struggling with bass tone

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struggling with bass tone

Post by pk » Mon Jul 07, 2008 8:24 am

While everything else about recording has definitely gotten better over the years (and still so much to learn and improve upon), the one thing that I still constantly have issues with is when recording live bass. When I got my Apogee Ensemble late last year, it was a huge improvement all around, especially after learning about recording levels from the mighty thread on this board, everything just began to sound better and mixing became easier and just more fun. That said, while the DI inputs on the Ensemble seemed great at first, I feel like I could do better.

Sure, a great bass to begin with wouldn't hurt, but I don't have the budget to get one just yet (a late 70's Fender P or Jazz bass is what I lust after), so I do what I can with my Mexican made Fender Jazz bass. I went from flatwound strings for a couple of years and back to regular ones recently, and while it seems the tone is ok just after recording it, I find it sounds so muddy within the content of the mix, and I'm pretty good at eq'ing, generally speaking. So I want to tackle the issue before I hit Logic, meaning a better signal path.

Joel and Toaster really seem to like the Avalon U5, which I could just go for, but I was curious to hear other opinions. A simple $200 Tech21 Bass driver, Tab-Funkenworks DI, Countryman, etc.. Just something that makes it breathe more, that gives it more definition so it cuts nicely through a mix, like those great funk and soul recordings of the 70's (just an example).

Thanks for any help!

ps: I was also wondering if it's common to plug the bass into a gtr amp not only to mic it as one option, but to dismiss the mic and simply use the line out from the amp and into the interface (essentialy the amp acting as a DI...sort of?)

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Post by Huntlabs » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:32 am

Avalon U5 or a Hamptone JFET pre (Used as a DI). The hamptone doesn't have eq but sound identical to the u5 without the eq, at least to me and my bass player. If you need good mic pre get the Hamptone. If bass DI is all you want get the Avalon, the eq is nice.
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Post by mattwhritenour » Mon Jul 07, 2008 10:39 am

The new Rackmount Sansamp would do a great job.

I have the older RBI and love it, you can still get it for the same price as the new RPM but with the new one you can sweep the mid freq's instead of it being fixed

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Post by GooberNumber9 » Mon Jul 07, 2008 11:28 am

You can go to GC and buy a SansAmp bass driver DI and try it out and return it within 30 days. I've never been happy with the sound of a bass just plugged right into a DI box (like a Radial or Countryman), I'm always reamping it or running it through a few plug-ins with crazy settings.

With the SansAmp, I just use that as the DI box instead, fiddle with the knobs for a minute, and I'm pleased as punch. I've never used the Avalon, but in my experience the most god-like bass tone I've ever gotten was taken from the DI out of an Aguilar DB750, which is definitely my holy grail, most-lusted after bass amp. If I had one of those I would stop using the SansAmp.

Another option is the SansAmp PSA-1 plug-in, which does a great job with sculpting sounds that come straight from a bass's output jack.

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Post by leftofthedial » Mon Jul 07, 2008 1:36 pm

+1 for the sansamp for direct only.

If a cab is an option, Countryman Active DI and a LDD like an RE20 or Senn421 on the cab. Time slip the cab signal forward in time to match the phase of the DI. Blend to taste.
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Post by darjama » Mon Jul 07, 2008 1:41 pm

I know this isn't the question you asked, but how's you're monitoring situation? Are you sufficiently bass trapped?

And don't forget to look at your technique. Are you picking or plucking up by the neck joint? Try closer to the bridge.

These two things will probably have a much greater impact on your tone than a new DI.

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Post by mjau » Mon Jul 07, 2008 1:55 pm

Darjama makes a good point. What sounds great to me while playing (using my fingers, up in front of the pickup) usually sounds muddy when recorded. Vice versa - I don't really like using a pick when playing, but for recording purposes sometimes it's what's in order.

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Post by ctmsound » Mon Jul 07, 2008 2:01 pm

Sansamp Bass DI, instrument out into a Countryman Type 85 seems to work well for me. I mean, I also use an ampeg 8x10 mic'ed up. But ya, blend to taste. Good stuff.

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Post by dsw » Mon Jul 07, 2008 4:05 pm

Are you using bass cut (hi pass filter) on all the other channels (except kick) ?
This will help give the bass a place to live in the mix. Also sometimes when mixing bass I have actually cut some of the lows out to give it more punch. Low E is what? 41 hz? so gently rolling off 41-80 can do amazing things for the mud.
Seems counterintuitive and I certainly don't always do it, but worth a try.
I also like using multi-channel compressor plug ins like the Waves C4 for more mids without too much more mids, if you know what I mean.

I have an Avalon U5 that works great. but I also like the Radial DI's a lot.

I'm a bass player too, and you know....bass is the toughest thing to get right IMHO.

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Post by nordberg » Mon Jul 07, 2008 9:42 pm

i agree with darjama. check out the monitoring. you may very well already be getting great bass tones.

i have a telecaster bass which is the most versitile thing i've ever heard. it ALWAYS sounds good in any context when i play it. the only problem is that no one else wants to play it! i think they're all intimidated by the super long scale neck.
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Post by Chris_Meck » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:18 am

assuming you're tracking flat, and that your monitoring situation is decent (does it sound bad everywhere?)...

have you thought about maybe just getting some nice pick-ups and dropping them in that bass? one of the big weak points in the MIM guitars/basses is the pickups, IMO. I've noticed the MIM jazz's sound fairly muddy.

Just a thought...
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Post by crow » Tue Jul 08, 2008 12:22 am

i recently tried the old "speaker-as-mic" trick, using an ampeg b-18 as a microphone on an ampeg 6x10 cabinet, blended with an sm7 close-miking the same cabinet. i was very happy with the results, and now give it a shot whenever i can. for DI's, i've been enjoying the avenson audio "little DI" on bass, if it's a situation where the bassist is only playing direct at the moment (the avenson doesn't have a parallel output like most DI's). i often track the bass direct, and then reamp it, to take advantage of the increased real estate available for micing the bass amp after the drummer and guitarists have gone home.

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Post by Babaluma » Tue Jul 08, 2008 1:20 am

scored an avalon u5 last week and am enthralled! my bass tone has gone from a muddy ditch to a crystal clear lake.


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Post by curtiswyant » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:19 am

Are you recording a live band? When I multitrack/overdub, I try to save bass for last so I can tweak the tone relative to the other tracks. The notes/strings you're playing are really important, too. I find that having a really "tasty" bass part will help it stick out in the mix more than anything else. Those old Motown/soul guys moved all over the neck and played "around" the other instruments, especially the bass/snare.

Also, the Sansamp BDI is the best purchase I have ever made besides my Boss tuner pedal.

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Post by aaronaustin » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:44 am

I also like the Bass Driver DI, and so does our bass player. I also have a Fender Mexijazz Bass and I plugged it into the DI on my OSA L3 and it sounded awesome--but then you've got to buy a 500 series rack and all that.

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