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Advice for Better Bass Sounds
Old 12th October 2012
  #1
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oceantracks's Avatar
 

Advice for Better Bass Sounds

So I have a Precision and a 5 string Spector, neither of which are particularly great examples of their kind, but are good enough sounding that I don't believe the source is the problem.

The problem is my bass sounds are somewhat anemic. I'm going direct into the Avid Omni and while OK it's certainly not killer (nor do I believe any interface would be). I can get them sounding OK with some amp plugs and compression, but boy soloing those tracks is pretty nasty.

I'm wondering whether getting a better outboard pre would help, or whether any DI bass sound is going to be very impressive and I should just find a small bass amp and record it in my home studio live. This is for "all around" material, pop, country, etc, nothing really raging in volume, just good solid bass sounds.

Maybe the fact that probably most of the records I'm listening to are recording live bass possibly with some DI mixed in, while I'm doing ALL DI, is the problem.

Suggestions?

TH
Old 12th October 2012
  #2
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swafford's Avatar
 

Do you like the Detroit Motown bass sound? All direct.

I get great direct sounds from both my Metric Halo ULN8, Mercury M72 and a custom made pre that Ed Pettersen (I call it the Edmundator) designed and he and Bob Ohlsson have used extensively in their Nashville sessions with Bob Babbitt (RIP) and others.

I also use an Ampeg B15 or SB12 for amp sounds and almost always use an M88 on them.

Always a P Bass with flats for me.

That said, I find capturing bass sounds the most difficult instrument to record and get to sit exactly how I want it. In a small room I'd consider getting a pre that excels at direct or a small head/cab that sounds good - Traynor Bassmate, Ampeg SB12, etc. Hell we tracked growling bass through a '59 Fender Champ once and it rocked.
Old 12th October 2012
  #3
Gear Nut
 

You might just need a little grit. A little distortion can make all the difference in the world. Try a Sansamp Bass Driver or something similar or maybe a nice preamp with a DI that you can push the gain for some nice drive. I use a UA Solo 610 with the gain pushed fairly hard to get a warm fuzzy bass tone. It may not sound so great solo'd but what matters is how it sits with the rest of the instruments. YMMV.
Old 12th October 2012
  #4
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Sylvester View Post
You might just need a little grit. A little distortion can make all the difference in the world... It may not sound so great solo'd but what matters is how it sits with the rest of the instruments.
Ditto. You might consider splitting the signal - keep one relatively clean, while distorting and compressing the hell out of the other, then blend the two into the mix. A friend of mine made a record with a well known producer, and they had the great Willie Weeks lay down bass tracks. This was the technique they used, and the result was HUGE.
Old 12th October 2012
  #5
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FireMoon's Avatar
The fact is, a lot of modern Bass guitars actually do sound just a tad anaemic. As to why, I honestly don't know, it just seems to be the way things have "progressed" over the past couple of decades . The guy I mainly work with has a 68 Precision and it is an absolute tone monster. By that I mean, there's a real presence and grunt down in the lower octaves that successive designers seem to have sacrificed for "accuracy" and "clarity".

That's not to say people aren't making Bass Guitars that actually have that tone, I'm sure they are however, my experience is that many "standard" basses today are just way too "clean" and "precise" when really, that slightly overdriven woolly tone is actually desirable not an inherent weakness. For some reason, sometime in the 1980s someone seemed to decree that all Bass guitars should sound more like a plucked piano string than a Bass guitar and since then, pick-ups seem to have been designed to do exactly that.

I don't know if anyone does Bass Pups that actually have that "classic" tone however that would be where I'd be looking. I suspect there's little wrong with your Bass save, its pups are, as you describe, pretty damned anaemic in the first place and no amount of jiggery pokery, after the fact, can really change that.
Old 12th October 2012
  #6
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cheu78's Avatar
I had great results through a DI into an Aurora GTQ2..
Or also through the Juggernaut Twin DI.. very nice..
Or again in the BAE DMP.. or a Jensen DI through an Avedis MA5.
Believe it or not I also liked a lot the Avalon U5 DI.. sounds nice IMO..

None of these will result in an anemic bass sound (unless the player is not up to par)..

I hope this helps,



Cheu
Old 12th October 2012
  #7
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swafford's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FireMoon View Post
I don't know if anyone does Bass Pups that actually have that "classic" tone however that would be where I'd be looking.
There are - Fralin, Bartolini, Lollar, many others. I use Nordstram NP4's in my 78 P-Bass. Wooly and round, like a slightly deflated ball.
Old 12th October 2012
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks View Post
So I have a Precision and a 5 string Spector, neither of which are particularly great examples of their kind, but are good enough sounding that I don't believe the source is the problem.

