Direct vrs. Mic'd bass tone

Discussion in 'Bass' started by LeroyGodspeed, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. Ive gone back and forth between the two... I normally go with a bit of both... direct to get some of the highs and clicks, microphone to get some of the girth and low/mids.

    however, i've reached a point where i'm not able to improve the tone of any bass i work with. and essentially rely on lots of EQ, compression and even pre-amp plug ins.

    i normally record bassists with combo amps (12 and a horn)...

    any thoughts? can anyone steer me in the right direction as far as microphones or DI box's?

    thanks a bunch team
  2. SkidRowe

    SkidRowe Guest

    Bass DI vs. Cab Mics

    Try an AKG D112 just off axis from the cone, shelve the highs at about 1200Hz. Then add a Sennheiser MD421 or Shure KSM33 about one foot from the horn.

    Then use the direct out into a SansAmp DI. Split it so that you send one signal directly into your DAW and another into a Distressor (if available) or the compressor of your liking. You're most interested in expanding the sub-bass with this send.

    You could also add another AKG D112 about 6 feet into the room out front of the amp. Since the sine waves are longer, they don't mature right up at the cone. If you want to add some thunder to your bass track, this will do a lot. I might also compress this room signal.

    Mix all of the above to taste. This may seem a bit excessive until you realize how flexible it can be, not to mention the results it can produce for you.

    Of course, all of this is subjective to the music. If a cold steely DI is all the song requires, by all means don't fix it, it ain't broke!

    Good Luck,
  3. jasondirckze

    jasondirckze Guest

    I found using a nice tube DI works treats, something along the lines of Groovetubes or similar. And if recording to analoue tape, it doesnt get much better.

    And of course, a decent bass and player helps!
  4. MilesAway

    MilesAway Guest

    i've had great results blending a Beta52, tight-mic'd on a 15" driver (REALLY tight... ie: take the grill off and cozy it right up!) with an SM57 a few inches back from a 10"er. Best of both worlds - great natural compression from a real amp/speakers, rumble from the 15" and punch from the 10". Never much liked dealing with horns/tweeters in bass-world. If i need the extra click, i take it from a DI line.
  5. Well, it would help if you let us know some of your other equipment. Obviously you're recording to a DAW since you mentioned plugins, but do you have any nice (or not so nice) pres at your disposal? What kind of DIs are you using now?

    But in any case, here's what you do:

    Make sure you can get your hands on a Fender Precision bass. Doesn't matter if it's a nice old one or even one of the newer ones, even one not made in the US. Just find a P-Bass. Give it to someone whose playing you trust. That is, someone that has nice tone, a good groove and can stay in the pocket.

    Record this guy with his bass plugged into a DI, straight into your mixer/interface/whatever. Leave it dry and it should sound fuckin good. Hit it with a few DB of a nicer compressor/compressor plugin and it should make your dick hard. If you happen to have any kind of tube pre with an instrument DI feature, use that in lieu of any of the little live PA type DIs. Although, if an IMP is all ya got, use it.

    Mix that in with some other tracks, maybe something you have sitting around. At first don't even THINK about touching EQ. Get it mixed in nicely with the fader and MAYBE just a TOUCH of compression for a little fatness and sustain. Then, if you really really have to, maybe hit a little EQ up around 8k, maybe some back at 4k (depending on where your kick drum is) and some down around 1-2k for a little sizzlino.

    If you can't get a good bass sound this way, then we know the problem is with you rather than the gear.

    Now, if you can get a decent sound that way we know you're at least somewhere in the neighborhood with electric bass. Then, if you want to start mic'ing an amp we can move on to that. Always, always, record the DI signal ANYWAY. Don't rely on just the amp sound. Especially when you're working in a DAW and you can burn tracks.

    So for mic'ing an amp, I ain't really liking your amp choice. A 12" and a horn? Ehhh...yeah, not my first or second bass amp choice. What kinda amp is it? Really I ain't a fan of any kind of horn on a bass amp at all. My favorite bass cabinet of all time is the SVT 8x10. My guess is you probably get a fairly harsh sound out of that horn, don't ya?

    Anyway, for mic'ing a bass amp try the following amps if you can get ahold of them:

    Ampeg SVT stack (the 8x10)
    Any ampeg combo, 4x10, 1x15, whatever
    Fender bassman
    Any Peavey bass combo, especially a "TNT" model.

