Preamp question.

Dorion1

Member
Messages
333
With medium output pickups (Fender Pure Vintage '74 Jazz pickups) would it be overkill to have an onboard preamp installed if I'm playing through a small combo amp (Tech 21 VT Bass 200)? Please keep in mind that I'm not a bassist and it's something I'm curious about. The bass is used for home recording only.
 

electricity17

Silver Supporting Member
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930
What are you hoping to get out of adding an onboard preamp? Are you trying to get a different tone?

I'm sure it would work fine, but I wouldn't expect it to get more volume out of a small amp, there are better solutions for that. Also if you're concerned about modding the bass, there are various preamps available as pedals etc. that might give you more control over the signal, including EQ and saturation.
 

eigentone

Gold Supporting Member
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9,182
It depends on what sound you want. Onboard preamps can increase the output, add noise, preserve high end and modify the tonal controls (eg 3 band EQ instead of a tone knob.) Not all preamps are designed the same. IMO you still need passive volume and tone controls to get the right response from the pickup. That is to say, a tone knob modifies the frequency response of the pickup(s) in ways an EQ cannot. And vice-versa.

I have owned multiple active and passive basses. I prefer passive. Active can be interesting for bright, exciting in-your-face sounds (think slap.) But I don't go in that lane much when I play bass so it just isn't a sound I prefer. Some of the preamps have a huge range which is hard to dial accurately on the fly. I find passive tone and volume a more useful control set. As a bonus, they are easier (for me) to utilize on the fly.

The most active basses I owned at once was 2. I currently own zero active and four passive and I am not eyeing an active bass FWIW. To me, their appeal is low. But it may be exactly what you are looking for.
 

Dorion1

Member
Messages
333
What are you hoping to get out of adding an onboard preamp? Are you trying to get a different tone?

I'm sure it would work fine, but I wouldn't expect it to get more volume out of a small amp, there are better solutions for that. Also if you're concerned about modding the bass, there are various preamps available as pedals etc. that might give you more control over the signal, including EQ and saturation.

I've had the bass for a short time so I feel that I'm still lacking in experience with tone chasing. An increase in volume is not a concern because I'm only using it for home recording. Though I have to admit I like cranking the little amp up quite often. Pedals. I'm trying really hard to avoid those! More money! But, the more I get into playing the bass the more I feel like I might need a couple of them. Just not sure what I might need or should get. I do have a Keeley Compressor Plus that doesn't get much use on my guitar pedalboard so I need to try it with my bass. From several opinions I've read it's not really made for a bass. Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a compressor pedal widely used among bassist?
 

Dorion1

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Messages
333
no need really, unless you like the sound of some particular preamp (e.g. the one in musicman basses)

Thanks. I was thinking that there might be an advantage to installing one. With my lack of experience I wouldn't have a clue what that advantage might be! I do like the sound of Music Man basses though.
 
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adi

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Thanks. I was thinking that there might be an advantage to installing one. With my lack of experience I wouldn't have a clue what that advantage might be! I do like the sound of Music Man basses though.
youre welcome :)
i play and record using passive jazz basses and i add whatever eq or drive etc by using pedals or plugins (when recording)
to record i find the passive bass is enough to track direct or with a simple pedal signal chain and then work on the mix
 

Dorion1

Member
Messages
333
It depends on what sound you want. Onboard preamps can increase the output, add noise, preserve high end and modify the tonal controls (eg 3 band EQ instead of a tone knob.) Not all preamps are designed the same. IMO you still need passive volume and tone controls to get the right response from the pickup. That is to say, a tone knob modifies the frequency response of the pickup(s) in ways an EQ cannot. And vice-versa.

I have owned multiple active and passive basses. I prefer passive. Active can be interesting for bright, exciting in-your-face sounds (think slap.) But I don't go in that lane much when I play bass so it just isn't a sound I prefer. Some of the preamps have a huge range which is hard to dial accurately on the fly. I find passive tone and volume a more useful control set. As a bonus, they are easier (for me) to utilize on the fly.

The most active basses I owned at once was 2. I currently own zero active and four passive and I am not eyeing an active bass FWIW. To me, their appeal is low. But it may be exactly what you are looking for.

I guess the sound I'm trying to get to is something more modern sounding and not so much as old school. For some reason I thought getting an onboard preamp would push me in that direction. To be very honest, I don't have a clue.
 

Dorion1

Member
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333
It seems to me that you guys are of the same opinion that I don't necessarily need one and I'm going to follow your suggestion. I appreciate the help and suggestions. Thanks.
 
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eigentone

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I guess the sound I'm trying to get to is something more modern sounding and not so much as old school. For some reason I thought getting an onboard preamp would push me in that direction. To be very honest, I don't have a clue.
It can, depending on the era you are after. I’d say the mid or late 70s is when active basses (StingRay, Alembic) were first becoming heard frequently and used in many genres. An active preamp into a bass amp into a mic is a retro sound for some genres.

But if recording at home only, then I consider going direct and using a bass preamp/amp sim and studio compression plugins (with occasional dirt and layering) a better approach to getting bass sounds of the 21st century. If you want that more lively top end of an active bass, keep the cable from the bass to DI short.

So I’d recommend playing with the sounds you get using plugins (or modelers if they do bass) in the context of some of your tracks and seeing where that takes you before buying and installing an onboard preamp.

Personally I tend to prefer/use hardware preamps, amps and mics but I don’t mind if the bass has a 20th century vibe and includes some room/ambience and big dynamics.
 
