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Sansamp Bassdriver vs Compressor

 
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2011 11:36 am    Post subject: Sansamp Bassdriver vs Compressor Reply with quote

Hello,
we have some money left for one piece of equipment to improve our bass sound.
Now we plug the bass straight into the mixing desk, without a DI Box or anything, but its an active bass, so we dont get a lot of noise from it. It runs into 2 big 18 inch Zeck cabinets.
So we are not sure where to invest. For me the 2 biggest options are either a Tech 21 Sansamp Bass Driver, because it simlates an amp, or a Compressor.
any recommendations for Compressors are welcome!

cheers, Franz
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sam pling



Joined: 05 Apr 2011
Posts: 12
Location: leeds, uk

PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 12:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

DI boxes are dirt cheap (leem do one for £17!), so there is no real excuse not to use one on bass, however the sansamp is certainly a better option - every time a player brings one into my studio, I'm highly impressed, however I have heard rumour they are not as reliable as they could be, but I guess they are fairly straightforward to maintain.

I'm fond of our TL 5021 and C!s as a DI path for bass - they both have aux instrument ins, although they aren't the most amazing compressors, at least you can find other uses for them once you've finished tracking.

Hope that helps

sam m
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 4:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

But what do you think is more important for a dubby bass? an amp simlulator like the sansamp or a compressor? By the way more than 300 Euro is no option in either case.

cheers, Franz
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sam pling



Joined: 05 Apr 2011
Posts: 12
Location: leeds, uk

PostPosted: Fri Jun 17, 2011 5:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The compressors I recommended have an aux (instrument) in, and is what I personally use, not particularly for the compression as such, but because it has a nice fuzzy "warm" tone similar to the old rootsy reggae tracks, and is very easy to use. I tend to dial in a small amount of compression (maybe 1.5:1, thresh -10), as you can always add more later. It's not a portable solution, but I get the impression you are all playing through a desk anyway. Also, as I say, the compressor can be used for other stuff, eg making soft-synths sound nice, grunging up vocals, doing nice parallel stuff with drums.

The sansamp is very portable, good for live etc, gives you plenty of control, but to be honest is more of a thing that post rock, metal type players tend to go for who really want super clear slamming tone - not something you necessarily are chasing in dub, although if you wanted a super-clean sly/robbie, 80s kind of bass tone it might suit you. (I checked your soundcloud and I'm not sure that this is what you are chasing!)

The next stage is to have a massive amp/speaker set up and mic it with ribbon mics, to wipe out the attack transients and really bring out the lower mid, but that is gonna cost you a fortune, and you are looking at chasing pre-amps on ebay, dealing with mic doctors, that kind of thing - a massive job.

Another solution is just buy any reasonable DI box (get an active one if your desk has +48v phantom power, they sound warmer), and try using plug ins in the mix (I like NI Guitar Rig), or even re-amping the bass - perhaps through studio speakers or a live PA, and experimenting with whatever mics you have to hand.

The main thing, though, is to get the impedance right when the bass goes in to the desk - you will thank me when you hear the difference between simply plugging in and boosting the gain, and using a DI box to sort out your signal - the rest is, to be honest, icing on the cake! If you can let me know a little more about your setup, though, I could probably give better advice!
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 1:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Our bassist uses an active Washburn bass, plugged directly into the mixing desk. We tried the Line Out of 2 bass amps we got there, one Trace Elliott and one Laney and it didn't make a difference so we figured we wouldnt need them.
On all the Soundcloud tracks you hear there is added compression on bass, because it's recorded with my 8 track Zoom R16. But we never have any noise problems with the bass channel, I only would sometimes with for a bit more clarity. I always cut off bass at 180Hz.

