It all adds up

Or: your low latency is not my low latency

With makers of mobile phones and even notebook computers ditching the headphone sockets, more and more people have come to accept in-ears and headphones without cables, most of them using Bluetooth technology to transmit the audio to and from your phones, notebooks, computers, and so on.

And some people – like those playing games – noticed that it takes some time to get audio “streamed” to your wireless cans or in-ears, and that there can be lags between the picture they see, and the sound they hear.

But that’s not the worst. Even with “low latency” Bluetooth codecs – aptX speaks of 40ms – they still forget that there are people for whom this is much too much.

Musicians for example – some people claim that they can hear latencies of around 10ms (I can’t), and so we all set our audio interfaces to the lowest possible settings to achieve latencies of possibly 5ms or better – otherwise it would be hard to play in time with what you hear from others’ tracks coming from your DAW (digital audio workstation). We spend quite a lot of money to get interfaces like from RME or other professional vendors which can give you these low latencies – and then we should add 40ms for the Bluetooth cans only? No way.

Which is why musicians like Zuleikha or myself will always stay with cables, and only buy devices which offer a proper headphone jack. There’s no way around it. KISS principle anyone?

You probably don’t mind the lag if you’re listening to your phone while jogging. But we do – we simply have to. And we’re the ones you’re listening to (or so we hope, but I speak for all musicians here).

So please stop these claims of having ‘low latencies’ if you don’t even consider musicians.

Thanks.

Everybody owns a Jazz Snare…

Have a listen to this, from 25 years ago:

Superbass: Two for the Blues (1997)

The bassists are, from left to right: John Goldsby, Christian McBride, Ray Brown, and John Clayton, four real superstars on bass. Note that John Goldsby (who plays the first and longest solo) was the student of John Clayton and Ray Brown, and John Clayton was also Ray Brown’s student. I don’t know that much about Christian McBride, but he’s also a monster player, no questions there…

Edit: just read that all three “other” bass players were students of Ray Brown who invented the group “SuperBass”. See Wikipedia.

Also note that John Riley plays on a Telephone book from the city of Cologne, Germany. And bravo to Carmen Bradford on vocals as well, what a lovely performance 🙂 Proves again how well a human voice goes together with upright bass, a fact that Ray Brown knew very well – he was married to Ella Fitzgerald…

Found via Bonedo who in turn got it from No Treble.

As always, thanks for viewing.

Waking The Cat

This morning I set my new toy to the ‘FLIP TOP-Style’, which should make it sound like an Ampeg B-15N. Then I loaded Don’s and Rolf’s awesome ‘Waking The Cat’ song into my DAW, closed my eyes, and these guys transported me straight to Memphis, TN:

This track is embedded with the friendly permission by the creatives on wikiloops.com.
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Using FLIP TOP-Style, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

As always, thanks to my friends at Wikiloops for all the fun, and thanks to you for listening.

New toy

Couldn’t afford a B-15N, and an Ampeg SVT with its two fridges is a bit loud for our living room, so I bought this instead:

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New toy, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

Hear it here – a first take with the bass going into two channels (as you can see in the photo, I used the parallel output for a clean bass as well):

This track is embedded with the friendly permission by the creatives on wikiloops.com.

As always, thanks for viewing, listening, and reading 🙂 More to come…

Bass DI boxes: amazingly close…

Here’s a good shootout – the first one blind (and I’va had preferences, more to that later):

Bass DI blind test

Here are some more, but not a blind test this time:

!!! HUGE !!! BASS DI SHOOTOUT

Ok, and it’s amazing how close they are, isn’t it? And to reveal my preferences: in the first one with the bass alone I thought “C” was the best, while together with the drums I clearly preferred “A” and also “D” (maybe in that order).

Don’t know if that was tested in a live situation with some 50 or more meter cable which would make a difference between some active and passive DI boxes (and basses, for a passive Fender Precision you’d rather have an active DI on these distances I think).

So my choice, considering that I also play an upright with a passive piezo pickup – and these want high impedance interfaces, preferably 10 MOhm, I’d either go with the Rupert Neve RNDI (which sounded the most “musical” in my opinion), or the Radial PZ-DI with which you can select the input impedance from 220kOhm, 1, and 10MOhm. The RNDI has 2.2MOhm in its “instrument” setting I think. Both cost about the same, “middle priced” which is under 300€/$. But maybe a 95€ Radial SB-4 “Stage Bug” (5MOhm input) would do almost the same job, and very nicely. And something like that fits into each bass case 😉

Also interesting: the comparison with a (very good) audio interface which shows that for normal home use and with asymmetric instrument cables about 3 or 4 meters long you wouldn’t need any of these. Just like Marco from the local music shop said: costly diminishing returns…

As always, thanks for reading.

