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Unread 07-17-2013, 11:36 AM   #1
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Opinions, please...

So, I've been playing bass in a variety of settings for about 9 years now. I'm not amazing at any one style, but I can fake just about anything.

I've recently been invited to be in a somewhat new-age pop rock group and I've looked into upgrading my rig. I've slowly built up a serviceable setup that has morphed over time to meet my needs, but I think I'll need to take the plunge on some better gear for this group. I'm pretty much sold on 5-string at this point, especially if we play anything in drop-D, which I anticipate us doing.

Here's my current list of stuff:

Cort Curbow 5-string neck-through bass (natural wood finish) - used for jazz, worship, and most everything else. Its my go-to instrument right now.
Fender Jazz MiM bass - standard black, 4-string with Seymour Duncan fat stack and hot stack pickups (for a really nice rock tone)

Hartke 3500 head going to a hartke VX410 cab - this was my first real rig that I used back when I first started doing live shows. The 3500 is nearly worn out (cosmetically) and needs to have a loose connection fixed up. The cab is really used, and has a little buzz somewhere, but still makes noise.
My current rig is an Acoustic 600W solid state amp running to an Acoustic 410 cab.

Here's my question(s):

I've recently become aware of the "tube sound" on bass. After years of playing, I never really understood the difference until I started really pursuing electric guitar. Then it dawned on me. THAT's the sound I've been trying to get from my setup, and never could figure out how to get it. So....I'm longing for a good tube sound, and one that can push a decent amount of air.

I've considered selling at least the old Hartke gear, and maybe the Acoustic head unit so I can try to acquire some higher quality sound.

Given my current rig, I'm not sure what would be the best bang for my buck. New bass? new head? new cab? What I'd like to do is find a decently mid-priced tube head and then throw down on a new Ernie Ball MM 5-string. Its my opinion that the head would make the biggest difference (if such a head exists) and the bass would basically be a better (5-string) version of my hot-stacked Fender Jazz.

Tube Heads - no clue where to start, here, except that everyone just says the same thing, "Ampeg SVT4 pro". But that's expensive. Are there an alternatives? I've played the new Mark Bass TTE800, and its kinda cool. Not sure how the reviews are on it, and if it'll have the stones to push good volume through a 4x10 or even 8x10 cab.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:02 PM   #2
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It's interesting that you've going for the "tube sound", but both of the amps you've mentioned only have tube pre-amps.

Questions I guess I have from reading this...

What's "new age pop rock"?

How much volume are you looking to push? Were the 3500 and the 600H getting the job done?

What is your price range looking like? The TTE800, from what I'm seeing, is around $1000 new. Are you looking to buy new or willing to buy used and save as much as half.

One tube amp (all tube, not hybrid) that you might want to check out is the Peavey VB-2. I know it was getting rave reviews when it first hit the market, though I am out of the market now so I haven't really been following reviews since then.

Of course the downside to all-tube heads is that every couple of years when you need to retube (depending on use)...it gets really expensive to put in 6 new power tubes.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:13 PM   #3
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It's interesting that you've going for the "tube sound", but both of the amps you've mentioned only have tube pre-amps.

Questions I guess I have from reading this...

What's "new age pop rock"?

How much volume are you looking to push? Were the 3500 and the 600H getting the job done?

What is your price range looking like? The TTE800, from what I'm seeing, is around $1000 new. Are you looking to buy new or willing to buy used and save as much as half.

One tube amp (all tube, not hybrid) that you might want to check out is the Peavey VB-2. I know it was getting rave reviews when it first hit the market, though I am out of the market now so I haven't really been following reviews since then.

Of course the downside to all-tube heads is that every couple of years when you need to retube (depending on use)...it gets really expensive to put in 6 new power tubes.
Right...but I don't believe my current heads have tube pre-amps. I know the Hartke had a volume knob for tubes and one for solid state, so you could blend the sound (I'm assuming on the pre side). However, the 3500 was at the limits when I played with my previous group, especially when playing outdoors. It just didn't have the cajones to get the job done.

The Acoustic 600W is pretty powerful, but it sounds like all solid state, and its honestly pretty muddy sounding (that could be the Acoustic cab, though).

