Why are amps still dinosaurs?

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by kcducttaper, Oct 8, 2021.

  1. kcducttaper


    Jul 1, 2019
    I've been low-key searching for a 'forever' bass amp and I'll be danged if I can't find at least a couple things about most every head that I don't like. Anything from EQ points, to general tone, to lack of features, build quality, price, etc... That got me thinking. If I were to design/build my own amp from the ground up (or have someone else do it), how would I spec it out and what options would I include in it? Shortly after that, I got to wondering why we actually need 'hard wired' amps anymore in the first place.

    Why can't manufacturers put in a digital software EQ section where we can set eq points, change the type (shelf, paramatric, 'Q' of the parametric, etc), add/remove high pass filters, even dynamic EQ would be easily possible (EQ that changes based on how hard you play), noise gate, compressor, etc. Then, once you've gotten up a sound you like for whatever gig, you can save it to a handful of storage slots for easy recall later.

    Seems that would be super easy to put in a solid state amp for sure, but why hasn't anybody done it? It would open up a whole world full of additional tone options and dramatically increase the versatility of the amp! Plus, that component could be fairly copy+paste throughout several models, so perhaps they could either lower the pricing of the amp or reinvest that money back into the power amp section....?
  2. Anachronism

    Anachronism Supporting Member

    Nov 17, 2014
    This has been done.
  3. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    They can, and they have, for at least a couple of decades by now. Getting people to actually pay for it has seemingly been the real challenge. But that's dinosaur stuff too, a truly modern amp would already know your preferences and take care of all your tonal decisions, and call an Uber for you after the gig. ;)
  4. Gearhead17

    Gearhead17 Supporting Member

    May 4, 2006
    Mount Prospect, IL
    kcducttaper - I too have never found an amp head that gave me everything I wanted. However, an extra pedal or two is usually a good way to make up for what for what you are missing/requiring. For me, I use the Mesa D800. Now, I stopped thinking about the head I use at the show and just focus on playing. I still want more tone controls on the head, but I refuse to spend more money on the D800+. That's OK with me.

    To answer your question, Markbass made "modules" that you could add to an amp power block. You could change EQ controls, gain controls, and so on. It never caught on and I never saw one in the wild. Perhaps you should stop looking at a "forever" amp head and just focus on what makes you happy now. You can always trade/sell it later on in the future. Tone preferences change!
    J_R, Dasgre0g, Nuage420 and 7 others like this.
  5. RattleSnack


    Sep 22, 2011
    I see no point in such "fine tuning" in an amp. On a record company production desk, where best results pay off, maybe.
    In another words, does your car have perfect ideal driving position, gear ratio and handling? Nope, you just buy what suits you most and iritates you least. But if you were Formula 1 driver...
  6. fdeck

    fdeck Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 20, 2004
    Madison WI
    HPF Technology LLC
    What you want is a bartender. ;)
  7. SJan3

    SJan3 Supporting Member

    Dec 8, 2010
    With all of the fantastic offerings these days, I'm surprised that none of them satisfy your wants/needs. And why would you need infinite tonal options. How many times would you go to your amp on the job?
    Personally, I may go to the amp for a slight volume or EQ adjustment to suite the environment, maybe add a bit of contour on the occasional slap tune. But, that's about it. In short, I don't deviate much from my sound at all. Adjustments are the last thing I want to think about when I'm performing. The fewer the better!
    Commercial gear shouldn't be thought of as a science project, IMHO. It should be rugged, provide enough power and be able to produce sounds that you favor. Question is, how many different sounds do you want/need?
  8. Jefenator

    Jefenator Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2008
    There was the ADA programmable rack mount preamp from the 1990s. Tech 21 also has some memory setting capability. Currently there's the Bergantino B|Amp. And I guess those Kemper profilers are being used for bass, now.
    It's been done to some extent; it just hasn't caught on.
    Owning and using the B|Amp, I do enjoy working with its EQ more than on most analog units. (Guess I should say EQs: got 4-band semi parametric, HPF, notch, LPF, and bright - all tunable.) And I did save a "neutral" setting and a "flavored & compressed" setting.
    OTOH I get at least as much, but often slightly more satisfaction when using an Ampeg style tube preamp section with all the tone knobs at noon. My prefs aren't always typical, but that does at least to me explain why programmable digital bass preamp sections aren't taking the market by storm.
    Mvilmany likes this.
  9. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    Two reasons:

    1. Generally bass players don't like excessive complication and the products on the market meet their needs just fine. All these things you are talking about are already available in floormount multi-effects boxes as well.

    2. Long term digital sucks, let me tell you about it. I have about $3,000 invested in my studio in Universal Audio UAD-1 cards and software and they walked away from the first generation cards about 10 years ago, essentially tanking the value of my hardware.

    All I have left is the ability to move my existing licenses to their NEW platform but that's easily a kilobuck right there, and that platform is long in the tooth, probably going away soon as well.

    You can buy Sony DMX-R100 digital mixers all day long for under $1,000, these were over $20,000 originally. The reason they are so cheap is Sony abandoned the market and no longer offers service and support. You have to download the last OS from people on the internet, Sony doesn't have it.

    If you care about owning your equipment for any length of time, digital sucks. Sure it is kind of necessary for a lot of things (recording on analog tape is frighteningly expensive these days) but for something for which there are clear and easy options, which sound great.....it's a trap into obsolescence.

    The worst crossroads is hardware in a box that runs on software; which is basically what you are describing. This requires some form of OS, and then you have updates to that OS and then later on said hardware gets replaced with the NEW stuff with the NEW OS and your hardware is no longer compatible with the new OS.

