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Translating bass guitar from high quality speakers to low

Discussion in 'Bass' started by JensenBohren, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    Hello, all. Long time, no post. Long time, no need.

    However, I finally have 'cracked' into the industry and am co-producing a band. However, I'm having trouble with one significant thing.

    When I mix down a song using the AKG K66 Headphones, I can get the bass guitar to sound great. When I bounce down the session and burn it to an audio CD, it sounds great in the car with the decent speakers. However, if I put the disk on a cheapie set of speakers, such as generic headphones, a laptop, or tiny computer speakers, it is as if the bass hasn't been overdubbed at all-- there's absolutly no bass. I even tried to 'eq' it via iTunes's built in EQ, and I couldn't get the bass to be audible. However, if I plug the K66's into the laptop, there's the mix I put to disk-- the same one I hear in the car.

    This is getting me frustrated, and the band has twice remarked about it-- I'm getting worried about keeping the only industry work I've been able to obtain.

    EDIT: I'm using their Pro Tools 002 LE system recording the bass directly in off of a D.I. that is coming out of the stage amp. Since they record at once and have all eight inputs covered, I only have the D.I. track.

    I'm thinking that he may have an EQ on the amp, and has rolled off everything above 80Hz. If there is nothing else this could be, I don't know how to broach that subject.
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    JensenBohren, really.....? First, I never rely on mixing with headphones unless I absolutely have to. Which is mostly never. It's not professional. Everything sounds good in headphones, even bad mixes like yours.

    Of course you cannot hear bass on small speakers if it's all bass. You must turn the bass down and add some midrange if you want to hear the bass on smaller speakers. "But then the bass won't rock my world if I don't have enough". OK, then add a little limiting so you can increase the meat without increasing the woof. You want a tight bass, like a tight ass, otherwise it will be too big and flabby like mine, my ass not my bass.

    TMI? Butt maybe not?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    Unfortunatly, due to budget considerations and their mixing room size, I'm forced to mix on headphones or gigantic speakers they have 'juiced and EQ'd' for their shows. This isn't my own equipment-- I'm a hired hand. If I were able, I'd have a pair of MSP5s. However, I do not.

    The mixes are complete-- not just a bass track. Next time, I will try to lower the sound and EQ from 800-4k into the bass track (I usually normalize the track, and then put it into the mix with slight compression). I'm not worried about 'having enough' or 'rocking my world.' I would like a fair representation of my work to be audible on lower quality speakers-- no more, no less.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    If you have the chance to mix on their ridiculously huge and juiced PA speakers, I'd rather do that then mix on headphones. The only proper way to do that is to use some reference CDs by major artists on major record labels to use as your base reference first. Listen carefully. Once you know and understand how their PA speakers sound, you can probably obtain a much better mix that will translate better to other systems than trying to do it with headphones.

    If they question your mixing skills because they don't like the balance, you really must make clear to them that mixes really must be done on speakers, unless you know your headphones so well, you're mixes sound great on everything after you mix with headphones. Obviously you don't and it doesn't, so just like the doctor tells you, "don't do that". What don't you or the band understand? Do they think all rock-and-roll hits are mixed on headphones?? I don't think so? After all most recording artists only devote about $50 to their recordings to make their platinum hits don't they?

    I think I'll have another beer?
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  5. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    There may be some "big time" producers who don't worry about taking their own monitors around with them (many do carry them) because they know the world-class room they'll be working in. For everyone else, that's a requirement of the gig. You don't have to spend big bucks, but you DO have to find decent pair of SPEAKERS that you can learn to mix on so that the material translates well over any/all systems it is played back on. Cans are OK to solo your sources on to troubleshoot while you're tracking, but after that, they get put back in the bag. Even a small pair of Yorkvilles or Yammies will fill the bill. Failure to grasp that concept of being self-contained (a good mic, a good pre, and trustworthy monitors) will leave you in the dust.
    Can the Cans, Stan!
  6. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest


    I've gotten a 'friend' to agree to let me 'borrow' his TR8's. From what I hear, they're flat, but not perfect. The left one I'm using occasionally has a burst of static I've got to work around, but other than that, they function correctly.

    Run: Reference Mixes (Floyd's album The Wall(half of album 1); Rollins's "Going Out Strange," Petty's "Wildflowers."). Check. I think I have a handle. Pull up mix. Check-- bass sounds good. It sounds only a little lower than I expected it to, but only by 3db at most. Burn the mix to disk by bouncing it down to a 44.1, 16b stereo file and Toasting it. Check.

