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TomRichards

Your lead and amp are the most important part of your signal chain

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Hello!

I'd like to discuss this topic a bit here. As a pro with 35 years of touring and recording, I have often gotten asked about bass guitars and the effect of wood, hardware, strings, pickups, etc. on the infamous Holy Grail of Tone. To just about everyone of those I have replied that the bass itself is probably only about 20% of tone, period.

The two most critical components of sound and tone, especially given that most bass guitars are solid body electrics, is your cable or lead and your amp/rig. And those are the two things most bass players spend the least amount of time and money on, because it isn't sexy and you can't hold and play it.

Now, I don't advocate going and spending a gazillion dollars on a lead, as that is truly in many ways not a great bang for the buck. However, you must invest in quality and take care of it. I have my leads custom manufactured. I use two companies, my local shop called Be Sharp and Rattlesnake Cables. I am not doing this to push them, as there are plenty of cable makers out there who make exceptional cables. Lava, George L, for example, make superior cables. But I have mine custom made so that I know there is extra care in the soldering, wrapping and attention to each.

My local shop made me two cables about a year ago, and one of them was "bad". We tested them on the bench, and they both had the correct outputs. However, when we plugged them into the amp, one lacked all the higher frequency and top end. We both were quite surprised. We re-soldered the ends, retested, should have been good. But again, cable was "dark". I am lucky in that I can actually play the cable before buying it. The difference in tone with the two exact cables made from the same reel of cable was astonishing. And, it also showed the importance of the cable over everything else.

Same with amps and cabs. It really is "you get what you pay for." With the exception of when I was first starting out, I have never just purshased the cheapest. I scrimped and saved my pence to get good gear. Because it makes a difference. I have a Peavey combo from 1986, A Hartke LH500 and 4X10 HyDrive cab, as well as Vivid Amps VB500 and VT2180. None of them are the cheapest, and they actually all cost a decent amount. However, I always get consistent sound from them, and they are truly tailorable for a room. The interesting thing is, that over the years, I have owned and played nearly 6 dozen bass guitars, of varying price. But I have only owned about 5 rigs in 35 years. So the ROI for my amp is super high.

And, its counter intuitive, but most players I know, even A list world renown players, will spend less time choosing a rig and pay the least amount. They will purchase $5000 Status or Fodera basses, sometimes every year, but spend less then $1000 on a rig that they gig for decades.

So, in the nutshell, my point is that tone, whether its Geddy, Mark, Stanley, Jaco or Marcus is mostly from your hands and heart, and the most important parts of transmitting that to the world are your lead and your amp. So maybe spend a bit more time, and dare I say money, on those?

What do you think?

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I totally agree cables make a big difference to your sound. I use The Chord Company Cream cables that are designed by a bass player and made in Salisbury.

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Nope... it is the sound off the bass...everything else is merely a conduit of varying degrees of importance, IMO.

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If I swap basses I hear the clear difference immediately. If I swap cables I don't hear a difference.

A Precision will sound like a precision through any amp or cable.

The very best a passive cable can do is to let the signal through as cleanly as possible. It cannot improve the signal. To claim otherwise is audiotardery.

Changing from rounds to flats causes a far bigger change than cables!

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I agree wholeheartedly with this re amps/cabs and up to a point re cables. I always buy "good, solid" cables but I won't spent much more than £20, certainly not £60 - £70 for a lead.

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Fingers, strings, pickups/electrics, amp, cab. I agree quality cables are important, which is why I buy from obbm, a member of this lounge. But do cables have a major influence on tone? In my opinion, no.

Edited by discreet

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[quote name='discreet' timestamp='1443969534' post='2879066']
Fingers, strings, pickups/electrics, amp, cab. I agree quality cables are important, which is why I buy from obbm, a member of this lounge. But do cables have a major influence on tone? In my opinion, no.
[/quote]

Same for me. Purchase from obbm.

I also agree that that cables don't have an influence on tone. Although of course, a decent cable will accurately transmit the lovely tone, generated by your choice of instrument and strings etc. :)

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I feel like the OP may be overstating the case. I agree that bad cables can really muddy up your sound, particularly with a passive bass, but the entry level to acceptable sounding cables is pretty low IMO. I'd avoid the cheapest generic cables (both for sound and reliability) but the inexpensive Klotz Kik cables sound absolutely fine to my ears and the one I bought in about 1996 still works.

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Bad cables can affect your tone more than good cables. The signal is affected by the cables' ability to carry the frequencies correctly and without loss through the copper.

Whether you can hear a big difference or no difference at all is also a variable.

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[quote name='EssentialTension' timestamp='1443976140' post='2879130']
... but maybe you can't hear the difference.
[/quote]

You [i]can[/i] taste it....