    For mics, obviously anything you would feel good sticking in a kick drum will also work on a bass amp. A common mistake is to use the SAME mic in the SAME mix though. Sometimes that can work, but it's usually helpful to use a different mic on the bass than you do on the kick for a given mix. The instruments sit really close together in the frequency spectrum and using a different mic on them can give you a leg up on the mud factor.

    So, given that, any of the following will work and be no surprise:
    D112, D12, RE20, Beta52, D6, SM7

    These mics will also work, and may be less intuitive:
    U87, R121, SM57, Octava 219, plus some ungodly expensive $*^t you probably don't have access to. You can also get good bass amp sounds from an RCA 77, but you probably don't have one of those either. However, you gotta use it as more of a "room" type sound and in a nice room. Don't really wanna shove the thing right up on an SVT cab.

    As far as mic technique, this depends on the room you're in and the sound you want. Use the mic back off the cab if your room sound is plesant. In fact, with the amp you mentioned this might be a good technique. Back it off and move it off-axis a little and see if it isn't as harsh (if I'm right about that). Otherwise, start off treating it like a close-mic'ed guitar amp and modify to taste. You might have good luck pointing the mic RIGHT at the center of the voice coil. Then again, you might have good luck angling the mic at 45 degrees horizontal with the leading corner directly in front of the dust cover joint aiming in towards the voice coil.

    Now, for a REAL fun time do this:

    Rent a PA. A nice, big 2kW or better PA. Something run 3 or 4 way with 18" bass bins and smooth tops. Set it up in a big room. Or, your garage if you can get away with it. Mult your bass signal (rememver I said to always track the DI?) and send it to the PA, let the PA engineer do his thing and don't get in his way. Then, mic the PA from about 15 feet away or so, dead center with the mic about ear height. Use a LDC, maybe that U87, or, a favorite of mine, that Octava 219. You could also use a larger dynamic too, like the D112 or RE20 I spose. I dunno if I'd put a ribbon into that situation. Maybe a cheaper one, or a 160 or something.

    You're probably going to want to cram that PA signal into a compressor at the mixdown. Probably pretty heavily. Maybe even use parallel compression on it, perhaps maybe a multi-band. Don't EQ it much though, the PA guy already would've done that.

    Now you've got a "grab you by the balls" bass sound!

  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Dec 10, 2001
    Pacific NW
    All good points.(all their own settin way up high.....)

    I have a couple of others to lambaste ya with so listen closely, I'm only gonna say it once....

    There are two secret weapon amplifiers to use on bass. You can use em in a small studio apartment because the level is going to be REALLY REALLY low...

    SWA #1..Fender Deluxe/Deluxe Reverb.

    You're saying, "But Davedog, you eeediottt, thats a frikkin geetar amp."


    SWA #2...small keyboard type of amp....closed back...combo style...brand is ANY...

    You're saying "BUT but buT Davedog ,you incredble loonytic, thats not what these are made for...."

    "errr Really??"

    In lieu of either of these options, a 1963/4/5/6/7 AMPEG B15 is a good choice as well as a TIGHT clear cabinet. Tens will work as do 15's..

    Again, the VOLUME is the issue here. You'd be surprised at how much tone and punch there is at low volumes with a decent bass and player.

    DI if you must, or simply put a bunch of amps in different parts of the room and flail away.

    I use my vocal booth A LOT for bass tracks with an amp.

    And just for a laugh, most mics will work in the low-volume situation.

    AND (read: huge benefit) If you're tracking the band all together, the likelyhood of stray bass frequencies creeping into the drum mics/guitar mics/other mics is negated quite a lot.

    There is one tiny detail that this method requires.....a very very good HEAD FONE mix.
  7. You know, I've never tried that, but I see exactly what you're gettin at. I bet that IS cool. I shall now and forever call this "Davedog's silver bullet band bass secret weapon"
  8. stickers

    stickers Active Member

    Jan 31, 2005
    Lowell MA
    Home Page:
    I recently chose a D4 over the D6 on an ampeg 4 x 10 cab. the D6 had that low mid scoop that "we" didnt care for.
    (Plus, I always shy away from using the same mic on bass cab that i used on kick drum. In this case, I had used the D6 on kick.)
  9. McCheese

    McCheese Well-Known Member

    Mar 24, 2005
    I discovered the low volume trick by accident just the other night. I was running my new P-Bass through my Hot Rod DeVille 4x10 and had it low so as not to bug the neighbors. I mic'd it with a 57 just to track a run I had come up with, and couldn't believe the greatness of the sound. I guess it shouldn't surprise me too much seeing as the HRD is somewhat related to the old fender Bassman.
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