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Using a power attenuator as a DI and distortion for bass?

Discussion in 'Effects [BG]' started by MickeyMickey, Feb 26, 2006.

  1. MickeyMickey


    Dec 17, 2005
    I posted this on Harmony Central, but I didn't really get the answers I was looking for, so I figured I'd post this here too.

    As I've stated in other threads here, I took up bass solely for recording purposes, and because of this I don't have an amp. I practice direct through a Presonus Firebox going into studio monitors. I've found that playing direct can get great clean tones for bass, but as of yet, I've been unable to get a decent distortion sound. So I've been looking into ways to get the best distortion sound possible while playing direct.

    My latest idea to do this, is to use a small tube guitar amp plugged into a power attenuator, with the attenuator sending a signal through a line out into a line in on my Presonus Firebox. The signal path would be like this:

    Fender P-Bass ->
    1960s Fender Vibro Champ ->
    WeberVST Power Attenuator (Line Out) ->
    Presonus Firebox Line in

    By setting the power attenuator at maximum, no signal will go to the guitar speaker, so it won't get damaged.

    So the end result will be a tube amp overdriven sound as a direct signal. This should produce a fantastic tone, but I've never heard of anyone doing this with bass.

    So my question is, has anyone ever tried anything like this? I figure with a setup like this, I'll be able to get both good clean and overdriven tube sounds. My only concern so far is that using a guitar amp may have a negative impact on the overall tone. I'm not sure how much of an actual difference it will make though.
  2. Nyarlathotep

    Nyarlathotep Banned

    Feb 5, 2006
    West Coast of Canada
    Have you thought about/tried using a bass distortion/od effect like:

    SansAmp (Bass or Para Driver) - Does tube rather well IMO
    MXR Bass DI+
    Boss ODB-3
    Fulltone Bass Drive
    etc. (many, many distortions out there :D )

  3. MickeyMickey


    Dec 17, 2005
    I've considered it. I hear mixed reviews about using bass distortion pedals direct, and from what I understand the best distortion sounds always come from power tube distortion from amps.

    I figured this approach would be a good experiment and since there is actual power tube distortion, it would produce better results than most of those pedals.
  4. Nyarlathotep

    Nyarlathotep Banned

    Feb 5, 2006
    West Coast of Canada
    Some clips of the PDDI if your interested:
    My Settings:
    Various "Presets" (Neck P-Style PU):
    Various "Presets" (Bridge J-Style PU):

    All of those were recorded direct and should give you some idea as to the range of sounds that you can get. Oh, and even though I used the Para Driver, by setting the mid-shift to 2 o'clock, the mid control acts as the prescence on the Bass Driver.
  5. bongomania

    bongomania Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    The power soak idea is a good one, lots of studios do that for guitar. I think the reason it hasn't been discussed much for bass is that bassists can't picture themselves playing through a 20 watt amp, or because they like the tone of miking the cabinet of a B15N (very popular studio sound BTW), or they don't happen to have a B15N anyway. Plus I suspect most small guitar amps would benefit from changing certain resistor and capacitor values for bass response. But if you modded a small tube amp for bass frequencies, used the power attenuator, and maybe added a cabinet simulator (or para EQ), you would have a pretty good little recording setup. Also, there have been a couple of all-in-one boxes like the Hughes&Kettner Bluesmaster, but none of them ever succeeded commercially.