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direct boxes vs amp direct line outs


bassartist

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I'm finding that a lot of players prefer to use direct boxes to go to the PA vs direct line outs on their amps. Why is this? I have an Eden WT400+ and a Carvin Redeye 2x10 combo. Both are great amps and one reason I bought them was so that I could come straight out of my amp to the PA... Is there an advantage to using a direct box instead?
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Hey, great to see you at the forum :wave:

 

I was wondering the exact same thing here earlier today. I don't really think there is any advantage at all of choosing a direct box instead of coming out of the amp. I would like to shape my tone and EQ before coming straight out of the P.A. But for some reason people buy direct boxes and then a little amp to hear themselves better. I guess it really doesn't make any sense to me either. :confused:

 

Hey, just a real quick question for you. How much do you like the Carvin amp? I never tried one with the R600 head in it, but how does it sound? I've heard nice thigns, but I just do not need 600w, because at 15 I'm not going to be playing in stadiums anytime soon. Seems like a good deal though.

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Last time my amp saw a stage show, the sound guy wanted to mic my cabs, but once he saw the direct out on my head he opted to just use that instead.

 

Only problem is I was booming over the PA so he ran up on stage and turned me all the way off...I was still booming (volume controls on my head don't affect the direct out at all) I couldn't hear me at all except for the crappy little 8" monitors they provided us.

\m/ Timothy Lyons
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I have a question about this, which I hope is on-topic enough for the thread.

 

When I run a line-out from the amp head (an SWR 4004) to a PA--a powered board coupled with a separate power amp (can't remember the wattage, but it's very ample)--I'm getting distortion through the PA mains. I've tried this with both active & passive basses, & the distortion seems to be there regardless of gain & volume levels. The PA should definitely have enough power for this, & the mains should be able to take it. I should try & see if going direct would eliminate it, but in a way I don't care because I don't want to go without the amp (I'd rather go amp only than direct only, but I'd really like amp + line out). Suggestions?

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Thats the way I run my rig right now... bass-amp-cab + DI to PA. I mainly use the cab as a monitor, but I keep it up just enough to provide a little extra to the bottom, and position it behind me facing out instead of in front as most monitors go. But the PA does most of the work. I've found that the drummer and I both benefit from having the cab as well as the DI.

 

DX

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I'd prefer to go line out through my head instead of a D.I. Every year I do this latin/jazz ensemble at a local festival on Labor Day. Every year the sound guy wants to use his D.I. instead of going out of my Peavey Mark 8 head. As I remeber, there wasn't any sound at all coming through the P.A. the first couple of years. The only reason that the bass part could be heard on the recording was because my sound was being picked up by all of the mics.

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transitive senses:1a.to make a groove in;1b.to join by a groove;2.to perfect by repeated practice;3.to throw (a pitch) in the groove

intransitive senses:1.to become joined or fitted by a groove;2.to form a groove;3.to enjoy oneself intensely;4.to interact harmoniously

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Originally posted by CowbellAllen:

Hey, great to see you at the forum :wave:

 

I was wondering the exact same thing here earlier today. I don't really think there is any advantage at all of choosing a direct box instead of coming out of the amp. I would like to shape my tone and EQ before coming straight out of the P.A. But for some reason people buy direct boxes and then a little amp to hear themselves better. I guess it really doesn't make any sense to me either. :confused:

 

Hey, just a real quick question for you. How much do you like the Carvin amp? I never tried one with the R600 head in it, but how does it sound? I've heard nice thigns, but I just do not need 600w, because at 15 I'm not going to be playing in stadiums anytime soon. Seems like a good deal though.

The Carvin is a great little amp with a lot of headroom if you bi-amp it with another cab. I just use it mostly for smaller gigs and rehearsals when I don't want to log my bigger rig around. It doesn't have quite the the tone I prefer though compared to the Eden head. It also tilts back, which is good for monitoring. For the money, its hard to beat...
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Originally posted by Timothy Lyons:

Last time my amp saw a stage show, the sound guy wanted to mic my cabs, but once he saw the direct out on my head he opted to just use that instead.