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I'll add that unless you want to be digging into your bass a bunch (which some people do), a preamp is a thing you install after you know what sound you want. If you're still in experimentation mode I'd recommend plugins or a preamp heavy multieffect. I'd also recommend individual preamp pedals, but that way lies the black hole where your money goes.
 

MuzicToyz

Member
Messages
395
Note a preamp inside your bass is really no different than having a pedal that does the same thing. There are a ton of bass pedals that will do all the same things, plus a bunch of other things. Noodling with electronics and a battery is always a crapshoot as to making everything fit and work - A pedal you just plug in. And if it does not work you just flip and move on.
 
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bon ton

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
358
Onboard preamps are almost always purely a matter of convenience for playing live. As others are saying you can do everything they do with an outboard preamp pedal without modifying your instrument. There's also a much wider variety of choices of used outboard stuff.

I'd also recommend individual preamp pedals, but that way lies the black hole where your money goes.

Ouch. Starts with a used Sansamp and before you know it your biggest dilemma before a wedding gig is REDDI, Tonecraft or the vintage Neve strip you're still not sure why you bought.
 

Silent Sound

Member
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6,232
For home recording, I'd just get a good mic preamp with an instrument level input. Then you can add compression and stuff afterwards with plugins. With bass, I tend to go straight in and maybe add an amp sim. Sometimes I'll reamp it out to a real bass amp and mic that, but even then, I'm mixing that signal with the DI. Unlike most everything else, I almost never mic a bass guitar amp and use that as my primary source. Too many problems with room modes and stuff in those low frequencies. Plus, a good bass tone is more about how to you shape it with EQ and compression than anything else. It takes up a LOT of sonic real estate and want to interfere with just about every other instrument, so you really have to get creative with carving out space for it to exist in.
 

electricity17

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
930
One of the more popular bass preamp pedals available is the Tech 21 VT Bass series, which is meant to emulate an Ampeg SVT. Your amp is basically that pedal with a 200 watt power amp attached.

My suggestion would be to take a direct output of your amp (maybe there's an XLR out on the back somewhere?), and record that signal direct into your interface. That will give you a direct signal being sent through a good preamp that has EQ and overdrive, so lots of options to play with in shaping your tone.

Also yes, people often use compression when recording bass, I might suggest doing that in your DAW with a plugin at first. You probably have a compressor plugin included in your DAW software, so maybe start with that. You need to understand how compression works and what it's doing, so there's a learning curve with this one.
 

eigentone

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
9,182
Note a preamp inside your base is really no different than having a pedal that does the same thing. There are a ton of bass pedals that will do all the same things, plus a bunch of other things. Noodling with electronics and a battery is always a crapshoot as to making everything fit and work - A pedal you just plug in. And if it does not work you just flip and move on.
Right, a lot more can be done with a preamp in a pedal or rack unit. And battery charge % is an undesirable variable.

The one thing the onboard preamp really helps with is minimizing the loading on the pickups. Minimizing the loading retains some clarity in the high end. This is talked about more with guitarists and it is why some guitarists/bassists prefer short, low capacitance cables.
 

Dorion1

Member
Messages
333
My suggestion would be to take a direct output of your amp (maybe there's an XLR out on the back somewhere?), and record that signal direct into your interface. That will give you a direct signal being sent through a good preamp that has EQ and overdrive, so lots of options to play with in shaping your tone.

Also yes, people often use compression when recording bass, I might suggest doing that in your DAW with a plugin at first. You probably have a compressor plugin included in your DAW software, so maybe start with that. You need to understand how compression works and what it's doing, so there's a learning curve with this one.

Your suggestion for the direct out is exactly what I do. I go from the xlr to the interface. As far as adding compression through my DAW you are correct that there’s a learning curve. I’ve watched numerous videos on adding compression to a bass track but I’m still at a loss. My ear hasn’t developed enough to know what a good bass track should sound like. But I’m still going at it.
 

electricity17

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
930
Maybe someone knows of a good compression tutorial, I don’t have one offhand.

To give you a rough idea, the attack and release are your starting point. The faster you set the attack on the compressor, the faster it kicks in when there’s a peak and therefore the less of the transient you’ll hear. The transient is what gives you the character of the instrument, so you don’t want to obliterate it. But you want the compressor to engage fast enough to do it’s job. Basically you dial it in by ear which isn’t the easiest answer in the beginning.

The release is the length of time it takes the compressor to let go of the signal after a peak in the signal. If there’s any kind of rule with bass, it’s that you should avoid very short release times or you can get artifacts, so maybe you want a medium release time. Short releases can make things sound punchy in general, longer releases tend to sound smoother.

If that’s abstract, see if your plugin has some bass guitar presets. If so, you can see where the attack and release times have been set. Make adjustments from there and see what you hear.

In terms of gain reduction, maybe aim for 2-3 db reduction on the peaks as a starting point. You set that using the threshold control (depending on the design). The numerical setting of the threshold doesn’t really matter, you’re setting it to get whatever amount of gain reduction you have in mind for that track.

Makeup gain gets you back whatever signal level you’ve lost to compression.
 

derekd

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
46,646
It seems to me that you guys are of the same opinion that I don't necessarily need one and I'm going to follow your suggestion. I appreciate the help and suggestions. Thanks.
I think you will find this to be true in most situations related to bass.

As guitarists, we really mess with such things to improve/change tones. I simply find a good bass and decent amp do the vast majority of what I want as a player. Heck, at least half of the bass gigs I've played the past decade, I just went through a DI or my Helix.
 




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