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Interesting "new" rig setup


Max Valentino

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Thought I would share this....

 

As many of you know, I have gone through a number of amp/preamp combinations in search of the illusive "one". Recently, and quite by accident, I had a sort of epiphany of tone which both ties into my philosophies of tone and some comments made by Jonas Hellborg in the current issue of BP about how most amps are designed to hide shortcomings in the instrument and establish the "signature" sound of the amp's manufacturer.

 

Not quite as "bad" as Steve C is my aquisition of preamps and such, I hav egone thru in the past couple of years preamps by Kern, Alembic, Demeter (both the 201 and HBP1) True Voice, BBE (both the ss and tube versions), Raven Labs, DTAR, SWR, Xotic, Avalon.....

 

None were quite "it". I suppose I am quite lucky to have a fairly well equipped home studio with some very nice mic pres (UA, Manley, Avalon, Chandler Ltd)., but have been hard pressed to find the same quality in my live rig. The studio mic pres are all far to expensive, big and specialized to use in a live rig.

 

For the past few months I have been using a DTAR MamaBear. Which is a digital "modeling" preamp for acoustic gtrs. With piezo equipped acoustic basses it works great as well. But not perfect.

 

I have thinned down my bass selections to two very high quality basses: both Rick Turner Renaissance models (five string fretless and four string fretted). These are very high quality instruments with wondrous tone. The electronics are a marvel. 18v active piezo system (Turner's own design) and a simple passive treble cut tone control. With this there is ample headroom (and no piezo "quack"), and the passive tone, combined with the iincredible touch responsive quaility of the bass, offers a very wide array of tones.

 

They sound very good thru the MamaBear as well...but, to be fair, the MB "helps" lesser instruments, such as my Godin semi-acoustics, much more. The sound of the Turner's is so good they don't really need it. Yet the MB neutralizes much of the "pickup" sound and provides more acoustic resonance and light compression (as that of an acoustic inst. body).

 

A week or so ago I had a solo gig, and I forgot to pack the MB. So, I ran straight into my Demeter Tube DI, out into my modded Lexicon JamMan and onto an AI Contra amp. Results: the most gorgeous tone. I rec'd many compliments on the tone of my bass that night (and, ...it was a restaurant gig playing dining music solo...fun gig where I basically improvise with loops for 3 hrs straight.... I made quite generous tips--over $100).

 

Made me re-consider how I was approaching things. I really feel, in many cases, "less is more" and have been striving for a very small, portable rig with extraordinary tone. Most important it would have the tone of my basses, not the tone of an "amp". Weight and size is important with a bad back (two discs removed a couple of years ago) and wanting the gear to basically fade away and not draw attention to itself. I have an Avalon U5, but don't use it live simply because it is too big and bulky.

 

So now I run straight to the DI for both solo and group work.

Running straight to a tube DI, with high quality basses, gave me a very nice tone indeed. The 27 megOhm input impedence of the Demeter means absolutely no loading of the source or tonal compromises are made. Tho the Demeter is touted as very "clean" it does have tube character, and the sound is full and warm.

 

SO that is my "new" input module. I run direct to a Demeter Tube DI, from there to a Demeter Compulator, (set very light)which adds another character...it behaves much like my UA LA610, and adds a "vintage" kind of vibe (is a subtle way) to the sound of the DI. That feeds the JamMan and inturn feeds a Barge Concepts VFB1 variable bypass loop which controls the mix of a Lexicon reverb (I was using a Demeter Spring reverb; very expensive and weighs 16 lbs by itself....went smaller and lighter there as well!). The signal runs to another Demeter Tube DI and that feed both the house and my onstage monitor. For small, intimate solo gigs this is usually my AI Contra and Contra EX, for ensemble or bigger venues I run to an AI Focus SA power amp and use Bag End 1x12s (2) or Bag End 2x10.