The problem is my bass sounds are somewhat anemic. I'm going direct into the Avid Omni and while OK it's certainly not killer (nor do I believe any interface would be). I can get them sounding OK with some amp plugs and compression, but boy soloing those tracks is pretty nasty.

I'm wondering whether getting a better outboard pre would help, or whether any DI bass sound is going to be very impressive and I should just find a small bass amp and record it in my home studio live. This is for "all around" material, pop, country, etc, nothing really raging in volume, just good solid bass sounds.

Maybe the fact that probably most of the records I'm listening to are recording live bass possibly with some DI mixed in, while I'm doing ALL DI, is the problem.

Suggestions?

TH
What is your monitor/speaker setup? For years I struggled with this until I got a proper monitor setup with a sub and a room where I could be far enough away from the speakers to actually hear the bass in the mix.

It wasn't that my sounds were bad or my gear or settings, but more that I wasn't able to actually hear what I was doing.

My suggestion would be to give yourself like 10 feet of distance speakers to mix position and see what happens.

Beyond that, compressors can help a lot with bass but be careful not to go hog wild with them. Parallel compression helps a ton (raw track plus compressed track) just be sure to get them nudged up correctly if you buss it out to hardware and back in because the phase will kill the low end.

The other thing to realize is that a really mid rangey nasty sounding bass sound when it is soloed can sit very well in the mix and not sound nasty when it is placed well. Those mids supply you with presence. I know a pretty famous bass player and his method is to split the signal to a direct input and a 4x10 GUITAR amp (open back). The DI has all the low end stuff but that 4x10 has the silky nice vintage-y sounding midrange. Blend the two properly with phase aligned and it sounds great.

Good luck!
Old 12th October 2012
  #9
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it depends also on what kind of bass sound you're after. A reggae bass sound is totally different than a rock bass sound, and both are totally different than more funky bass...

but it always start with a good instrument, and most of the time i got the best result in blending the amp sound (from a good amp for the music style) with an di straight from the bass itself.

If you need a deep (reggae like bass) an ampeg svt on a 810 combined with a fender jazzbass or a steinberg is a perfect setup. For rock an precesion with an fender bassman is perfect. But both are certainly not the only solution for those styles. i like mic's like an RE20 or a Beta52 or an SM7 on it, but a lot of dynamic mics can do it good. But don't put the mic to close to the amp (40-50cm is often perfect)

for di, i mostly like a bit coloured di's (like a REDDI) and some compression always helps (except for jazz maybe)
Old 12th October 2012
  #10
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as mentioned before try flatwound strings. they make all the difference. peronally i detest round wound strings on bass. just horrible...

ps: a good di certainly helps.
Old 12th October 2012
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by waxx View Post
Don't put the mic to close to the amp (40-50cm is often perfect)
Thank you for the info

R.
Old 12th October 2012
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by salomonander View Post
as mentioned before try flatwound strings. they make all the difference. peronally i detest round wound strings on bass. just horrible...

ps: a good di certainly helps.
Now, horrible may not be the best word. They are bright, but that's what they are meant to do.

I detested them for a long time, but recently I've found a place in my heart for them.
Old 12th October 2012
  #13
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to the OP: what sound do you want to get? are you doing soul, rock, country?
they are all different. you want an amp for rock. you want di for soul. you want an upright for country. it really depends on what you are after. let us know what kind of sound you have in your mind.
Old 12th October 2012
  #14
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Silvertone's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks View Post
So I have a Precision and a 5 string Spector, neither of which are particularly great examples of their kind, but are good enough sounding that I don't believe the source is the problem.

The problem is my bass sounds are somewhat anemic. I'm going direct into the Avid Omni and while OK it's certainly not killer (nor do I believe any interface would be). I can get them sounding OK with some amp plugs and compression, but boy soloing those tracks is pretty nasty.

I'm wondering whether getting a better outboard pre would help, or whether any DI bass sound is going to be very impressive and I should just find a small bass amp and record it in my home studio live. This is for "all around" material, pop, country, etc, nothing really raging in volume, just good solid bass sounds.

Maybe the fact that probably most of the records I'm listening to are recording live bass possibly with some DI mixed in, while I'm doing ALL DI, is the problem.

Suggestions?

