Floor Coupling: Why Getting Your Bass Amp Off the Floor May Help Your Tone

Floor Coupling: Why Getting Your Bass Cabinet Off the Floor May Help Your Tone

August 29, 2017 25 Comments

If you’re a bass player who rolls a heavy speaker cabinet to the gig, and once the cab is on the stage, you turn the cab on its side, or remove pop-out casters. This could be just what you have always done, or it could be to make the cab sit onstage with more stability (ever played on a slanted or uneven stage?)

However, once your bass cab is on the stage, there is one good reason to keep the casters on -- to avoid a condition called floor coupling. When you place your bass cab directly on the floor, the sound from your cab will be transferred directly to the floor, thereby increasing the overall boominess and bass response. The floor essentially becomes an extension speaker reflecting your sound.

At first glance, this may seem like a good thing. Who wouldn’t want more bass response? While it certainly may work for some people and in some locations, as having an amp coupled directly to the floor often makes your bass tone feel more powerful --  in the context of a live performance, decoupling your rig by getting it even a few inches off the floor provides many benefits.

 

  1. A more controllable bottom end. A main drawback of floor coupling is that it is very hard to control and inconsistent from place to place. This is due to the coupling’s dependence on the flooring material and covering, location to the walls, and where you are standing in relation to your amp. By isolating your amp from the floor, you can increase the consistency, and make more precise adjustments using your bass amp’s EQ section. It’s much easier to coax more bass from your amplifier by turning a knob than relying on the surface your amp is on to deliver it. Creating a more consistent low end from place to place reduces the distraction of your tone changing at each gig.
  2. Increased midrange presence and definition. While stage-filling low end is essential, the bass guitar’s midrange is what is discerned through the mix by both audience and band members. If your amp is coupled to the floor, the potentially excessive muddiness has the tendency to rob the midrange definition from your sound, making your bass vanish in the mix and filling the stage with a whole lot of boom and not much punch.
  3. Lower stage volume. Keeping stage volume as low as possible can work wonders for your live show. Getting your amp off the floor not only reduces the mud, but moves the amp closer to ear level, making it easier for you to hear yourself. Oftentimes players will turn their amp up much more than it should be, due to improper EQ, a muddy sound caused by coupling, or the amp sitting so low on the floor that all the sound is blowing past their legs. The combination of decreased bass and higher placement makes it so you don’t need to turn your amp up to obnoxious, room clearing levels to hear yourself.

 

Aside from using casters or a dolly board, you can also eliminate the floor coupling effect by using an amp stand or your milk crate of cables. Anything that creates space between your amp and the floor will work just fine. Stacking multiple cabinets instead of placing them side by side can lower the coupling footprint to the floor, and it increases the height to hear yourself.

There are some players who enjoy the increased bass response that coupling provides, and have learned to EQ their amp to adjust for it. There is no right or wrong way, as long as you are getting the sound you want. Understanding floor coupling is important for those who want to avoid its unwanted effects.

Do you keep your amp on the floor or raise it up? Let us know in the comments!



25 Responses

peter poyda
peter poyda

January 26, 2018

Found out that trick ( leaving the castors on ) many years ago , separating the cab from the floor ,

Tom Wilson
Tom Wilson

January 24, 2018

I use a 2×10 cab over a 15 with a cross-over. I have been using one or two of the rubber mats that look like jig saw puzzle pieces for several years now. Makes it easier to dial in a consistent sound on stage and the sound crew usually appreciates it.

Bud Izen
Bud Izen

August 31, 2017

Like most things, it depends. I play blues and rock, exclusively. If this situation calls for higher volume hard rockin’ then I will leave the amp coupled. Otherwise, if we’re going for more distinct sound, I leave the casters on. For hard rockin’ blues, I use a single Bag End cabinet, for hard rock, I use a Carvin stack, with one 18 on the bottom and four 10s and a tweeter on top. Clean and loud, can’t be beat……

raymond kaping
raymond kaping

August 30, 2017

Most of the times my cabinet is on the floor. But I haven’t played on a crappy stage in a long time though…

Karl Barnes Jr.
Karl Barnes Jr.

August 30, 2017

I never thought about that considering I’ve always used 18’s on the bottom with casters and a 4 – 10 mounted on top, I think I may experiment the next we play live for sound check.

Bill McClure
Bill McClure

August 30, 2017

I set my 115 amp on a pair of carpeted 2 ft 2×4s , then on the floor. It really cuts down on the boominess. No casters to vibrate. We play moderately loud.

