Think Your Bassist's Rig is Overkill?

Think Your Bassist’s Rig is Overkill? Here’s Why It May Not Be

April 25, 2017 16 Comments

 

Aside from drummers, bassists generally have the most weight to carry at load-in. Bassists stand out among the rest of the band with their huge, heavy bass cabinets that often take two people to move and have a huge onstage footprint. Of course, smaller combos do just fine at smaller venues, but there are still some bassists who prefer the headroom of a “big rig” in nearly any gigging situation. These players, contrary to popular belief, are not necessarily egocentric showoffs who like to have the biggest rig onstage and the loudest instrument in the mix- in fact, there are many reasons why a big rig can help support the overall sound of the band.

  1. Speakers closer to ear level. With a taller speaker cabinet or two 4x10s stacked, the bass player’s amp will not be projecting all the sound at his or her knees. What often happens with smaller combos that are not tilted upwards is the bassist cannot hear himself, so he will raise the volume to compensate, which can make the bass too loud in the mix. Taller speakers provide better onstage monitoring.
  2. Better stage coverage. While PA support is always a good thing for any sized bass rig, there may be instances where the bass is not fed through the PA or the onstage monitoring system is inadequate. For example, there may not be enough monitor wedges to accommodate each member of the band. In these instances, a big rig can carry the bass onstage, allowing the bass to be heard clearly onstage by the other members of the band.

Carvin Audio BR410  bass cabinets

Stack two Carvin Audio BR410 cabinets and pair it with your amp of choice for a full stack that covers any gig..

 

  1. A cleaner sound. When it comes to bass, it’s much better to have more amp than you need and turn it down than to crank up an amp that’s not big enough for the job. Doing the latter can cause unwanted distortion, a harsh sound, and may even blow your speakers! Ensuring your rig has adequate headroom is something we discuss often, and its importance cannot be overlooked. A big rig can cover a wide variety of gigs and venues with authority and gives bassists peace of mind knowing they always will have enough power to be heard clearly.
  2. More low end. The low frequencies of the bass guitar take a lot of power to reproduce accurately. That means in both wattage and number of speakers. If you’re trying to push massive lows at stage volume through a single speaker or a small speaker setup, most of your amp’s power will be used on those low notes and you’ll run out of juice very quickly. This is not to say that combos don’t work- if your band plays at moderate volume or at small venues you can get by with a smaller amp, or if the venue has adequate PA support you can let the PA do the heavy lifting. But generally speaking, bassists who want the biggest, loudest, cleanest low end possible will find a big rig fits the bill.
  3. The intimidation factor. On a more humorous note, having a big rig onstage just feels and looks awesome. Many bassists enjoy providing a wall of sound to support the band,  both literally and figuratively. It’s not just bassists, too- other band members (especially the drummer) enjoy having the presence of a big bass amp onstage, cranking out stage-rumbling low end.

So next time your bassist rolls up to the show with his big rig, cut him some slack- he’s helping your band sound its best!

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16 Responses

Tom DiGenova
Tom DiGenova

May 09, 2017

Sorry! I’m almost 70 and a dinosaur. I use 2×12 with 500 watts at smaller venue. With DI to PA. Large venues get 1 × 15/ 1 x12/ 2x 10 and 1100 watts. Miked to PA if needed. Yes, I want to move the walls and the booties! Can’t do it with a 10 no matter how many you use. Just to thin a sound. Give me a big bottom every time. (Yes, that includes my lady) Also, I built the cabs and used Carvin speakers all.

Tom Shepard
Tom Shepard

April 28, 2017

Scalability is the key, for me. My current gig\rig inventory consists of 2 of the original BRX10.2 cabinets, 2 BX500 heads (one as backup) and 2 BX1500 heads (one as backup). About half of my gigs are covered fine with just one of the 2×10 cabinets and the BX500 head (wedding receptions for example). If the gig is indoors, medium sized room & party crowd or outdoors with PA support, I will often add a second 2X10 cab. Outdoors without PA help usually requires the BX1500 and both cabinets. I always orient the cabinets vertically, unless the footing is unstable (I have had to set up on a large carpet in a field, for example). When I have both cabinets stacked the tweeter on the bottom cabinet with be off and the top one is on. This is a superior set up for these cabinets – basically a line array for bass with excellent horizontal dispersion and awesome projection as well as getting the sound at my ear level if I’m standing close to the rig. BTW, I started stacking these cabinets this way before it was popularized by a Danish manufacturer whose name begins with “T” and ends with “C”.

carl owens
carl owens

April 27, 2017

I agree, I’ve been running a Carvin RSP Bass Pre-Amp with a DCM 2000 forever, add the Redline 4×10 and 1×15 bass cabs and let the show go on. Head room for days and tone to die for! Clean as baby’s breath! Bring back the RSP Bass Pre-Amp!!!

