Why does the bass sound terrible??

Discussion in 'Live Sound [BG]' started by paulraphael, Feb 21, 2024.

  1. paulraphael


    Apr 13, 2006
    If you heard me play, you'd stop reading what I write.
    I've been to 4 live shows in medium-to-large venues in the last couple of years. They included smallish indy acts, Ween, and the Cure.

    In all cases the bass sound was insufferably bad, and in the same way: a subwoofery drone that shook the seats but had no definition, and no real sense of pitch. Clearly this was the work of the sound people and not the bassists.

    All these shows were in Philly, where I've been spending my time lately, so I thought maybe it was a local thing. But my friend who went to a couple of these shows with said, "no, it's everywhere." He's a former professional touring guitarist, and he gets out more than I do.

    What's going on? Is this your experience too?

    Apologies if this has been complained about already ... I didn't know how to search for it.
  2. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    It would help if you can recall what bass and amps were used.
  3. JKos


    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    Given the prevalence of the issue to which the OP refers, what bass and amp seems to be irrelevant.

    It’s really annoying to be at a concert with the indistinct rumble bass issue. Not just as a bass player but as a listening pleasure issue, too.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2024
    db59, Dasgre0g, longfinger and 53 others like this.
  4. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    Disagree, which is why I posted my thoughts on it.
  5. Derek Kay

    Derek Kay

    Dec 30, 2023
    Sounds like a perfect reason to use a High Pass Filter.
  6. JKos


    Oct 26, 2010
    Surprise, AZ
    I have seen/heard all manor of bass and amp, if used, turned into a rumble mess. It is certainly not a particular player, bass, strings, amp, etc. that can be repeatedly identified as the issue. It is a FOH issue.
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Depends on the genre and venue.

    I mainly go to jazz shows in clubs and theaters and the bass is always loud and clear.

    When I go to rock shows in theaters, too often it’s a murky mess as the OP described.

    Last theater show I was at was extreme metal (went to see my nephew’s band), some of the bands were bordering on hardcore. I saw four of the bands on the bill (there were six in all) and only the last two had good sound. Even then, the bass was buried when the guitarists played chords on their 7 strings.
    basseux, roccobass, murphy and 3 others like this.
  8. Many many years ago,

    I am speaking of many years ago. Got a compliment from a patron when we were playing in a popular live venue. "Wow, your bass sounds so good, and I can hear your every note". The bassist and the sound guy was me, I ran the board from the stage, and I used a wireless on my bass so that I could do a walkabout and tailor the mix to the room. It does not have to sound terrible.
    One Way, Dasgre0g, Loring and 17 others like this.
  9. Five or Six

    Five or Six

    Jun 21, 2022
    West Michigan
    Sound guy is a drummer. Seriously, this is a FOH problem. A good sound engineer can pull a good sound out of most equipment if he's knowledgeable. When I was Touring our engineer would steer instrument sound during sound checks in order to get the best sound possible for the venue you are playing. Things change as soon as people arrive so he would have to adjust accordingly. I worked with him for 3 years and loved his input. He was also a musician! Every venue is also different sound wise. No 2 places are the same. Mud is inexcusable!
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2024
  10. Yeah, it's too common, unfortunately. Lots of deep bass, but no definition. It is everywhere indeed.
    zenrad, shughey, Gervais Cote and 7 others like this.
  11. Stewie

    Stewie Supporting Member

    Jul 3, 2013
    Near Boston
    Was at the Florida state fair last weekend. Bands at both ends had subwoofers so loud that it hurt from 500 yards away. Low bass and kick drum squeezing my head. Couldnt hear guitar or vocals at all. I just don't get it.
  12. Not really. You get this with all sorts of basses, amps and music styles. Completely down to the sound engineer.
    31HZ, Lance Bunyon, Loring and 16 others like this.
  13. Actually, I just remembered something... I recorded a few tracks with this band years ago, and I hated the sound in the initial mix/demo.
    The bass was just lots of low end and little definition... and I was playing a Stingray with minimal/no EQ, just the compressor they put me through.

    I ended up, in trying to explain what I meant, moving the EQ points on my bass, removing a LOT of the very low end and bringing the mids back up to nearly flat. The sound engineer understood what I meant, he knew what he was doing, he just felt my bass should sound that way.
    I suspect this is what happens in many cases. Is it a trend that will pass? SUBs are great when used tastefully. A bit like slap ;)
    dcbassist5 and Eric Wolfe like this.
  14. Wasnex


    Dec 25, 2011
    Lots of potential contributing factors.

    Perhaps all of the basses sounded bad.

    Perhaps the audio techs made artistic choices you don't agree with. Some people are more concerned with quantity and extreme lows, than quality.

    Perhaps the sound systems were poorly tuned or inadequate for the rooms.

    Perhaps the bass players were cranked so much that the audio tech had insufficient control over the sound of the bass.

    Perhaps the acoustics were super bad.
  15. Aussie Player

    Aussie Player

    Apr 20, 2011
    In your opinion, without knowing any information.
    I was just asking........you are telling. Big difference.
  16. darwin-bass


    Mar 29, 2013
    Salem OR
    The first issue , I believe, is running the subs louder than the rest of the mains. If they are up too high it gets really hard for the bass to sound like anything other than submush.
  17. BassikBrad

    BassikBrad Bass Face Brad the Spector Respecter Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 28, 2018
    New Mexico
    Endorsement: Mozztronics. Lusithand
    Ban those damn subwoofers !!
  18. Wife and i have seen 37 bands over the past 18 months and only had 1 like that but yeah it's sound guys doing it
    murphy, Bassdirty and Rip Van Dan like this.
  19. shastaband

    shastaband Supporting Member

    Dec 12, 2006
  20. Lava

    Lava Supporting Member

    Jul 14, 2014
    El Paso, TX
    Venue construction