My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 9 Old 04-19-10, 11:58 AM Thread Starter
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My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

My Bass Rig

I thought I’d help launch this corner of the Forum by telling about my non-traditional bass guitar rig.

About fifteen years ago I was contemplating putting together a high-end stage rig with full separates, complete with a custom bi-amped cabinet that would hit 30 Hz. For 99% of my playing I was behind a capable PA system with four two-way cabinets with dual 15s and a pair of high-output 18” folded horn subs, powered by a stack of amps totaling a few thousand watts.

I was long on imagination and short on money back then, which actually worked out pretty well. That’s because it eventually dawned on me that there was no reason to spring for a rig that would play loud and low when I was already getting that for free with the PA system!

With that realization in mind I set about to assemble a stage rig that would compliment rather than compete with the house system.

Since I was relying on the sound system to cover the audience, not the output from my own equipment, the first thing that appeared to be of little use was a traditional hulking bass cabinet. No love lost there. It was always a royal pain getting a firm grip on what was getting out to the crowd with those things. When it sounded great to me where I was standing on stage, it sounded awful when I used a long cable to get out to where the audience was. When I got it sounding good to the house, it was unbearably horrible for me on stage.

However, I did need to hear myself on stage. So I got a good-quality stage monitor. The nice thing about stage monitors is that they let you hear sound the way it was meant to be heard – out in front of you, aimed at your head. Gee, what a concept! Unless you have your ears in your buttocks or the back of your knees, it makes perfect sense. For instance, do you set up your speakers at home behind your couch? Ever see a singer say “Move that monitor around behind me so I can hear it better?” The resolution and texture from your bass that comes through once the sound from the speaker actually gets to your ears - it’s quite a revelation and pleasure to hear.

There are other advantages to using a good stage monitor instead of a bass cabinet. For one, they use quality compression drivers for the highs, not those cheap, nasty-sounding piezos. Indeed, traditional bass guitar cabinets use a completely different driver array than stage monitors and PA systems use. So if you are patched into the PA system and you’re using a bass cabinet, there’s virtually no chance that you’ll sound to the audience the same way you sound to yourself on stage. Get yourself sounding good through a monitor and you have a much better chance of sounding good to the audience too, as they’ll be hearing pretty close to what you’re hearing.

There are many other technical benefits of using a non-traditional bass rig like this. It allows you to use high-quality, rack-mounted professional gear, like a compressor and maybe a parametric EQ to fine-tune your output to the PA (I’ll go into that below). You aren't limited to cheap stomp boxes, which usually don't have the best electronics. And one less low frequency source emanating from the stage that’s out of time alignment with the house subs makes for bass that more distinct and less muddy.

Bottom line, I’ve never regretted ditching the traditional bass-in-the-rear-end rig for something more intelligently designed. I still keep a 2-15 cabinet around for the rare times I have a gig where they’re using dinky two-ways on poles, but that’s for the audience. I still bring along the monitor for myself.

Equipment Rack
* Furman PL-Tuner power director/tuner (modified for rear signal input).
* Ashly BP-41 pre amp.
* dbx 160X compressor.
* Yamaha YDP2006 stereo digital 6-band parametric equalizer (for house and stage sends).
* Carvin DCM-200L stereo amplifier, 100 watts per channel.

* Galaxy Audio Hot Spot HSRG monitor.
* Old Peavy 2-15 cabinet (for gigs where there are no subs in the house system).

* König & Meyer A-frame stands (including an ultra-rare red one).
* Ken Smith Rockmaster medium strings.
* Custom-made cables with Canare 4E6S cable and Switchcraft 90° plugs.

Instruments (see pictures below)
* Allen Breaux Boogie Man custom hand-made 4-string.
* MV Pedulla Thunderbass ET5 5-string.

