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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 needed a bit of time away after that last round. I've put the results at the bottom of this post.

    Jimmy, I was thinking of something you said, actually, when I said that “everything was starting to sound the same,” to the effect that you sound like you, whatever rig you play through, but that some rigs make it easier than others. When I said that that (everything sounding the same) was kind of the point in this round, I only meant that I was trying to EQ and set the other controls on each amp with a similar goal, tone-wise and feel-wise, in mind. While I can hear differences between the tracks, listening to them now, they are for the most part more similar than different (or more similar than I'd have expected). When I posted them, though, everything really was beginning to blur together for me. I was kind of bummed.

    I guess it's encouraging (per your comment, AstroSonic) to know that, given a little time and attention, you can get to a similar place (probably many similar places) with any of these pieces. The dark side of that, I think, at least as I arrived at it in these clips, is that I've homogenized many of their differences. Maybe that's not the right word... There's an area of overlap (insert Venn diagram) between all of these amps. I let me my focus pretty much narrow to that. There are places you can get with any of them, but there are places, for instance, that Monique can go that the GBE can't and vice-versa, and there are things that come more naturally to one amp than another, certain directions that the different amps seem to want to lead you. I'll stop there, before I wander too far afield.

    After I took some time away from clip-making (or playing with that in the back of my mind) and came back to the pres, I found myself EQing them differently than before – and differently from each other.

    When I'm interested in an amp, I'll listen to every clip of it I can find. Sometimes they tell me a lot. Sometimes, not so much. (And I suppose they could be misleading sometimes, like specs or internet opinions when you don't know how the writer's assumptions and criteria line up with yours.) I'm not necessarily listening for someone to cop the exact tone I have in mind, but listening to see if there's something in that tone that I can use in mine. That might only make sense to me, but I stand by it.

    Anyway, I hope these have been of some use to folks. I think I learned something, making them (time will tell!). I appreciate you all listening and appreciate very much the feedback and helpful insights along the way.

    Answers are below (unless otherwise noted, everything is set as in the photos).

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    A – Demeter 201
    B – Direct to Interface
    C – GBE 1200, FET channel
    D – Zephyr, mid boost engaged (high and low boosts also engaged)
    E – Monique (Sensitivity knob pulled out, which is how I run it almost exclusively)
    F – Walkabout, EQed a bit “leaner” than pictured (bass at noon, a little more treble)
    G – Zephyr, no mid boost (but high and low engaged)
    H – GBE 1200, TUBE channel
    I – Walkabout, EQed as pictured.
     
  2. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Been awhile.

    Another thread prompted me to dig these up -- I made them some months after this thread, but before selling the preamps (Demeter 201, Arkham Zephyr, Jule Amps Monique).

    These clips, because of the preamps involved, when I recorded them, and where my head was regarding them at the time (connected to, but in a better place than it was in post #117), feel more, to me, like an epilogue to this thread than anything else. (They don't fit with the one following this one, and it makes more sense to me to put them here than in a separate one of their own -- I think so, anyway!)

    I'll probably say more, later, but for now, I can tell you that I was going for a more "trad" P-bass sound at the time (though the neck pickup on my Power Jazz Bass Special has the P-coils reversed, with the D/G coil closer to the neck and the E/A coil closer to the bridge); I played up by the neck and, at the time of recording, had been listening to Ramble On and some other stuff along those lines and was at least loosely inspired by Jon Paul Jones's round tone and twisty line on that. Not saying that I sound like him -- and the vibe here is different -- but there you go.

    I can tell you that Monique was set flat because I noted that in the file name. The Zephyr and the Demmie, I don't know -- I doubt the Demmie would have been, and can't say for sure about the Zephyr. At the time (September 2016, I think), I was making them for my own reference.

    Soloed bass tracks are included first, followed by the same with the repetitive, Garage Band guitar-loop they were recorded over. All tracks normalized before upload to Soundcloud, otherwise no external or DAW EQ or effects of any kind. Bass passive and pickups are a Wilde/Bill Lawrence P/J set.

     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
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  3. Well, now I have a bad case of GAS! All of them had wonderful tone. In the context of these clips, I preferred the Zephyr: solo and mixed. Fully wide band and smooth, it produced a natural tone with great articulation. The Monique and Demeter both had some baked in mids boost, with the Monique being the less articulate of the two. Due to that mids boost they both sounded less clear, lacking some harmonic detail relative to the Zephyr. I suspect that these differences would be audible through better grade, wide band cabs, in uncluttered mixes. In a loud, dense mix (anyone here play such?), these differences are likely to be inconsequential. Not sure how well these serve a traditional P-bass tone. The Monique and Demeter pretty good maybe, though there was not enough bloom to my ears. I suspect that the Zephyr in particular would be awesome for upright (jazz, folk, blue grass).
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2018
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  4. BassikBrad

    BassikBrad IndigoBurst Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2018
    Las Vegas. New Mexico
    Strange, but that was my take on my protracted listening session, hence, I ended up getting a Zephyr & I'm
    still blown away with the variety of tonal balances that never lose detail. And once again I thank Mark
    for his all his time , effort & insights, I think we all could be slightly foraging about in the dark without them.
    :):D:thumbsup::hyper::hyper:
     
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  5. What do you run the Zephyr into? Tubes? Class D? Would more tubes be too much of a good thing?