Scott Callen
Scott Callen

April 27, 2017

I have a MB 210 and extension cabinet 210
Hasn’t failed me yet and at 36 lbs each I’m a happy boy

Ken
Ken

April 27, 2017

Good common sense article. As a bass player for many years, I have struggled with trying to find and afford the amp of my dreams. I think I finally found my rigs. I have two different set ups for different venues. One is a combo amp with single twelve but with 500 watt amp. The other is a single 15 also with 500 watt amp. Both have plenty of headroom for a clean thumping sound that fills the stage for my band mates as well as the audience. I use an active bass as well so that adds to the thump factor.

Rick Erdman
Rick Erdman

April 26, 2017

Nothing gets the job done quite as nicely as an 8 × 10 bass cab.

Victor
Victor

April 26, 2017

I never thought about any of these, but I did get a rig consisting of a cabinet stacked with a 2 × 12 and about 400 watts. Your right the bass needs a wall of sound, the height allows me to hear myself. I don’t like to plug in to a PA in a small to Medium small venue and yes, I like the low end.

Doug Anderson
Doug Anderson

April 25, 2017

I have a PB 500 that’s still kicking ass after 20 + years. It’s a great product. I’ve added another whisper fan to keep it cool in its rack. I also have and use my FS 36 with it.
My problem is that the cord isn’t long enough to go from my rig to my placement on stage. I’ve tried using a standard XLR cable as an extension with no luck so I figured it’s wired differently.
Do you have an extension for this or can I order one from you, or could you send me a wiring diagram so I can get one made?
Thanks guys! I ’ve tried calling and left three messages with no call back. Please let me know.

Larry Thomas
Larry Thomas

April 25, 2017

Great information. That’s the rule that I’ve always lived by.

Scott Ritter
Scott Ritter

April 25, 2017

Yep, that’s it!
a bassist.

ERIC B.
ERIC B.

April 25, 2017

I like this rig what hook up is this? I am in need of a rig and about to make a purchase

Dave walker
Dave walker

April 25, 2017

Thanks for this article. I’d like to email it to my band mates of 39 years.

mark
mark

April 25, 2017

Amen! Exactly what I tell folks.

Neil Preston
Neil Preston

April 25, 2017

One thing not mentioned – the sensitivity of human hearing drops off rapidly at low frequencies (below about 200 Hz.). This means that much greater power levels and volume of air motion are required to produce a level of perceived loudness near that of the rest of the band. Higher power levels require bigger amplifiers, and more volume of air motion require larger speakers.

Refer to the equal-loudness contours at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal-loudness_contour . Using the 60 phon line at 1 KHz for reference (60 dB SPL) and comparing it to 60 phon apparent loudness at 100 Hz requires an SPL to 80 dB, an increase of 20 dB. Using the same speaker to increase the SPL by 20 dB requires 100 times as much power at 100 Hz as is required at 1000 Hz.

Equal loudness at 50 Hz requires approximately 94 dB SPL, or an increase of 34 dB, or over 2000 times as much power as at 1000 Hz.

Keep in mind that 60 phons is the same perceived loudness at 1 KHz as 60 dB SPL, but most live concerts have SPL levels of 100 dB or louder. The difference in sensitivity is not as great at such levels, but 100 phons at 50 Hz still requires 20 dB greater SPL (100 times the power) and 20 Hz requires 30 dB (1000 times the power).

So you really can’t have too much power in a bass rig at concert volume levels.

Ray Davis
Ray Davis

April 25, 2017

This is right on the money. Well done.

David
David

April 25, 2017

Whatever happened to your BRX 2×12 bass cabinets? I’m sure they sounded great are they still made? What kind of responses did you get from people that bought them? How about running two of them?

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