The way how you will EQ the bass amp depends on your recording space, the position of your amp, and what result you’re trying to get. From there it’s a pretty straightforward process.
In short, here’s a guideline to follow, make sure that all your knobs in your amp are in the neutral position, or as it’s known, 12 o’clock. Then boost or cut each knob one at a time to get the sound you want based on genre or preference. Finally use gain to control the amount of distortion you’d like.
If you’d like to know more details, including how to get the “perfect tone” then keep reading.
Get to know your amp
Most bass amps have 3 basic knobs, such as lows, mids, and highs, which all represent the different frequency ranges.
Low-end sounds quite fat and bulky and big, so cranking this knob up, will make it sound much fatter and warm.
Mids tend to sound quite growly, punchy, and aggressive. When you turn mids all the way up with growling, you get more clarity.
Highs don’t really add weight to the sound but add the most clarity, making the sound bright and scratchy.
Sometimes all of the said controls can be combined in one, and it’s called tone knob or EQ knob, which helps you to control the way tone sounds. If you turn the tone knob all the way to the lowest position, you will have more bass. If you turn the tone knob all the way to the highest position, you will have more treble.
First tip… EQ only when there’s an issue
Generally, if you like the way your tone sounds, you shouldn’t EQ tone at all. You should start tweaking only when you hear any issues, not any other way around.
When applying any changes, don’t tweak all knobs altogether, and better do it one by one. Always compare how the tone sounds before you turn the knob and after.
Finally, you can find some settings that are said to be perfect for particular music genres, such as rock, metal, and blues, as well as a clean and bright tone. View them more as general guidelines which can then be altered by taking into consideration room acoustics, amp placement, and specifics of the genre.
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you don’t need to necessarily add much extra boost to your bass knob to get more bass. Bass amps were already created to boost the low-end that bass guitar produces.
That said, there are cases when it’s beneficial to tweak a bit of the bass knob, such as adding when the tone sounds thin and reducing the amount of bass when the tone is heavy and boomy.
Depending on the amp you have you may see one “mid” knob, or you may see three knobs: low-mids, mids, and high-mids. These additional knobs will give you some control on the bass and on treble side, so as a general rule, it’s better to set them mid-position.
The mid knob controls mid-range, and it’s a good idea to avoid setting it up high. Doing that might cause some interference with your other instruments like guitars or keys.
You might choose to boost mids for a bit if you hear that the overall tone is weak and thin. And if the tone lacks some thickness, you tweak a bit of the high mids knob, adding just a little.
The treble knob is responsible for control over high frequencies. When set higher, it’s capable of making the tone crisper, sharper, and brighter, which helps separate notes to be heard.
When set lower, it’s capable of making the tone softer and warmer, which helps various notes blend together a lot easier. If you need a bass guitar to cut better through the mix, you can set a higher treble. But for all other situations, it’s better to set the treble around the middle position.
The majority of the amps, with rather a limited number of exceptions, have a drive or gain knob that controls distortion. Before making any changes to the volume, you should tweak this knob because it regulates the volume that goes into the amp. If you need to have a cleaner tone, you should position the gain knob low and the knob that controls the master volume high.
If you want to achieve an overdriven tone, you should position the gain knob lower than medium and the knob that controls the master volume low. If your aim is to have a distorted tone, you should position the gain knob higher than medium and the knob that controls the master volume lower than medium.
More Bass Amp EQing tips
Start with neutral
Before you start EQing, move all knobs to the neutral position, or as it’s known, 12 o’clock. From this point, it’s relatively easy to start tweaking knobs to get the desired result. Also, this is a good starting position for beginners who aren’t used to quickly EQ the tone and need some time to be accustomed.
One at a time
When you’re new to amp tweaking, it’s usually easier to do one knob at a time. You’re in no rush and can take all the time you need until you know which knob is responsible for which changes in tone. By randomly tweaking the knob from left to right, you wouldn’t get the result unless you know your amp too well.
Don’t crank it
Don’t crank the gain knob up high each time. It won’t give you the result you want, but mostly it’ll just mess up your tone and track. Nobody is stopping you from getting a crunchy tone, but it’s better to follow a golden middle principle because it’s a very thin line from a cool, crunchy tone over a distorted bass guitar that is just painful to listen to.
Consider your environment
There’s a difference between the tone that you use in your home-based studio and the one that you use while gigging. In the majority of cases, when you set up the tone at home, you aim to achieve a sound that is huge by setting bass and gain almost up high, mids at the lowest point, and just a bit of treble. But when you start playing with the same settings on the gig, you won’t hear anything at all. So it’s a good idea to tune in to the bass amp each time when you’re in the new room or setting.
When you’re tuning the amp for the gig, you should keep in mind the following things, such as using only the necessary amount of gain to avoid the muddiness of the tone. Also, angling the amp, so it aims in the direction of your head. As if it’s set flat, you won’t hear a thing.
The “perfect tone”
If you want to just get what some people would call the “perfect tone,” first, set the volume and tone controls to the absolute max. Then, set all other 3 or 5 knobs, depending on whether you have just mids or low mids, mids, and high mids, at 12 o’clock. Once that’s done, adjust the gain according to the result that you want to achieve. For more distortion, tweak it higher, and for a cleaner tone, set it lower. Finally, tweak the volume knob until you get the level you require.
After all of that, tweak the treble knob lower to have less definition and higher if you want more of it. Do the same with the bass knob, setting it lower to get a fuller and heavier sound or higher to get a thinner tone. If it’s needed, add any effects, but be wise about it.
Positioning the amp can be just as important as setting the perfect EQ settings. After all, you may not hear any of that beautiful tone if the amp is in an acoustically bad spot.
Never place the amp in the center of the room, instead, place it closer to the wall. By doing that, you would decrease the number of reflections that come from the walls.
Dial in the low end
If you have way too much low-end, tweak the bass knob rather than trying to compensate for it by pushing up mids or highs knobs. Going back to the amp position, you can reach the same effect by picking the amp from the floor and placing it on higher ground.
Control the high end
If you have more high-end that you need, you can start by tweaking the knob in the lower position and see if the overall tone has improved. To achieve more clarity, you can try increasing high mids.
Fix the mids
If you have more mids that you need, the tone has a lot of honks and sounds more annoying than clear and deep. To solve this issue, you need to position the amp properly and tweak knobs for a bit until you eliminate the problem completely.