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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 got a PM saying that the backing tracks were too a bit too loud relative to the bass track -- as I mentioned before, I got different impressions of the balance depending on what I was using to listen, but I'm inclined, after my most recent listen, to think that that's right and the bass tracks should be louder. (As I mentioned before, it wouldn't take much to "turn down" the backing tracks a few dB and repost -- if you guys feel this is necessary let me know, but if it's close I'll leave it.) This same poster also said he'd like to hear the tracks soloed.

    The clips below are the same as above, just with the backing tracks removed, though I guess they could be closer in volume since GarageBand normalized each on mixdown. Same amps in the same order, though -- A here is A above, etc.

    In either these or the "mixed" tracks, you can jump around the different sections by clicking on the part of the track that you want to hear -- handy if you just want to listen to each on the last bit, for instance.





     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2015
    mrphattay and B-string like this.
  2. murphy

    murphy

    May 5, 2004
    Toronto, Canada
    Now I like D more than E

    D is my fav pick and I would like that preamp

    Delete my previous comments as I no longer hear them that way
     
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2015
    dukeorock likes this.
  3. This largely confirms my earlier findings. A & E perform well - they are just unexceptional (even forgettable) in this field of competitors. B, C & D are exceptional, with C& D having a little more articulate bass, harmonic richness and better (longer) sustain. Of C & D, C is just a little more dynamic, and has less electronic glow/edge than D. D tends toward being too analytical.

    Here is my swag on which is which: C & D are very similar, so I suspect that they are the same brand/designer (Demeter), with C being the earlier 1.5 (all tube) version. B is likely Monique. E is the GB, and A is the instrument direct.
     
    dukeorock likes this.
  4. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Astrosonic, your instincts serve you well, and I very much enjoyed following your reasoning. The results are indeed:

    A) Direct
    B) Jule Amps Monique
    C) Demeter VTBP 201
    D) Demeter HBP1 (800D, but the amp section wasn't used)
    E) Genz Benz GBE 1200

    It's late and I'm typing on my phone, so I'll leave it at that for the moment, but I'd like to come back and discuss the different (pre)amps (the Genz is feeling a bit snubbed). We'll have to determine the details of your fabulous prize package as well.

    Thanks for playing, and thanks to all who showed an interest!
     
  5. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    I didn't think the GB was bad. Better than A. But it's hard to argue with B and C. Was surprised to see that one I thought was Monique was the VTBP, but I figured it was either B or C. No, honestly I did ;) Astro's deduction skills are way sharp, though. I didn't really pick up on any similarities between C and D. I preferred D to A but I thought A, D or E could be the direct signal so I didn't want to make myself look too bad by guessing wrong.
     
  6. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    C and D were my favorites, with C in the lead. Funny that at one time I had that pre and didn't like it :)
     
  7. JoelFT

    JoelFT Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2011
    Newnan, GA
    C and E were my favs but, then again, I own a GBE1200 and it just sounds so familiar. I'm a little shocked that I didn't like the Monique very much. The Demeter VTBP was very pristine and full.
     
  8. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I enjoyed the whole exercise a lot more without the backing tracks -- thanks for that Mark. Still liked the Demeters the most, but the Monique, and really everything, moved a bit closer for me on the second go-round. My old, well abused ears get listening fatigue pretty easily these days, which was a big part of my motivation for asking to hear the bare tracks.
     
  9. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I was never too crazy about that one in the flesh myself, but recording can definitely be a different movie.
     
  10. Mark,

    Thanks for all the work in posting this. It was fun, but a bit of a trojan horse - I'm now interested in a high quality bass preamp. Of course, the question remains, how much of this phenomenal bass tone will get through a partnering power amp. I'm sure that some combinations will be more synergistic than others. I don't generally play large venues, so I may be able to get by with 100 - 200 tube watts. I wonder how the preamps in some of the all-tube heads stack up to the Monique and Demeters.

    RE: details of my fabulous prize - just send me the least of this test group! :)
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
  11. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I'd be interested to hear opinions of these again with the preamps EQ'ed differently. ;)

    That's me being a devil's advocate...because there's enough 'flex' in what most preamps/amps can do that different settings might net different results from listeners.
     
    Cashu likes this.
  12. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    No horses, metaphorical or otherwise, intended. That said, if you dig tubey tone and don't need a zillion watts, I'd recommend checking out a Mesa Walkabout. Great tube feel that's very responsive to gain and technique, a harmonically rich midrange, and a super-flexible EQ. It has its own voice -- I wish it were a bit more neutral (well, neutral-to-my-ears) sounding, but aside from that, and if the power (300 W @ 4 Ohms) is enough for you, it's worth checking out. Nice DI as well, though the DI level is tied to the Master volume. You can pick one up used for around $500 now.