    Put it on a laptop. SAME DAMNED PROBLEM.

    Wot Happen? Someone set us up the bomb. We lose $20.

    So what constitutes 'midrange' for a bass that I should try to boost the next time I mix? I'm not looking to get a Primus sound, just that the base doesn't sound like I accidentally hit 'mute' before bouncing it.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    JensenBohren, when you listen to something on the laptop you have the same damn problem? Of course you do! Those are speakers the size of a $.05 American nickel! Take the output of your laptop via a 1/8" stereo cord to the input of a reasonable monitors system and it should sound every bit as good as it should. It will sound like a piece of crap on itty bitty speakers. What don't you understand? Moonbaby provided you with an extremely comprehensive and sensible suggestion. He is absolutely correct. You are getting close but no cigar yet. There are just some things one has to do to be considered a professional. If you want to be professional, you must listen to the other professionals here on Recording.org. You cannot evaluate anything from a laptops speakers. Stop trying to. They are just there for you to enjoy the tinkling sensations of the illegal MP3s you download from the Internet and should not be considered any kind of reference whatsoever. Only proper monitor speakers can be considered a reference.

    Referencing my waistline to my inseam. OY!
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  8. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    Well, one more question.

    As of right now, paying rent is more important than getting the MSP5s I'm so desiring.

    Thus, how can I make the band I'm working with THINK they hear more bass?

    I tried pumping up the midrange, but there's no frequency content above 80Hz on the recording, even when boosting it +24db.

    Should I pitch shift the bass up an octave or two so they can 'think' they hear their bass on the recording, and then when the CD goes onto another soundsource, they hear both the 'fake' and the real bass?

    Granted, I know ~I~ shouldn't be worrying about this from a 'mixer's' role, but these "artists" not hearing the bass on what they are listening to the music on could cost me this job, and I cannot let that happen.
  9. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    What do you mean "no frequency content above 80Hz"????? That can't be right....
    Have you tried the PA speakers?
  10. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    OK...So you are working with a band that tests your mixes on 1" speakers, they give you a bass track that has nothing above 80Hz, they want it to sound like there IS bass above 80Hz, but they won't do a simple bass overdub for you? Wow, and I thought I had been in some tough situations...
    Some things that may or may not work:
    1. reamp the track through a decent bass amp and record with mic.
    2. Put some kind of guitar amp simulator plugin on a duplicate of the bass track, focusing on the midrange, and blend with original track.
    3. Add some grind (overdrive) to the bass track to kind of fake some upper harmonics.
    4. Use Waves MaxBass (but this will require money).
    5. Try your pitchshifting idea. Copy the bass track, shift it up an octave, mix with original track, perhaps try another one 2 octaves up mixed in. Try not to make it sound retarded.
    Is there really nothing going on when you boost around 900Hz? It's a wonder you can even make it sound good on headphones.
  11. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    I upped the queue to as high as possible and boosted it +12db, then swept from 400Hz-200Hz, and then boosted it by 24db. I then just kept sweeping, and close to 80, almost blew my ears out.

    And I did this on the PA speakers while the guys were taking a pissbreak.

    I tested out the bass and looked at the settin's when I saw this. I can't figure out what the hell is happening, as the amp I'm DI-ing from doesn't even have its EQ section engaged.

    Reggie, thanks for the suggestions. Unfortunatly, #1 is out-- I doubt I'll have the time to do this for the Midi drumset so I can mix the kit separatly-- having to do it for bass might pop a vessel in the band's head.
    #2 and #3 seem the same-- or are they? Is there a plugin that you have in mind for that, or would a amp simulator be sufficient? #4 is not feasable right now as you noted... and I really am skeptical about #5... but we are overly critical of ourselves, correct?

    Thank ya'll for your assistance. If I can't fix this 'problem,' I'll be back... and since the newer version of the forums works on my computer, I'll probably hang around a bit once again.
  12. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    just a stupid suggestion, but are you doing any stereo processing, and is it all possible that something is being put out of phase somewhere? Are you checking everything in mono as well as stereo while soloing,
    tweaking and mixing?

    Always check final mixes in mono as well as stereo, just to make sure nothing "disappears" accidently.