    If you really want to do what you want to do, just buy an audio interface, a laptop and one of the software packages that allow emulation of various bass amps or even roll your own bass amps, then run that into a Class D power amp.

    OR run one of the modeling setups (Kemper is one I believe) that allow you a fair level of customization.

    Trust me I LOVE to spin me some knobs and program some things but not with my bass, I just want to set it to get a great tone (which is bonehead easy quite frankly) and go with that.

    If I want to go down a rabbit hole of programming something I will just play with my Waldorf Q or the Waldorf XT-K, or a bunch of the other synths I own.


    p.s. I have a four channel, digital compressor/limiter/gate that was sold by Mackie about 15 years ago. Mackie bought Acuma labs and then basically ported their software compressor into a hardware box, exactly like you describe.

    Then Acuma went under, Mackie went through several hands and you can't even get the manual for this device anymore. It still works and it's actually pretty cool (one neat trick it does is it has LFP and HPF filters on the gate section, no need to sidechain it to be able to do that) but if the OS craps out I pretty much have to throw it away.

    I don't have this problem with my analog Drawmer DL-241's (of which I own five)
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
  10. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    If you want a "forever" bass amp that is a hardware box that runs software inside you will be greatly disappointed by the amount of time it remains current before it becomes obsolete.

    But as others will tell you, these types of devices already exist. But it's not going to be a forever kind of thing.

    DeepHz, gebass6, Luigir and 3 others like this.
  11. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    Seems to me these are exactly what you are looking for:

    Profiler Line-Up | Kemper Amps

    I am sure there are other products like this on the marketplace.

    droo46, Aqualung60, andruca and 4 others like this.
  12. Passinwind

    Passinwind I know nothing. Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    I had a nice old analog one for a while but her maintenance cost was too high for a humble toaster tech. :cool:
  13. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    couldn't someone plug their bass into a laptop running protools and feed that into a power amp? boom!

    (better bring a backup for the backup -- i think the laptop just blew up from a power surge onstage :cool: )
    Boomhowertx and wellshuxley like this.
  14. …I’d get stuck in the car. Shoulders too wide, quads too big.

    Also, I’m like all torso, so my head would be blocking the air intake.

    I mean, I’d still beat Mazepin, but I’d be very uncomfortable doing it.
  15. cataract

    cataract Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2007
    Columbia SC
    I can plug my Rusty Box preamp pedal into any amp’s return & have the exact amp sound / EQ I want!
  16. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    The keyboard player from a band I was in a while back went to see Eddie Jobson (most famous for being in
    Zappa's band and then UK) and he ran an all virtual system for his synthesizers on Macs.

    My buddy spent some time talking to the keyboard tech and there were two parallel systems, on UPS systems of course and the tech had the ability to instantly switch the keyboard controllers Jobson was using to the other system if the primary computer locked up.

    That's kind of the reality of using SW live really.

    Jobson's sounds and switching between patches and setups is of course quite complex; not something your average bass player ever needs to do.

    Back in the day (late 70's) Jobson's keyboard of choice was the Yamaha CS-80; trust me you have heard this thing on MANY records (most famously the main motif keyboard riff on "Born in the USA".

    CS-80's weighed 220 pounds and were difficult to keep in tune on the road, so it's not like Jobson was going to tour with his 40 year old CS-80. But I bet he still owns it :)

    BadJazz, DJ Bebop, LBS-bass and 2 others like this.
  17. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Columbia, MD Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    I would not want all the tweakability and I don't think I'm in the minority here. For me, a Noble DI, three knobs and I can get a great sound easily. But, of course, voicing is a personal preference. But as soon as you go digital, you're looking at obsolete in a few years. I think what you're looking for is a Bergantino B|Amp. If you want even more tweaking, a Helix, Quad Cortex, Fractal or Kempler. The Trickfish Bullhead may be an option if you're happy with a few frequency points that have been purposely voiced for electric bass.
  18. mrjim123

    mrjim123 Supporting Member

    May 17, 2008
    I would NEVER think of an older amp as a dinosaur. Boat anchor - maybe, but dinosaur, no.

    Edit: Saving EQ settings, etc. might be nice if there is a venue you play at repeatedly (in that case you'd need multiple save configurations, one per venue), but generally you're gonna have to tweak your EQ for (a) each new venue and/or (b) at the same venue if the crowd size differs significantly.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2021
    RONTERGO, SoCal80s and conttador like this.
  19. Relsom

    Relsom Supporting Member

    Nov 23, 2013
    The Old Dominion
    If its one thing I hate its having to drill down through menus to make changes to my amp's settings. I had an ADA MB-1 for a while. Not my thing. There's plenty of great sounding simple amps out there.
    inthevelvet and Slough Feg Bass like this.
  20. Analogeezer


    Jul 29, 2021
    Yes but Mazepin would beat you with Russian petro dollars LOL.

    Man what a pity how low Haas F1 has sunk, they came out of the box strong the first two seasons for a brand new team but seemed to have gone backwards.

    I read an interesting interview of Haas at the beginning where they asked him why he was putting all that money into F1. He said 80%+ of the CNC machine tools he sold were sold around the world, the US was not his main market. So being in F1 gave him visibility to the world market and at first at least it was worth the money to him to promote his company that way.

    Sadly they wound up being the modern version of Minardi, but without the charm of being the perennial backmarkers.

    WhoopS! Wrong forum for talking about F1! :)

    Blankandson, mcnach and g-dude like this.
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    Primary TB Assistant

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    Oct 17, 2021

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