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So...I got a new rig (again!)

Max Valentino

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It's been a while since I posted here at length..but things have been busy.

When I last left here, I had switched from rack stuff to a pedal based setup with an Xotic Trilogic preamp, RoboTalk, Bass BB and other pedal fx...


...I found I really did not like playing thru effects all that much. Too many options for my tired lil' brain to handle. I tended to play with the effects too much and play the music too little. Certainly fun but a bit time consuming, and a bit of a distraction at my solo shows. I am good with fx, good with processing so am not intimidated by it, but I tend to lapse into option anxiety. And tho' I really like the Trilogic, it still wasn't "the" tone.


"The" Tone, for me...the tone I heard in my head: clear and articulate,with a rich midrange, and no phase issues or the hashness of odd-ordered harmonics. This was best represented by my studio setup which usually involved a high end Mic Pre (Manley, Avalon or UA). Detailed, rich, robust and controlled by my fingers.


Then I stumbled onto a Chandler Germanium Mic pre. There was "the" sound. No tone controls on the pre, but an awesome input transformer which really details the sound of your hands on the strings, and a control to adjust the level of negative feedback sent back thru the circuit. Insanely simple, wonderfully useful, and quite expensive. But, I bought it anyway. Well, not as expensive as the Abbey Road ed. TG channel strip I later added to it.....

...to expensive and valuable for a gigging rig.


So I was questing for a preamp which would allow the true voice of my instrument, as molded by my hands and controlled by my fingers (what I call "digital tone controls") to shine thru. Like my recording rig does.


Guess what? Found it. Actually it one preamp which had been on my short list of interest for some time (and, coincidentally, the only onbe I had not owned or borrowed recently..). The Low End True Voice preamp. And there was "the" tone.


Incredibly pure and simple, it drives an input straight to a NOS (in this case early 40s GE and Sylvania) 6SN7 (or 6SL7 for hi gain tones). These are octal based tubes...much bigger than the typical 12ax7's. Much greater dynamic range and frequency range...as well as greater headroom. It sounds amazing.

No circuit boards...all point to point wiring (hand wired) with a single passive tone control, bright switch and active/passive input switch. It also has a NOS UTC Ouncer output transformer which is so flat across the entire freq spectrum it has made me rethink all my Jensen DI's.

...And, it is small. And light, and as some of you guys know weight is an issue after my back surgery.


There is an astounding array of useful tones in the combination of hand placement and pressure and the simple passive control setup on the TV.


Tho' I dumped the fx pedals, the one "effect" I keep is my Demeter Spring Reverb. That and my custom Bob Sellon modified Lexicon JamMan. So to interface these two rack mounted, balanced +4 line level units with the TV (which has no fx loop) I added a Barge Concepts VFB2 feedback/bypass looper.


Then I stumbled upon an all tube buffer amp by Red Iron Amps which was designed to remove the digital artifacts ("fizziness") produced by amp modelers such as the POD. The JamMan is my only digital effect. And while I feel the converters are somewhat "warmer" than contempory converters..nonetheless there is some "digital-ness" in there. Again, the Red Iron Amp is all tube (2x 12au7), and all hand point to point wiring. Very well made. Paul Sanchez at Red Iron custom built it for me to handle bass freqs. Stereo ins and outs, stereo volume control and passive tone control....

Geez the buffer works great! It can double as a direct-to- computer tube DI(complete with "ampish" drive and hair) and as a tube OD (a la Jack Casady and his Versatone) controlled by a volume pedal...or even as a tube re-amp box (putting it on an insert coming off PT or Nuendo can really pump up anemic, wimpy digital tracks..gtrs, drums, even vocals)!


Oh.. and it is as small as the True Voice preamp (another plus!)


Gives me some options.

