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Unscientific Guess-the-Preamp Comparo: Demeter, Monique, Genz (with others later).

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by MarkA, Apr 11, 2015.

  1. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I recorded the following a few weeks ago, in the wee hours of a sleepless night. Beats counting sheep.

    As the title states, this is an "unscientific" comparison. I tried to match levels, but between the resolution of my Trackpad and/or Garage Band and the hour of the deed, it is likely not exact. Likewise, I could have recorded each amp "flat" (I mean with controls at noon) and then carefully EQed them to match as closely as possible. I did not do that. No EQ sweeps or anything like that.

    What I did was pick a quasi-random loop in Garage Band, play the first thing that came into my head along with it, and then attempted to repeat that thing, more or less, with each preamp. The first loop is on the neck pickup, the second with both pickups up full, the third on the bridge pickup, and the last with both pickups, slightly favoring the bridge. Each clip contains the same four loops and each represents a different pre/amp.

    The pres are EQed -- started with close to how I like to hear them through the cab, but made a few hasty tweaks when I heard them through headphones (not how I'm used to playing). Nothing too drastic, though I noticed a tendency to use more bass through phones than I would through the cab.

    On listening back, I can hear things I'd do differently. None of the recordings should be taken as definitive representations of any of these pres.

    The playing is loose and there are mistakes, but I had fun making the recordings and hope they're at least somewhat informative and/or entertaining for folks.

    Listening back on phones and different speakers, the perceived balance between bass and drums/backing track was different on each. If it's drastically off, I can try to change the levels in Garage Band and repost. If not, I guess I'll leave it!

    Bass is an EMG loaded reverse-P/J. D.I. of preamp --> Focusrite Scarlett 2i4. --> Macbook/Garage Band. No EQ aside from that on the pre itself and no compression or other effects.

    In no particular order: Genz Benz GBE 1200, Demeter 201 (old 1.5 rackspace version), Demeter HBP-1, bass direct into 2i4, and Jule Amps Monique. I'll wait a few days, at least, before posting which is which.


    Last edited: Apr 11, 2015
    PortlandBass77 likes this.
  2. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Gee, I thought the amp geeks here would be all over this. Either you're all saving me the embarrassment of telling me how bad my 3:00 a.m. clips are or no one wants to play.

    I'm as interested in people's sonic impressions of the different pres -- what you hear, like, and don't like -- as in the whole guessing-game part. More so. I just thought that'd be fun.

    Part of my thinking in making this is that I've accumulated more gear than I can reasonably hold onto indefinitely -- which hasn't kept me from looking at yet more stuff (darn you, Talkbass). To lessen the inevitable sting of seller's remorse and help guide me on my sonic journey, I thought it would be handy to have some document on hand, so that when I think of picking up another preamp X to replace the one I traded for a Hello Kitty Fender Mustang, I can go back and sanity-check.

    But enough about me. No judgment if you guess wrong, promise. If no one wants to guess, I'll reveal what's what in a few days.

    Last edited: Apr 18, 2015
  3. fast slapper

    fast slapper

    Dec 11, 2001
    Fresno, CA
    I think most people are a.d.d or don't have patience to listen to everything. They all sound pretty good...I like C and D overall. No way I can tell which is which. Thanks for taking the time though. Bump it back to the top at least.

    Give us a deadline. It'll force people to listen more critically and take a guess. At least it will for me :thumbsup:
  4. Very interesting. I mainly relied upon the first 2 segments. I used Grado headphones and a Mac. I tried to rate each with respect to bass depth, harmonic richness & sustain, solidity and dynamics (the best solidity corresponded to the best dynamics), and presence of electronic edginess (heard mainly on slap).

    A) fair bass depth, a little sparse on harmonics, smooth, dynamics a little subdued, a little edgy (electronic) on slap

    B) good bass depth, nice harmonic richness, smooth and solid with nice attack, clear and natural slap

    C) very good bass depth, wonderful harmonic richness, really solid & plucky, slight electronic edge on slap peaks

    D) excellent bass depth, wonderful harmonic richness, very solid & plucky, clear and natural slap tone

    E) fair to good bass depth, nice harmonic richness, fairly solid with dynamics a little smoothed, clear and natural

    Overall, I preferred 'D', although 'C' was close. Both had great harmonic richness and sustain. 'C' was slightly more dynamic, with a little more note solidity, but also had a slight electronic edge on slap.

    Nice effort! It's challenging to compare such premium grade preamps.
  5. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I decided I didn't want to ruin any illusions. :) ALso, I don't sit at my reference monitors when I use my computer, so it all sounds the same out of a set of Macbook Pro speakers.
  6. McFarlin

    McFarlin Supporting Member

    Oct 27, 2011
    Austin, TX
    Wild guessing:
    A Direct
    B Monique
    C HBP-1
    D Genz
    E VTBP-201
  7. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for doing all that. Only the third segment really reflects anything like my typical tonal needs (I don't play fretted basses, ever), and I liked D, then C best in that context. For the first two segments I think I'd reverse that. Out of these pieces I've only ever seen or played through the Demeter 201 myself, so I have no idea at all which is what. [​IMG]
  8. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Hey guys,

    Just want to say that I appreciate the replies so far. A deadline was mentioned, so why don't we say a week from now -- not so much a deadline, since that implies an assignment, as that I'll plan to post the results then.