 

Only problem is I was booming over the PA so he ran up on stage and turned me all the way off...I was still booming (volume controls on my head don't affect the direct out at all) I couldn't hear me at all except for the crappy little 8" monitors they provided us.

That's why it's good to have a "level to di" control on the direct out. You can actually control the level going to the board.
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i tried using the DI out on my carvin head once. it didn't have a ground lift switch, so it hummed terribly.

 

so i use a direct box if it's available. the best sounds i've gotten in the house mix were from a combination of DI and mic -- the DI for the low end and the mic for the amp tone.

 

if you're relying on the house mix to be heard, you can't avoid having the sound guy twiddling your sound. therefore, i think it's a good idea to have your own DI, so you at least know it will sound good before he gets to it. one thing to try, though, is to turn up so loud that he cuts you out of the mix. that way you'll have control, if you really need it.

 

most of the sound guys i've worked with are very good and do at least a decent job on the bass.

 

robb.

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It comes down to your faith in the sound guy to mix you the way you want, your needs for stage presence (sound wise), and the ability of the band to hear you.

 

My Carvin 'out' (an older PB 200-ll) works great. Never a problem, and it can be balanced with the stage volume real well.

 

Except for the time (in a rush) I accidentally plugged the line into my foot-switchable output...

 

HEY!, We all make mistakes!!! Thank the BassGods for soundchecks!!

 

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Originally posted by dcr:

I have a question about this, which I hope is on-topic enough for the thread.

 

When I run a line-out from the amp head (an SWR 4004) to a PA--a powered board coupled with a separate power amp (can't remember the wattage, but it's very ample)--I'm getting distortion through the PA mains. I've tried this with both active & passive basses, & the distortion seems to be there regardless of gain & volume levels. The PA should definitely have enough power for this, & the mains should be able to take it. I should try & see if going direct would eliminate it, but in a way I don't care because I don't want to go without the amp (I'd rather go amp only than direct only, but I'd really like amp + line out). Suggestions?

DCR, what I think is happening is that your bass is overloading the input stage of the PA. Is there a level control (in addition to the faders)? It's sometimes called a trim. If you're getting distortion on that channel, back off the trim until peak level don't distort, then bring the fader up to mix it with the rest. This happens to me with my Carvin PA, it doesn't have a trim control, and the bass (which I run through a Raven Labs DI) overloads the channel causing lights to flash (overload peak lights), but strangely enought, it doesn't sound distorted. But when I dig in, the lights start going and I know I'm overloading the channel. But a lot of times I'm too lazy to bring PA and a bass amp, so I just run everything through the PA and live with it. I really like the sound, but wish I had a trim so it wasn't overloading.

 

My .02 cents

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As far as noise in the amp di....there could be, as some suggested, ground lift problems (there is a box to fix that) or line level problems (need a pot to send the right amount of signal) or impedance problems.

 

As far as the use of stage monitor...I much prefer to use my amp, dial in my own town...I sound more like myself and actually take more risks that way. I figure the sound guy can get something he can use from my direct...and fix it the way he wants.

 

However, as one person discovered...bass amps are powerful enough to override the house. Suddenly the sound guy can't get a decent sound in the house. I've been in more than one situation where I've been taken completely out of the mains.

 

When that happens, I lose the advantage of having a sound guy...

 

I've learned to be ready for any eventuality.

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Where to begin??? ;)

 

To answer the original question:

 

originally posted by Bassartist:

I'm finding that a lot of players prefer to use direct boxes to go to the PA vs direct line outs on their amps. Why is this?

There are several reasons.

First, even quality manufacturers tend to go cheap on an amp's line out.

 

I've mixed all kinds of makes and models of bass amp line outs and invariably, about 85% or more of the time the amp line out is noisy with hiss, hum, or both. Sometimes I can solve the hum problems with an isolation 1:1 transformer. Other times, it's an internal problem. By the time electricity exits the line out, the hum is already part of the signal. Then I'm stuck with it.

 

Using a separate bass DI after the instrument (and possibly some pedal effects) gives me the shortest signal path to the board, the cleanest signal possible, and takes most volume control over the PA away from the musician. He/she can still adjust the amp level as a monitor, but this no longer affects my feed. On higher quality, modern amps, you can usually switch the line out to either pre or post volume or EQ, but noise is often still an issue.