Now my chain runs(For Solo Shows): Bass (Godin semi-acoustic fretted and fretless)

to a Demeter Tube DI (used as an input buffer; 27 megohm impedence and direct to a NOS Telefunken tube...)

to a Demeter Compulator (to tame the wide dynamic of piezos...set quite low...and to keep the signal from clipping the sometimes tempermental inputs of the JamMan)...

to the JamMan and onto the Red Iron Amps Tube Buffer...

then to the Barge Concepts VFB2 which swings in the Demeter RV1 Reverb..

and finally to the True Voice Preamp which feeds a Acoustic Image amp and Bag End 1x12 cabs.


or for playing with various bands with the Casady/Versatone type setup): Bass (Godins, Lakland HB, 65 Fender P, Modulus VJ)>Demeter DI>demeter compulator>Barge VFB2>(loop)>RedIron Buffer amp/tube OD> Ernie Ball Vol Pedal>True Voice pre.


Very simple and easy setup, really...with amazing sound. And, I think I might fianlly be satisfied with my setup (and all the glowing glass...).


Just thought I would share......



...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Incredibly pure and simple, it drives an input straight to a NOS (in this case early 40s GE and Sylvania) 6SN7 (or 6SL7 for hi gain tones). These are octal based tubes...much bigger than the typical 12ax7's. Much greater dynamic range and frequency range...as well as greater headroom. It sounds amazing.


the 6SN7 tube is very widely used in old hi-fi circuits as a driver and phase splitter. it's a great tube for those who want fidelity more than they want the familiarity of the 12A series.


No circuit boards...all point to point wiring (hand wired) with a single passive tone control, bright switch and active/passive input switch.


technically speaking, from an engineering standpoint, this is actually not a good thing. there is too much room for variation with point-to-point hand wiring. it's just as easy to misroute a wire and get magic tone as it is to misroute a wire and get monumentally bad tone. a properly designed circuit board is more consistent, but is also more costly. a small manufacturer like brian, who is likely doing all the work himself, doesn't gain much by adding that cost. it also helps that point-to-point, hand-wired tube circuits also have market mojo. ;)


congratulations on, again, finding what you're looking for. i've heard really great things about the tru-voice. enough that i should be looking into the tube line-driver market myself.



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Fascinating. I've been through a similar shift myself, from progressively using more and more effects and EQ, to rapidly paring back my effects options until I had no pedals at all, bypassing my onboard preamp, and solely using the 3-way pickup switch and my hands to determine my tones.


I'm still using my SWR Grand Prix but remain curious about purer preamp options. The nice thing about the GP is that it sounds pretty damn clean and flat, has lots of signal routing/connection options, has proven very reliable, has flashing lights, doesn't freak out anyone sharing my rig, and I already own it.


Going back to the effects thing, when I'm playing a part which in an ideal world would have an envelope filter on it I slide about more and use more vibrato, and when I'm playing a part which might like distortion I either dig in harder up near the neck to get fret buzz, dig in hard back my the bridge to get more growl, strum with my fingernails and/or play power chord based double/triplestops. A lot easier to play and sing simultaneously without worrying about pedals!



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Max, you may have brought me back to reality. I was debating a PodXT - again. I was thinking it would be fun to have access to a bunch of preamps and some effects, but after reading your post I have to wonder, why. The groups I play with don't really require multiple tones. Move my right hand a little, turn the pan knob a little or a lot, roll some mid in or out and I have different tones.


I am using a Roland Cube 100 combo that has worked well. The only thing is a couple of the models - "Super Flat" and "SWR" - that I like to use for the smooth jazz group are a little hissy. The "B-15" and "SVT" that I use for the pop/rock stuff are not. I'm assuming because they are non-horn models.


I'm not sure what to do. For the moment, nothing. What I have works OK. I sure like reading about what the pros are doing. Thanks for the update.



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Max and this is your simple set-up?


I must confess that I don't fully comprehend your post but you do like the True Voice Preamp it would seem.


Thanks for sharing this though.



"We will make you bob your head whether you want to or not". - David Sisk
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Well, "simple" might be a misrepresented. It is not as simple as plugging into an amp head, yet I meant simple in terms of the organics of the flow. There is precious little extraneous eq, no issues with phase relations (another byproduct of over eq-ing and faulty gain stages...and something my ears are particularly sensitive to). And, there is that even-ordered harmonics thing which only tubes provide. A pretty old-school concept, but certainly it is something of note. I find the tube stuff not only more aurally "pleasing" but also much more dynamically responsive. The tone control is back in my hands which is a technique I worked for several years developing.


