Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bass Amplifier Thoughts


I am as guilty as most when it comes to searching for the perfect tone from my bass amplifiers. My experiments over the past 25 years of this have resulted in dozens of different rig changes from tube to solid state to hybrid, to all different sizes and types of drivers/cabinets, and lots of effects pedals. But I think I have finally become more realistic about what to expect.

This is probably because during the past year I have started to do more work as a sound man. From what I have seen, it does not make a ton of difference what bass amplifier is being used as long as it is loud and clean.

A friend of mine recently summed up the situation perfectly:

”I think testing amps and tone on their own is pure wankery. It's really all about how your sound sits in the mix with everything else. Nice heavy bass sound with an improperly tuned bass drum? Mud. Instant mud. Likewise if you've got a keyboard player with a severe over affection for his left hand.

If you want to sound great with the band, you have to consider your sound as part of the whole.”

And it is true, you can agonize over your tone all you want, but just because it sounds good in the store is no guarantee that it work on stage. Maybe you should agonize over whether you can haul it up two flights of stairs, or if your amp is going to shut down when it gets hot because it is too old or too temperamental (i.e. made in Italy).

Plus, remember that if you are playing at a big enough venue, your bass signal is going directly into the board and are your tone is going to be at the mercy of the sound man anyway.

So, my advice is to get a reliable set-up that puts out tons of power, and is light enough that you can lug it to the gig from the parking lot 2 blocks away. Of course, if you are just going to play it at home, you should find what sounds best for you, and maybe that 8x10 cabinet is perfect for you.

Anyway, feel free to turn up the fire and send me some hate mail, my tube amp aficionado friends…


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