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?!

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