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What is “hi fi” sound and which amps tend to have it?


Minininjarob

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Ok I see this description a lot and and as a relative beginner I’m a little confused. I used to be into hifi so I don’t understand why I don’t understand!! 😂

I suppose I need to know what to avoid really - here are the amps I have tried and whether I liked them and can you educate me on whether i like hifi sound or not?

I play a P-bass with a pick BTW if it makes any difference. 
My Amp - GK MB112 combo - love the sound esp when turned up. 
I have tried:

GK 2001rb into a GK 4x10. Wow. Just WOW. 

TC electronics 800w head into a TC 4x10 - ok and versatile but left me cold. 
Ampeg SVT (all valve) into an Ampeg 8x10 (new models) - was hoping I’d like this and the music I like tends to favour these but it didn’t excite me as it should but I couldn’t turn it up much or have much time with it. 

Older Trace Elliot combo - not a fan. Kinda boomy and boring flat sound. 
In rehearsal rooms:

Older Hartke TA head into a 8x10 - quite liked it but not as much as Gk

Trace Elliot head (older one I think) into a 4x10. Awful, just awful. I don’t know why. Too harsh? Just weird. 
 

So what do I like and what brands should I be looking for? GK obviously I know!!
 

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I can't help with any of those amps but I guess, if I understand thr meaninf of the word hi-fi, if you play your bass through something that gives you dry signal (eg a Zoom B1 four pedal with no effects on) in to flat-response headphones, you hear the sound of your bass with little to no alteration. If you like it, then you probably like hi-fi amps.

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A hifi sounding amp usually would have very little colouration of it's own. It's a bit like plugging your bass directly into a mixer at a studio. This would gives an ideal platform to add colour via pedals or to have a very clean signal to accurately hear what your bass sounds like.

The GK amps you mentioned are clean but not accurate in their EQ points. With all EQ at the 12 O'clock position there is a very noticeable mid scoop to the sound. This gives an instant modern scooped sound with very little effort. Warwick Gnome amps are very similar with a scooped sound with all EQ at 12 o'clock.

Amps that I have personally used that are hifi sounding included....

 

GR bass .. neutral with all EQ at the 12 O'clock position.

Pj bass ... Neutral with the EQ at the 12 O'clock position.

 

 

Edited by spyder
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It's like so many things completely subjective. Old school thump, heft clean and so on mean different things to different people. No doubt people will come on to this thread and describe something as hi-fi when it is well know to add a colouring of it's own to your sound.Generally speaking it'll be as opposed to 'old-school' sound which in turn depends upon how old the person talking (typing?) is. Old school is usually boosted at 100Hz with little real bass scooped mids aroung 400Hz and without a lot of top end. Hi-fi then will generally be brighter sounding with less or no mid scoop and a lot more top end, but not everyone will agree of course.

 

For me it's the sound of my bass but louder, and I practice at home with a Zoom and headphones or straight through the desk with studio monitors so that sound. I'd describe it as FRFR though (full range flat response) and it does me as a sound as it shows up all my mistakes which is what you want for a practice.

 

Just like taste sound doesn't have very good adjectives. Try describing the difference between one curry and another, all different and there's a whole industry of food critics trying to describe food. We just don't have the words to accurately describe sound.

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1 hour ago, Japhet said:

My understanding of 'Hifi' is High Fidelity, as in unaltered. I don't understand why people who seek this don't just use a decent power amp. That's about as hifi as it gets.

 

There are loads of rackmount power amps, but if you want a compact lightweight rig there are fewer options at a decent wattage. They're not significantly cheaper than an equivalent "normal" amp that can be run flat (either via the EQ, or the FX return) either. Also, if you've already done all your tone shaping on the pedalboard and sent your signal to FOH, then having EQ controls on the amp lets you tweak the sound on stage independently - e.g. to compensate for having to using someone else's cab, or being shoved in a corner, a boomy stage, etc.
 

