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The great cab conundrum

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2 hours ago, stevie said:

Why do so many people think that they can't evaluate a cab unless they use it in a band situation? It seems like a load of tosh to me. In a shop, you can concentrate on the sound and what the speaker is doing, and you can try a variety of things out to see how it responds.

Two reasons:

1. Masking. Once you add the rest of the band, the other instruments mask a lot of the bass guitar's mid and treble response. Not all bassists are good at understanding the difference between a tone that sounds nice on its own and a tone that works in a band.

2. Non-linearity. Drums and electric guitars have always been prone to drowning out bass guitars. Eventually it got better for bassists as rigs got louder (but only if the bassist was willing to carry enough gear and/or spend enough money - and even then the loudest guitarists still win if they start volume war). And then everyone started trying to downsize their rigs and the problem returned.

I have heard some horrific live sounds from bassists who are playing gear that I'm certain would sound good if they weren't asking it to do more than it can.

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Posted (edited)

Very true. I borrowed a rig from a friend whilst mine was in for repairs. I didn't care for the sound when I tried it in isolation - sounded too mid-heavy and spiky for my taste. It was a name-brand/not cheap and I wondered what the fuss was about. Then I tried it in a band context and it worked wonderfully.

It's universally true that there's no substitute for spending enough money (wisely, of course) on the right tools. It may not be the best analogy, but that little 1 litre city runabout may be handy for pootling round town, but it will struggle (and so will the driver) if used to drive hundreds of miles on the motorway at high speed.

There's a reason the stuff that works is expensive.

Edited by Dan Dare

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Posted (edited)

You only have to listen to the isolated bass tracks of famous songs to hear how different the bass is isolated to how it sounds in a mix. I'd pay more attention to my solo'd bass sound if I ever played bass solo through my rig, but I don't, and won't. For me, bass isn't an isolated instrument, it needs to sit within a band sound, and in a live mix, the cab is part of that sound. I've had to train my ears to get to a bass tone that I know will sound well with a particular band, and it's not an intuitive thing at all. 

Those small diagonal-baffled Schroeder cabs were a case in point; for all their technical weaknesses, they sounded really good in a band mix, but really quite barky and boxy on their own.

Edited by Muzz
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14 hours ago, Jo.gwillim said:

for gigs I use a bf super compact with a bf midget. Really easy to carry individually and they stack well. I can fill a small hall with a gk mb200, at a push. Gk mb500 fusion is more than enough for any gig I've done. The midget on its own keeps up with a loud drum kit so fine for rehearsals and really easy to carry. 

The only drawback gigging I've found is I can mess with the eq for quite some time until I get a nice fenderesque thump. I've just got a darkglass head with cab sim built in, you can turn it off if you want clean,  it seems to go well with the bf cabs but no gigs yet, so only tried it in my living room so far. 

Having read the thread I really don't rate trying cabs/amps out in shops. They never sound the same when there's no band. I buy second hand, and if I don't get on with it sell it on. I might loose a bit of cash, but nothing like as much as buying new, and it's a lot less nerve racking. 

Oh, the other thing about bf cabs is they do need breaking in, they sound much better after a few hours of hard playing. I don't know if that's true for all cabs. Good luck! 

The cab sims on the Darkglass head only work on the DI and Headphone outs.

Not on the speaker outputs.

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12 hours ago, stevie said:

Why do so many people think that they can't evaluate a cab unless they use it in a band situation? It seems like a load of tosh to me. In a shop, you can concentrate on the sound and what the speaker is doing, and you can try a variety of things out to see how it responds.

In a band situation, you're concentrating on playing with the band. This myth appears to exist only within the bass community. Do you hear violinists, banjo players or drummers saying this? I don't think so.

Surely the simple fact that a pleasing EQ setting when playing alone doesn't work in a band is enough to show that a band situation test is the ideal approach?

I'm fortunate enough to have 2 sets of cabs at home at the moment and I prefer one set when playing unaccompanied and the other when playing with (at the moment) backing tracks.

 

Acoustic instruments are different, particularly the classical ones. They've been developed and tweaked over years to work together. Even then there is "band adjustment" going on - you're just not seeing it as that. If you've got a band with 4 trumpets, then you're going to need 10 or more violins to compete, and to avoid the violins still disappearing they will have different parts to play to fill out the sound. They can't change the sound of the instrument, so the number of a particular instrument and the musical arrangement is adjusted instead.

