Bass Rig Update

November 8, 2009

Hey there folks. Here’s the status of my bass rig / guitar rig. What I’m running right now is:

Schecter Elite 5 -> X2 Wireless -> Axe FX Ultra -> Crown I-T6000 -> 2x LDS 15T cabs

But that’s definitely not the whole story. First let’s start with the bass. I got the older version of this bass for $200 because the eBay seller mistyped the auction listing (probably saving me at least $150). But the newer version has a better bridge and is string through. So I bought a new bridge (chrome instead of gold) and converted the bass to string through. I tried this disastrously once before on a Fender Jazz. It went better this time, though not perfect. I was able to use my dremel routing station as a drill press, so the holes were reasonably straight. I still messed up the finish on the back of the bass a bit, but not as bad as last time. So, next in line was the tuners. I’ve had these Sperzel bass tuners forever (they’re the only brand of locking bass tuners) but never had a bass with small enough peghead holes. Now somebody on eBay sells conversion bushings, so I decided it was time at last to install them. The bushings worked great, though I had to get a couple new tuners (I only had 4, and they were all one side). Unfortunately they don’t sell chrome finished ones anymore, so I have them mismatched a bit. But I may get more “satin chrome” ones later to match. Finally, the electronics. Ever since I tried out a Lace Helix at Bass Player Live last year, I’ve wanted to try out their Alumitone technology on one of my basses. I tried retrofitting the Variax with it but it didn’t work out so well. So I got their new “bass bars” and removed the EMG pickups and preamp from the Schecter. Instead of pots I put in little switches — Series / Parallel, Neck and Bridge on and off. And it’s still in reasonably good shape after all that work.

So, next in the chain is the wireless. I love wireless, but don’t like a) tone sucking b) changing batteries and c) having that dumb pack attached. X2 Wireless solves a) … it sounds like a cable. I am solving b) by using a camcorder battery instead of a 9V. Roughly 7 times the power. But c)? Well, I discovered that the transmitter pack for the X2 (after you take off the plastic housing) is really just a small PCB and a battery. So I soldered an on / off switch onto the PCB and mounted it in the control cavity of the bass. I also set up the back plate with magnets instead of screws for quicker access to the battery.

Now, the Axe FX. Sort of a boutique POD, I bought this so I could run either guitar or bass through my rig. It isn’t quite designed for bass, but it has a few models that work, and LOTS of EQ options, which is really what you need for bass anyway. I have it set up to send one channel through a “tube pre” sim, and the other through and SVT sim. I also added a few little tricks, like a subharmonic generator (fixed pitch shifters).

My power amp is a Crown I-Tech 6000. Lots of power. I was having problems with it when I got my new cabs. It would fault a lot when I was playing (basically it would turn off). Not good. I sent it in for repair, and when it came back? Lo and behold. Still doing it. So, at my wit’s end, I tried raising the Low Cut and lowering the High Cut frequencies of the amp sims on the Axe FX. I had them ridiculously low and high, so I put them into the actual usable range (roughly 30Hz – 15K). No more faults! How about that? It has great options as well — an incredible damping factor (5000!) and preset EQ curves. I programmed one in to flatten out the response of my cabs. I haven’t gotten a chance to test the response yet, but according to the models I made in WinISD it should flatten it out to +/- .5db 32Hz-15Khz. Awesome.

So, the cabs. I got them custom made from Low Down Sound. They are 2 15s with tweeters. The drivers are Faital Pro, power handling about 750W each at 8 ohms. Quite light too. I thought up this idea to have them latch together so you could transport them like an Ampeg fridge, but separate them for stereo use if you wanted. So far that seems to be working pretty good. The top cab has a built in two-space rack for the power amp. The weight of the whole thing is probably about 100 lbs … not bad for 1500 W 8 ohms power handling and 6000 W 8 ohms power generation! I also added a couple little apportionments to the cabs — like a instrument hanger on the side for my bass, and wiring channels for the speaker cable so I don’t have to plug them in all the time.