Edited by MartinB
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4 hours ago, Minininjarob said:

. . . . I see this description a lot and and as a relative beginner I’m a little confused. . . .

 

IMO Hi-Fi is fullrange, clean and undistorted.

 

I have 2 amps that do that, Thunderfunk TF750 and Aguilar AG700.

 

Other makes in the ball-park, Quilter, GK, Mesa Boogie, Genzler and maybe, at a push, Markbass.

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HiFi is entirely subjective. There's plenty of examples being mentioned here that wouldn't consider even vaguely HiFi. 

 

Also you'd be surprised just how much dirt and EQ is on the typical bass guitar sound, even when it appears to be clean and flat in the context of the mix. Finding the isolated track can be a bit of a revelation.

 

I the OP wants useful recommendations they should post examples of recording that they consider have a HiFi bass sound.

Edited by BigRedX
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Ask ten people what makes an amp hi-fi and you'll get twelve answers. Besides, the amp is only half the equation. Speakers that have no coloration are rare. There are some that are so colored that pretty much any amp will sound the same through them. I wouldn't worry about how any amp or speaker might be classified and just use what sounds good.

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I always associated a hi fi sound with the sound you get when recording your bass clean into your PC or laptop. The sound is clean and unprocessed through hi fi speakers, or monitors, with small drivers (mine are about 4 inch). 

 

I suspect a Phil Jones cab would get that kind of sound, due to the size of the 4 inch drivers he uses.

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1 hour ago, gjones said:

I always associated a hi fi sound with the sound you get when recording your bass clean into your PC or laptop. The sound is clean and unprocessed through hi fi speakers, or monitors, with small drivers (mine are about 4 inch). 

 

I suspect a Phil Jones cab would get that kind of sound, due to the size of the 4 inch drivers he uses.

 

As a PJB owner/user, I can confirm that they put out pretty much what you put in. So in that sense, they could be called "hi-fi", in that they have quite a high degree of fidelity/faithfulness to what you feed them with. You need a lot of them if you want any volume, however. It isn't the size of the drivers that's responsible. The big Barefaced cabs - with 12s and horns - also do a very good job of producing an uncoloured sound if driven with suitable amplification. Ditto FRFR/PA cabs.

 

A true hi-fi sound would probably be what you get when you play your bass through the desk in a studio with serious monitors (not little desktop/PC jobbies). It's super clean and, truth be told, a little sterile. Sounds quite nice in isolation, but mix it into a track and you have to start tweaking it to prevent it from being lost. If you want that in your live rig, a quality pre' driving a beefy PA power amp with plenty of headroom and enough cabs to enable you to run high volumes and have them work well within their capabilities is probably the best way to go. Not cheap.

 

As Bill says above, best not to worry about how any amp or speaker might be classified and just use what sounds good to you.

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HiFi or FRFR means faithful reproduction of the sound you put in. Most "old school" amp/cab system have, as @Phil Starr said, have little top end and often a boost at around 120Hz. That used to be the sound of bass. With more and more modelling systems/multi-effects units, more and more people are either going into a HiFi/FRFR system or directly into the front of house PA system. HiFi is usually reckoned to be 20Hz to 20KHz, but in BASS systems I would argue that 40Hz to 15KHz is more than adequate for bass (in fact probably 15KHz is probably higher than you need).

 

Most modern amplifiers are close to HiFi, we measured several at the SW Bass Bash two years ago and these included class D offerings from Bugera, Ashdown and others (I will try to dig out the results). Be aware however that the "Gig Bag" amps, like the Elf and the Gnome, tend to be coloured when set with all EQ at 12 o'clock. The Elf has a baked in Smiley Face EQ and the Gnome has a rising response.  The Aguila TH series are also probably not flat as shipped.

 

Many people use PA cabs for this too. RCF and QSC get a lot of love for this, and it is a fairly lightweight option, but not a cheap one. A decent cabinet will cost at least as much as a good amp/cab combination, and probably much more.

