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Alembic Club » Alembic Basses & Guitars » Archive: 2007 » Archive through March 05, 2007 » Horizontal vs vertical... the filter&Q vs E.Q. controls... « Previous Next »

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Senior Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 411
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 9:55 am:   Edit Post

As we all know, most basses with active electronics typically have bass & treble controls -and often mid-controls- that call boost or cut certain frequencies.

By contrast, Alembics have used their low-pass filter & Q setup since the beginning, with different EQ options becoming available further down the road.

Both of these paradigms offer benefits; and my thoughts on the matter are that, ideally, one should have both... because both systems offer useful functionality -and each do things the other can't.

The biggest difference between the two systems, as I see it, is the difference between horizontal and vertical.

EQ controls are "vertical." Take the bass & treble knobs on an Epic, and/or the "quick-change" "boost/flat/cut" switches on the Distillates, Europas, and Rogues. What these controls do is lower/raise specific frequencies... up or down... VERTICAL.

On the other hand, the filter has a horizontal function. Without the Q (on), the filter can be seen as a "horizontal cut" control... as you turn the filter, you cut frequencies... but the cut goes from high to low (frequencies) as you turn the filter -as opposed to focusing on merely one specific frequency, and decreasing/increasing THAT frequency.

Now, I'd argue that the Q is an essential part of the equation. Without the Q, the filter is arguably somewhat more versatile than a mere treble rolloff control... but not by much. The Q is what makes it interesting, and really gives that Alembic sound that we all love. The Q is what adds/provides the uncanny versatility of the Alembic electronics.

It's really interesting, when you thing about it. When you use the filter and the Q, two things are going on at once. On the one hand, there is a "passive" aspect, in that, as you turn the filter, you are basically "cutting" certain frequencies; yet, if/when you're using the Q, you're boosting (other) frequencies too.

The two go hand in hand. If you use the filter & Q to, say, give a boost in the lower mid-range, you CAN'T DO IT WITHOUT FILTERING THE FREQUENCIES ABOUT THE FREQUENCY YOU'VE SELECTED TO BOOST WITH THE Q.

It would be really interesting if there were some way of having the Q function WITHOUT using the filter... if you could put a Q boost anywhere you wanted WITHOUT having to use the filter to cut frequencies above those selected for the "Q-boost."

Now, the bottom line is that the tonal effect(s) and range of tones provided by the filter using the Q is incredibly broad, versatile, and useful. There's no denying this. And, if I were forced to choose between having either a set of bass & treble knobs (like on an Epic) OR having a filter with a Q switch... I'd choose the filter & Q in a heartbeat. The filter & Q offer a much broader range of tones; they alter the tone in a much more significant, fundamental way.

HOWEVEH (as ex-President Jimmy Carter might say) there's no getting around the fact that the Q works WITH the filter, and can only be used in this way. This means that, versatile though it is... it has limits.

The most basic (and obvious) limitation is the one I've just identified: you can't use the Q to boost a frequency UNLESS YOU ALSO use the filter to cut the frequencies ABOUT THE FREQUENCY BOOSTED BY THE Q.

This is why I advocate having BOTH the filter & Q AND EQ controls on Alembics.

My custom Europa is the most awesome bass I've ever heard with respects to the versatility of the electronics... it's utterly mind-boggling.

I've got separarte bass, treble, and mid controls AND a filter with variable Q -for each pickup. And it works incredibly well.

It's extremely useful being able to alter these individual frequencies without using the filter. And it allows options that the filter & Q just don't offer.

As awesome as the filter & Q are... they just don't work well for bass boosts... because the only way you can do it is to filter out everything above the bass frequency being boosted.

Of course, only specific individuals can decide what is best for them. I've concluded that I really need BOTH EQ AND filter/Q controls to be happy. This is why I'm fond of the Europa controls. Though very simple, they provide the best of both worlds.

I've done a lot of experimenting with my bass. One thing I did a lot when I first got it was to, for one pickup, "set the tone" entirely with the EQ controls, and for the other pickup, "set the tone" entirely with the filter & Q.