I think we as bass players tend to over eq things, over compress things and over amp things to make up for shortcomings both in our instruments and our technique. What I have been looking for is something which will allow me to use my hands to control my tone. And to be honest, both the Demeter DI and Demeter Compulator are "extras" in this setup; I like what they do to the sound, but are really not neccessary. I have always felt my basses sound sound damn good (evidenced in recordings) but always felt live rigs forced me to make sonic concessions which to my picky ears were unacceptable.


I have found that for me, hand placement and finger pressure-both in the fretting and plucking hands-yields much more usable tone changes than amp or onboard active eqs. Using finger tips, pads, nails, differing fingers and placement of these both on the fingerboard and across the speaking length of the string, gives me a myriad of tonal options which are instantly accessible, and almost second nature.


Likewise with effects. With pedals or multi fx I tend to get lost in the many options I have available. Not bad when experimenting, but when playing I found it distracts me from the business at hand--playing music. By changing finger pressure, adding differing types of vibrato and slurs I can get the "vibe" of an envelope filter as well, Alex. Certainly it doesn't capture the swoops and whoops---or the duck quack--but it does convey the "liquidy" feel an EF imparts. Since I use loops quite a bit I have found I can obtain a chorus-y sund by double tracking a part; and likewise get a subtle flange or pahse effect by double tracking and changing hand pressure and placement. I find this sort of processing much more direct for me than tweaking knobs and stomping on pedals; it actually becomes an intrinsinct part of my playing rather than something I am adding to my playing.

And since this rig is all tube, digging in certainly gets me the overdrive when wanted (and it is more more manually controlled than a pedal, IMHO).


And while it sounds a bit complicated (reviewing my post I see this), it is really a simple setup (the TV and Red Iron Buffer are all I need for most band gigs) and my solo/looping rack (3 sp with a Furman, JamMan and Demeter Reverb) is bigger and heavier than all the other stuff. Makes my back feel really good!


Now I am looking at other cab power amp options. I like the Bag Ends, but have had them for almost 10 yrs now. And while it may be hard to beat the AI (and I am certainly not going back to the 80lb tube power amp routine!) I am looking around at things....





...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Max that looks like an awesome rig! :thu:


Just out of curiosity, what's your studio chain typically look like? Actually a better question would be this: How would your studio chain look if you had to use only your live components?


I'm guessing the effects would come out, greatly simplifying the chain to:

(a) bass>DI>Comp>Pre


I understand the concept of using the DI as an input buffer so as not to load the instrument pickups. The DI has a 27 Mohm input impedance; the Demeter Pre (you don't list one but it was easy to look up) is 1 Mohm. Simplifying things for the moment, is there a difference between these two chains?

(b) bass>DI>Pre

© bass>Pre


Without the need to tame the signal ahead of the effects, does it make a difference where the compressor sits in the chain? That is, are these two chains equivalent?

(a) bass>DI>Comp>Pre

(d) bass>DI>Pre>Comp


Finally, combining the last two questions, would these two chains sound equivalent?

(a) bass>DI>Comp>Pre

(e) bass>Pre>Comp


And where's the Tremulator? :o;)


Thanks for sharing your new shiny Ferrari. I'm sure I won't view my old beat up Pinto any differently now. :freak: (GAS? What GAS?) :D

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My recording chain is typically Bass> Demeter DI> Chandler Germanium mic Pre>to PC running Nuendo (but am currently switching to a Mac running Logic...)


I avoid using board pres or the (mostly) horrendous preamps found in interfaces.


Tracking in studios I have usually run direct to tape with similar setups (either UA or Avalon mic pres..or my trusted, yet currently ignored U5 ...all running at +4dB)


I have been of late using a Chandler TG MkII (Abbey Road Edition) channel strip as well which has a terrific custom input transformer (both Chandler units are solid state...but exceptional design and construction...think Neve both in design and sound) as well as a Pultec style EQ. Of course, this is a $3k channel strip/preamp and a bit out of place in a stage rig.