 

It's the same aim - to make the band mix work.

 

But saying that (and I've just asked her) - my daughter has 2 clarinets and she plays her wooden one at home / lessons / trio, and her plastic one in the big band. She tells me she can hear the plastic one better in the big band even though the wooden one is the better instrument.

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38 minutes ago, fretmeister said:

The cab sims on the Darkglass head only work on the DI and Headphone outs.

Not on the speaker outputs.

That's thrown me, I could have sworn i could hear the difference. The power of auto suggestion, I shall report back after further investigation! 

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5 minutes ago, Jo.gwillim said:

That's thrown me, I could have sworn i could hear the difference. The power of auto suggestion, I shall report back after further investigation! 

I've got the M900 v2 and Mr Fretmeister is correct, the cab sims only output to headphone and DI. I did try with cabs too, just to make sure!

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13 minutes ago, Jo.gwillim said:

That's thrown me, I could have sworn i could hear the difference. The power of auto suggestion, I shall report back after further investigation! 

You're not the only one to have experienced that. Psychosomatics are fascinating!

IR / Cab sim into the vast majority of real cabs sounds like ar$e. That's why it's not an option.

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Posted (edited)

Now I'm an amateur and stand to be corrected but my experience is that the particular venue/room makes most difference whatever cab you use.

At one particular WMC with a very high ceiling, (I think it's called the Harold Wilson Labour Club in Cradley in the Black Country), it was so difficult to get a good overall sound. I think the reverberation time for the room must have been several seconds.

Down the road at another WMC the stage was so boomy, that along with hiss picked up by any guitar without humbuckers i.e. Strat's, from the tube lights over the stage.

My routine would be to move around the stage listening and tweak my amp controls to get 'my sound' in the mix. But that's the on stage sound of course.

If I had someone out front with trusted ears I might ask if the balance was OK.

Sometimes I might go FOH and ask another band member to play my bass.

So setting up and doing the mixer/PA got me interested in acoustics and I read up a fair bit. But learning about and good practice only comes with experience and developing 'good ears'. Sadly now mine are cream-crackered.

As for what cab well, since getting my 2 BF One10s I'm sorted for the rest of my days.

Edited by grandad

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2 of the rooms I play in couldn't be more different. The first one is nice sounding, high and sharply pitched ceiling, lots of stuff on the walls. Sounds great. Small amount of natural reverb.

Then the other - no matter what EQ, no matter what other instruments it just sounds horrible. Somehow boomy and dead at the same time. I end up lowering the bass and low mids massively and getting a twangy sound just so I can then turn it up enough to hear it without the room going boooooooooooooom.

Doesn't help that the supplied drum kit has the longest kick drum I've ever heard. But will they put a pillow in it... :( 

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Posted (edited)

Whilst @alexclaber makes some good points as usual, I think two things are being conflated here. The first is the ability to adjust your sound so that it works well in a band situation. The second is the ability to evaluate a speaker by listening to it.

I’m assuming that the “pleasing” sound referred to by @fretmeister is lots of bottom end and no mids(?) because this is the typical live sound of most of the semi-pro bands I’ve listened to over the years. It doesn’t matter what cabinet you give these guys, they’ll always sound the same. Sometimes, the cabinet can make it worse, as there are a few brands out there that make it difficult to get a sound that isn’t muddy and will cut through.


However, with a reasonable amount of experience (and as @Muz says, you do need to work on it), you should know what kind sound works for you in your band(s) and how to get it. If you don’t know how to do this, how will you cope when you have to use somebody else’s gear? And if you don’t know how to do this, it doesn’t matter whether you try your new cab with your band, in a shop or in a field. If you do know how to get a band-friendly sound from your gear, however, where you test your new cab shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference.

Clearly, for some players on here trying new gear out with their band is important. I understand that. I also understand that it’s a good way to test a speaker’s power handling capabilities. But I don’t find it an ideal environment for evaluating gear personally, especially as venues can differ so much. The most important thing for me when evaluating a possible new cab is an A/B comparison of the potential new purchase with what I’m currently using. Or, if a number of new cabs are in contention, an A/B comparison between them all. You can’t really do that in a gig situation. Still, you pays your money....