A nice way to go ampless on stage

Many of the people who were discussing (tube) preamps for bass in TalkBass – I wrote about that here – were doing so because they nowadays go on stages without even using a real amplifier on top of a cabinet, or some kind of combo amp like I have it. With a bass you can do this theoretically using only a DI box to connect your instrument to the mixing console, and then the tone will be shaped there and sent to the P.A. system for the audience to hear it. What you get back from the mixer in that case is a monitoring signal which is a mix of yourself and the other musicians on stage, and nowadays more and more people are using in-ear monitors to hear that, so not even monitoring wedges are needed anymore. That way, stages have become pretty silent, especially when also using electronic drum kits instead of real ones.

Some people tho – normally guitar players, but also bassists, keyboarders, drummers and so on – want to create a sound which they send to the mixer, and therefore use pedal boards or all-in-one multieffect devices which also simulate amplifiers and even speaker cabinets, once for their own in-ears, but also because they want to have their sound sent to the mixer, and not having the mixing guys create that for them.

Here’s a guitar player explaining how he does that with one of these devices – interestingly it’s the same one which the thread owner on TalkBass also bought for his bass guitar:

POD GO as in-ear-monitor-mixer headphone amp

Here the guitar player also uses a Radial DI box to send the signal to the house, and as I mentioned, in theory that’s all you would need as a bass player. And even people like Geddy Lee (Rush, Yes, and other bands) are doing it like this since a while… times they are-a-changing, aren’t they? 😉

As always, thanks for reading.

Tube preamps for a “P”

In my last post I wrote about a 200 Watt tube amplifier, which is of course overkill for anything you might want to do at home, or in a studio. In a studio, even James Jamerson went directly into the console, but these guys had some very nice custom-built DIs and preamps for that.

And yes, a preamp – preferably with tubes – and a Precision bass will give a tone which has that proverbial “sits in the mix” quality. Listen:

Monique Bass Preamp, Noble Preamp, Demeter VTBP-201S, J-B15, London S-PRE. Tube bass preamp 2/3

And yes, pricey stuff, this, except maybe if you can build it yourself. But that tone!

Edit: I’m currently reading through a thread in TalkBass about this, covering several years. I’m almost halfway through now (arrived at approximately May 2020, so two years left), and so far, the following preamp seems to be the sweet spot, with the best sound and features, and costing about half of a Noble preamp which you saw above. Listen why this makes a difference to a very good audio interface (Focusrite Clarett, a bit more costly than my Scarlett):

Low End Reviews – Arkham Oracle

That’s a nice one for sure… and if you like Vulfpeck, watch it through to the end 🙂 And here is a review of this Arkham Oracle from Chris Tromp (who is also on TalkBass).

Another example of a great sounding (and played!) “P” bass. With that “Monique” preamp again, which costs more than my fretless P and the upright together:

Nate Mendel funky demo

Nice bass, and cheaper than some other American made models… the bridge looks cool as well 🙂

And another one, this time a Reggae tune, over a preamp made in Russia, with no further processing:

Steel Pulse – Chant a Psalm (Bass Cover)

What a nice tone, and what a nice tune, and awesome playing. Cool.

Oh, and here is a very good comparison between a really good combination of compressor and bass preamp, and one which costs much less. Both are good, but I hear a huge difference (which could also be influenced by the first being a bit louder as one commenter also wrote)… but that second setup has a digital bass pre with a tube device somewhere in front of it, while in the first both the compressor and bass pre used tubes. Big difference IMO… that first one sounds like money, and like a studio recording, the second one not so much…

… and after reading the whole thread now, I think that at least two of User “scubaduba”‘s top 5 choices would also be mine – one is from Canada, and one even from Germany…

But in the end, I probably don’t need any of these… but thanks for reading, viewing, and listening anyway. For me at least, that was a fun journey 🙂

“The amp that sold the most basses”

Last Saturday, I was at our local music store in Frankfurt, and I spent more than one very pleasant hour with Marco, their chief bass salesman.

And before I left I told him that it has been very clever of him to have me sit down in their custom shop room with my fretless Squier, and that he had me plugged in into this:

Sadowsky Audio SA200, via Talkbass

He told me that their boss wanted to replace “that old amp” with something more recent, as it’s not made and sold anymore, but Marco opposed and told his boss that this amp sold more basses than any other – and I can attest to that, when I played it over some Glockenklang cabs or so, it sounded absolutely brilliant. And it definitely sold that Squier Fretless to this ageing player who once owned an Ampeg SVT full stack (with two “fridges”). Play a Precision over a good old tube amp, and all you will say is: “Sweet…” 🙂

Btw, thanks to Marco for a really great time, and because he always gives out very good advice. That’s exactly the reason why I will always go and buy there, and not order anything from bigger and more distant stores…

New MIDI keyboard

My old MIDI master keyboard with 49 keys was pretty finished, and I had that since 25 or 30 years – so time for a new one. I would have bought another simple and cheap one, but then saw a good deal with lots of additional full versions of libraries, like a Rhodes e-piano and a Mini Moog synth, so I could hardly say “no” to that. And I think Zuleikha likes it as well…

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MIDI Masterkeyboard, Mörfelden-Walldorf 2022

So that was a right decision… and like always, thanks for reading.