TH
Listen to these... The ultimate comparitive bass DI test...

...only two different basses (one active one passive), same bass player, same piece of music. Notice how different each box sounds... some "anemic" as you say and some have quite a bit of "life". Notice how different the box can sound weather fed by an active bass or a passive one.

It's all about signal path integrity.
Old 12th October 2012
  #15
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skinnypete's Avatar
 

op, what style are you doing?

without knowing, the tab v71 is probably the most versatile tube di that ive heard imho. the ua solo 610 is great too, warmer and darker and very meaty, plus its a classic mic pre also.

a neve style pre can be great to, its a much brighter sound and very clear. the avalon 737 doesnt get alot of love on here but it gets some great bass sounds if you have more of a budget.

if you are on a very strict budget try a tech 21 vt bass. sounds better than any amp modeling plug in ive heard. i DONT recommend the original sansamp bass driver di. i used it for years and i could never get a decent sound out of it.

edit: all examples are for a passive fender p-bass

Last edited by skinnypete; 12th October 2012 at 09:47 PM.. Reason: missing info
Old 14th October 2012
  #16
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Hamburg58's Avatar
 

DI always. And amp too if you like. Getting a good Neve type pre is a great start to a good bass tone. Plugging the signal straight into Protools isn't offering much. Put a tube compressor after it. Boom. Ill do series compression. Old Gates Sta Level (compressing very little. Mostly for color) into a UREI LA3A. Tone for days. But now I have a Gates Tube preamp. It has more lowend than any Neve I have or my Trident console. Keep your eyes peeled for old tube pres. Collins, RCA, Altec... Gates.. That's the beset way to go for fat.. Motown! Then you can worry about amps. Amps are the easy part. I usually worry more about the sound of the DI then the amp. At the end of the day you can't change anything about an amp signal but you can always reamp a DI
Old 14th October 2012
  #17
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basmartin's Avatar
This is a lovely preamp for bass F-1X Tube Preamp

Lots of colour and "3D". I have a clone of it, use it often.
Old 14th October 2012
  #18
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DR strings are good.

I always use a good compressor while recording bass, Trakker or Vacuum Tube Seven. A good eq for more of an active sound, boost the hell out of that anemic sound.
Old 14th October 2012
  #19
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by oceantracks View Post
Maybe the fact that probably most of the records I'm listening to are recording live bass possibly with some DI mixed in, while I'm doing ALL DI, is the problem.
Most of the recordings of the last 50 years is DI or a combination of DI and a miked cabinet (favoring the DI signal). The DI signal IS the bass sound our modern ears have been accustomed to.

Quote:
Originally Posted by swafford View Post
Do you like the Detroit Motown bass sound? All direct.
Yeah, but the rhythm section were all playing in the same room. There had to be plenty of bass bleeding through on the other instruments' mics. I wonder how significant that is to getting that sound?

Quote:
Originally Posted by salomonander View Post
as mentioned before try flatwound strings. they make all the difference. peronally i detest round wound strings on bass. just horrible...
I also prefer flatwound strings. Much more appropriate for country, jazz, blues, reggae, R&B, old-school funk, etc. Also, having a piece of foam up under the strings in front of the bridge like the Motown guys did helps get that staccato "thud" with a quick decay. This is a much more subtle sound and easier to mix than bright, y roundwounds.

Roundwound strings do have their place as well. You're not gonna get that "Flea" tone with flatwounds.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Timesaver800W View Post
DR strings are good.
I don't make a habit of bashing products, and I don't want to come off as an over-opinionated jerk - but I've had more intonation issues and string rattling issues with DR's than with all other string brands combined. Also, DR roundwound bass strings epitomize the sound that those who favor flatwounds hate - They're extremely bright, and they go "!"

That said, who am I to argue with Marcus Miller? There's lots of great players who endorse DR strings. All I am saying is that I've had enough bad experiences with them that I will never use them again. But if they work for you, then cool.

Not sure what that little green dude is flopping around on my post, but it's really distracting. I'm trying to say "b-o-i-n-g" but that dude shows up on the screen instead. I guess he makes my point for me - Roundwound strings sound like !
Old 14th October 2012
  #20
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Start by setting up the instrument right. With a screwdriver you can raise / lower the pickups effecting sustain and tone.
Old 14th October 2012
  #21
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I use an ADL Tube Direct. Dial that tube in for a little drive or not.