See my review:
Schecter Studio 5-String Takes on a Hand-Made Custom

The why and wherefore on the gear chosen

Furman PL-Tuner power director/tuner
Naturally, you need power management for any rack. I picked this particular Furman (now discontinued, unfortunately) because it had a built-in tuner. There isn’t much to a tuner – you’ve seen how tiny the portable ones are – so it makes no sense to burn a full rack space for one, like most people do. However, Furman gaffed by not including a rear input jack. You have to plug your guitar into the front input, then run a separate cable from the output to your pre amp's input. What nonsense. Who wants a bunch of cables hanging all over the front of their rack, like it’s a patch bay or something? So I ordered a jack from Furman, mounted it in the back panel and connected it internally to the front-panel input jack with a shielded wire. I use a line output from the pre-amp to feed the jack. Mission accomplished: bass gets tuned, front of rack stays free of extraneous cabling.

Ashly BP-41 bass pre-amp
A really nice pre-amp. Too bad Ashly quit making them a long time ago. E-Bay is your friend! The BP-41 has switchable A/B inputs, so you can plug in two basses and switch between them. They’re actually low-gain / high-gain inputs, so you might have to do some volume adjustments on one of the basses if they both have the same output level, but it’s workable. Like most pre-amps, the BP-41 has a balanced output for the PA. For my stage signal I use the high pass output from the on-board electronic crossover. Why that and not the regular full-range stage send? Because it lets me roll the lowest frequencies out of my monitor. (I can’t do that with the pre-amp tone controls; they’re also going to the house send, so they have to stay flat.) I usually set the crossover to 100-125 Hz or so – in other words, everything below that point is rolled out. That lets the house subs carry the bottom end all alone – no need for both of us to do that.

dbx 160X compressor
The nice thing about a rack is that you can use a real pro-audio compressor instead of a cheap stomp box. This vintage dbx is one of the best and does a great job, and the big LED meter display is way cool! It’s connected through the pre-amp’s effects loop, so it processes both stage and house sends.

Yamaha YDP2006 stereo digital parametric equalizer
Another vintage piece I eBay'd. I fed the pre-amp’s stage output to the Left channel, for equalizing my monitor. The pre-amp’s balanced output goes to the Right Channel, which gives me a dedicated equalizer for my house send. The typical mixing console will only have a three or four band EQ at best, and only one or two of those has any effect the bass frequencies - a very general, broad adjustment at that. With the YDP2006, you have six dedicated filters for fine-tuning your signal (two of which can be switched to shelving).
If you’ve never used a parametric EQ before, lemme tell ya, they totally rock! You can select virtually any frequency you want to adjust, and make it a wide or ultra-narrow adjustment, or anything in between. You can set a filter so narrow it will equalize a single note! ‘Course you probably won’t want to do that.
For my 4-string bass I set up one filter to boost the notes below the bottom “G” (about 40-50 Hz), because I had weak fundamentals down there. I used another filter to take out some “boom” in the 100 Hz range. Another I set in the 400 Hz range, to help my high notes at the top of the neck cut through the mix. I used the high shelving filter to tone things down a bit when my strings are new. When they’re broken in and not so bright I turn that one off. Just an example of the kind of ultra-fine tuning you can do with a parametric equalizer.
The Yamaha YDP200s is hands-down the best equalizer I’ve ever used. More features and tricks than you can shake a stick at. I used six of the available 40 (!) memory settings to give me different EQ settings for each of my basses for the three PA systems I use most of the time. It has 24 dB/octave high and low pass filters, so I utilized the high pass filters to roll out the low frequencies, to better match my rig to the capabilities of the PA systems I play through. The YDP2006 also has a digital attenuator that can be assigned to the memories, which allows me to compensate for the slightly different output levels my basses have. And on and on!

Carvin DCM-200L stereo 100-watt amplifier
I know you’re dying here. One hundred watts per channel? Yup. With my stage monitor only having to get to my ears, and not fill the whole room with sound, and with the low bass rolled out, this little 4-lb. (that’s no misprint!) one-space amp is all I need, and it hardly breaks a sweat.