What’s left? 15s are supposed to have very poor off-axis response. However, I saw a page online where a guy describes how to fix this with about $30 worth of polyurethane foam. So I am going to try that. Also when I get some cash I may buy matching tuners for the bass … that’s pretty much it? Next stop. Getting a guitar set up I’m happy with?!


Small

October 23, 2009

I feel like a very small person. As in, insignificant.

When I was younger, I felt like a perennial outsider. I guess somehow I figured that to compensate for my outsiderness, I had to be an incredibly amazing person in any area I could find. A “big” person. No matter what the cost. And I did big things, or at least I thought so. I did on some level realize that I was still very small in the grand scheme of things, but I at least felt that I was pushing the limits of what I could do and be.

But somewhere in there, I lost my way. Now I am very comfortable. I have lots of friends, a stable family, an amazing kid and a non-falling-apart marriage. I own a comfortable home, I’m reasonably successful in my career, and have a few extra-curricular activities like music and this blog.

But I’m very small now, and I’m not really sure what to want. Is it an illusion? A function of my personality that seeks conflict, unhappy that it is comfortable? Is life meaningless, and I am unhappy because I am trying to force meaning where there is none?

Any ideas?


Stay away from Dr. Bass Cabinets!

September 16, 2009

Hey folks. This is a public service message. Don’t buy anything from speaker cabinet maker Dr. Bass. I ordered two cabs from him a year ago and paid up front. He never delivered the cabs. A few months ago I asked for my money back and have yet to receive it. I am not the only one having this problem. This guy is a smooth talker but he does not keep his promises … I was very patient and tried to work with him to get a resolution. Stay far away.

Update: Well, it’s now been a year and two months. I received a couple “you will have your money by such and such a date” promises that have passed. But don’t take my word for it: here’s a thread of people who have also bought from Dr. Bass and received nothing: http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?p=8340972


Axe FX and RackVax

August 13, 2009

Well, you know how it goes. I figured out recently that the Axe FX, a sort of “boutique POD”, does all the stuff that I use the Eventide for. Plus most of what I use the POD for, better. In 2 rack spaces. I also realized that I really want to try wireless again. Seriously, going wireless is so freeing on stage. Anyway, so I took a bunch of gear to Showcase to sell and I think I’ll get an Axe FX with it.
I also have my eye on a product that isn’t really out yet — the “RackVax”. This is like a rackable set of Variax electronics that accepts 13-pin … And they are working on a wireless version. Totally awesome.


Christian Agnostic

July 29, 2009

I think I am going to start identifying myself as a Christian Agnostic. What does this mean, you may well ask? Well, as if “agnostic” wasn’t vague enough already, “Christian Agnostic” means almost nothing at all. Which I think is perfect, because then it means whatever I want it to.

It’s Christian because I still hold to the apostles’ creed. It’s agnostic because I think that many of the questions that draw lines between Christians – be they Calvinist, Charismatic, Catholic or otherwise – are not only unanswerable, but unimportant. Mostly it’s a way of saying, “I’m not an evangelical.” I think there used to be room for people like me in Evangelicalism, but with all those Calvinist neo-puritan types doing their best to push us out, this seems to be the best place for a refugee.

More seriously, I think the biggest shift I’m making is an epistemological one. That is, away from “rightly dividing the Word of Truth” and towards “be Holy, for I am Holy”. Life is just too short and there’s too much at stake to not be pragmatic about living a Christlike life … And stopping to answer questions like “would God let women preach” is not pragmatic. That is to say, we weren’t put here to waste our energy on stuff like that.


Latest Rig

July 29, 2009

Well, in my absence I’ve made many discoveries. With a toddler running around now, I don’t get as much time as I used to for playing music and figuring out new gear, but I’ve managed to learn a few things and now have a pretty sweet setup.

So, my current rig is as follows: Variax (Electric or Bass) into Pod X3 Pro (Eventide Eclipse in the loop) into a Crown I-T6000. This setup carries a lot of benefits, not least of which are an insane amount of power and lots of effects / tone options. Just need a good wireless solution for it really.

I’m using an RJM Mastermind to control it. Works great so far, although I would like to be able to send more than 8 CCs per patch.