Sent from my Desire HD
Old 14th October 2012
  #22
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carlheinz's Avatar
 

+1 ^

If I'm stuck with a D.I. only,then I need things in the chain that will compensate and smooth or round things out a bit.This requires a decent chain of gear or a channel strip.PRE/COMP/EQ...

A nice solid state chain if money is no object...and isnt too imposing and could be used for other things

Radial D.I/Manley Tube DI
Neve 1073 OR 1073 style mic pre
Empirical labs FATSO OR UBK FATSO...set to opto>D.A.W.>PLAY
Old 15th October 2012
  #23
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skinnypete's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by FireMoon View Post
The fact is, a lot of modern Bass guitars actually do sound just a tad anaemic. As to why, I honestly don't know, it just seems to be the way things have "progressed" over the past couple of decades .
alot of it is the weight. the old fenders are made of heavy wood with steel bridges. even the tuners added weight. some of the fender reissues still have the sound.

Quote:
Originally Posted by salomonander View Post
as mentioned before try flatwound strings. they make all the difference. peronally i detest round wound strings on bass. just horrible...
it depends on the chops of the player too. you have to be real accurate with round wounds but they have more high mids (800hz-2.5khz) and the notes have more definition and presence. you can always roll off highs, but you cant add it if its not there to begin with.

for example, louis johnson on "off the wall" and "thriller" used very bright round wounds. i would be surprised to hear anyone say they detested the bass sound on "off the wall"!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
The DI signal IS the bass sound our modern ears have been accustomed to.
cosign. you shouldnt need to mic a amp to get a good bass sound.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bassmankr View Post
Start by setting up the instrument right. With a screwdriver you can raise / lower the pickups effecting sustain and tone.
good point. i dont know about sustain but if the pickups are to far from the sting then the notes sound weak on that string.
Old 15th October 2012
  #24
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Sorry to sound like a smart-a$$: good tone comes out of the fingers of the player. It's not all about gear... (yeah I know what forum I am here...:-)
Old 15th October 2012
  #25
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hot Vibrato View Post
Ditto. You might consider splitting the signal - keep one relatively clean, while distorting and compressing the hell out of the other, then blend the two into the mix. A friend of mine made a record with a well known producer, and they had the great Willie Weeks lay down bass tracks. This was the technique they used, and the result was HUGE.
I second this. I duplicate the track, or run it to an aux track. Over compress it and add a little gain. Then blend the two tracks together in the mix.

When possible though I've found I always get a better bass tone with an amp miced up.

Sent from my PC36100
Old 15th October 2012
  #26
Here for the gear
you can opt for Go Nuts with EQ,Use Distortion and Play with the Attack Settings on Your Compressor
Old 17th October 2012
  #27
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Hot Vibrato's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Zimm View Post
When possible though I've found I always get a better bass tone with an amp miced up.
This has worked well for me also - a miked cabinet in addition to a DI signal. I always have to move the waveform of the mic signal over a little so that it aligns properly with the DI waveform - it's not 180 degrees off, but if you look at the waveforms, one right on top of the other, they're just slightly misaligned (maybe 30 degrees off). So I just scoot the mic waveform to the left a little bit so that the peaks and valleys look like they align with the DI waveform. Problem solved. This is definitely something you should be aware of if you use a mic on the cabinet in addition to a DI signal.
Old 17th October 2012
  #28
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basmartin's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by phil2000 View Post
Sorry to sound like a smart-a$$: good tone comes out of the fingers of the player. It's not all about gear... (yeah I know what forum I am here...:-)
Aha, so that´s why my mini Marshall 1w guitar amp sounds lousy on bass?
Old 18th October 2012
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FireMoon View Post
The fact is, a lot of modern Bass guitars actually do sound just a tad anaemic. .
Hmm, I wonder why that is? You need analog tape for bass (and drums and everything else for that matter). World of difference. Hearing my 67 hofner through a studer machine was what turned me on to tape in the first place. The sound was not necessarily vintage, just good. You can get a decent drum sound without tape, but trying to get the bass the way you want even with compression is super difficult with digital, especially since the bass is usually dead center, because digital has a way of making the center sound strange and undefined.
Old 18th October 2012
  #30
Fellow bassist/engineer here.

I have a multitude of preamps and DI's from SWR, Fender, Korn, Dremeter, Radial, UA, ...

I use a number of different basses from my 71 P-basses to my 1860 upright.

The best all around pre/DI for me is the SWR Interstellar Overdrive. I have two of them and use them almost all the time.
Live I use the IOD for my P-bass and a 2 channel Alembic for my electric acoustic and electric upright.
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