Galaxy Audio Hot Spot HSRG monitor
In the past I’ve used Yamaha SM-series monitors, JBL MR-series and even some old Bose 800 speakers (the ones with eight little 5-1/4” speakers). I was pleased with all of them. Yes, the Galaxy I’m currently using is a vocal monitor, but I’ve found the ability to get it so close to me – virtually in my face – lets me hear my mid and upper notes clearly (which are easily lost on stage). Unfortunately I’ve found that it just can’t keep up when the stage levels get too loud, so I’ll most likely be looking for another solution once funds allow.

The rack
As you can see from the picture below, the back of the rack features a custom termination panel that I made from a three-space blank panel. The Hubbell flanged power inlet has neon indicators above it to show when power and functioning ground are present. For the convenience outlet, I was lucky enough to find a black Decora electrical outlet at Lowes! In addition to being the "right" color, Decora outlets only require a rectangular hole, which is easy to cut.

Rear panel

Here's the backside of the termination panel. The left box houses the power inlet, which is tied directly to (and activates) the outlet mounted in the center box. The Furman power director/tuner plugs into this outlet. The right box houses the convenience outlet, which is plugged into the Furman via the tail, making it switched. I also have the option of plugging it into the center-box outlet, making it unswitched.

Back of rear panel

Inside the rack, most of the internal signal wiring is DIY, so it’s all cut to length – i.e., no rats nest behind those rear panels. The rear panel's “House” output is fed from the Ashly parametric EQ. The dual “Stage” sends are fed from the Yamaha stereo equalizer, enabling the use of an outboard amp, or an active speaker. Note the tuner input added to the Furman (top unit).

Inside of rack, showing tidy cut-to-length custom cabling

Previous equipment, using separate equalizers for house and stage

The Basses

L-R: Breaux Boogie Man custom and MV Pedulla Thunderbass ET5[/center]

My 4-sting was custom hand-made by Allen Breaux, who lives somewhere north of Houston. I bought it used from a guy I was installing sound systems with back in the mid 90s, paid a mere $800 for it - a steal! I've played high-end basses costing over $5000 in the stores that I haven't liked as much as this one. The tone quality is great, very warm, lots of texture. Pickups are Bartolini soap bars and I use Ken Smith Rockmaster mediums on it. The neck is absolutely perfectly straight – never had a bass with a neck like that before, not even the Steinberger I had back in the 80s with a composite neck. The perfect neck allowed me to get the action ridiculously low. This is the first bass I've ever had where I could set the action even lower than I wanted! And I like it REALLY low.

Any bass player worth his pick-ups will see that the body is patterned after Tobias, and the headstock copies the Warwick Thumb bass. The body is a perfect Tobias copy, actually - I picked up a Tobias hard case on eBay, and it was a perfect fit.

The body is flame maple with wenge sandwiched in between (i.e., the dark strip you can barely see at the lower left-hand of the body). The center "stripe" is bubinga flanked with purpleheart stringers. The neck I'm less clear about - I think the light wood is some kind of maple, the dark some kind of rosewood. The fingerboard is ebony.

The bridge is a Wilkenson, which I really like - easy to set intonation and string height. Grover tuners, I think. It’s a bolt-on neck, but in spite of that this thing will sustain for days. I've never had a bass that sustained like this one. With a little compression from the dbx 160X I can float a whole note for two full measures of a slow song! I haven't seen even a neck-through that could sustain like this bass does. It probably has something to do with the electronics. Don't know what they are, I guess whatever came with the Barts, but it almost seems like they have some built-in compression of their own (i.e. above what the dbx adds). For instance (and this is my one and only complaint with the bass), playing with a pick sounds really "flat." You just don't get the sharp attack that you're used to hearing with most other basses I've had.

After many years of wanting to make the leap to a 5-string, a few years ago I picked up a Schecter Diamond Series Studio-5 as a “starter” model, not wanting to drop a bundle on a 5-string only to find that I hated them. It was the only 5-string I had ever tried that had a reasonably good combination of neck thickness and string spacing that a dyed-in-the-wool 4-string player would be comfortable with. Playing the Schecter for a few years I decided I definitely wanted to stick with a 5-string, just not this one. Ultimately the string spacing proved a bit too narrow.