Edited by ahpook

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[quote name='TomRichards' timestamp='1443962606' post='2878978']
My local shop made me two cables about a year ago, and one of them was "bad". We tested them on the bench, and they both had the correct outputs. However, when we plugged them into the amp, one lacked all the higher frequency and top end.
[/quote]That's an indication of high capacitance. It's very odd that you got different results with two cables cut from the same spool. The good news is that you need not spend more than a pound per foot for cable with the lowest capacitance and highest degree of shielding possible. Don't believe claims made for better performance from cables costing more than that, not even a hundred times more. If anything high priced exotic cables tend to have poor capacitance. Monster Bass cable is one example. It's capacitance is so bad that any reputable company would consider it defective and not sell it at all. Monster, however, is not reputable.
[quote]But do cables have a major influence on tone? In my opinion, no[/quote]A good cable will have no effect, but a bad one will, and not in a positive way.

Edited by Bill Fitzmaurice

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Guest bassman7755

[quote name='TomRichards' timestamp='1443962606' post='2878978']
Hello!

I'd like to discuss this topic a bit here. As a pro with 35 years of touring and recording, I have often gotten asked about bass guitars and the effect of wood, hardware, strings, pickups, etc. on the infamous Holy Grail of Tone. To just about everyone of those I have replied that the bass itself is probably only about 20% of tone, period.

The two most critical components of sound and tone, especially given that most bass guitars are solid body electrics, is your cable or lead and your amp/rig. And those are the two things most bass players spend the least amount of time and money on, because it isn't sexy and you can't hold and play it.
[/quote]

Not sure I agree. IME strings (or more specifically the type and condition) are a big factor factor - a £150 yamaha with a fresh set of strings will sound better than any boutique bass with an old knackered set, of course YMMV if you like the sound of old knackered ones. Pickup config is also a big factor, I think when people say they like a particular type of bass I think that's largely due to the pickup config, P and music man are the classic examples of basses whos distinctive characteristic sound is down to their relatively unique pickup configs.

Leads - as BFM says above, best case you have one that doesn't degrade the sound, theres no scope for a lead to improve the basic sound.

Edited by bassman7755

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[quote name='bassman7755' timestamp='1443982228' post='2879203']
...Pickup config is also a big factor, I think when people say they like a particular type of bass I think that's largely due to the pickup config, P and music man are the classic examples of basses whos distinctive characteristic sound is down to their relatively unique pickup configs...
[/quote]

Absolutely agree with this. Leo spent a long time working out the exact position of his pickup and it was time well spent. Any bass with 34" scale that has a split pickup at exactly the same distance between the bridge and nut as a P Bass will sound like a P Bass, everything else is largely cosmetic. Also, I currently believe that a one-piece maple neck on a P has a sound all its own, but that could just be the drugs.

Edited by discreet

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[quote name='Bill Fitzmaurice' timestamp='1443977055' post='2879142']
A good cable will have no effect, but a bad one will, and not in a positive way.
[/quote]

Yep, end of story

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Well, figured I would use the British words but okay cable. I will argue that the bass has less to do then we all wish. Marcus, Victor, Jaco, dUG, and so many more use separate pre-amps. Heck, Marcus pretty much was the poster child for the pre. So then is the tone the bass ir the pre?

Cabs and amps can really color your tone. Hartke is known for its mid scoop. Markbass has its "darker" tonality. Ampeg has its "classic" tonality. Play a p bass through each of them set with all the knobs at noon and it will sound different.

But I hope my bigger point rings true. Investing more in your amp/pre/cabs makes a lot of sense and will mean more to your sound then the same investment in an instrument.

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[quote name='discreet' timestamp='1443982901' post='2879212']
I currently believe that a one-piece maple neck on a P has a sound all its own
[/quote]It does. All of the wood parts have their effect, based on their density. A maple versus rosewood fretboard won't make as much difference as an ash versus poplar body, but there will be some.

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[quote name='ahpook' timestamp='1443976536' post='2879134']
You [i]can[/i] taste it....
[/quote]
[quote name='EssentialTension' timestamp='1443977132' post='2879145']
... but I smell a red herring.
[/quote]

I don't like the sound of that smell.

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Guest bassman7755

[quote name='TomRichards' timestamp='1443987569' post='2879285']
But I hope my bigger point rings true. Investing more in your amp/pre/cabs makes a lot of sense and will mean more to your sound then the same investment in an instrument.
[/quote]

Well it depends entirely where you are on the respective diminishing returns curves. I think your argument is bordering on a straw man as I doubt there are many people with bases worth several thousand using sub standard rigs, especially amongst the readership of a sub forum called "amps and cabs".

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I've just gone wireless, how does that stack up? Amps and cabs do effect your tone, but if you're going through a PA it can't make that much difference can it? as for the bass not making much difference, the old computer analogy springs to mind "rubbish in, rubbish out"

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