 

In all cases the setup is very fast. The gear quite small and lightweight (can carry my solo setup in one trip from the car!)and the tone magnificent. Using only the passive tone on the basses, and varied hand placement, I can obtain all the tones I need---and varied tones at that---without needing to spin dials, change settings or stomp on pedals. It is utterly simple, direct, quiet...and I love it. The "tone controls" are really in my fingers.

 

Not to say this is the answer for everyone. But it works well with my setup and playing styles. But, I do suggest this: run your bass into the fx return jack of your amp. This bypasses all the preamp and eq and what you will hear is the sound of your fingers and the bass (and the cab/speakers, of course). Listen closely because that is "your" sound. Examining your tone in this fashion may give you insights to dialing in your tone with the preamp/eq you use. As I said, it has been an epiphany for me to really the sound of my hands and bass.......

....now what I am gonna do with this stack of bass preamps?

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Nice thread Max -

It's amazing how simple/complicated something so complicated/simple can become eh?

After years of searching for "the sound" I finally narrowed mine down to a small 4 space rack (power strip, Bmax and head) and may eq a little for a room, but I never mess with pre settings any more.

I remember being quite satisfied but at the same time feeling like there was something missing too. Like finally getting your dream car after years of striving an saving or getting married after years of dating . . . is it ever really enough?

 

"He is to music what Stevie Wonder is to photography." getz76

 

I have nothing nice to say so . . .

 

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Three Demeter Tube DI's?!! 3?!! :D

 

I like the sound of this rig, it sounds like a nice balance between transparency and colouration.

 

I have an Avalon U5, but don't use it live simply because it is too big and bulky.

 

I'm now settling into using an Avalon U5 as my preamp and am kicking myself for not buying one years ago. It fits very nicely in a shallow rack along with my PLX3002, weighing in around 40lbs for the lot. Allied with one Acme Low B-2 for rehearsals and a pair for louder gigs the tone is so clear and responsive. I'm noticing that my hands have even more control over my tone, particularly in that I can make the neck pickup sound quite like a bridge pickup and vice versa, so I just need to pre-select the pickup that gives roughly the right range of tones and let my hands do the rest.

 

Alex

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Wow, Max. You are an artist and a scientist of sound. Fascinating quest!

 

Anyone who reads this forum knows that I am an ignoramus when it comes to gear. For many years I've been trying to amplify as closely as possible what I regard as the true sound of my Wal. Am I stupid that I've never once used a separate pre-amp. I use an AI Focus into an Epifani UL cab which is about as transparent and lightweight as I've been able to get - thanks to plenty of advice from this board.

 

What am I missing out on through ignoring separate pre-amps? I guess the pre-amp in the Wal is very versatile and obviously the Focus has a pre-amp section.

 

This advice is very interesting and new to me - I'll have a go at that:

 

"But, I do suggest this: run your bass into the fx return jack of your amp. This bypasses all the preamp and eq and what you will hear is the sound of your fingers and the bass (and the cab/speakers, of course). Listen closely because that is "your" sound. Examining your tone in this fashion may give you insights to dialing in your tone with the preamp/eq you use. As I said, it has been an epiphany for me to really the sound of my hands and bass......."

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Actually....it is only two Demeter Tube DIs. One is for the input and sports a NOS Mullard (yea, I know...a $150 tube...), and the other holds a NOS JAN GE Large Plate (dated 2/63...I like the sound of this better than my Telefunken tubes). I had one, which was my "go-to" DI for the past few years (small, exceedingly high quality, and I do like the "sound" of tubes--no matter how subtle that flavor might be). When this lil' set up dawned on me I was shopping for another tube DI and considered an Evil Twin (expensive...hard to find, but KILLER...) REDDI or a Groove Tubes Brick. Almost got the REDDI (and still may), but the one I tried was an older model without the parallel unbalanced out--which I need. They now feature a parallel out, but I was not sure if it was tube buffered as the bal. out is.

The Brick's unbal out is just a "thru" and not buffered by the tube. The Demeter uses the tube stage to buffer both outputs.

 

Another possibilty was the UA Solo610. I really like the UA stuff...but the 27megOhm input impedence of the Demeter was the seller.