 

Secondly, as Timothy Lyons and DCR discovered, cheap PA mixers and bass DI outputs don't mix. Why? Because most cheap, compact mixers don't allow you to run an XLR into their line input. On a Mackie, for example, the XLR input automatically feeds the mic pre, which is optimized for instrument or mic level signals. To put it bluntly, miniscule signals requiring massive amounts of gain. The DI out on a bass amp usually feeds a line level signal, far too powerful for the mic input. Some have a level control, but the range between off and too much is a tiny slice of the potentiometer travel.

 

On more expensive boards, you can either switch a single XLR input between a mic pre or line input, or you at least get a pad, which increases the input resistance, thus lowering the input signal level. You can use an XLRf to 1/4" TRS adapter to plug the DI into the line inputs on these boards.

 

Unfortunately, I find many bass amp DI's are too powerful for Mackie and Behringer's line level inputs. (The 1/4" jacks.) Still, I'd suggest you try them with your amp DI and see how your mixer handles it. This is assuming you can live with the hiss/hum situation.

 

There is a caveat to a DI after the instrument. If you buy a passive DI, be aware it will almost certainly deaden the high frequencies audibly. Most bass players can live with it, but if you're a fanatic about tone, buy an active DI. It will require battery or phantom power from the PA mixer, but the sound quality will be far and away better than any passive can provide.

 

Behringer manufactures a copy of the BSS I own and love. It sells for about $50, which is dirt cheap for an active DI. I've heard good things about them, and the few times I've used them they've worked fine, but I'd question the quality and ruggedness. Radius, BSS, Countryman, Whirlwind, and others also make DI's in the $120+ range. Active DI's will also be more likely to have a switch for passive, active, or line level input signals and a ground lift.

 

If you reallyhave a hard-on for tone, check out one of the many tube DI's available. The good ones are expensive, but sound wonderful.

 

Bass Player magazine did an interesting shoot out of passive and active DI's a few years ago. Try to find it in the archives and compare with newer models.

 

Hope this helps!

 

Oh, Brendan, if you had no bass in the PA, your stage level was probably too loud. Some mixers and musicians don't mind working it that way. If you do mind, turn down your stage volume so the house mixer needs to turn you up into the audience. Of course, that means you need to get used to a quieter monitor level.

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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There's not a DI box made that will even come close to the sweet sound of the DI output of your Eden head.

 

[Thumb]

Eden, no one doubts your love of Eden equipment, but what criteria are you basing this on?

 

You're telling me that you're confident the DI on your Eden will sound better than an Avalon Tube DI? Have you A-B'd the two?

 

I haven't, which is why I've stayed out of this discussion. But your comment has caused my brain to latch upon a more important subject that's a cornerstone of what we're talking...having an open mind and understanding when a discussion will change a situation for the better or whether it will simply cause an argument to happen, and how this affects your bass sound. (Philosophy with bass? Why not?)

 

Many engineers prefer to get a direct sound the way they always do (using the same DI box) regardless of which player is touting their "amazing direct output". Why? Because they know what to expect, as opposed to the output of an amp, where they're at the mercy of, at the very least, the player's upkeep of his/her equipment. Which is not always reputable, if ever...

 

Remember, as musicians, our reputation unfortunately precedes us...because of the soundman's countless experiences with belligerent, stupid, drunk and/ or dirty musicians who have very specific demands about how they want their sound to get the house that has little to do with anything else except what they happened to read in their dirt-smeared owner's manual on the way to the gig.

 

It's a two-way street to be sure, and it's been challenging to maintain my cool as a soundman unfairingly unloads all his frustration with rude musicians at me, simply because he didn't have the courtesy to tell me how he likes to have the house amp set before I start playing... :rolleyes:

 

Learn about how house and monitor mixes work...about the difference between line and mic levels, about how annoying ground loops can be when you've got four different circuts on stage and pieces of the same player's rig plugged into all four because he has so many rackmount units...and most important...assume that the soundman MIGHT know more about his job than you do. After all, they often do. They're thinking about the sound of the band interacting with the room...you're thinking about the bass interacting with the band. Related topics, but with vastly different criteria.

