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Advanced Member
Username: s_wood

Post Number: 311
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 7:24 am:   Edit Post

I was in the studio this past weekend with my band, Prima Donna. We were recording the basic tracks for our new CD at Studio 4 in Philly. It's a great sounding room with an old and wonderful Neve 8024 console, so I knew that with the right strategy and approach - and my Alembics - we would wind up with a killer bass sound.

The basics: Prima Donna plays what I suppose could loosely be described as alternative pop metal. Female vocals, 2 guitars (Gibson SG/Mesa Boogie and Strat/Vox), and an excellent drummer who really works his toms and knows how to tune them. No keys. I am a fingerstyle player. The producer/engineer (Steve LaFashia) and I decided that we would record the bass by recording 2 channels. One line ran to my 1966 Ampeg B-15 miked with an EV-RE20, and the other went to my A-Designs Reddi DI. I used two Series II basses: one with a cocobolo top and one ebony neck lam, and another with a quilt maple top and three ebony neck lams. (More about that in a bit).

I like to use the 2 channel approach whenever I can. To my ears, the detailed and modern full-frequency sound of an Alembic really matches up nicely with the warmth and touch of dirt that a good old B-15 provides, but when used by itself I find that the B-15 blurs some of the detail of the Alembic's tone, and there is some loss of high-end as well. So, by blending in the sound from a good DI you can get the best of both worlds (so long as the engineer is attentive to any phasing problems that might result). This is my first experience using the Reddi DI and it really kills! I hate to get into the endless debates about which amp/strings/DI's, etc are The Best, but I will say this: anybody who is picky about what their DI sounds like needs to hear the Reddi. To my subjective ears, my Alembics have never sounded better through a DI. The Reddi gave me a perfect combination of detail, presence and warmth. It is an amazing tool.

We spent some time trying to decide which Series II bass to use. The engineer and I both heard a subtle but important difference in the two basses. The quilt maple/3 ebony neck lam bass had a bigger and more aggressive sound than the other - more fundamental, and the high end seemed to have more energy between maybe 1.2Khz and 2Khz (that's a guesstimate). Consequently, it was a bit harder to fit into the mix on most songs so we used the cocobolo/1 ebony lam on most of the tracks. However, on one song in particular - a straight ahead rocker with lots of power chords and pumping eights that sound to me like AC/DC without the stupid - the bigger tone of the quilt bass with 3 ebony lams was perfect. Bottom line: at least in the studio, wood choices matter and which one is right for you depends upon the music you play, the mix you are working with and the tone you want.

One choice the engineer made that I totally agree with - we recorded with both Q filters wide open, and with the Q switches in their flat position. His theory is that it's best to record everything flat and tweak it later in the mix, and he believes (rightly) that it's easier to cut offending frequencies in the mix than it is to add missing ones. Like Muddy Waters said: "You can't lose what you never had."

My tone on the basic tracks is, for me, perfect. It's fat and punchy with low end for days. The brightness produced by both filters wide open, though clanky in the headphones, really helps the bass cut through the guitars. I sure hope I feel that way when I hear the final mix :-)
Senior Member
Username: artswork99

Post Number: 1044
Registered: 7-2007
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 7:42 am:   Edit Post

Steve, Great studio experience with Alembics. Thanks! Please share that mix when it's complete. Art
Advanced Member
Username: gregduboc

Post Number: 383
Registered: 11-2008
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 8:53 am:   Edit Post

Steve, thanks for this "review". If you can, please show us the tunes when ready, and if possible, telling us which bass was used on each song. It will be very good for comparison, specially for those of us who are considering Ebony lams, like I am!

Intermediate Member
Username: otis

Post Number: 167
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 3:03 pm:   Edit Post


I'm going into the studio soon, myself, but unfortunately, I have only one bass to record with- but what a bass it is! I recently sold my 2 Non-Series Alembic 6's to buy my dream bass- a Walnut Topped Series II 6 with Maple/Purpleheart neck lams.
One of my Non-Series was the Epic 6 with a Flame Maple Top and 5 Ebony Neck Lams and my drummer and I called it Thunderstick. That Bass had the best low end, ever- period. It rattled glasses, eyeballs, balls, and bones. It nearly stopped hearts.

That said, I'm really looking forward to recording with the S2. It has the sweetest, clearest, most pure bass tone I've ever heard, including my S1 4 (unfortunately no longer with me... sigh).

We play heavy funk ala Primus and there's only 2 of us- me and my drummer. I sing and play bass.

Here's a link to our myspace- all the recordings are several years old, with the exception of the "Live" songs which were recorded Live June 26th, 2008 (with Thunderstick).

But it will give you an idea of what we're up to.

Let us all know how the final mix turns out, and please paste some links for us!


Advanced Member
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 291
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Monday, March 29, 2010 - 11:18 am:   Edit Post

Way cool!

Hopefully it will sit right in the mix when done! I find a Alembic Super Filter will also let you dial in all kinds of tone settings if you are using a non-series bass. You can also use it as a direct box, since you can boost the signal with it.

Did they use any compression on the way in? I asume you were going to digital and not tape? Best sound I ever got was going into the board and onto tape on a tune a friend wrote years ago.

Advanced Member
Username: s_wood

Post Number: 312
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 5:43 pm:   Edit Post

I'm a big fan of the Superfilter, but the engineer on this project strongly believes in getting the purest possible signal out of the instrument's input jack. His idea is that EQ is best done in the context of a mix. So, no compression, either - which is a first for me. I've got to say that so far, my tone was killer - really perfect given my concept. Like you said, though, let's see how it sits in the mix.
Senior Member
Username: hieronymous

Post Number: 727
Registered: 1-2005
Posted on Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 7:06 pm:   Edit Post

I found myself kind of thinking, that producer doesn't understand the Alembic filters - they really color the sound in a good way. But then I realized, if you have a Superfilter, then you can apply it to the full range signal you put to tape, when it's time to fit it in the mix. Thanks for the report, looking forward to hearing about and hearing the results!
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 1571
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Thursday, April 01, 2010 - 9:18 am:   Edit Post

I was just in the studio recording and we made the same decisions to go direct to the board to ease the final mixing. By inserting tone processing you are limiting the frequencies you have available in the final mix. This makes it hard to boost a particular frequency if it is reduced by the external equipment.

Advanced Member
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 295
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Friday, April 02, 2010 - 10:52 am:   Edit Post

I bet it will sound great! I kinda think both ways, if you get a great sound going in, that's the way to do it. But, the superfilter can help get a great sound going in! However, with a Series II you already get a great sound.


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