I'm actually fine with a "hybrid" amp - I just want a crushing tube bass tone, and one that has the power to play live. My Acoustic cab MIGHT be ok if I had the right power to it. My main complaint is just my Acoustic 600W head just sounds to solid statey. Ya know?

Anyway, this group is going to play stuff that might sound similar to Falling Up, Anberlin, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, etc...just big thick tones with a punk sounding bass - really punchy, twangy, and good low end.

As for the bass, my Fender with the SDs sounds fantastic, but I'd have to tune it drop-D.......which I'm not a big fan of on bass. Might be my only choice, though.

Budget......eh.....not sure yet. I'd really just like to explore my options at this point. As a starting point, lets say $1k and below for head. I don't mind buying used stuff, in fact, I prefer it when possible.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:36 PM   #4
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The Hartke sort of has a tube pre-amp, in the sense that the pre-amp has a tube in it. If you were to turn the solid-state knob to 0 and do all of your control with the tube knob, then you'd just be using the "tube pre". That being said, a single tube pre-amp is probably closer to say...Marshall Valvestate on the tube spectrum than the Ampeg SVT4 or similar, which are fully tube pre-amps (multiple tubes) using a solid state power amp section.

Part of the issue you're probably running into with this gear is (as you sort of alluded to) that it's budget gear. The Hartke 3500 is a $400 (new) head. The Acoustic B600H is <$550. They're probably good amps for the price, but they're considered budget gear. It's probably also worth noting that (IIRC) the Acoustic B600H, in a single cab configuration, is only putting out about 450W.

I was actually a little surprised to look at pictures and find that Deon Rexroat from Anberlin primarily uses a Jazz Bass pickup configuration. Just about every picture of him I've seen where you can see his amp, he's using Ampeg SVTs...and I think they're the all-tube models (so not the IV).

All this to say that crushing tone is a combination of volume and EQing. I would guess that with the Acoustic, the bigger limitation you're running into is the cab. I've owned a few different cabs, and the Avatar 4x10 I had for a while sounded great, but punishing low end was not something it excelled at, and I'm sure the Avatar cab I had was a much higher quality than the Acoustic cab. Generally speaking I've found the typical 4x10 cabs to be lacking in that range. I can't speak on 8x10s because I lack experience there, but the bigger cab space should mean better lows.

Hopefully some of the other experienced bass players see this soon. I know Bassman1185 always seems to have a pretty good feel for what's going on in the bass world at any given time.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:45 PM   #5
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The Hartke sort of has a tube pre-amp, in the sense that the pre-amp has a tube in it. If you were to turn the solid-state knob to 0 and do all of your control with the tube knob, then you'd just be using the "tube pre". That being said, a single tube pre-amp is probably closer to say...Marshall Valvestate on the tube spectrum than the Ampeg SVT4 or similar, which are fully tube pre-amps (multiple tubes) using a solid state power amp section.

Part of the issue you're probably running into with this gear is (as you sort of alluded to) that it's budget gear. The Hartke 3500 is a $400 (new) head. The Acoustic B600H is <$550. They're probably good amps for the price, but they're considered budget gear. It's probably also worth noting that (IIRC) the Acoustic B600H, in a single cab configuration, is only putting out about 450W.

I was actually a little surprised to look at pictures and find that Deon Rexroat from Anberlin primarily uses a Jazz Bass pickup configuration. Just about every picture of him I've seen where you can see his amp, he's using Ampeg SVTs...and I think they're the all-tube models (so not the IV).

All this to say that crushing tone is a combination of volume and EQing. I would guess that with the Acoustic, the bigger limitation you're running into is the cab. I've owned a few different cabs, and the Avatar 4x10 I had for a while sounded great, but punishing low end was not something it excelled at, and I'm sure the Avatar cab I had was a much higher quality than the Acoustic cab. Generally speaking I've found the typical 4x10 cabs to be lacking in that range. I can't speak on 8x10s because I lack experience there, but the bigger cab space should mean better lows.

Hopefully some of the other experienced bass players see this soon. I know Bassman1185 always seems to have a pretty good feel for what's going on in the bass world at any given time.
Thanks for the input. I've played a Ampeg 6x10 cab that seemed to be a pretty cool size/volume/tone configuration. I've also seen some Ampeg 810 cabs floating around used for around $500-600. Not too bad!

