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Bass amps

All about the tools and techniques involved in capturing sound, in the studio or on location.

Bass amps

Postby Ramirez » Wed Nov 04, 2020 5:01 pm

Take my sensationalism with a pinch of salt, but who here actually finds bass amps to be of any use when recording?

I've been the owner of a handful and the user of many, and I almost never find them to sound better than the DI of a decent bass. Not even the posh ones.

I can appreciate that a head can be useful and add something (I did like my Orange Terror head via the DI out), but mic'ing a cabinet is almost always a variation on a 'bass in a cupboard'. The only exception I find is that aggressive picked bass can sometimes sound good through a cab, as can a bass-light staccato sound where a lot of room sound is needed. But 9/10 out of 10, for me, a cab either means a cheap-sounding muffled midrangey sound, or an overly subby mush that disappears in the mix.

I have the same problem to an extent with heads/preamps. Anything that claims to give an Ampeg-like sound usually just makes the bass disappear from the mix. I find this with real amps, Sansamps and modellers alike, especially with Ampeg's 'Ultra Lo' thing. Same goes for any 'shape' or 'enhance' style controls on most amps. Instant mid-scoop, and you can't hear what's being played!
I've been playing around a lot recently with different amps and modellers (real Ampeg V4B and Orange Terror, loads of stuff on Amplitube, including B15, SVT, GK, Fender etc., Softube's Eden emulation as well as their 'Bass Amp Room' ) and almost every time I come back to the DI, it sounds better.

Granted, the DI might need some flattery (Cranborne Camden's Mojo 'Thump' works pretty perfectly for me!), but it almost never needs an amp.

This isn't just with me and my basses, I tend to feel the same with most bassists and basses that come through the studio.

Everything you read points to the classic soul/pop bassline being recorded either through an Ampeg B15 or a straight DI - I guess the DI'd ones are the lines you can actually hear?!

So, humour me - who uses what, why, and what am I missing?!
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Re: Bass amps

Postby James Perrett » Wed Nov 04, 2020 5:28 pm

I think it totally depends one the player that you are recording and the style of music. If you want a grungier sound then miking up the amp could get you closer to the sound you want. I have an Ampeg transistor bass amp here which makes a good bass DI box. When I had a bigger studio I used to split the pre and power sections and use preamp for the DI and the power amp section for studio foldback.

If I had a band with a grungier bass sound, the bass player would usually bring in their own amp.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby Sam Spoons » Wed Nov 04, 2020 5:52 pm

I always DI, live or studio and rarely, if ever mic the cab. In my home studio I often use a little Warwick 1x10 bass combo I inherited of #2 son, monitor the bass sound out of the speaker but record from the DI out. However since I have got my Headrush Gigboard I have tried that for bass DI, it has an absolutely gorgeous bass preset but it's inaudible on laptop speakers. :headbang: Lesson learned and next time I'll record a clean, unprocessed feed as well.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby adrian_k » Wed Nov 04, 2020 6:00 pm

I agree, I used to find that recording the amp was hit and miss, but I always assumed that if I could get in the right room with the right mic maybe it would be possible to get a decent result.

Mostly I would use my little Gallien Krueger and take the DI and line outs and blend later, and a split for the bass player’s amp for foldback if needed.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby blinddrew » Wed Nov 04, 2020 6:57 pm

Yeah, I just take a DI and then generally split the signal to process the lows and mid/highs separately - I'll frequently put a cab emulation on this bit though.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby VTypeV4 » Thu Nov 05, 2020 10:44 pm

For me, it depends on what I'm doing..

I'll agree with the O/P to a point - a cheap combo with a half decent pre-amp (like an Ashdown MAG for example), I'll take a DI straight from the bass and the DI from the amp but not bother with a mic on the speaker. The compromised enclosure and cheap driver take away from rather than add to the mix whatever the style of sound / genre - in my experience at least.

For an 'oldskool' sound or something with a 'roundness' (sorry for the terrible terms!), then a P/J bass and miking a decent cab (Fender 2x15 loaded with JBL) can work really well but even then, I find it's a blend tool rather than the main sound. I usually source this from a line - the Bassman 135 has an extra winding on the O/T which is full of character.