    Speaking of the Walkabout, I have one and wish I'd included it in this group. The omission wasn't intentional -- I intended to record everything I had with a tube in it -- it was 3:00 a.m., though, and I simply forgot. :/

    Prize... you sure you couldn't use some socks?

    Totally. For the record, the Monique was the one I felt guilty about EQing badly -- or not enough. I've had a complicated relationship with Monique (not to anthropomorphize). It does some things (harmonically rich and coherent lows and low mids, touch sensitivity in fingerstyle, full sound on the bridge pickup) better than any amp I've ever played through, but I often find myself wishing for a more open top end and perhaps just a bit firmer response out of it. Boosting the highs very much is really more of a broad high-mid boost to my ear and starts to feel unbalanced past a certain point. I usually run with the Sensitivity knob pulled out (the more textured, gritty setting of Monique), turned to 11:00, and with a fair amount of mid-boost and the bass more or less flat, which is how I ran it here. In the context of these recordings, I could have dialed up the bass and treble some (I did boost the treble, but not much) or taken a little more time to listen and dial things in, in general. I thought about recording everything with the knobs at noon -- I think there's some value to that, but that's not typically how I run these pres.

    There are likewise things I love about the Demmie 201 (seemed to be the "crowd favorite" in this sampling, as far as there can be said to be one), but I find its native voicing scooped for my tastes. I run the mids at 3:00, which is as high as I can boost them before it seems to change the gain structure and dynamic response of the amp. I like the sound I get there, but I don't feel that I have a lot of room to adjust. I should experiment more with cutting bass and treble to get a relative mid-boost, but what fun is that?

    The HBP I sold shortly before posting this thread. After going back and listening to the recordings, I was like, "Oh, man, what'd I do?" The bass depth, as Astrosonic put it, was, to my ear, the best of the group, and the amp is more mid-present and solid-feeling than the 201 (not sure if that came across in the recordings), if not quite as open up top and a little thinner sounding in some bits. It's also got a more flexible EQ (I ran a bit of the parametric along with the bass, mid, treble) than the 201 and some other chi-chis, but, ultimately, isn't "it" for me, and there's still some more sonic ground I want to explore and can't if I become so attached to my gear that I can't ever let anything go... I just want to find that one piece that combines everything I like about everything I like and leaves out everything I don't. That's reasonable, isn't it?

    The Genz... I recorded this by mixing the TUBE and FET sides of the amp (for those not familiar with it, it basically has two distinct preamps, each with its own EQ section, that you can run singly or combine). There's only one tube, I don't know how it's incorporated into the circuit, and I don't think it's run at full voltage. Swapping tubes in there yields some change, but its not as tube-sensitive as the other pieces in this test. Anyway, I EQed the FET heavy on the lows and the TUBE side slanted toward the highs with a bit of overdrive when I dug in, then tweaked the EQ and levels to taste, searching for a balanced sound. That might have flattened out the dynamics some (I did hear that in the recording), but I've liked running it that way better than run either side solo. I could play with that -- maybe a bit less overdrive, not that there was much, on the tube side would yield more dynamic range. Maybe not. I could also experiment with the LF boost (which, aside from a gentle boost, rolls down the HPF, I believe). I did run the LF boost at about 50%.

    Direct is direct. Not sure what to say about that. No EQ, obviously.
     
    ghorvers and BurningSkies like this.
  13. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Some Monique stuff for contrast. Given what I and Mr. Skies said above, and that I have these on hand, I figure it won't hurt to include them for perspective.

    Different clip, different circumstances, different time, but here's a recording I made with Monique shortly after getting it. Same bass (different strings), and recorded with an adapter cable into the mic/phones jack of my Mac (didn't have an interface at the time), but the EQ is flat. Might show a different side of the amp:

    (EDIT: Below clip is bridge pickup, then both, then neck.)


    And here's a soloed track from a sketch of some months ago -- this made with a fretless P-bass (Franken-Squier!) with a Wilde P-46 pickup and cheap flats. :) I think that the EQ is flat, here, but am not sure. Sensitivity pulled out and around 10:30 or 11:00 in the case of this track and the previous.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2015
    BurningSkies likes this.
  14. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    I hear that. I find that the Monique doesn't have quite the richness that my other tube pre does, but there's so much action in that sensitivity control. These days I tend to run between 10 and high noon on it, but there are a couple songs I like to get some squish and bring it up to about 2. I also run it with the sensitivity out. I don't pull the line out though (that's a new feature to mine) and prefer to run it in the lower gain setting but cranked almost to it's maximum throw.