The main issue I'm having with my current setup is just the initial attack, primarily on the low E string and lower if I'm on my 5-string. Its like there's a delay when I hit those notes. No punch or clarity to the attack of those low notes. I've tried EQing my way out of it, but it never seems to solve the problem. You might be right about the cab. It sounds a little stuffy, which is fine for most worship sets and jazz, but not for live rock shows where you're competing with keyboard, drums, and two guitars.

Ideally, I'd like to find a really nice amp/cab setup (used) that I could spend around $1500 total to get a big sound that I need. So.....is there anything between "budget" and "way too expensive" that I could look at for a good bass tone? I don't want to drop $2k on each item, especially because this band probably won't make a ton of money at any point. I'd like this to be a somewhat moderate investment, but still want to achieve a good sound.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:53 PM   #6
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With a $1500 budget, you can probably find a Ampeg setup on the used market that will work. Right now my local Craigslist has a Ampeg 8x10 for $550 and a Ampeg SVT5 for $450. There's a SVT4 for $850 and another SVT4 for $700. Shoot, someone is selling a very used (looks like tolex was removed) 8x10 for $350. Someone else is selling a 6x10 for $425...

Point being that if you went the Ampeg route, you could definitely do it in the $1500 budget and probably have some change left over.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 12:56 PM   #7
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With a $1500 budget, you can probably find a Ampeg setup on the used market that will work. Right now my local Craigslist has a Ampeg 8x10 for $550 and a Ampeg SVT5 for $450. There's a SVT4 for $850 and another SVT4 for $700. Shoot, someone is selling a very used (looks like tolex was removed) 8x10 for $350. Someone else is selling a 6x10 for $425...

Point being that if you went the Ampeg route, you could definitely do it in the $1500 budget and probably have some change left over.
What's the difference between the SVT4 and 5? Are they all-tube or just tube preamps? It doesn't matter a whole lot to me as long as it sounds good. My local guitar center doesn't carry many of the Ampeg heads anymore, or I'd try them all out.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 01:07 PM   #8
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Ampeg doesn't make the SVT-5 any more...not sure why

On paper the big differences are pre-amp (SVT-4 looks like a full tube pre, SVT-5 is a MOSFET/Tube hybrid pre situation, probably closer to your Hartke).

The SVT-5 is lower powered than the 4 (340W x2 @ 4 ohms vs. 490W x 2...these are stereo figures. Not sure of the mono-bridged figures for the SVT-5, but the SVT4 does 1200W)

The SVT4 has a graphic EQ.

So overall the SVT4 is the more powerful unit. I think the SVT4 is really Ampeg's flagship amp on the SVT-Pro series.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 05:08 PM   #9
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Ampeg doesn't make the SVT-5 any more...not sure why

On paper the big differences are pre-amp (SVT-4 looks like a full tube pre, SVT-5 is a MOSFET/Tube hybrid pre situation, probably closer to your Hartke).

The SVT-5 is lower powered than the 4 (340W x2 @ 4 ohms vs. 490W x 2...these are stereo figures. Not sure of the mono-bridged figures for the SVT-5, but the SVT4 does 1200W)

The SVT4 has a graphic EQ.

So overall the SVT4 is the more powerful unit. I think the SVT4 is really Ampeg's flagship amp on the SVT-Pro series.
Good to know. My Hartke 3500 is actually in need of a repair (of some kind), but once I get it up and running again, I'll plug it into my Acoustic 410 and see if I can get some tube sound from it. It says MOSFET on it, but I'm not sure what that means.

I played a Tiny Terror and the TTE800 today, and both were better than what I currently play. I was also pretty impressed with the Markbass 410 cab. It has quite a bit of tone for a small box. I think the TTE800 actually sounded better to my ears than the Tiny Terror, but maybe I wasn't comparing apples to apples with my EQ and everything. I've never been able to really dial in the tones I want with Orange amps, even for guitar.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 05:11 PM   #10
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Have you tried using the B600H with the Hartke cab? I know you said it has a little buzz, but it might give you some perspective on the differences in how certain cabs handle difference frequencies.
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Unread 07-17-2013, 06:10 PM   #11
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Have you tried using the B600H with the Hartke cab? I know you said it has a little buzz, but it might give you some perspective on the differences in how certain cabs handle difference frequencies.
Actually, yeah. I play that configuration every Sunday. I basically donated my cab to my church, and I haul the head back and forth each week. It buzzes something fierce on certain frequencies, but the main buzz is just on the back access plate. I've fixed it before, and its not hard.