 

I've met good soundmen who have completely different ways of getting bass to the house. Some prefer to just mic the cabinet. Some plug you into a DI. Some plug into the direct out on your amp. Some do all three!

 

But, the absolute best way to get your bass sound to the house is still the following:

 

Stick out your hand to the soundman, shake it, and ask him his name. Then tell him yours. Say it's nice to meet him, even if it isn't. :D

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My post was intended to exaggerate the point that the original poster had questions about DIs when there is no doubt that the Eden DIs are famous for their great sound, and he already has one.

 

Every time I show up for a live or studio gig, the sound engineers are always over-joyed, if I have my Eden with me to be DIed. And for good reason.

 

I'm sure there are some esoteric DIs that compete with, and may even sound better than, the Eden DI's. But frankly, if the original poster has an Eden WT400 head, he's already in the 99th percentile, when it comes to great sounding DI's.

 

:thu:

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...still thinking of getting a DI box. I've heard some interesting things here. I'm thinking of getting a tube DI box. For now, though, I'm just going direct from my Peavey TNT 115's preamp out via 1/4 in. jack, and it sounds good, but lacks some volume.

 

I'm thinking of either a Presonus blue tube, or an ART Tube MP with the OPL protection circuitry. Both are made for mics, but I imagine those would be excellent choices for instrument use as well. I'd send the XLR out to the mixer, then if possible, the 1/4 out would go back to the Peavey's power amp input, so I could warm up the tone a bit.

 

Is it worth it getting one of these units, or should I just get a good solid state unit instead?

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Originally posted by BenLoy:

But, the absolute best way to get your bass sound to the house is still the following:

 

Stick out your hand to the soundman, shake it, and ask him his name. Then tell him yours. Say it's nice to meet him, even if it isn't. :D

Ben - My thought exactly, as I was reading through the posts. House soundguys at the clubs vary wildly both in level of apathy and proficiency, but my feeling is that you have to at least BEGIN by assuming the person behind the board knows how to get a decent sound going. I KNOW the best way to get a crap sound for a set is to try to tell the sound person how to do his/her job. And I also think that sometimes with the less-than skilled or less-than motivated sound person, throwing a preamp line out (complete with EQ and level, etc.) into the mix is only going to complicate the game ...

 

My experience has been that most competent sound engineers at clubs here have put a DI between my bass and my amp, fed the board from the DI. They let me diddle around to get the sound I like on stage, but we both know that they're going to do EXACTLY what they want with the mix. And frankly, I'm fine with that - standing on stage with my head in a rack full of cymbals and my ears stuffed with Flents, I have literally no idea what the "best" stage sound is, and even less idea of what the mix out in the house sounds like ... I can only imagine what kind of havoc it would play with the house mix if, running off the XLR out of my GK, I were to wander over to my bass amp in the middle of a tune and crank up the bottom end or the input gain because I "just wasn't feeling it" ...

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Hmmmm....

Sound engineers, both live and studio, will often ask you to run thru one of their DIs, as they have grown accustomed to the peculiarities of those boxes. In other words, they know how to get a good sound out of the quickly.

 

Every DI is different, with its own sonic peculiarities. DIs on amps are notoriously cheap, this is where manufacturers can cut cost a bit (before the flames start...that is MOST amp DIs.) Also, they are rarely isolated and regulated, meaning that they are prone to pickup all that internal amp noise.

Rarely do they incorporate high quality transformers (at both input and out put stages), rarely are their output "pads" properly calibrated.

 

A stand alone DI is, usuallly, designed for this one specific task, and many feature top notch parts and craftsmanship.

DIs like Raven Labs, Summit and Avalon all use high quality isloated transformers, insuring high quality sound.

Of course there are cheap DI units out there too. And the bottom line is "you do get what you pay for".

I use DIs in several places in my signal chain...not just to send to the house. I use them as input buffers for effects chains, impedence matchers, and line splitters. Active DIs often offer additional Eq (like the parametric eq in a Baggs DI or the grphic eq on the Fishman Bass DI..which also offers a good compressor..or the aural exciter on the new Aphex units).Many offer pre/post switching to defeat any eq going to to th house (your stage sound may sound great to you, but 50 feet away it will most likely be a pool of mud. It is best to let te FOH engineer mix you for the room, and you can let your amp give you "your' stage sound). Tube DIs offer tonal coloration, each being quite unique.