    Thanks to Mark for making it possible for us to come along on his tone quest!
     
  6. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    There are times I would prefer to have the Monique for sure, but I do think the Zephyr track stood out as the right choice for this particular tune, although I could make a case for any of them.
     
    BassikBrad likes this.
  7. BassikBrad

    BassikBrad IndigoBurst Supporting Member

    Mar 28, 2018
    Las Vegas. New Mexico
    I now have a Lab Gruppen FP3400. I was sent on that path after enjoying the considerable benefits of
    a Glockenklang Blue Rock that revealed to me the benefits of a good Class D, so I thought that I would
    go for overkill headroom for the tight impactful low end. Combined the Glock pre with the LG,,,,,,,...
    & that was it for me. Then I saw Mark & others talk about pre amps & was hooked with more GAS.
    Hence the Zephyr, which struck me, whilst I conducted blind listening tests, that there was a realistic
    live presence, as if Mark was in my room playing to me,sounds silly but I can't explain it any other way.

    Now I'm fussing & worrying about wether to try some Aero pups !!?? The quest never ends.
     
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  8. chadds

    chadds

    Mar 18, 2000
    YMMV and in all respect this being unscientific as stated the strengths we hear are particular to that bass and his touch on that tune. A bass more similar to what most people use would deliver a more apt comparison.

    A Summit TD-100 in a recorded context is superior to the all but the Zephyr and Monique. I mentioned on the other thread the Kern IP777 was the giant leap forward leaving the Alembics and Dems behind. This in terms of big phat warmth and hifi clarity.

    Of course this is all personal preference! It’s honorable that the OP states the limitations present.

    In an out in the world comparison the bigness and air of the contenders becomes more obvious. The Summit has limited tone shaping but just sounds good. You should hear electric vibes through it. Just real. It’s harmonic content is apparent in the trailing notes on the Basstasters site. If that’s still up.:) It sounds that good.

    I said in the other thread for my needs I have to go from his glorious toned and played upper fret sample to big phat in the pocket bass in the same tune and that’s where from my experience the Monique shines. The Dems used to give up and sound strained and compressed when asked to do too much at once or given intense finger plucking. I couldn’t have that.

    Within a month I tried every pre, DI and everything, even kitchen sinks, with an XLR output. So I’ve done some major shootouts in a controlled studio environment and live. This included phone consults with James Demeter and Eric Papp.

    I would be remiss if I left out the Glock BAC as the most touch sensitive harmonically rich non tube pre I’ve ever heard.

    I love the phrase “realistic live presence!” Have to have it.:)
     
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  9. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Thanks, all, for chiming in. I very much appreciate your taking the time to listen and to share your impressions.

    Going back and listening to these, I'm not sure that I ever fully appreciated these pieces while I had them. I know why I sold them -- I know what I thought the limitations of each were, at the time -- but listening, now, almost two years after I made them, many of those seem diminished and the attractive aspects magnified. Hearing the Zephyr, in particular, I was like, Why did I get rid of that one? I think that it sounds good and, of the three pres, as they're represented here, it's the closest to what I typically go for both tonally and in terms of articulation.

    In this particular clip, though, I go back and forth between liking the Zephyr and the Monique more. When I made the clip, the Monique track was my clear favorite... I think that it still might be my favorite. There's a certain chewy quality to the mids, which seem to fill up the nooks and crannies of the (simple) mix in a way that the others don't quite manage, and the little bit of wool/fuzz (relatively speaking) around the edges softens the lines of the sound in a way that I think works nicely here (or at least aligns with the vibe I had in my head).

    Not that this in an indicator of quality sound but, listened to on the cheap speakers in my Macbook (which I think have very little going on below 200 Hz), Monique's line is the most clearly and consistently heard and (to my ear) blends best with the guitar. With my halfway decent set of Sony cans, it's different -- the clear and full lows of the Zephyr (and the Demmie) come across well, along with its quick articulation, and the highs, possibly as a result, are better integrated with the other sounds than through the laptop speakers. I'm not saying that one should use crap speakers to calibrate their sound or as a litmus test for it, but I find the effect interesting, nonetheless.

    If I were to try to play something like this live, today, with Monique, I might back off the Sensitivity a bit and nudge the Bass and Treble controls a hair to get some of the breadth and the clarity around the edges of the Zephyr track, but I don't think that would change the basic character (which I like). I like the Zephyr, too, but I'd have to be a little more careful of my touch -- the Monique, in this context, is more forgiving. The Demmie is no slouch, either (@bucephylus commented on it in the other thread) and, as Jimmy said, I can see a case being made for it, too -- I hear it as being a little round and more relaxed than the Zephyr but more clear and articulate than Monique, here -- in some respects, it strikes a balance between the two, but I hear it (as bucephylus did) as more open at the very top -- the top end is sweeter and more airy -- and smoother and more relaxed through the upper mids and mids. I miss a little texture in the mid-to-lower mids and I think that the bottom is slightly out of balance with the rest of the register, but that could very easily be the way I EQed it (I wasn't 100% consistent in my touch, either).