One of the nerdiest features of my current rig is the power system. All of the components run on any voltage, first of all … And I have a nice heavy gauge extension cord that terminates in an IEC connector (not the regular kind, the kind they use for servers … IEC20?). The power amp has a built in circuit breaker, and I placed a ground fault circuit interrupter just ahead of the other components to protect them.


Back to Blogging

July 29, 2009

Well, after a long hiatus I am returning to blogging. I’m not sure that I have any more to say than I did before, but I’m going to say it anyway. Enjoy!


R.I.P. — Beyond Jazz, XM 72

December 5, 2008

The XM / Sirius merger is at last leading to some real consequences. A couple weeks ago they had a big channel changeup — many XM stations got replaced or merged with Sirius ones and vice versa. For the most part these changes seem to have been positive. But today I realized that one of my favorite stations is gone! Beyond Jazz played all kinds of fusion and the harder edge of contemporary jazz. It was educational, entertaining, and awesome. And they dropped it. Now the only alternative is the previously available “Watercolors”, a *shudder* smooth jazz station. This is coming just as I am getting more and more into fusion, also! 

More on that. I went, maybe a month ago, to “Bass Player Live” in Hollywood. This is basically a trade show for bass guitar. In addition to scoring some free stuff and dinking around on every company’s nicest gear, I got to sit in on a number of AMAZING “jam sessions” by sponsored artists for the different companies. So since then I have been trying here and there to pick up more technical fusion type stuff (that’s mostly what the folks were playing), some from artists who were there and a few others etc. And now, I discover that my one source of fusion on XM is gone! I don’t feel quite as angry as I might if they cut the Radio Classics channel, but I am most definitely “put out”.


VP Pick Reactions

August 29, 2008

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a fiscal conservative. I dislike neocons even more than I dislike Reformed theology. In fact, up until this week I had been leaning towards Obama, in spite of his pro-abortion track record, because it seemed like he would have what it takes to take on big business and lobbyists, end corporate welfare, etc.

But I think McCain’s and Obama’s VP picks may have tipped the scales for me.

Now, I always liked McCain. For one thing, he’s not a poseur — he doesn’t pretend to be an evangelical, like many Republicans will, to the point where it seems patronizing. I like the fact that he’s a “maverick”, and isn’t afraid of challenging the status quo, challenging corruption. But I figured, he’s rich, he’s conservative, he’s not going to take the right tack on stopping disasters like this mortgage debacle — if anything, the result of too much laissez faire capitalism, fallout from 8 years of irresponsible Republicans.

However, little as the Vice Presidential picks may matter in the long run, they have changed my perspective of their respective campaigns and characters. Obama chose a guy who appears to me to be pretty much a reactionary — an Old Guard Democrat, pro-abortion, anti-progress. This is the guy that, for instance, goes to bat for the RIAA … a safe bet to reassure folks that Obama’s camp isn’t without experience, but something of a wet blanket on any excitement I had about Obama being a force for change.

McCain’s pick, however, seems at first glance to be a straw man (or rather, woman) — a shameless attempt to draw in those disappointed with Hilary’s loss in the primaries. However, the more I read about Sarah Palin, the more McCain’s pick reassured me that he is a maverick — and rather than cooling any fervor I had for his distinctions, she seems to be “the best of McCain, plus everything you might think he’s weak on.”

Why? Well, she’s an evangelical, a real one. She’s a woman in a purportedly mysognyistic party, and a fervently pro-life woman. To all appearances, she can relate to the working class and middle class in a way that poor McCain, cursed with the silver spoon in his mouth, never could — her husband is a commerical fisherman; her parents were schoolteachers. She’s also an ethical, responsible politician, not afraid to take on corruption, and serves to reinforce McCain’s “virtuous outsider” image.

But most of all, I like her because she’s a risky, bold pick for McCain. A lot of people thought McCain would go with the milquetoast Romney; this would have appeased those who felt McCain wasn’t conservative enough, and helped to bring in more of the “Old Guard”. Instead he chose someone unknown, probably unpopular with the party elites, but who had character, credentials, and who most of all is, well, interesting! Biden is Obama’s Romney, a safe bet, but a boring one.


Trouble Brewing?

May 21, 2008

Have you guys seen this?