 

I use a L.R. Baggs ParaDI, Raven Labs MDB1, Raven Labs APD1, Fishman Platinum Pro Bass, Avalon U5 (and M5 mic Pre),Retrospec Juice Box and an ADL Tube Direct. Sometimes all 8 together...usually just three or four. The Baggs is an input buffer for any pedal fx I might use (it also features an insert, which is quite handy) the Raven Labs units route the signal to my loopers and rack fx (which for recording can be all Di'd to seperate tracks), the Fishman is a final buffer/eq/compression for looped parts and the Avalon and Retrospec are final sends...the ADL rarely leaves the studio (you don't take a $2000 DI to a club!)

Onstage I use my amp and a small speaker box (usually a 1x10 or Epifani 1x12) as a monitor..and use the DI to fill out the sound in the house and the monitors.

I use a mic pre for my preamp with a seperate power amp...no amp DI. Often I eschew the whole amp thing and just show up with my bass and DI....if I know and trust the sound guy ;)

 

And...Eden is famous for many wonderful bass-related things, but their DIs are not one of them.

 

the best DI I ever heard or used? A Millennia Stt-1. $3500.00 CAn give you a most transparent sound!

 

Max

...it's not the arrow, it's the Indian.
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When I get to a gig with a soundman, I tell him that I have an SWR amp with a direct out and he can use that or if he wants me to use his direct box I'll be glad to do that. I'm as polite and respectful as I can be. Sometimes I also ask him to let me know if my onstage volume is too high and if I should turn down or if he just wants to mix me out of the mains.

 

The amp direct out has a choice of direct which bypasses the preamp or line which is after the preamp. If they use the amp direct out, they always want the direct out, which is fine with me, it means that changes I make on stage will not affect the sound into the pa and it means that they will get an un-eq'ed sound to work with.

 

That's fine with me, I'm happy with the sound of my bass without any eq....I only use eq to cover for room acoustics or inadequate cabinet response anyway.

 

If I were to use effects pedals, I would use a direct box and not put the effects pedals through the loop in the amp.

 

Most soundmen would prefer to use something they are familiar with.

 

They are not familiar with the levels produced by every model of amp, not all amps have level controls, few of them have ground lift. Yeah, they could figure it out, but speed is part of their job.

 

By the way, once there was a big problem with hum when using a Countryman. We couldn't find it until I moved the direct box from where it was sitting on the top of the amp to the floor.

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Wow! Is it ever refreshing to hear the opinions of Jeremy C, Max Valentino, Music-Man, and Ben Loy.

 

Nashville is a town of great musicians, most of them polite and attentive that the soundman needs a balance to do his job well. To be honest, I wish I could make a similar comment about many local sound mixers.. :rolleyes:

 

Most times I'm greeted by musicians who want me to succeed, so they will sound great. Inevitably, more out of town acts arrive on the defensive, ready to tell me how to do my job. That's fine, until they interfere with my ability to do it well.

 

So I raise a bubbly caffienated beverage to you guys. (I don't drink alcoholic beverages. ;) ) May our paths cross on a stage near you... or me.

 

And Edendude, I'm certainly glad you've had good experiences with your direct out on the amp, but Max Valentino said it well. Eden amps are wonderful, but their DI's are notoriusly problematic, as are Gibs... er.. Trace-Elliott's. ;)

 

Tazzola, check out the Presonus or ART in the store vs. a decent active DI. I believe you'll find they do not add the subjective warmth you crave. I was very disappointed with the Presonus with acoustic guitar. The ultra-high impedance of the piezo pickup may be partly to blame, though. See what you like. :)

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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The sound guys around here are happy to take the DI from the back of my SWR. Never had a problem. I guess I could have an expensive tube DI box, but does the audience at most venues REALLY notice it? Don't get me wrong - I want to sound good - but really, the drunk on the dance floor could care less.
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Originally posted by dcr:

I have a question about this, which I hope is on-topic enough for the thread.