So you guess a compressor could improve our sound more than the Sansamp?

cheers, Franz
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sam pling



Joined: 05 Apr 2011
Posts: 12
Location: leeds, uk

PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ta for that info -

It looks to me that the zoom r16 has pretty much all the connections you need to make decent recordings, but it doesn't have insert points, so you can't connect outboard compressors at the right level (unless, as I mentioned before, the unit hass instrument level ins). Therefore, I would probably suggest the sansamp as a sensible upgrade, as it seems to have various tube emulation circuits etc, and to connect your your system with a minimum of fuss.

sam m
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2011 9:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sam pling wrote:
Ta for that info -

It looks to me that the zoom r16 has pretty much all the connections you need to make decent recordings, but it doesn't have insert points, so you can't connect outboard compressors at the right level (unless, as I mentioned before, the unit hass instrument level ins). Therefore, I would probably suggest the sansamp as a sensible upgrade, as it seems to have various tube emulation circuits etc, and to connect your your system with a minimum of fuss.

sam m


But before the R16 we got a Fostex 8 Track mixing desk, so the R16 is really only for recording, all the effects and everything are controlled by the mixing desk, and the recording device has all settings completely flat.

My doubt with the Sansamp is that I'm unsure how it could improve the bass sound, because I think (please correct my if I'm wrong) that every amplifier capable of the low end sounds the same if you cut off the highs at roughly 200 Hz as we do. How could the Sansamp make that sound different, what would it do to it?

But I have the same doubts with compressors. How could a compressor help me to get a nice dubby sound?
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sam pling



Joined: 05 Apr 2011
Posts: 12
Location: leeds, uk

PostPosted: Sun Jun 19, 2011 1:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Franz - you're really stretching me with my theory! (it'll do me good I know)

A good compressor shouldn't colour the sound at all, all it will do is adjust the relative volumes of different parts of the signal - an example of this is that you may have notice that when your bass player moves up and down the fretboard, some notes will be louder than others - a compressor will fix this by making sure they all come out at the same level. This is particularly an issue with reggae players - the bassist in my band, like most in this genre, rolls off all off the top end of his signal with the tone control on his bass, and this means if he plays the higher notes the signal is noticeably quieter. A compressor fixes this by automatically adjusting the level of the signal so all the notes come out at the same volume. Of course if you roll off everything above 200hz after the compressor stage of your recording chain, you will find the higher notes disappearing again!

The sansamp is basically a DI box with a circuit designed to add valve-type harmonic distortion, giving you a richer sound (theory here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tube_sound#Harmonic_content_and_distortion),which most people agree sounds "better" or "warmer". Using it will certainly sound better, but perhaps not a massive improvement over using the DI out of your bass amp.

Your point about the way amplifiers behave at low frequencies has an element of truth, however in my experience I tend to boost bass parts at about 80hz, and there is still more than an octave of overtones, harmonics etc above that point (an octave higher than 80hz is still only 160hz, after all), and this is the region at which valve distortion, tape distortion, or even a little well calibrated analogue clipping can have a major effect in terms of the "warmth" of the sound. Try replacing your bass parts with just a sine wave playing the same notes - the sine has no harmonics, and while it will do the job, it will just sound boring. The "poetry" of dub bass (and to a greater extent in dubstep too, where you essentially use synths to design the low frequencies from scratch) is all about interesting combinations of overtones at very low frequencies - remember that the low e-string on a bass guitar is only 41hz! As much musical gear is simply not designed to operate at these low frequencies (especially the cheaper, smaller, powered monitor speakers), there is always going to be an element of guesswork (and a little voodoo too!) down here at the bottom of the mix.

I suspect, therefore that the real solution for you could well be based on convenience, you probably have all the gear you need already, but it is taking a lot of time to get everything sounding right - that time is time you could be spending on playing, rather than fiddling with eqs etc - in a live situation the sansamp is your friend - regard it as an fx pedal that makes sure the best bass sound goes to the pa. In a studio situation the compressor can be left set up all the time, to save worries later in the mix.