It does have a blown horn or something, because there are some annoying random sounds that buzz up front. I think I lost the horn about a year after I got it. I was young, crazy, and playing a lot of live shows, many of them outside. I just cranked the volume and hoped nothing caught on fire back in those days.
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Unread 07-18-2013, 07:06 AM   #12
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If it was mine - I'd change the Horn & use Bigger Screws on the back access panel. The Bigger Screws should hold tighter than the one's that are in there. If your still hearing Buzzing, you might need to open the Cab & use Silicone (Caulking) on all the inside. You'd want to do it when every board meets. This will help in making it Air Tight. Which should help in removing all the Buzzing.

I would try to change the Horn & use Bigger Screws on the back access panel first. This might fix the problem. I'm all about - Saving Money. You might be able to fix what you currently own for much cheaper than purchasing another.

If your not getting enough Volume out of your Amp -- Try changing out the Speaker with one that has a Higher Decibel Rating. You can double the Volume with simply adding 3 dB's to the Speaker. You could pick up a decent replacement Speaker for around $100.00.

So -- If you changed out all these things, you could prob do it for around $150-200. Which is a HUGE difference between $800-1,000. I'm sure you can find other places for the rest of the money.

Good Luck!
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Unread 07-18-2013, 07:29 AM   #13
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If it was mine - I'd change the Horn & use Bigger Screws on the back access panel. The Bigger Screws should hold tighter than the one's that are in there. If your still hearing Buzzing, you might need to open the Cab & use Silicone (Caulking) on all the inside. You'd want to do it when every board meets. This will help in making it Air Tight. Which should help in removing all the Buzzing.

I would try to change the Horn & use Bigger Screws on the back access panel first. This might fix the problem. I'm all about - Saving Money. You might be able to fix what you currently own for much cheaper than purchasing another.

If your not getting enough Volume out of your Amp -- Try changing out the Speaker with one that has a Higher Decibel Rating. You can double the Volume with simply adding 3 dB's to the Speaker. You could pick up a decent replacement Speaker for around $100.00.

So -- If you changed out all these things, you could prob do it for around $150-200. Which is a HUGE difference between $800-1,000. I'm sure you can find other places for the rest of the money.

Good Luck!
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Actually, the buzzing is not happening around the edges of the plate. I did replace the original screws with larger ones when I dove into the cab once to fix another issue.

The buzzing is actually occurring at the middle of the back plate. So, imagine a counter-sunk back plate with two 1/4" input jacks and a horn selector switch. The counter sunk area is probably 4"x6" in size and sinks into the cab about an inch or so. Now, those inputs and switches all have connectors and wires on the inside as well as a bracket or something that holds it all together on the inside, and there's something vibrating right near the middle of the plate on the inside. Its a pretty wicked buzz at certain frequencies, but it can be easily stopped by just slightly touching the middle of the back plate with one finger.

I'm not sure if some kind of foam would work, or if I just need to put some kind of caulking or adhesive around all the connector/bracket assemblies and see if that stops is. Its just some small pieces that's slamming against the back plate as the middle portion of it vibrates. Its just a matter of figuring out which part is causing it.
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Unread 07-18-2013, 07:34 AM   #14
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Have you tried using the B600H with the Hartke cab? I know you said it has a little buzz, but it might give you some perspective on the differences in how certain cabs handle difference frequencies.
Lets say a guy was crazy, hypothetically, and wanted to either run both cabs off of the B600 or wanted to run both cabs and both heads in some combination simultaneously. How do I figure out the appropriate electrical/signal path for such setups?

I'm sure there's something to do with series, parallel, and impedance, but I'm a civil engineer, not a EE. My brain hurts when I try to make it understand electronic wizardry.
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Unread 07-18-2013, 07:36 AM   #15
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That could work. I'd fix the Buzz & see if it's usable for your needs.
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