 

Edited by stevie

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I couldn't agree with you more. I'm trying to get my head round the idea of a pleasing sound that doesn't work live and the picture I'm getting is the Trace smile, with bass and HF lifted and mids cut.

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It's got to be different for different folks/bands.

Some like to cut through the mix. Others like myself like to very much sit in the mix.

But I went from an Ampeg 15" cab to One10s. Took time to play around and now I appreciate and hear the differences better. It takes me a few weeks of noodling to decide if I like a new piece of equipment whether it be amp, cab or bass.

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I think there is a danger here of an accepted wisdom being formed. 

The (frankly insulting) idea that only cloth eared, hopeless amateur musicians like a mid scooped bass sound is far from universally accepted as true. 

There is no one perfect sound. Only what you like. 

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Posted (edited)

There are plenty of pros who've made a living off a scooped tone. It's all about finding what works in context.

Edited by Nobatron
wording
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3 minutes ago, Nobatron said:

There are plenty of pros who've made a living off a scooped tone. It's all about finding what works in context.

Fieldy from Korn.

He's made a living, and yet it doesn't work at all.

He sounds like a guy with hooks for hands trying to beat his way out of a metal dustbin.

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1 minute ago, fretmeister said:

Fieldy from Korn.

I knew when I wrote that someone would mention Fieldy!

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I decided on the Big Twin II as the best solution for my needs mainly because I wanted a cab that could handle the bottom end I needed whilst giving me a really honest hifi sound from my bass and rig.  To mine and my band's ears It is a great sounding cab. I also have a big baby II and tend to use that on most gigs that aren't reggae and it's always been able to hold it's own even on a couple of non PA outdoor gigs with an instrumental band. You could always try a BBII and if you needed more sound then another in the future should do the same job as the BTII.

The fact you can get the barefaced cabs on approval is worth taking up.

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11 hours ago, Dan Dare said:

There's a reason the stuff that works is expensive.

I found myself wanting to disagree strongly with this observation Dan, probably 'cos it's certainly not always the case with basses - where there are some fantastic basses which can hold there own against basses that cost several times as much.

But in the context of cabs - there's actually a lot of truth in the statement: the really good cabs are IME generally more expensive than the mid-range quality cabs and those, in turn, tend to be better quality and more expensive than budget cabs. 

I'm maybe a little biased in placing a huge amount of importance to cabs in our signal chain - given that they are the key final link between us and our ears and those of our audiences. So I guess my recommendation is not to scrimp on your cab, but get the best that your budget allows.

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10 hours ago, Muppet said:

I've got the M900 v2 and Mr Fretmeister is correct, the cab sims only output to headphone and DI. I did try with cabs too, just to make sure!

Well I feel the muppet now, you and mr fretmeister were of course quite right and I had been thinking "mmm that's subtle, but I'm sure there's a difference". I did take the DI out to another amp and onto my BF cabs, it did sound really good on one or two IR's, I guess because the cabs are so flat frequency response. Oh well One less button to worry about!  Thx guys

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3 hours ago, Jo.gwillim said:

Well I feel the muppet now, you and mr fretmeister were of course quite right and I had been thinking "mmm that's subtle, but I'm sure there's a difference". I did take the DI out to another amp and onto my BF cabs, it did sound really good on one or two IR's, I guess because the cabs are so flat frequency response. Oh well One less button to worry about!  Thx guys

Haha don't worry I did similar. I will not admit to emailing Darkglass asking why I couldn't hear my cab sims through my expensive cabs, though. no I won't admit to that. 

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Hi All,

Just an update. I have spoken to Alex from Barefaced and after a few emails back and forth I have decided to go with the Barefaced 210S - Exciting!

I have been told it will produce similar volume levels to my current 410 (which I don't have to push to keep up with the band). It also leaves me some budget to replace the TC BQ500 head, which will be the next dilemma!

Thanks for the input everyone

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Versatility is key for me. I've played in all sorts of bands and do some dep gigs as well. There's a big difference sonically in playing in a band with 2 Les Pauls v one with a Strat and keyboards  for instance. There are of course all sorts of variables to add into that like brass sections and music genres too. You then have to think about the footprint size of your rig and how much room you're likely to be given on stage.

With all of that in mind, my go to cab is a 2x12 (TechSoundsystems) which copes with everything from a loud rock band with a neanderthal drummer, to an acoustic gig with 1 guitar and a mandolin.

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