 

When I run a line-out from the amp head (an SWR 4004) to a PA--a powered board coupled with a separate power amp (can't remember the wattage, but it's very ample)--I'm getting distortion through the PA mains. I've tried this with both active & passive basses, & the distortion seems to be there regardless of gain & volume levels. The PA should definitely have enough power for this, & the mains should be able to take it. I should try & see if going direct would eliminate it, but in a way I don't care because I don't want to go without the amp (I'd rather go amp only than direct only, but I'd really like amp + line out). Suggestions?

The line-out of your amp is either giving the board too much or not enough signal... most likely too much signal. See if there is an input pad on the board (and if so) try it with the pad on. Also, you might check to see if there is just a variable input gain for that channel, it will be a knob on that channel and it's usually near the top of the board.
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Thanks, Randy & bumpcity! I'll try it this weekend with a pad engaged.

 

We've lost our guitar (which went through the mains), so I thought it might help a little (probably not *too* much) to put a touch of bass in the mains, just to keep things fuller sounding. It's all the strings we've got at the moment!

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Wow, I'm glad I asked this question about di's vs amp line outs! As I suspected, there are varying opinions on both sides of the issue, but I guess it comes down to what works best for the overall sound rather than what is heard on the stage. And if the engineer is experienced, then it's probably best to go with what he or she recommends despite our "great and wonderful" equipment.

 

I have been satisfied though with my line out on the Eden except for the hiss. But I thought that it was coming from too much treble.

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Originally posted by bassartist:

I have been satisfied though with my line out on the Eden except for the hiss. But I thought that it was coming from too much treble.

And that is exactly the point with some direct outputs. Many bass players add incredible amounts of treble to their timbre in the preamp section. The direct output reveals just how much hiss is present in the preamp EQ circuit. Taking the signal direct from your bass to a DI leaves that garbage out of the PA line. :)

It's easiest to find me on Facebook. Neil Bergman

 

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Originally posted by fantasticsound:

Originally posted by bassartist:

I have been satisfied though with my line out on the Eden except for the hiss. But I thought that it was coming from too much treble.

And that is exactly the point with some direct outputs. Many bass players add incredible amounts of treble to their timbre in the preamp section. The direct output reveals just how much hiss is present in the preamp EQ circuit. Taking the signal direct from your bass to a DI leaves that garbage out of the PA line. :)
True...but for players like me who use some effects, that may not always be desirable. Though I might be able to use a DI that takes the right channel of my DigiTech BP200, and work from there.

 

My current signal path:

 

bass > DigiTech BP 200 floor multiFX (LEFT jack for output) > Peavey TNT 115 (Lo Gain jack) > preamp out sent to mixer using 1/4 inch speaker cable (my model doesn't use the XLR outs; newer models have this)

 

I hook the BP200 in front, because I don't like the sound of the amp models, compressor, distortion, or the wahs in the effects loop. Most of the time, with my current group, only the amp modeling + volume pedal mode is used.

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Originally posted by tazzola:

My current signal path:

 

bass > DigiTech BP 200 floor multiFX (LEFT jack for output) > Peavey TNT 115 (Lo Gain jack) > preamp out sent to mixer using 1/4 inch speaker cable (my model doesn't use the XLR outs; newer models have this)

Just FYI, you could very easily stick the DI box that house sound-boy wants to use after your BP200 and before your amp.

 

All the amps I have owned up to this point have had hit and miss luck with the direct out on the back. My Ashdown pre-amp however, has yet to sound bad. No hiss, no hum, no fuss, no muss... just add hot water and it's ready in seconds!! oh wait... slipping into some sort of commercial there. Seriously though, the direct out on my Ashdown is brilliant. I've used it for studio session work and the engineers in those sessions had nice things to say about how good it sounded.

 

Bottom line here, and others above have already stated it: If the house sound-boy wants you to use his Countryman DI because that's what he knows and likes, use it. Being exceptionally nice to the house soundman is the best thing you can do for yourself. Hopefully he knows what he's doing, and if he likes to use a DI for the bass and you don't like to use a DI... well, you're going to just have to suck it up and suffer for that evening. :)

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