    I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'........
  13. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Well-Known Member

    U da man...nobody else suggested that and yet that is soooo very possible!
  14. Reggie

    Reggie Well-Known Member

    JB- Yeah, I was kinda talking about 2 different things. I'm not sure what PT LE comes with, but a lot of softwares will have some overdrive/distortion/t00b plugins, and separately they will have some guitar amp simulator plugins. The amp sim plugins tend to affect EQ fairly radically from the original sound, which may be just what you need; at least blended in with the original.

    The thing with sweeping the EQ down to 80Hz and nearly blowing something is nothing new with a DI track. It would not be out of the question that the PA has even been EQ'd to accentuate this freq and cut some freqs in the 300-900 range. If you haven't tried it yet, I would also filter out some of the lows on the bass track--either a gentle-sloped high pass filter or a gentle low shelf starting around 60-80Hz maybe. Anything too steep may affect phase of the good stuff in a poopy way.
    This should help you get a closer balance between the part of the bass you can hear vs the part of the bass you can feel.
  15. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Moon......once it happens to ya, you never forget it! ( I think Remy helped someone solve a problem like this not so long ago, as well?)

    One other idea comes to mind, at least for referencing the EQ and levels.

    Assuming the PA spkrs are so out of whack; what does OTHER recorded material sound like through these? Does the newly recorded bass sound similar to commerically recorded bass in the jacked PA speakers, or can you already tell there's a problem there, too? And, does the comparison still hold from monitor to monitor (including the laptop spks) when doing the same things with other commercial recordings?

    Assuming the bass can be solo'd, there must be some way to quickly toggle it through all the monitoring in question, just to see what the problem is, and when/where the sound drops out.

    Something is odd here, and I think it's more a case of comparitive analysis via the monitoring to find out where the problem is really happening. (My money is still on a phase issue somewhere...)
  16. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    I solo'd the bass track when I did the frequency sweep, so post-recording phasing would have been apparent. What the band is doing with the bass is plugging it into an amp, then coming out of the amp's out and into the Pro Tools system.

    The first way I mix is actually in mono, getting the levels correct and then panning slightly while just rough mixing like this. I'm using a small amount of delay and reverb on the lead and background vox, and a slightly higher amount of reverb on the midi drum kit (as it comes in as one track, and they want some reverb on the snare... it doesn't sound that bad, though the kick may have a little to do with this issue now that you point it out... but I have been soloing the bass when trying to solve this issue).

    I'll run my Rollins Band CD through the PA speakers next chance I get; that is the bass sound I'm trying to get to come through the cheaper speakers. If I had a full frequency version of Jyhad Jerry's ArmyGirlsGone Wild I'd put that through, but it isn't out yet. Each of those bass sounds translate well to different quality speakers...
  17. corrupted

    corrupted Guest

    I haven't read everything in this thread, so I don't know if it was mentioned... but quite a few bass amps have crossovers in them (one low pass output and one high pass output). I haven't seen this on the line level output, only on the speaker level output... but it's possible, and that might explain the loss of higher frequencies. If you can re-record it, try using a DI and going straight to the board.
  18. JensenBohren

    JensenBohren Guest

    I took a look at the back of the bass amp tonight before the session. It was quarter-inch TRS outs in a row, and had the labels on the side of the holes...

    One row was "SpeakerOut (O) FXOut(O) LineOut(O)"

    The 'DI' cable was plugged into the "FXOut," which was probably the Subwoofer output in all probability.

    I plugged the cable in, and put the eq I tried last time (Q=2, Frequency=220, Gain=6db), and the first song, the band noticed. They told the bass player that he was really "Shittin' the Fight." H.P. Lovecraftian imagry aside, I do believe this issue is solved.

    However, we now have another problem. The Mackie power amp is clipping when the bass plays certain notes while the Midi kick drum is hit. Pro Tools isn't clipping, however, only the Mackie amp. (810 or 808, I think from memory). I was thinking about putting a compresser with a high threshold and 3:1 in between the Mackie ins and the 002 monitor outputs.

    Anyway, folks, much thanks for your assistance. May all the bass players who've hired you be shittin' the fight.
  19. jonyoung

    jonyoung Well-Known Member

    I think what Jensen is looking for is the classic technique of mixing bass for AM radio, referred to as "apparent bass". Rather than boosting the fundamental, which a small dashboard speaker is incapable of reproducing , the 3rd harmonic is boosted with tight Q and the body of the car, dashboard, etc....become a passive woofer. I'd try a higher ratio than 3:1 on that compressor, you're looking to limit before the power amp.

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