    And, just for the heck of it, I'll send the first person to guess all five right (if such there be) a prize -- don't know what, yet, but rest assured that it will be something small and cheap. Like an Allen wrench. Or a sock. Or... wait, I have to think about that one.

    More later.
  9. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    Thanks for going through all that trouble! Fun listening for sure. I listened on a pair of Focal Alpha 80's (untreated room though). I never tried to guess which pre was which, but I preferred the tone of C overall :)
  10. OldogNewTrick


    Dec 28, 2004
    Germany, EU
    my wild guess:
    A -> DI
    B+C -> Demeters
    D -> Monique
    E -> GBE1200

    And thanks for your effort. I appreciate your sleepless night :thumbsup:

    Edit: Listening on headphones Sennheiser HD555 and Phillips InEar monitors
    Liked in that order E-D-A-C-B
  11. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I'm slow replying to this, but wanted to thank you for your specific feedback. Much appreciated.

    In my original post, I mentioned that, were I to do this again, I might dial things in a little differently. With "B" I might have dialed in just a bit more bass and treble. I went back and played B again today with this in mind -- while dialing in more bass certainly resulted in more bass, I felt that the character of the piece stayed essentially the same -- i.e., there's more to its sonic signature than EQ. That's not to say I couldn't have EQed to better effect, just that my conscience isn't quite so bothered as it was before.

    Re. "bass depth", would you elaborate on what you mean? I'm thinking "extension", but perhaps you mean more than that. "Dynamics" I'm reading as the ability to render gradations between loud and soft and to respond to transients, rather than in the guitar-amp sense of changing tone in response to right-hand attack.

    Thanks again!
  12. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Have you tried holding it up to your ear? ;) I have a Macbook and an ancient Thinkpad. The Thinkpad speaker (singular, mounted on the bottom of the computer) makes the Mac sound like an expensive home hi-fi system. Listening to music on it was a frustrating experience -- and, yes, I would sometimes pick the thing up and hold it to my ear to be able to hear a bassline. Of course, there are headphones.

    If the illusions you refer to involve my PQ:TBP (playing-quality to Talkbass posting ratio) it's too late and I'm sorry. If they involve a certain, beloved preamp, no need to worry! You know what you have and have first-hand knowledge of what it can do -- no sonic misdeeds of mine can take that away from you. (I'm hearing Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong sing that song, now.)

    Your wild guesses have netted you two correct answers, my friend. ;) The three misses are more interesting to me -- what you thought was what is intriguing. :)

    You could always try guessing based on preconceived and/or popular stereotypes. All in fun, of course. I find your answer intriguing, too, based on what I've heard of your own, excellent DIY preamp efforts. Since you didn't guess, I can't give you a "score", but I'll ask you: based on your previous experience with the 201, what were your impressions of it? Likes, dislikes...

    Each of these preamps employs from one to four tubes in various configurations. Some are more responsive than others to tube changes, but all are affected to some degree. Within the constraints of my very modest collection of inexpensive tubes, I tried to get each sounding its "best" -- that is, balancing, to my ear, having a clear and crisp bass and treble response with a present and detailed midrange -- but different tubes in each pre would yield at least slightly different results. Still, excepting tubes that are an obviously "bad" match (still somewhat subjective), each pre has a fundamental character, with different aspects emphasized or enhanced, but not totally obscured, by different tubes. That's how it seems to me, anyway.
  13. Bass depth: I was really referring to the clarity or audibility of the bass frequencies. All the preamps seemed to have adequate bass extension, but the clarity in the bass range was quite different. Those with greater audible extension conveyed a better sense pitch and note definition, and you can hear the fundamental without the note being muddy. I heard these differences well above any likely high pass filtering, so it's most likely a quality of the bass in each preamp. So, I agree that there is more to the audibility of deep bass than amplitude response, and, IME, that it can't just be EQ'ed in. I think this is true throughout the audible range, but is especially apparent in the bass. In the bass it could be related to cap quality in the signal chain, or to power supply stiffness/regulation. In retrospect, those that I rated better in bass depth also had better note definition, dynamics (plucky) and harmonic richness (the notes seemed richer, more complex).
  14. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Hmm. Well, you've got two that are definitely right and two that are definitely wrong. Hope I'm not revealing too much to the logicians here. Scratch that -- don't think about it. ;) Thanks for your list of likes! It's a guessing game for me on this end, too -- when folks say that they like a certain preamp more than another, or group together the pres in a way I wouldn't expect, I'm trying to figure out why they responded that way.

    This in itself is revealing. Feel free to elaborate if you like -- either way, thanks for sharing!
  15. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Excellent! Thanks for the clarification. You expressed/conceptualized what I was thinking/hearing better than I did. Now, might plucky preamps also show courage and determination in the face of adversity? ;) That might be a useful feature to have in an amp.
    AstroSonic likes this.
  16. murphy


    May 5, 2004
    Toronto, Canada
    Oh...I wish you'd just tell us which is which

    If I remember I think those two sounded a bit crispier to me and the others a more tubey rounder midrange
  17. Not yet :)
  18. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Thanks for elaborating!

    That's right. :)
  19. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I don't know about the other ones, but I think C is the Monique. I thought your playing was killer, BTW.
    dukeorock and murphy like this.
  20. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Dude, thanks. I confess to feeling a little insecure every time I post something like this, so I appreciate the positive reinforcement.

    As far as candidate C, I can neither confirm nor deny your guess without giving the game away. I'll take the politician's stance and say that we're forming a committee to look into the matter.
    Passinwind and JimmyM like this.

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