By chance I came across a custom M.V. Pedulla Thunderbass ET-5 at Guitar Center that had a neck I liked better. It had the wider string spacing I wanted, but the back of the neck was much flatter than usual, not as rounded as most necks are. The shallow depth makes it really easy to get your hand around, despite a width that would normally be uncomfortable for a not-quite-reformed 4-string player.

I eventually snagged the beauty you see in the picture above on eBay, for less than half the $4700 list price. It was only three years old and in perfect condition, which made the deal even sweeter. If you’re not familiar with Pedullas, the “ET” stands for “exotic top,” meaning the top plate is an exotic wood, one of several options. Mine is an exquisite South American cocobollo that looks simply stunning. Plays and sounds great, too.

So, now I have a perfect 5-string to compliment my perfect 4-string. As close as I’ll probably ever get anyway. The ET5 doesn’t quite measure up to my 4-string, but it's currently my primary instrument and will probably remain so.

Here I am with some of the basses I've had over the years.

Electra (Japanese knock-off of Fender Jazz bass) (c. 1982)

Rickenbacker 4001 (c. 1986)

Steinberger XP2 (c. 1987)

Breaux Boogie Man custom (c. 1997)

Schecter Stilletto Studio 5 (2008)

Pedulla Thunderbass (2009)

Wayne A. Pflughaupt
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post #2 of 9 Old 04-19-10, 05:50 PM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

Nice article Wayne!

And congrats for having stayed as fit as in 1982!
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post #3 of 9 Old 04-19-10, 10:48 PM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

So your one of those really loud bass players who drive us guitar players crazy???

Nice rig, Wayne... really... looks like you thought this guy out.

Love that BoogieMan... flamed maple with bubinga. Awesome!

Love to jam with you someday!

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post #4 of 9 Old 04-20-10, 08:36 AM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

Nice rig Wayne, compact & efficient.
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post #5 of 9 Old 09-13-10, 01:32 AM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

You are the soundman's best friend!
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post #6 of 9 Old 09-13-10, 02:59 PM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

I feel so young after looking at your old pictures and gear .
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post #7 of 9 Old 07-12-14, 03:57 AM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

Hello. This is an old thread but maybe still active. I am Allen Breaux and built your flamed maple "Boogie Man" bass. I am in League City, Texas and made a few one-off custom basses which were sold thru Parker Music of Houston or directly to artists. Each was unique in many ways and always a combo of exotic woods. However, the necks were always rock maple (as clear as I could find) and usually ebony finger boards. The purple heart and other very hardwoods were laminated to keep the neck as I built it...usually with slight bowing. I found that most of the sound in a bass comes from the neck so usually I made full-faced, neck thru designs. The neck went thru the back but the body's top and wings were from one solid piece. Your model was flat bodied. The others I made curved like the older Warwicks. Regarding the use of a pick, I found the best sounds came from using fingers and staccato type plucking just in front of the bridge. Moving more towards the neck yielded flatter, fuller sounds better for ballads. I preferred Jazz and the "Jaco" sound. Sorry the pick isn't working as well for you. Probably because I never used them.

I am pleased that your Boogie Man is still going and in such great shape. As of 2014, I think that bass is about 20-25 yrs old. I recently found one of my models on a CD cover. I made two basses for Anthony Sapp (excellent bassist in Houston) which he used one for stage and the other for studio. The stage bass was akin to a Warwick Dolphin Pro (sorta) and he said he had gone thru many strings but never adjusted the action since it was built.

Not sure how I came upon this thread but glad I did. Brings back some old memories. Thanks for posting.

Allen Breaux
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post #8 of 9 Old 07-14-14, 09:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

Wow, I have been looking for you for years, Mr. Breaux! Please shoot me an e-mail!


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post #9 of 9 Old 07-15-14, 03:47 AM
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Re: My non-traditional bass rig - friendly to both stage and FOH

Done. Hoping you don't regret waking me up. Ha.
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bass , foh , friendly , nontraditional , rig , stage

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