    To sum: I can see any of them being someone's favorite, the Zephyr is closest to what I typically go for as a starting point, and the Monique is probably the closest to what I had in my head when recording this track.

    More generally, where the clips I post are helpful, interesting, or somehow instructive, I am glad. I don't think that any one clip can be everything to everyone or entirely representative of the possibilities of a piece of gear -- even its possibilities with a single instrument and a single player -- but I think that's more or less true of all clips; all are products of a given moment, sensibility, touch, etc.

    @chadds, you are way too kind about my playing in this set of clips, but I'll gratefully accept your compliments just the same -- I feel all right about the playing here, though there are other clips I've posted that make me wince when I listen to them, either because of their execution or because of questionable tonal and other musical choices I made. They are what they are, though.

    I think that I see these clips differently -- or in a slightly different context -- than you do, though. They are played with a lighter touch, up by end of the fingerboard (re. the range, I think that I went down to the open "E" string on each), but that's what this little bit called for and, in and of itself, doesn't mean that you can't dig in and groove with any of the pres represented. They do not show the pres pushed dynamically -- you are right there -- but there are literally dozens of other clips, in this thread alone, with contrasting styles/attacks/pickup selections, if you're inclined to listen to those.

    As for my instrument, I don't think it's all that atypical -- it's a four string, passive Fender, with relatively popular (Wilde/Bill Lawrence) aftermarket pickups. It's a P/J -- granted, the P-coils are flipped, which gives the D and G a little less point and a little more fullness than a traditional P (and the E and A a little more point and a little less fullness than a traditional P), but I still think it sounds pretty much like a P; a little less round and a little leaner overall, but more P than anything else. In my opinion, it works a little better for Rock (and, for my taste, combines better with the J), but not quite as well for Motown, where I miss some of the roundness down low and the point on the G-string (I have considered getting a straight P with flats, partly for that reason). You can judge that for yourself, though. (There are some direct-to-interface tracks in this thread and the others, for reference. Also, for what it's worth, I have the pickups on a three-way switch, so the P is truly soloed when it's soloed.)

    In any case, it what's I've got and I like it. ;) Maybe I'll do some tracks with another bass next go-round (then again, maybe not!).

    I've mentioned elsewhere that, when I listen to clips, I'm not necessarily listening for my tone/style to be played, but to see if there's something in what I hear/in how things react that I think I can use, if that makes sense.

    Anyway, they're not intended to be more than a snapshot, a single data point, whatever. I think it's (potentially) useful data, but there are other data points -- mine and others' -- your shared experiences, among them. Thank you!

    -Mark

    P.S. Never used a TD-100. Looked it up and it seems to be well-received. I'd like to hear one on bass, but I don't think I'm going to run out and buy one terribly soon!
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2018
  10. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    I wasn't trying to clone this, but since I mentioned it being one of the sounds that was floating around my head at the time, here's JPJ's isolated bass track for Ramble On:
     
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  11. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    Perhaps I should leave well enough alone, but if people are curious to follow the slow train of my preamp-thought, the below post, taken from the Reiner Amplification thread, contains a couple of clips of the Reiner 6SL7 preamp that I'm playing now. In some ways, it combines aspects of the Zephyr and the Monique that I like, but each is definitely its own thing -- you could cover a lot of the same territory capably with any of them, but each has its own vibe.

    The clip is played differently and was recorded a year-and-a-half after the preceding ones, so a head-to-head comparison isn't entirely fair, but the bass and the player are the same (strings might be different).

     
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  12. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Again many thanks for your highly informative efforts.

    I took two points away. The first was, as you stated, that there is more similarity than dis-similarity. Which is interesting in terms of the passion in the various “vs” arguments. One conclusion is that it is easier to allow folks their own preferences, knowing they aren’t all that different.

    The second point for me was, I suppose, my own confirmation of my bias/prefs. Shows pretty clearly that there is considerable diversity in what we listen for. Vive la difference.
     
  13. MarkA

    MarkA In the doghouse. Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2008
    "What we listen for" is key -- different qualities will be key for different people, and the "bigness" or "smallness" of the difference will depend on the context.

    Here, for instance, I hear what I think are significant differences between the Zephyr and Monique tracks, but I think that both work well within the context of this little clip (and would both work well in music with a similar vibe, or in a lot of different styles of music, for that matter -- I guess that's the "territory" I was thinking of, but you could apply it to straight tone, as well); each just occupies a slightly different place in the mix (though that can be tweaked to an extent) and moves through that space a little differently -- walks through it with a different tread, if you want to anthropomorphize.

    They can all sing the song, though. ;)
     

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