 

I added the Demeter compressor just to add a bit of coloration...again it is subtle (the compulator is really transparent. But, it's tonal coloration is quite musical and kinda "vintage-y". It works nicely. The comp is set very low and only kicks on at all if I get a bit happy and bite into the piezos--which have an incredible dynamic range.

 

One thing about using multiple pre's: Most players use active electronics onboard (ok..some of use still dig passive..but a lot have active eq) and run to a preamp, either stand alone in in their amp head, which applies still more eq, and if you run to PA...well, there's still more eq. A lot of this overlaps and cancels or nullifies previous stages as well as producing some phase issues. I have tried to work around that. My only eq is on the bass...and that is passive. I use my amp, when I use one, only as an onstage monitor and can sculpt the eq there to compensate for stage sound. The "output" Demeter DI sends a clean signal of my bass and loops to the house PA (I am fairly fortunate to almost always gig with suitable PA support) which the engineer can eq to fit the house and mix. I can also "check" my tone by running into the fx return jack of my amp onstage which will give me the same sound I am sending to house.

 

A lot of times all this eq in preamps is designed to cover discrepencies in both the basses and the amps/speakers. In doing so the resulting sound is more the sound of the amp/preamp and not that of the player. This may not be a bad thing, but I feel it important to have as direct a line as possible from the player to the audience. The Turner Basses fit me like a tailored suit, and translate the sound of my hands nicely. This et up translates that to the audience with as little interference as neccessary.

 

This gives me a small setup (the largest thing is a three space rack with the JamMan and Reverb--the AI Contras weigh about 23 lbs each and are just larger than a basketball, the SA fits in the palm of your hand and weighs around 3 lbs or so, the DIs are the size of videotapes) with capable power, and no redundant eq stages. Hence, clarity of tone. With fingers alone there are a lot of available tones at my disposal just as with Alex's U5 setup.

 

Weight and size is certainly an issue for me, especially in my solo gigs where I don't want any big gear around.(nor do I want to carry a lot of stuff) I want the attention to be on single musician playing a single instrument, so the gear involved must be quite stealth-like, and this set fills that bill nicely.

 

I would think the sound of a Wal run direct (fx retun in) would be pretty amazing......

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Not quite as "bad" as Steve C is my aquisition of preamps and such.....

 

Max

 

I am honored to be mentioned in a post by Max, even though the reference may be considered by some to be less than complimentary :)

 

I should point out that I, too, have mentioned playing through a good DI. My posts were in reference to FOH sound and stage monitoring, but I feel pretty good to be in the same ballpark of thought as Max. The DI sound is what people hear, so why not make it good and use it instead of preamps and cabs that color your sound - unless you want that color.

 

The best tone is in your bass and hands and the PA/amp/monitor should reflect that. Maybe I should try...just kidding...I think. :eek:

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Steve....I meant "bad" in only the most complimentary, if somewhat ironic, nature. From your many posts I can read that you, like myself, have been on a long (an winding) road to tonal nirvana. Of course, that means trading out gear (at times) more often than others. Aw...whatcha gonna do with all that money anyway? Hold it, don't you have a new baby in the house? How are you finding money (and time) to explore new roads of tone?

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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Max...I took no offense at all.

 

Money and time to explore are at a premium. Grace takes up most of both and I wouldn't have it any other way.

 

I find the DI route interesting (per my other thread on staying the course) as my band is now basically using the same PA - with sub - for all gigs. This means that my bass is represented well as far as FOH sound is concerned. I have been debating going to a monitor type rig (instead of a "traditional" bass rig) as I don't have to "carry the house" very much any more.

 

We have 2 monitors being used by the lead guys in the band. There is one more aux send available and I used a powered monitor last time and no bass rig and it sounded really good. The stage volume is low and the FOH sounds good.

 

I have never really been one to count on an amp for my sound. The audience has almost always heard me through the PA. Obviouslly, as I go through rigs so often it kind of makes sense to go the DI to amp to "flat" cab rig - kind of like what you have done.

