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Rothko

DI-sounding amp

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Having spent most of my life wanting a DI signal that sounds like an amp, I now think I want an amp that sounds like a DI – specifically, somehting like the sound of the Nash bass through the Acme DI box here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEyKeYgMCNE, though that sort of top-end valve DI box is completely outside my price range.

I’m using a P-bass with La Bella flats and a fretless Jazz with TI flats, and listening primarily through headphones at the moment, so any new amp or preamp would be used for now pretty much as an oversized and over-specced headphone amp.  

This would be to replace  a Veyron Bugera 1001T that sounded pretty good until the headphone out stopped working yesterday. So I’m thinking something like a TC BAM200 might be transparent and uncoloured enough, or maybe even a Focusrite Solo, for just a pure DI signal.

Any suggestions?

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The purest sound will be through a PA type arrangement. There are many ways to achieve this- I've even stacked my small band PA speakers with the powered mixer on top in the past, but powered PA speakers seem to be the popular way to go at the moment. FRFR (full-range, flat-response) is the name of the trend, thanks in large part to the huge improvements in amp modelling in recent decades, but it's no new idea.

If PA gear looks or feels wrong, the Markbass Little Mark heads are remarkably flat when set neutral, and Barefaced cabs with the 12" drivers and hf horns do a very good job of uncoloured reproduction, in my experience. In fact, in the reverse of playing straight into a PA, I have used an LMII and Super Midget to monitor the whole mix in a live streaming situation. The sound was pristine.

Edited by Jus Lukin
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Thanks - MarkBass amps do sound neutral, but almost none have a headphone out unfortunately. Also just seen the TC BAM200 has a 'speaker emulation' on the heapdhone out, so that's probably far from neutral.

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Ah, I hadn't properly clocked the headphone thing!

To be honest, a decent enough headphone amp or small mixer isn't going to cost a lot for home use. Most of my playing at home is through a mixer and studio monitors, with or without an amp sim, depending what I'm doing. Largely, when it comes to sound reproduction, neutral preamps and amplification have been a done deal for ages. The only colour is likely to come from the speakers you use, be they out in the room or clamped either side of your head!

It's when colour is desired for sound creation that the search gets complicated.

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I'm not completely sure what you're asking for.  At first, you say you want to sound like an ACME Motown DI, but cheaper; but then you also say "transparent and uncoloured [...] just a pure DI signal".  But the ACME is designed specifically to colour the signal to sound like the console from the Motown studio.

For Motown, try a TC Electronics MojoMojo on the lower gain settings.  Then what I do for live use is go through an RCF powered speaker (which is transparent and uncoloured); or at home, use the phones output of a Behringer interface.

Or if you're otherwise happy with the Veyron, run it into a headphone amp or interface.
 

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It’s a little bit left field, but I use a Wayne Jones Audio Bass preamp (into two powered speakers). It’s based on an Avalon 737 DI, so has the right DNA for what you are looking at. However, to gig it, I use two Wayne Jones Audio powered 1x10 cabs which may not be the cheapest overall solution. Sounds great, though! I have a friend who’s a stockist and sorted me out. 

https://shop.waynejonesaudio.com/product/wjbp-stereo-valve-bass-guitar-pre-amp/

The Markbass LM3 (or tube variants) sound very, very clear, but have no headphone out. I’d be inclined to look at the TC BH550/800. Prices are competitive second hand, sub £300 in some cases. I prefer the EQ section on the TC, and both of these are more conventionally designed than the Wayne Jones stuff so it’s more compatible with the gear you’ve already got. I’d avoid the BAM 200 unless you were heavily price dependent, in which case the Trace Elf and Warwick Gnome would be worth a punt. 

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The Acme is coloured of course, but to my ears, much less than most bass amps. I struggle to differentiate most DI boxes in a blind test, while most amps seem to have a sound more or less baked in.

The Wayne Jones looks good, though probably a bit hard to get hold of - but definitely along the right lines. Also looking at a Quilter Interbass or Ashdown Ant, which might have the right feature set.

 

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The Quilters are great and dont colour too much.

I always find DI's very bright and punchy compared to an amp. Maybe play with the mids on the eq and back the bass off a bit, that may get you there.

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If you only want it for headphone use, a small decent quality mixer will do the trick. I use one at home, fed by a good DI box and it works well. You can feed whatever you want to practice/play along with into the mixer and adjust relative volume levels, even reduce low frequencies in the track if the eq is good enough, which is handy if you don't want to hear too much of the original bass part. Getting get that studio/flat/clean tone out of an amp and speakers at any volume is another matter and it won't be cheap. You need large monitor type speakers and powerful amplification, all working well within their capabilities to do that.

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On 27/02/2021 at 03:18, Bankai said:

The PJB heads / combos always sounded like a DI to me.

This.

On 28/02/2021 at 13:50, la bam said:

I always find DI's very bright and punchy compared to an amp. Maybe play with the mids on the eq and back the bass off a bit, that may get you there.

And this. I have a PJB Big Head and it aligns with both of these comments - very clean, sounds like a DI and is bright and punchy compared to my Genzler Magellan amp. The Genzler is also pretty clean, a touch warmer than the PJB but they both have a headphone out and an Aux input. 

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Interesting you find the PJB better than the Magellan as a headphone source. I wondered how much amp headphone outs vary in quality, and a Magellan would have been one of my choices to replace the Veyron.

I've also dug out a Vox Amplug I'd completely forgotten I had - actually sounds much better than I remembered, and probably cleaner than my dead Veyron.

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@Rothko Well they’re both excellent with headphones, the PJB Big Head is good because it’s portable and is very clear and punchy, which is the kind of sound I like. The Magellan is a bit more of a ‘traditional’ amp and has way more tone shaping options. So both good in different ways. 

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