays, if I'm messing with a new speaker, amp or whatever I don't even try solo tone anymore. I set up what I know is going to work good live and see how that sounds. Seeing as i do this "solo", it usually ends up sounding like crap. If anybody happens to be around, they'll likely think I suck. The worse it sounds there, the better it'll sound live, so to speak.
  15. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005

    Agreed with all of the above - particularly this:

    "What sounds best solo seldom sounds all that good in a band setting, so if you adjust your EQ to sound great solo it won't sound great when you're not."

    Also, those specific cabs are a bit mid-scooped, so they won't help you hear yourself in a band mix without some EQ help...

    - georgestrings
  16. will33


    May 22, 2006
    OP, on your GK, bump up the lowmid knob for fatness/thickness rather than the bass knob. Run the bass knob at 12:00 or even turn it down a notch. Bump up the highmid and/or boost knob for definition in your notes rather than the treble. This will sound pretry ratty on it's own but you'll hear yourself good in even the loudest of bands and will sit in the mix nicely out in front of the band. So get out front a ways to hear the results of your adjustments. I assume you're playing rock, as a bass sits itself nicely without doing all that stuff with cleaner guitars like blues/country, etc.
  17. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005
    Agreed - also, with that amp the Contour knob can be a band mix enemy - I start out with my Contour @ noon, and turn it counter-clockwise 'til I'm where I want to be in the mix...

    - georgestrings
  18. will33


    May 22, 2006
    Ya, forgot about the contour thingy. ( my 800 has a switch I don't use ).

    Good way to use yours. OP, contour = mid scoop = can't hear the bass. Use in small doses.
  19. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    As Chaos mentioned, sometimes the subtle clipping of a tube amp adds a little warmth that sits well in the mix. However, the overall sonic qualities of a tube amp versus a solid state amp aren't that different when it comes to how well each sits in a mix. As others have mentioned, quality speakers and good EQing are two of your biggest friends. Also, other players need to be cognizant of how they're EQed and where they sit in the mix. I'm to the point that I won't even considering working with a guitarist who uses a smiley-face EQ. The scooped guitar sound just sounds like ass and makes the entire band sound like crap - no ifs, ands, or buts (and I know some people won't like hearing this, but while I thought he was a great guitarist, I always though Dimebag's painfully scooped guitar tone sucked squirrel nuts).

    As far as what sounds good solo vs. what sounds good in the mix, I find that when I get a tone that's slightly honky when soloed, it sits very nicely in the mix. Don't be afraid of the upper bands on your EQ. I find that a lot of bass players shy away from the highs, thinking they're too shimmery. The truth is that you generally don't "hear" those highs so much in a mix, but they're what's giving you presence.