 

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Most amps will do hifi = what goes in comes out louder. You go in the fx return. Whether you like it or not is then up to you.

 

GK far from uncoloured but can be EQ'd flat. If you are in the habit of turning down the lows and the highs and boosting the low and high mids with the contour off then you are potentially liking hifi.

 

 

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I think of my Bergantino Forte as being hifi. The tone stack has almost surgical control. It’s full frequency , very clean , and carries some serious slam.  It’s an amp that has authority. I have the earlier version that has a compressor rather than a drive. Before that I had been running a GenzBenz Streamliner. A very different amp. Warm and dark. Also with some serious slam. 

 

So I wind up getting a good tube preamp and use the effect return channel… but I can switch back to modern hifi in seconds. 

 

 

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Only my version, but in sound terms "hi fi" means crystal clear. 

 

I used to equate it to..... 

 

My old 'hot chocolate greatest hits' album from the 70s, to my Queen A Kind of Magic CD from the 80s.

 

Probably a bit like comparing a fingerstyle 60s bass line through a svt 810 to a guy playing a load of slap bass. 

 

I don't know why.... 

 

 

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When I think of HiFi in the "audiophile" world, I think of amplification and speakers that make music sound richer. "Sparkling top end, articulate midrange, girthy low end" and all those other descriptive words that impress a sense that they make music sound better.  Essentially what goes in comes out but with some extra spice to bring out the best in the performance for a given space or situation (or tastes for that matter). 

 

The other end of the scale, as an example, would be a bass combo that springs to mind that I reviewed that had such a coloured sound, it enforced its own character on every instrument plugged in to the overall detriment of the experience. Every bass sounded the same, not in a good way. That's the polite way of saying it...

 

I think of HiFi and FRFR differently, because if it were the same, we'd all be listing to music on *studio monitors instead of ££££££'s on home hifi. We don't, because of the way our ears work, often switching from a HiFi system to flat response monitors, the latter can sound bland and lifeless. It's a trick of the brain. (Dangerously close to starting a topic "do old amplifiers sound better" ha ha!)

 

Which, by way of disclosure, I listen to everything on a big set of studio monitors. (But that says more about my job I guess).

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59 minutes ago, Dood said:

When I think of HiFi in the "audiophile" world, I think of amplification and speakers that make music sound richer. "Sparkling top end, articulate midrange, girthy low end" and all those other descriptive words that impress a sense that they make music sound better. 

Yeah, but audiophools are nuts. These are the same guys who believe in all the nonsense debunked here: https://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/10-01-06#feature

 

True Hi-Fi makes no alterations to the sound. With recordings that's a good thing, as all of the EQ and other effects required to get the desired result have been applied in the studio. IMO electric bass requires alteration to the original signal, via EQ and speaker coloration and if you care for it effects, to give the best result. Even if the bass was recorded straight to the desk in the studio the chances of it not being EQ'd and compressed in mixdown are slim to none.

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For me, hi-fi is a sound that reproduces the bass accurately and without colouration. As @Dood says, it's probably easier to define it by what it isn't than what it is. Most bass heads can do hi-fi well or reasonably well. I've used Markbass, TC Electronics, Ashdown, Behringer Veyron, Aguilar Tonehammer, various Trace Elliot - even a cheapo Behringer Ultra BX4500, as well as power amps and preamps. They all did hi-fi.

 

The weak link in the hi-fi chain, whether you're talking home hi-fi or hi-fi bass, is always the speakers.

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On 12/02/2024 at 07:02, Phil Starr said:

For me it's the sound of my bass but louder, and I practice at home with a Zoom and headphones or straight through the desk with studio monitors so that sound. I'd describe it as FRFR though (full range flat response) and it does me as a sound as it shows up all my mistakes which is what you want for a practice.

Amen to that! Exactly my thoughts too. It took me years to find the sound I was looking for and now I've found it. I sound like a bass and not a fuzzed out low strung guitar!!

 

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