I also at times use an UA LA610 channel strip.


The Demeter DI has an unusally high input impedence which their preamps do not share-I have had both Demeter 201 and HB1 preamps in the past for my live rig. (I have used the Demeter DI as a live preamp as well...it is incredible! albeit fairly "bare bones" in this sort of configuration)

I do use it as in input buffer; it negates any load/phase issues completely. It has a NOS Telefunken tube and has "that" mojo.


It had been my "go to" stage DI in the past, but I find it functions VERY well as an input buffer (and the DI on the True Voice is so good!)


Often, I have run Bass>Demeter DI>UA La2a compressor>mic pre.

With the Chandler Germanium I find no need to run a compressor while tracking. The feedback control on the Germ is amazing.


My primary basses are a Godin A4 fretted, Godin A5 fretless and Lakland Hollowbody, which is passive. It is for this reason I use the DI as a buffer. Piezos, which are the Godin's electronics, even when buffered by an on board preamp, have an exceptionally high output impedence and require "seeing" an input of 5 megs or more (often in the 10megOhm range) to avoid any tonal concessions. At >27megOhms the Demeter insures that what goes in is what comes out. It also features a tube buffered parallel (1/4") out so a bit of the tube "mojo" is passed on there.


Last night I did some recording with just the new Red Iron amps buffer and the TV. The Red Iron amp provided plenty of "amp" color (sounded very much like a mic'd cab) and the TV sounded quite good...in fact probably as good as the Germanium in some ways! This doesn't really surprise me that much as both of these are built to "mil spec" and very high tolerances. They are audiophile quality in build and components ( teflon coated sterling wire and sterling silver solder, 1% metal film resistors, wima caps, ceramic tube sockets...the good stuff).


Sometimes a bit of high end attenuation is required for a "vintage" sort of sound. In this scenario I would opt for a pre with a lower input impedence (I have found the Manley VoxBox perfect for this...sounds great with my 65 P Bass). With the piezos, I will run into the Demeter Comp (with a 1meg input impedence it attenuates the highs in a subtle fashion). With flatwounds on either Godin I get a very good faux upright or "old school" Fender J or P tone with ease. I like to run this setup live with the Lakland HB as well.


There are different schools of thought on placement of compressor in the chain. Placing it before the preamp smoothes out transients and allows the pre's eq to operate easier (less dramatic boosts/cuts), yet this also makes it harder on the comp to do its' thing as eqing after a compressor can put peaks/valleys into the compressed tone and negate what has been previously dynamically altered (possibly something desired..possibly not). Running the comp after the pre smooths out any drama caused by extreme (defined as anything greater than +/- 6dB) eq. At the same time, running this way can negate some of the eq you have adjusted. Get it?

Experiment and use your ears. But, a general rule of thumb (or two rules) are if you have to make extreme boosts or cuts in the eq you have some sort of problem further upstream (strings, pickups, bass electronics). A preamp's eq should not be used to create a tone, but rather to help define what is already there.

And, if you can hear a compressor working you are over doing it.


As I posted, I think bassists these days are definitely over eqing and over compressing things. And this is usually because they have inferior instruments and/or technique. One should not rely on technology to "fix" things (goes for the "fix it in the mix" syndrome as well).


Other than the spring reverb (which, btw is the richest and most natural sounding reverb I have heard...I have been spoiled by this and simply cannot go back to using any of my digital verbs anymore) and loops (and I am using loops in a much more integrated way than simply a static even to play over...more interactive and musical manipulative...) I am "sans fx" these days. Getting a lot more mileage out of using my hands than stomping on pedals. It works for me this way....but I know plenty of guys who really do wonderful stuff with all sorts of fx. Just goes to show....


Hope that answers your questions





...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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First, I wish I could come for a demonstration. I want to hear what each box in your signal chain is doing for your tone. It would be a great education.