 

As of now I am hanging on to my GB rig, but it would sure be nice to just bring a powered wedge, my Radial JDI and bass.

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I used my big GB rig last night for a stage monitor and it was plenty. I barely turned it on. I may try another version of a powered monitor next gig. Our stage volume got a bit loud again and since I'm the only amp that's contolled on stage (everything else is DI and monitors controlled at the board) it must have been me. I swear I never turned it past 10:00 o'clock.

 

I may try a compact PA. Yamaha has a StagrPas 500. Two, 2 way 10's, 500 watts, and a mixer. I tried one briefly in the store with just one cab and it sounded like a good 10" cab. It's not room filling o rearth shaking, but that's what the PA is for. Two cabs and the full 500 watts mught be enough for small to medium gigs.

 

 

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Try it by all means but do not sell the GB to do so! Very few small PA cabs are any good at handling bass guitar, the speakers have far too little cone excursion to stay clean. A rare exception is the Carvin LS1503 which is proving quite a hit over on talkbass.

 

Alex

 

P.S. Why do you assume that your bass amp caused the high stage volume? Everyone else has the ability to play louder or quieter regardless of the monitoring situation and how does the sound engineer know how to set the stage levels once the gig has started?

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BTW....the "stack of bass preamps" was a joke. Most have been sold along the way.

 

Alas, sad for me! ;):)

 

I find some of this intriguing also in the context of something like the Bergantino powered cabs, where I would see quite an advantage (and simplicity) in using one of those in conjunction with a sweet-sounding DI or minimalist, yet tasty, preamp.

 

Peace.

--s-uu

 

spreadluv

 

Fanboy? Why, yes! Nordstrand Pickups and Guitars.

Messiaen knew how to parlay the funk.

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Try it by all means but do not sell the GB to do so! Very few small PA cabs are any good at handling bass guitar, the speakers have far too little cone excursion to stay clean. A rare exception is the Carvin LS1503 which is proving quite a hit over on talkbass.

 

Alex

 

P.S. Why do you assume that your bass amp caused the high stage volume? Everyone else has the ability to play louder or quieter regardless of the monitoring situation and how does the sound engineer know how to set the stage levels once the gig has started?

 

I'm sure we all contributed to the growing stage volume, but as I have the most power and largest cab on stage, I had to assume a little.

 

I think I will try the Yamaha Stagepas 500. They have one at the store here so I can try before I would buy. I don't know if I need to worry so much about specs and excursion as it's really for stage monitoring and not really for a main rig for now anyway. As long as I can hear myself - and mids really take care of that - the PA will handle the lows.

 

I have been watching the Carvin 1503 thread. If it was a wedge I think I'd be tempted.

 

I played at church today and again - DI to FOH/Monitors - I loved the way my bass sounds like that. No amp, no nothing, just fingers, bass, DI and FOH/Monitor. I always feel I should go to a "PA" type rig after I play at church.

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I will also try fx out next time I'm playing in church just to see the difference. I am slightly surprised Phil that an amp as transparent as yours would sound that different with the pre by-passed.

 

I can see that an ordinary set-up could easily include an active bass playing through a DI into an amp has effectively three pre-amps in series. That could be a lot of colouration. But as Max contests he likes the slight colouration from the Demeter DI and Compulator.

 

The difficulty when buying high-end DI gear is you can never try them all out together to find your favourite. Inevitably it's buy and then buy again!

 

Max, have you tried the new Reverbulator (pedal reverb) from Demeter? I know you love their rack mounted spring reverb.

 

Davo

"We will make you bob your head whether you want to or not". - David Sisk
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I am slightly surprised Phil that an amp as transparent as yours would sound that different with the pre by-passed.

