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Why can't I use a small radio or speaker for practice???

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by diegom, May 16, 2019.

  1. I seek an explanation from people more experienced or informed than myself...

    We all have or have seen those little bluetooth speakers with AUX inputs. We connect to phones and tablets, and music sounds pretty good. Definitely not hi-fi, but the bass is clear and distinct in the mix.

    In my quest of making my practice footprint as small as possible, NOT USING HEADPHONES, I thought I could make a 1/4" to 1/8" cable and plug into the speaker.
    The result is weak sound overall, and farty on the 4th string...
    Why is that? How is my direct bass signal different from my phone's bass signal? Is it impedance mismatch? Do I need compression?

    Again, my interest is to make my practice amp virtually undetectable, perhaps even visually pleasing, until I use it.
    To further show where I'm coming from, I would love to convert an old cathedral radio to a bass amp!

    Any ideas for this crazy guy??!!??!


  2. Most of those little speakers can't go low enough to reproduce the fundamental of a bass, modern recorded music is mixed so you can still hear the bass on little speakers but most of what you hear is not the fundamental, you plug a bass into them and they're going to sound weak and farty because you're asking them to go a lot lower than they were designed to go. I once used an old 50's Phillips tube radio out here in Lima with my bass but it had a decent output and had an 8" speaker in it and had an RCA jack on the back as an auxiliary input like a lot of of those used to have, they were for turntables. You are not going to find many cheap modern speakers that can go as low as an old tube radio with a decent sized speaker. A cathedral radio could be converted to a low powered bass amp if you know what you're doing but it would cost a lot of money, would need to be restored electrically and I wouldn't trust one of those 30's speakers with a bass.
    gebass6, rollie 55, diegom and 3 others like this.
  3. Just tried my vox amplug direct into my bluetooth speaker. It sounds much better through headphones than the speaker. I think you're on to something about the signal chain. I hope someone comes along with the answer, I'd like to know too!

    FWIW I think the v3 rumbles look pretty classy ;)
  4. Earphones can reproduce a lot lower than cheap bluetooth speakers.
    rollie 55, Chris Szatny and diegom like this.
  5. Recorded music has all the nasty thump removed and or compressed.
  6. keyboardguy

    keyboardguy Supporting Member

    May 11, 2005
    diegom likes this.
  7. Also a lot of the nice thump.
    rollie 55 and diegom like this.
  8. StayLow


    Mar 14, 2008
    I often do when I travel, running 1/4" to 1/8" straight from my bass, or first into a small effects gizmo like a Korg Pandora. Some compression will help if need be. The one I use is no longer made. Get a Bluetooth speaker known for great bass response and with a direct input option obviously ...many don't have a direct input.
  9. Matthias


    May 30, 2000
    Vienna, Austria
    I also had a 50's Philips tube radio as my first practice amp using the turntable input. Very nice tone at bed room volume...
  10. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    Small Bluetooth speakers are not made to reproduce the frequencies your bass puts out. There are some micro bass combos like the Blackstar Fly3 and the Vox Bass RhythmVox, that perform considerably better, but even those have definite shortcomings.

    I find that a Rumble 15 with an 8" speaker performs reasonably well as practice amp, and consider this an absolute minimum if you want to practice without headphones.
    Chris Szatny and PillO like this.
  11. I have plugged my vox amp lug into my nice 120 dollar bluetooth and it sounds fine. I can play music while I do this and play along.
    Nebula24 and Stumbo like this.
  12. Compression would probably be a good start. Those things are designed to handle professionally mixed and mastered music, which is (among other things) compressed and limited to eliminate large signal peaks. What comes out of your bass is pretty much made of large signal peaks. So the farty sound is overdrive in an amp and/or speaker that really weren't designed for that.

    If you're plugging your bass directly into it without a preamp, then yes, impedance is also likely to be an issue - this is one of the little tasks that preamps take care of.

    I mostly recommend this for travel, but it could serve your purposes as well: get a Vox Amplug Bass and the matching micro-cab. It looks like a teeny little half-stack, and sounds surprisingly good for a 1" cone. Just make sure you don't feed 8.4v batteries to the cab - I can tell you from experience that this leads to nasty (one might even say farty) overdrive. 9.6 LSD rechargables, on the other hand, work as nicely there as they do everywhere else.

    So that's the cheap, plastic solution. Your other choice, converting a cathedral radio sounds like a great idea. Also a challenge, but I look forward to seeing how that comes out :)
    Joe Lonsdale and diegom like this.
  13. Ampslut


    May 15, 2017
    No law says you can't, they don't sound very good. If you deal with the sound then go for it.
    equill likes this.
  14. Bodeeni

    Bodeeni Supporting Member

    Jan 13, 2010
    I use a little powered studio monitor all the time. Mine is a M-Audio BX5 5" speaker 30w. Does not get more HiFI with a very small foot print. I usually go through my Interface and DAW, but for practice I can get a very usable flat level plugging my bass directly into the line input.
    2tonic and diegom like this.
  15. Turbo Sparky

    Turbo Sparky Supporting Member

    May 14, 2018
    South Eastern U.S.
    If your bass is active, I have used earmuff headphones plugged straight into the bass. The sound/volume is very weak, but audible; a sort of weak DI tone/sound.
    +1 on the idea to convert a cathedral radio to amp/combo! Punk rock!
    As an aside, there are several websites which specifically sell re-conditioned/refurbished old school radios/phonographs etc. Gave one to a family member as a gift a few years back; reception is awesome, and the input conversion allows for 1/8 input to play MP3s through it. Nothing like tube generated sound!
    Good luck.
    diegom likes this.
  16. zubrycky


    Aug 22, 2011
    There's another alternative. It's perfectly possible to practice with no amp at all. I'm doing that since 1992 and it works wonderfully.
  17. Leo Thunder

    Leo Thunder

    Sep 27, 2018
    Your guitar's signal is much weaker than that of your phone or anything used as a source in a hi-fi. It requires amplification to be usable.
    rohi and diegom like this.
  18. MadScience

    MadScience Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2019
    Bass Land
    This absolutely works, don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. However, you will be subject to the frequency response of whatever speaker you were trying to play through and that may or may not be desirable.

    You just need to play it safe and and be cognizant of any signs of overexertion and distortion by the driver.

    I have three electric stringed instruments but I don't have a traditional cab.

    I play everything through a homemade home theater. In my case the frequency response capability is far superior to a traditional guitar or Bass cabinet but it doesn't have the same tonal character.

    I use an equalizer for the main system plus a secondary equalizer for the instruments without having to adjust the settings on the main system.

    But I guess this isn't what you're after because you're looking for cheap. But if you're already on home theater nut this is not a bad way to go.
  19. beans-on-toast

    beans-on-toast Supporting Member

    Aug 7, 2008
    When they are mixing a song, it has to be heard on good speakers, in a car, but most people listen to music on their computers, pads, or phones. These devices don't reproduce bass well. So they do something extra so that low end can be heard on these devices. The key is to create another track that boosts the bass mids and harmonics or to add a little distortion. This track is then mixed in with the others.

    In your case, use a high pass filter to remove all the low frequency energy. This helps with speaker over-extension and farting out. You'll hear the bass clearly through the harmonics.
    Last edited: May 17, 2019 at 8:11 AM
  20. True... a bit easier to do (hear) with rounds vs. flats.

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