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Bass Direct into PA System

Big Bottom Willie

Sorry if I'm hijacking this thread but I'm hoping Landon can offer me some advice.
My band also uses pedal boards/processors directly into the PA in lieu of individual guitar amps. Which is fine for the guitars, but I'm left a little underwhelmed by the sound I get for my bass. I've tried tweaking the EQ at the board, using a Zoom B2.1u pedal, and I still can't seem to find the right bass sound; maybe it's just me, I don't know. My latest effort is a Tech21 Sansamp BassDriverDI which seems to do a little better but I've had limited time to work with it.
So Landon, I would be interested in hearing how your band deals with getting a good bass sound, if you don't mind giving away trade secrets! :D
September 8, 2010 @03:30pm
Tomm Williams

Not trying to act like I know a whole lot about running bass direct but if I understand you correctly, you don't use a bass amp, you use the PA===correct? If so, my first question would be: are you using subs? I would think running a direct line-in for bass without subs would be a waste of time.
September 9, 2010 @03:16am
Big Bottom Willie

Correct - no bass amp, just the PA.
(umm - not entirely true - I've begun using a SWR WP12 as a wedge monitor just so I can hear myself adequately)
We do have two 18" subs, in addition to four powered 15" 2-way speakers. Not really a bad setup but my bass gets very boomy from the subs. I would think it's partially an EQ problem but we've tweaked and tweaked and I just don't like the sound... again, might just be me.
September 9, 2010 @01:29pm

Try to pick up a DBX 163x compressor off eBay or something. I got one a while back for $60. They sound great on the bass in the full mix through the PA.
September 9, 2010 @03:50pm

Yeah a compressor can definitely turn boomy into punchy. It's a little counter-intuitive... read on.
So a compressor typically makes louder things quieter, and therefore volume differences are not as drastic. But the secret with bass and kick drum is that if you set it for a slow attack (20-30ms) then the very beginning of each note is the same volume coming out as going in, thus, you actually don't need [much] makeup gain. Your note starts at whatever volume you pluck it, and then after a moment it clamps down so that your note doesn't continue blowing up the subs. That's what I call punch. You're actually creating dynamic range with a tool that is often used to reduce dynamic range. Also, be sure that the threshold is set such that your gain reduction meter stays sufficiently lit throughout held notes, and that your release setting is fast enough that the gain reduction is completely gone quickly enough for the next attack to get through at war volume.
Volume over time...


EDIT: Oops, can't do this with a 163x. Maybe a 166 or anything else with more than one adjustment!
September 9, 2010 @05:29pm

Just a quick note...I moved this section of the thread into this forum as a new thread where it may get a bit more attention than it would as a part of a thread on a different topic.
September 9, 2010 @05:39pm

How does the bass sound if you solo it on the mixer into a pair of good headphones? If it sounds good, then the problem is the system or the room (or the person mixing).
As a soundman, I've had basses that sounded good through the PA with no board EQ (and even better with some), as well as basses that - even in the headphones - sounded dreadful no matter what EQ was applied on the console.
September 10, 2010 @06:00am
Big Bottom Willie

Thanks for all the tips; I'll take my headphones this week and see how it sounds directly out of the board. I'm currently experimenting w/a BassSqueeze comp pedal and a SansAmp DI into the mixer - I think I'm getting closer.
But feel free to keep the advice coming!
September 16, 2010 @02:20pm

Most of the systems I encounter have a nasty bump around 80Hz, and very little below that. Fix that, and you might fix most of your bass tone problem.
Dial in some 600 to 1K for "growl" and definition.
Roll off some treble to get rig of "click and clank" that just becomes a noise once the band kicks in.
Most bass controls boost way too much low mid, so don't count on much help there unless the board has dual mid sweeps.
September 17, 2010 @04:42am