Two more things - have you tried bass pods? We have one at work, and it always seems to end up on the bass when I'm mixing dub - I haven't quite worked out why (when I do I'll be able to emulate it with compression/distortion/eq, I guess!) but it does something nice to the bass. They seem pretty common so I guess it should be easy to check one out in a shop. (on the other hand, I hate guitar pods... they just sound weird to me!)

Lastly, remember the song comes first. Good eq technique should always be sensitive to what key the song is in - a 200 hz rolloff might be great for one piece, but kill another. The same goes with compression - manipulating the dynamic range of an instrument needs to be done with sensitivity towards the tempo and rhythm of a song.

Sam M
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JahNice



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 256
Location: Dortmund City

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If i had 300€ to improve bass sound in the situation you described i would
buy me a DI box and a good used valve amp. You can get one even for
less than 200 bux. Nothing is better for a good bass sound than a nice
valve amp and a good box with some nice membranes.
My bass is a Vester Jazzbass and it cost me 23€ and at home where
i cant use big amps and speakers, i record it straight from the desk
to my soundcard. most times I also use EQ or my custom active filter
and i also run it throu a "TL Audio Ivory Series C5021 Valve Compressor"
from my cousins, wich i use as an insert on my mixing desk. I discovered
that this helps me get the reggae sound i want. Much warmer but also
punchyer, "fatter" , rich in the overtones & more defined. This dual
valve compressor is not supposed to work as a bass preamp but thats
one thing i love to do with it.. I "overfeed" it a little so there is a little
valve distortion and the drive led starts blinkin at the loudest basstones.
This compressor actually does colour the sound and thats what i like
about it. In this case i use it just as a valve preamp NOT as compressor,
meaning that i have the compressor mode on but i just use the
instrument ins on the front, and when you select a low ratio and push the
threshold just a little you actually dont get any classical compression
effect but the signal becomes just much richer and more beautyful to my
ears.. reggae / dub bass must not be compressed thats what i know. a
good Bassy, use his fingers and play dynamicallie. I dont like all that
loudnessmania and compression and all that stuff.. Dub pioneer
"The Scientist" said it well:
Quote:
you can’t just go and pick an individual instrument and change it. But this whole thing about mastering, especially in the digital age, that
when a song is properly mixed you’re not supposed to do anything like that to it. No compression! They all swear by the bible of compression.
I never used a compressor. The only thing a compressor do is constantly turning down the track. The only thing I used compressors on is vocals.
No compressor on bass. It doesn’t make the bass get any more solid. It doesn’t make the bass get any more fat. All that stuff we was doing at
Channel One and that stuff there – there is no compression running anywhere.

°from this interview http://unitedreggae.com/articles/n212/092408/interview-scientist

Blessments

Y


Last edited by JahNice on Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:30 pm; edited 2 times in total
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 8:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well I read more than once that they always recorded bass at red hot meters, so by that you actually get a lot of compression through tape saturation because of the clipping (its called brick wall compression, meaning compression with a ratio of 1:infinity, you can achieve this with a limiter too, instead of a compressor)


By the way Yiannis if you ever come to Dresden we have to do a gig or something together Very Happy
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JahNice



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 256
Location: Dortmund City

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

YA man i need to come near Dresden i have some roots there also and i`m
definately in for a jam with you guys!!!! didnt know you re from germoney Smile
give me a call aswell if you come close to dortmund town maybe we can
arange something..


yes i have heard that same thing but about the drums. they used to send
them on tape while overdriving the tapemachines input preamps and this
way getting some tape saturation & distortion.
many do this still, i am also currently experimenting with a four track
grundig tape machine (10€ flohmarkt) for drums and the effect is great.
i know dubmasters who use cassette tape recorders to get that effect..
But i dont know if i would like to do this to my bass signal..


Peace
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stranded horse



Joined: 07 Mar 2011
Posts: 65

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 11:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I read that at least for bass a hard limiter going into a really soft warm overdrive does a pretty good job at that. The Boss LMB-3 is often recommended for that job.
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Neil C



Joined: 25 Feb 2004
Posts: 364
Location: Moonbase Alpha

PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2011 12:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

sam pling wrote:
A good compressor shouldn't colour the sound at all,

JahNice wrote:
This compressor actually does colour the sound and thats what i like
about it.