    The trade off to the less harmonically rich sound is that bigger tube amp feel and the definition in the note envelope which is really addictive to me. I'd say that if you're looking for 'firmer' response, I'd look at the EZ81 tube. I changed mine out briefly to find it had a totally different feel, with out the same bubbly punch. For a long time I rolled off the highs pretty drastically but then cranked the mids up to 3 or 4 o'clock. To me the mid control is a bit higher centered (or at least wide so that you get a bunch of high mids out of it) than I'm used to. I actually just ended up with a DSP power amp and am experimenting with adding a bit of boost around 180hz to get a bit more low mid punch.
     
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Yep. That sounds like a Monique. That first piece is nice because you can actual hear some of the subtleties that some amps/preamps tend to lose.
     
  16. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    You know, I said that I don't run the pres flat, but for a long time after I got Monique (relatively -- think I've had it a year or so) that's exactly how I ran it (see clips just posted above). I do have an old Rane PE-15 I could try running after it, but what I'm looking for, EQ-wise, would be more like the presence boost on the Demeter -- something gentle that keeps going all the way to the top -- and that would depend on whether those highest frequencies were there to boost in the first place. That said, I haven't played Monique live yet, and I might find that I'm really not lacking anything there... As for the separate parametric, I kinda feel like the hassle might outweigh the benefit, not to mention putting extra stuff in the signal path.

    Speaking of stuff in the signal path, I'm in a coffeshop and the Rococo Variations are playing... sometimes I miss acoustic instruments. They have their own demons and gear-chasing (soundpost adjustments! strings! rosin!), but it's nice sometimes to just sit down and play something without thinking about how your EQ/rig might be affecting it. And it's nice to have such a direct connection with your instrument. That's the feeling I chase with gear, actually, but if I'm honest a lot (but not all ;)) of it has little to do with the gear, which I guess we all already know.
     
  17. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    Going back and comparing the B and D tracks, The D has more happening in the low mids by comparison as well as being a bit more forward in the upper mid/lower treble range. Would it be possible to EQ that in to the Monique by way of it's controls? I don't think so, I think it's a little more level at neutral but then where the bass mid and treble sit, you might have a hard time. The bass control is wide, but lower than that...and the mid is wide, so you'd be able to get some of that upper range, but you'd be getting a bunch just under it too.
     
  18. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD Supporting Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    Syracuse NY
    Endorsing artist: Dingwall Guitars
    My idea with the parametric on the power amp side is that A)hopefully it is 'transparent' in terms of not screwing up what the Monique brings to the table, but B) I can easily defeat it and if I have it dialed in I mostly won't touch it. Most of the room adjustment I do is by way of high pass filtering because I'm pushing a bunch of low and I roll off so much on the top end. I'm not fussy. I just want to get up and play. For me the real pleasure in Jule's unit is the feel it brings to the table...which is punch rather than kick.
     
  19. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Yeah, I've wondered about those poweramps with DSP. Are they going to sound like a modeling amplifier? I've never heard one of those that I really liked -- all seemed to lack immediacy. But perhaps the implementation is different enough that the effect is different.

    Punch rather than kick. I think I know what you mean, but I'm going to need to reflect on that. I'm going through a bit of the same thing with cabs, now, but that's another story.
     
  20. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    At the risk of diluting the thread, here are a couple of clips of the Walkabout -- I wished I'd included it earlier, and Astrosonic's post brought it to mind (re-reading that, 100-200 "all tube" watts were mentioned, which the Walkabout's aren't, but it is a pretty loud little amp through an efficient cab).

    Again, not an apples-to-apples comparison, as it was recorded under different circumstances at a different time, but here are two Walkabout clips. These are mic'ed, not direct. Same bass, though. Played through my MAS 112 cab. I usually EQ the Walkabout pretty extensively -- sometimes I feel that I'm fighting the inherent voice of that amp a bit, but I really like how it sounds here. First clip at low gain, second at medium gain. You might note a small comic moment in the first clip.




    These were part of a "micro-amp" comparison a few months ago with a Markbass F500 and a Kustom KXB500. While the Walkabout's not exactly a micro, it's not exactly full-sized, either, and it provides a nice frame of reference for sonic detail.
     

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