Then, I took it a step further, and would "set the tone" for one pickup with the EQ controls, and THEN use the filter & Q (and do the opposite with the other pickup).

At this point, I know/understand my controls well enough that I can use them in any order I please to get pretty much any sound I want... and it's great.

Anyway, the point of this thread is to share my thoughts on this subject, and to invite others to do the same.

My conclusion is that, for me at least, I insist on having a filter and an adjustable Q on my Alembics... but I also want, as a minimum, the bass & treble toggles.

And the ideal is to have bass, mid, treble, filter, and variable Q controls for each pickup... but that involves a lot of knobs/switches and cost... and isn't for everybody.

I look forward to hearing the thoughts of other members about this subject.

(Message edited by the 8 string king on February 17, 2007)
Senior Member
Username: keavin

Post Number: 1055
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 10:26 am:   Edit Post

Good info!.... you know there some alembics without filters But have Q's this bass below #49 is one of them amongst others.

(Message edited by keavin on February 17, 2007)
Senior Member
Username: keavin

Post Number: 1056
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 10:28 am:   Edit Post

(Message edited by keavin on February 17, 2007)
Senior Member
Username: keavin

Post Number: 1057
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 10:37 am:   Edit Post

Senior Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 413
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 12:19 pm:   Edit Post

Interesting. It looks like a standard Series I. If there aren't filters on it, how does it work? Are the knobs just like the filters, except that they're not, they just move the Q around?

It seems like it could possibly be a very interesting option to, say, have a filter control; then have a 3-position toggle (filter only/filter&Q/Q only, and then a 2cnd 3-position toggle (3/6/9 dbs, or something).

Of course, this could be multiplied by 2 to have individual pickup control... and/or combined with EQ controls.

Thanks for the response, Keavin. I'd be interested in more info on what these controls do, so I'm not making assumptions. (Assumptions make a U out of ass and me, y'know!)
Advanced Member
Username: crgaston

Post Number: 345
Registered: 11-2005
Posted on Saturday, February 17, 2007 - 5:47 pm:   Edit Post

Mark, I'm guessing there is a bandpass filter in that bass which is blended with the direct signal, like on a superfilter.

Another option to get what you want would be a Superfilter set in bandpass mode. It lets you select the frequency and q you want to boost and then you blend it with the direct signal so you get all the highs and lows, too. Plus it keeps the weight off your shoulder. If you had a superfilter for each pickup, you could tweak the highs with your onboard filter, then use one channel of the SF-2 for the mids and one for the lows.

I've thought about doing that with my Dragonfly when it gets here...keeping my rack with the amp, SF-2 and F-1X and just getting a 4 space shallow rack with a power strip, DS-5, SF-2 and F-1X. That way I could just bring the main amp rack if I wasn't using the Dragonfly and I wouldn't have to lug around an 8 space rack all the time.

On the other hand, the guitarists already complain about all the tweaking I do when we're in a new room with just one Superfilter. They'd lose their minds if I showed up with two.
Senior Member
Username: keavin

Post Number: 1059
Registered: 12-2002
Posted on Sunday, February 18, 2007 - 7:55 am:   Edit Post

Mike discusses alittle here about other filterless alembics.....http://alembic.com/club/messages/411/2435.html?1084807001
Username: somatic

Post Number: 53
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, March 01, 2007 - 4:42 am:   Edit Post

I'm not sure why you'd want to spec an Alembic with BT or BMT instead of the LPF's. BT and BMT are generic on almost every (rack) preamp, head or combo out there so if that's the sort of tonal shaping you want you can get it easily enough with what you probably already have. If you need to max out a bass control onboard as well as in the amplification, there's something fundamentally wrong in the signal chain or you need a very bloated sound.

I like the wideband correctly loaded pickups with the LPF's and BMT controls in the rack. Maximal flexibility without a bajillion knobs on the bass, which I think would be a PITA live to use.

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