I think all the most sought after compressors are sought after precisely because of the way the they shape and/or colour the sound in a manner unique to them. Why would there be numerous software models of classic compressors otherwise?
I think most people choosing a software compressor for an individual instrument choose a 'character' (ie. 'coloured') compressor, not a transparent one. There's certainly a place for transparent compressors, especially in mix mastering, but even there people seem generally to want a compressor that will impart a character on the mix.

JahNice wrote:
reggae / dub bass must not be compressed thats what i know. a good Bassy, use his fingers and play dynamicallie. I dont like all that loudnessmania and compression and all that stuff.. Dub pioneer
"The Scientist" said it well:

It would certainly be unusual to use a pick for dub bass, which only leaves fingers as an option.
I disagree that a compressor on the bass should not be done for dub. Do whatever works for you.

As noted above one of the classic qualities of tape is a (usually gentle) compressing effect. In an all analogue studio with everything going to tape it may well be the case the normal signal path will result in a compressed effect on the bass. Added compressing through a compressor in that situation may well not be necessary.

Back to the Sansamp Bass DI - it won't magically give you a dub sound on it's own, but if you are going straight through a clean amp into big cabs then it would act like a bass head and it may be just the thing for you with your real big cabs. It's a well made little unit. It's great as a bass player if there is a big enough PA to go into (and foldback) then you can use the Sansamp and not have to lug a bass combo out.
I don't think you need a compressor if using the Sansamp, so a choice between a compressor and the Sansamp I say the latter.

As mentioned above the SubDub model in the Line6 products gives a nice dub sound - but that sound simulates big cabs, so if you are actually using big cabs then it's probably not suitable.
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JahNice



Joined: 17 Jan 2008
Posts: 256
Location: Dortmund City

PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2011 9:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i did not say compression should not be done i said it must not be done,
meaning that you dont really need it if you have the right stuff and
techniques.. like Neil said: whatever works 4 ya.. Dont let my smartass
purist dreaming hold you back.. I know that my couz sometimes is
compressing the bass sligtly when we make peacemakers dub music.. But i
also know the difference since we stopped recording straight into the mixing
console.. we got our first amp (used old valve amp for about 150€) for the
bass and the sound improvement was realy impressive. like i said a nice
amp would be the best improvement imho.. offcourse then you'll need a nice
mic also to record the signal from the amp.

Peace Yianni
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thoughtcancer



Joined: 03 Aug 2011
Posts: 2
Location: Sunny Vancouver, British Columbia

PostPosted: Fri Aug 05, 2011 1:09 am    Post subject: I'm all about the Sansamp Reply with quote

I can attest to the awesome of the Sansamp boxes. In the studio, I use a Sansamp Bass Driver Programmable to get my fat and warm dub sound. I only really use one channel on it, but it's nice to have the other two channels in case you want to play with your sound without losing your favorite tone.

For a while, I also used a DBX 120A Subharmonic Synth when playing live, as it really brought the boom, but I found that I just couldn't get it to provide the same "oomph" in the studio; all it did was mud up the sound, and I felt that I lost a lot of definition. So for now, the DBX unit is left in the rack for live performance. Bill Laswell has talked about using the DBX unit in the studio successfully to really fatten up his dub bass, but I don't have the same studio skills as he; he is, after all, the dub master. Cool

My studio sound chain is an American P-bass with passive Bartonlini p-ups directly into the Sansamp (no compressor in between), then the Sansamp goes into the A/D converter (in this case, an Apogee Duet), which dumps directly into Logic via firewire. Once bass tracks are laid, I think we put a touch of compression on the sound just to smooth out the transients but not enough to color the sound. So, the sound you hear on record is the sound in the room.
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