A decent dedicated bass pre-amp makes the biggest difference for me - SWR, Ampeg, Trace Elliot, EBS, Boogie, Mark Bass etc. In my own studio, I use Fender, Trace Elliot V-Type and SMX mainly to get it pretty close. :thumbup:
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Re: Bass amps

Postby Tim Gillett » Fri Nov 06, 2020 1:59 am

Direct from my P bass is not necessarily the best final sound, but it contains all the sound of the instrument. An amp's basic role is to amplify an instrument which needs amplifying. Many amps strangle the bass sound, often throwing away the bottom octave. My little Roland Bass cube does. So I never use it for recording and if a soundie puts a mic in front of it at a gig I say I'm happy with direct.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby MOF » Fri Nov 06, 2020 3:59 am

I use an Ampeg amp’ and cab’ UAD plugin, it definitely improves the sound.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby ef37a » Fri Nov 06, 2020 4:58 am

The few times I tried to mic up our bass rig (100W amp into 200W 15" Fane in a 6cu ft reflex cab) it sounded ok but unusable because every mortal thing in the room rattled, including the old windows. (got DG now)

So, DI into then, an A&H zed10 feeding 2496.

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Re: Bass amps

Postby jxnWHITE » Fri Nov 06, 2020 5:01 am

Hmm... as mentioned. completely depends on the player and what you're going for but I like what I get out of a FET47 on a B-15N into a Neve for "classic/vintage r&b". Of course, always running a DI as well but this setup is anything but disappearing in the mix (arrangement has something to do with it. And maybe some || distortion on the DI... :-) )

I've used an SWR, SansAmp and Little MarkBass Tube 800 into a board with good enough results when needing to try something different, but a P or J bass into that setup has always been "the sound".

Wrt the "Ampeg/Motown sound", my understanding is it was mostly DI. Jamerson had a B-15 in cartage out in LA, so I suppose it could have ended up on something. If it's Muscle Shoals, it's DI or through a Fender Bassman. There's some pretty good sounding records out there.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby resistorman » Fri Nov 06, 2020 6:59 am

Never used a bass amp on the hundreds of album projects I recorded over the years. I do like to use a sim on occasion if the song calls for it. Most of the time EQ and compression take care of it.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby Music Wolf » Fri Nov 06, 2020 7:04 am

Usually I DI the bass, using the Hi Z input on my AI, then apply a VST Bass Amp in Cubase. In the past I've played through my Kemper and recorded the 'amp sound' together with a DI track but, given that most of the time I'm writing the track as I record, I like to keep my options open when it comes to a bass sound.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby CS70 » Fri Nov 06, 2020 8:57 am

It depends on the genre, and I always make sure I have the DI-ed bass... but I do like to also have a mic on the cabinet, usually something mid-rangey and positioned near the cone center. At least that's where I start. A 57 does the job, a 421 even better but also a condenser will work.

I basically want to capture more of the mid-low highs because I find that blending the two makes it much quicker to get the three things I want - a bass which can be heard, that does not smear all over the place but that can still survive the hipass of typical of cheap systems.

It's perfectly possible to use only the DI and process it into shape but often blending the two just makes it easier for me.

Then of course if all it's needed is a little generic oomph in the low end, I simply ditch the miked track. But I like to have the option.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby Fishnish » Fri Nov 06, 2020 11:59 am

I remember once a long time ago a bass player from a reggae band bringing in a 2x15 Martin Audio FOH sub and power amp, along with a huge Peavey bass rig, again with a pair of 2x15 cabs and saying that was the sound he wanted. They'd lugged it all up 3 flights of stairs, and in the end we used the DI straight off the bass.
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Re: Bass amps

Postby CS70 » Sun Nov 08, 2020 1:15 am

CS70 wrote:It's perfectly possible to use only the DI and process it into shape but often blending the two just makes it easier for me.

Something I forgot. When you mix DI and microphone tracks, they are not going to be aligned - there's a delay between the two. So you always have to nudge the mic track a bit to get them "in phase".
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