Wednesday, February 04, 2009

bass babble

Neither interesting nor coherent, I'll probably delete it tomorrow.

This evening I was performing a nerdy experiment. It wasn’t particularly rigorous -- no blinding, no control – but the results were interesting to me. There are currently two amplifiers in my room. One is my line6 bass amp, the other is a little Roland Cube-15 guitar amp that belongs to my little sister. I dragged the guitar amp up here because no-one else was using it, and I do sometimes play the guitar. I started using it to amplify my basses a few weeks ago. I first did it because there was a huge heap of stuff on top of my bass amp, and I couldn’t be arsed to move it in order to play. I was very surprised by how good it sounded, in theory at least it should be like trying to use a tweeter as a woofer. As the weeks passed I realised that I was switching on my bass amp less and less.

Tonight I sat down and played the same phrase on my bass through one amp, then the other. I put all the controls on both amps to their neutral positions and tried that. The guitar amp sounded clear and nice, the bass amp sounded like a clock radio that has been shoved under a pillow. I then spent about an hour tweaking every control on the bass amp in every direction to try and make it sound good, with no success. I found that if I carefully adjusted all the controls and turned the volume almost all the way up, I could get a passable impersonation of the sound I was getting from the guitar amp from the bass amp. If I turned up the Roland past its lowest volume setting, however, it not only sounded much, much better than the Line6, it was louder. Like, ear-hurtingly loud. I was a little nonplussed. In theory the line6 is an 80watt amplifier; the Roland, 15. I picked them up, poked them, even changed basses a few times to see what would happen. The result remained the same. I spent about £200 on an amp that can be outclassed by the sort of stuff people buy for schoolchildren.

Looking back, I bought that amp out of a funny sort of desperation. I’d tried it in a store, and really not liked it much. Instead I ordered a Fender Bassman, I’d tried one in a store that someone else had reserved and I’d liked it. It was going to be my first good-quality piece of gear, bought with my paycheck from temp work. The Fender, however, never turned up. There were never ending distributor problems, stock shortages, and, when a store finally got one and sent it off to me, some wanker working for Citilink Couriers snatched the damn thing out of the back of a van in a depot somewhere in Kent.

A few days after I was refunded, I found out I’d got a proper job, doing something I find interesting. About a week after that I went up to Denmark street, played around with some amps, and came back with the line6 amp that is sitting next to me right now. I’ve not ever said this out loud, but I bought it because I’d sort of decided that my days of taking music seriously were over. It was small, light, and sounded better than the giant piece of crap I was playing through at the time. I didn’t hugely care for the sound even then, but it disguised the flat sound of the instruments I was playing then fairly well. I figured that seeing as I was the only one who’d be hearing me play from now on, the sound didn’t really matter.

Now, of course, I’m pissed off. I have an amp that sounds rubbish and is so pathetically underpowered that even if I were to get a call to a band, I wouldn’t be able to project over even the gentlest of drummers (and we all know that there’s no such thing). I can’t get enthused about the idea of replacing it though, as my in-head justifications for spending money on this sort of thing seemed to wear away each year I move away from the fat 17-year-old playing his dad’s bass.