I understand about the effects pedals - I've avoided this to a great degree. I was a bit surprised when you "bulked up" on them.


For my applications, I'm not nearly as specific (OK - picky) as you are, Max. I suspect that I'd like the Low End True Voice preamp though....


EA and MarkBass are two manufacturers making small and light amps. Speaker cabs are wide open these days.


Enjoy the new rig!



Acoustic Color


Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars and keep your feet on the ground. - Theodore Roosevelt

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I'm still using my SWR Grand Prix but remain curious about purer preamp options. The nice thing about the GP is that it sounds pretty damn clean and flat, has lots of signal routing/connection options, has proven very reliable, has flashing lights, doesn't freak out anyone sharing my rig, and I already own it.


These are most of my reasons for loving my Grand Prix.

Especially the bit about the flashing lights.


Also, let's not forget "reasonably priced".


Max-there's no rig without pics. And maybe a flow-chart...






I'm a lot more like I am now than I was when I got here.






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Yes, pics for sure.


I thought hard about doing something (Pod XT most likely) but am gonna stay with what I have fo rnow. I get great FOH sound from my Radial JDI. I get a good stage monitor sound from my Roland Cube 100 - actually, it sounded good stand alone in a smaller room, too. and I can carry all my stuff in one easy trip.


I am curious about a Mesa Walkabout Scout, however. I tried a used Alembic through one briefly at a GC a few weeks ago and was impressed. They are expecting one in at a local shop so I may have to give it a more serious listen when it comes.

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Alright then..lemme see if I can download some pics for ya...

The typical chain (for solo shows, or when I might have a spotlight and am prone to use loopage) is:

Bass >> Demeter Tube DI (input buffer) >> Demeter Compulator>>

>> Custom Modified Lexicon JamMan >> Red Iron Amps Tube Buffer >>

>> Bage Concepts VFB2 Feedback/Bypass Loop--(in loop)--Demeter RV1 Spring Reverb (return to loop) >> Low End True Voice Preamp >> AI Image amp (either Contra or Focus SA) >> Bag End cabs


The Demeter DI I have found handy for recording, but not essential for live playing.


A simpler setup for ensemble playing minus the looping setup is:


Bass >> Demeter Comp >> Barge VFB2 (loop send)Red Iron Buffer-Ernie Ball Volume Pedal (loop return) >> True Voice Preamp >>

Power amp and cabs




...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Y'know Alex....while I may be fairly technically fluent in some things--I work my around a recording studio quite well, am versed in SSL, Sony Oxford and heck, even ProTools. Yet, all this internet stuff is beyond me. I don't have a website, never been to Myspace, have the slowest dial up modem imaginable...ain't got no cell phone, ain't got no ipod (hmmmm..."ain't got no speakers, ain't got no headphones, ain't got no records to play..."). I don't download, don't have satelite TV...and prefer to correspond with paper and quill rather than e-mail.

So...without a place to post the pics I cannot link them to here.


Some have told me it might be time to join the 21st century, but I cannot see any real reason to have that stuff. Since I would likely never use it.


My computers are used mostly for music production, for which I run a number of platforms (no, ain't no technophobe...) My internet access is slow and limited, and I spend about an hour a week on the internet. This information superhighway just never caught on with me...never floats my boat and seems (like so many of the technological wonders in this modern century) like such a great waste of time.





...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Max, I am shocked, I thought I was the only Techo-no-go on this forum. You may have me beat, I do have hi-speed internet but don't know how to use much of it. I never could figure out how to send a picture, heck, I don't even know where they are in my computer. I guess they are in there somewhere.



"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to eat for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb, contesting the vote."

Benjamin Franklin

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No...you got me beat, Rocky. I know where everything is...I even know how to use it all (even stuff I don't have!) The technology does not perplex me...nor frighten or intimidate me. I know how to use it but simply choose not to.


I have much better things to do with my time than spend it on the computer: Music, my kids, my wife (sometimes even in that order!),more music cooking, 11 acres of land and a big ol' house, still more music......maybe even something as archaic as reading a book!



...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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