Mike Robinson
Mike Robinson

August 30, 2017

I keep my 2-10H cab about 16" off the floor and normally stack a guitar combo on top. The place we regularly play is all brick floors and walls with wood ceiling and beams so there’s a lot of reflectance there.

Craig Stefko
Craig Stefko

August 30, 2017

I use the BX 500 and BRX 10.2 neo cab.
I rest that on an Auralex Great GRAMMA isolation riser.
Been using that for years.
Great sound from the already great sound of my set up.
https://www.auralex.com/products/iso-series/

Dave Martel
Dave Martel

August 30, 2017

I usually tilt my amp back so the speakers are pointing at my ears or put it up higher somehow.

Ken
Ken

August 30, 2017

I play through a GK cab on casters or a Carvin Mini-Bass combo amp, which I stack on the cab OR elevate on a tilt-back stand. Great advice & explanations in your articles!

W.d. Greene
W.d. Greene

August 30, 2017

I leave the casters on the bottom speaker at all times this helps eliminate the thud/mud from being directly to the floor. Good article as are the previous ones.

Bugs Nelson
Bugs Nelson

August 30, 2017

I use a doubled-up square of styrofoam construction insulation covered with speaker cab carpet.

Harold Barger
Harold Barger

August 29, 2017

I guess I’m “Old School”, or at least I’m old. I have been playing for over 50 years, and I always keep my cab on the floor.

Michael R Winter
Michael R Winter

August 29, 2017

I exclusively use an Acoustic USA 360/361 bass rig that utilizes 2 rear wheels and a single front rubber bumper, which allows the 48" tall cabinet to set level on any uneven floor and places the built-in horn component closer to ear level than most smaller Bass amps. It’s the best of both worlds with extreme flexibility of tone settings. Mike

Amanda
Amanda

August 29, 2017

Thanks for pointing this out! Gives me a good idea for high volume problems with amps on the floor.

Jerry
Jerry

August 29, 2017

I have been using a speaker stand for my MB 2-10 (which works great)
Recently I’ve developed back issues and have not bothered to use it. I was wondering if the rubber feet on the amp would give enough space from the stage to eliminate any floor coupling. Your thoughts? Kind regards, Jerry

Markus St. Mark
Markus St. Mark

August 29, 2017

WOW!! I truly didn’t know what this was called, BUT it’s something I learned years ago!! ALL of MY Bass rigs have casters, & I learned on SOME stages I got a MUCH punchier tone when I layed me cabs on their sides, rather than leave them ON the casters!! MY EARS DON’T LIE!! Thanx…..

Bernd Owsnicki-Klewe
Bernd Owsnicki-Klewe

August 29, 2017

I used 4 tennis balls. A heavy cab can sit on them no problem. Best decouplers ever.

Kirk Smith
Kirk Smith

August 29, 2017

Good points all, but they surprised me. Most hi-fi guys strive for floor coupling to the point of putting spikes on the bottoms of their bass boxes (whichever one has the woofer) to eat through any carpet and/or padding and connect solidly with the actual floor—-supposedly for the best bass reponce.

I have to admit, though, that the last few acts I saw live were as boomy as all get out—-unpleasantly so, drowning out vocals and everything else. Apparently they should have left their casters on.

Steve Zweifel
Steve Zweifel

August 29, 2017

I would have to say that this would depend on the stage. If you can have a sound check and the bass is booming all around, yes get it off the stage. Mostly on solid wood stages.

Will Martin
Will Martin

August 29, 2017

I carry a piece of playground matting to put under my cabinet. It helps control the sound in a number of ways, including decoupling the cabinet from the stage. A hollow stage can be a horrible problem to deal with, and there are a lot of hollow stages out there. When the bass hooks up with the stage, it sound like you just fell into the deepest part of a mud bog no matter what you do. For what its worth, I use the same piece of mat whether I’m playing through a monster like an Acoustic 360 or a little Carvin MB12.

john laney
john laney

August 29, 2017

would his apply to my subs also

Wayne
Wayne

August 29, 2017

I agree with the idea of cab isolation, and have found that using an isolation “pad” as it were, is the remedy for complete bass tonality. If I may, I would like to recommend the “Gramma Isolation Pad” available from Auralex. I use, and completely endorse, this product. You won’t believe your ears.

Dane
Dane

August 29, 2017

… ’been a “floor” player forever. Love the feel. Mids have not been an issue. I use 4×10 cabs and their midrange is strong, but never say no to more bottom-end. Tx. …

Billy Charles
Billy Charles

August 29, 2017

I guess it’s same story with subwoofers! How do you get them off the ground and still keep the stack safe? (Not tip over by falling drunk)

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