Davo

 

Yes, I was too. It'd be interesting to compare another amp. I don't think that the AI colours the sound too much but there is a distinct difference. The Wal sounds more 'alive' direct - I wish I could tell you wish frequencies were affected but I'm not sure I can,

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I tried plugging the bass into the fx return last night on my WW. Subtle, but very interesting, there was a lot to like about it. Must investigate further. I asked the drummer what he thought about the tone, he said he's still reeling from hearing my beloved Sadowsky when the MTD went down for a couple of days last week - more on that in another thread.
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Phil, when you say "it sounds more alive direct" I presume you mean by-passing the pre-amp?

 

So an alternate set-up would be a Wal/tube DI/AI power amp.

 

Hmmm, that would be interesting. But hey Phil you are the least GAS-aholic bassist I know. So I know I won't be leading you down a dark path:)

 

Davo

 

 

"We will make you bob your head whether you want to or not". - David Sisk
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Well...I am running now a Turner>Tube DI>AI power amp>Bag End 1x12...sunds really good. I would think that a Wal would run just as well.

 

Well, one reason I've never bought a DI is that the Wal has 2 outputs: a regular one and a balanced XLR out.

 

Max, what is the function of the DI in your chain? Does the power amp section of the AI amp require a balanced input (am I being thick here?).

 

Phil, when you say "it sounds more alive direct" I presume you mean by-passing the pre-amp?

 

Yep!

 

But hey Phil you are the least GAS-aholic bassist I know. So I know I won't be leading you down a dark path:)

 

Well, you met my wife! She keeps a tight control on the financial outgoings. ;) I guess if I started earning a larger amount of income through playing again . . .

 

 

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Plugging into the FX return does bypass the preamp but it also means you're running your bass into a lower impedance input. With an active bass this will get you closer to the true sound of your bass, with a passive bass this will load down the pickups resulting in a loss of bottom and output. Great idea wih something like a Wal, not so good with an old Fender.

 

I tried this some time ago with my Warwick and it was very enlightening.

 

Alex

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God point Alex....yes the fx in wil have a lower impedence, and that will load down the passive pickups.....

 

I use the Demeter DI as an input buffer. I am currently using only piezo-equipped basses (Rick Turner), and piezos, even when buffered by an onboard preamp, need to see a very high impedence at the other end of the cable. This is the nature of the beast, and reflects the difference between piezo and magnetic pickups ( mags being, basically, inductors, and piezos being capacitors...). Most amps have fairly "reasonable" input impedences designed for mag PUs. High ratings would be up around 1 megOhm. But I have found this to not be enough using piezos, which need something around 3megs or higher. Any thing lower and there is some noticeable tone compromises. "acoustic" amps, like the AI have a high impedence input of 10megs. The Demeter Tube DIhas an input impedence of >27megOhms! This feature is what sold me on this particualr DI. I have a Demeter 201 preamp, which sounds great with mag PUs, and good with piezos (but not as good as I would like)...the difference being the input is only 1 meg (or less).

 

The very high input impedence translates as no tonal compromise whatsoever. The tube stage of the DI also buffers the output at both the bal and unbal jacks so this signal being passed on is quite true, and uncompromised (this gives me a better tone for loops...and I have found running into something "tres-analog", or even better a high voltage tube stage, either before or after runningthru A/D conversion helps smooth out any artifacts or digital mess which comes up via the process.

 

So, the DIs work as buffers, line drivers, and as "tube-stages" in the chain. I use the unbal out of the DI to go to the AI amp, which functions only as my own onstage monitor; usually very low vol., and the bal out feeds the house. Essentially I have put a tube stage (input runs direct to tube and tube is driven at full voltage) both at the front and end of the chain with no eq stages other than the bass (Turner has designed a magnificent eq circuit for the Ren Basses). Last night I ran it thru a Bag End 1x12 and Bag End 1x15....sounded superb at "performance volume".

 

 

...ah yes, I forgot that Wal's have that balanced "direct" out.

throws a whole new twist on things.........I would imagine that running that output to something really "unique" like a Chandler Germanium or TG would be outstanding (and likely the an amazing recording tone bypassing any mixer/console stages completely).

 

Max

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