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Need help seeking a certain bass "sound"


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Hello, this is my first post here and I've spent a few months reading up on my Helix Rack/Control. I'm at 2.21 and have been seeking a certain bass "response" from my Helix without success and maybe you guys can point me down the right path. I achieved something similar many many years ago in a old studio with my '77 Ric 4001 but have never again been able to recreate this... I came close In-The-Box with Amplitube's SVX a few years ago but I'm having no luck on the Helix.


It's the "bloom" on the attack of the bass notes that you can hear on the audio of this Youtube video (it's noticeable all through the song but especially so on the lowest notes at around 3:58-4:00). From what I can tell it's the input of the amp "breaking up" a bit on the note attack followed by the body of the note once the amp recovers. Maybe compression makes it more obvious, I am not sure. I'm no stranger to aggressive tones (Billy Sheehan, etc.) which work great out of this Helix unit and I'm also quite comfortable in the studio now when it comes to EQs and Compressors and such, but I'm just not having any luck finding a direction towards this particular tone.



I've tried putting a simple volume gain ahead of a preamp stage, some parallel distortion somewhere after the cabinet, compression ahead and after the preamp/amp/cab stages... no luck. I can get grit across the whole range, I can get a nice present tone, a nice growl (aka Enter Sandman), but this "PHluff" kind of response where the attack of the note "blooms" before settling on the meaty body of the note... I just can't seem to move forward here.

As a newbie I fully appreciate that it's not always the most pleasant thing for the more-familiar experts to deal with, which is why I am humbly begging for any little scraps of suggestions on how to move forward. I'm flying blind here, there aren't any indicators / VU-meters to determine signal levels throughout the DSP universe that is inside each stored preset so I have no idea in which direction to dig further. I've been searching for this sound for many many years, from the days of my Bass Pod Pro some 16 (?) years ago to this present-day Helix Rack/Control setup.


Thanks in advance for any wisdom you can share! If I can somehow achieve this sound, it will be the culmination of decades of searching!



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...its difficult to say if the bass in that live recording was direct, off the board, or through a mic. Its possible the sound you hear was a limiter or compressor kicking in at the transients, and is more apparent in the lower notes carrying more energy. Easier to replicate tones recorded in a studio setting, for sure. 

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while listening to the part (great song by the way), i am hearing just a  very slight growl and not to much distortion.
As the the previous comments mentioned, this is very likely the combination of EQ and compression.


As I believe Donald "Duck"  Dunn did the bass part for this song, I would start with researching how he builds up his sound and what he uses.

Of course it is all in the fingers and we can never be the late great Duck Dunn, however you could start with his amp+cab which I believe is Ampeg and experiment by adding compression and eq.

Find some other songs and articles which are widely  available (youtube etc) to find out more about his sound and technique 


I really like this bass sound,  might actually try to re-create one and post it   :-)


...hope this helps....


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To me the bass sounds like a very clean Ric with flatwounds played with a pick.  I would approach it from the perspective of trying to set the attack and release on a compressor correctly.  I think you want a medium length attack to let the pick attack come through then let the compressor clamp down.  So, that means a slower release.  I'm not home so I can't give you any specific numbers but the key is compression.  Wild guess maybe an attack around 100ms and 200-250ms release with a high ratio...maybe 4:1.


Good luck.

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Some of the tone may have to do with the bass itself. In one section of the vid. I can clearly see a "toaster" pickup in the neck position. This dates the bass to no later than 1973. Mid year 1973, Rickenbacker made some changes to the 4001. These changes include plastic fake pearl partial inlays in place of the much classier full width crushed pearl triangular fret markers, the addition of a "skunk stripe" walnut strip running up the center of the neck, a single thin binding in place of the "checkerboard binding" used since the early 60's. But the most important change (IMO) was the transition from the lower output "toaster" pickup to the higher gain models. These old toaster pickups are notorious for sounding wonderful, and may be a big part of the tone he's achieving. I'm reasonably sure he's playing through the neck pickup only, meaning all the tone is coming from the toaster. Flatwound strings may be a factor as well, as mentioned by the poster above, but I'm betting the killer tone is due to the toaster pickup. Hope this helps, and good luck nailing that tone. Also, I have a Ric bass as well, mine is a 2016 Ruby Red Metallic 4003.

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Ok guys, first of all: a big huge thanks for really taking the time to dissect this tone! I really appreciate the time you guys put into this, and believe it or not I've taken some aspects from every response and made *some* progress last night.

Let me give an update, touching on the various points in no particular order or focus. The term "very slight growl and not too much distortion" was used and I think it describes the desired tone VERY nicely, specifically with only the note attack getting that growl. It is correct that Donald Dunn did the bass on that recording (pretty sure that's not Duck Dunn on the video, not sure what he looked like - yet - but I know he wasn't part of the Heartbreakers and to my knowledge he didn't use a Ric). Good call on looking up info/videos on his technique and gear. Even though Dunn supposedly didn't use Rics, I did achieve this sort of tone all those years ago one night in a studio playing my '77 4001 through what I recall being a vintage SVT head and some unlabeled and very road worn 8x10 cab (the fabric cover didn't make me think of an Ampeg 8x10 but it could have been replaced at some point)... it's what set me off on this quest.

Now I cannot at all recall whether I was in my "flatwounds" period with my Ric. Very likely I was finger-playing on that session though, based on my recollection of the material. Nonetheless, one of the closer attempts last night came from using a medium sized pick and with only the neck pickup. Another interesting byproduct of my efforts last night was using palm muting. Now, I'm fairly sure (not 100% certain) that I did not palm mute on that session so long ago nor any of the close attempts in recent years with Amplitube SVX. Palm muting on the Ric (stock bridge) is actually a fun thing, I enjoy wrapping my little finger around the lower damper adjustment knob on the bridge. This might serve as another good starting point to this tone.


So on the Helix last night, as per the brainstorming by you guys, I loaded up a clean SVT factory preset and added a parametric EQ and a multiband compressor at the tail end of the chain. Some tweaking to do but time was limited last night. What really seemed to generate a "wait a minute..." moment was focusing on the output side of the amp module rather than trying to drive the input harder. I'd been focusing on the input side because I recall I likely used a tube-based optical compressor (EH's Blackfinger) ahead of that vintage SVT so many years ago. But now I'm wondering if the real key to that initial growl might be the overdriving of a cabinet????


So the first attempt last night seems so promising especially considering how quickly I moved forward... I'm EVER so thankful to you guys for your initial guidance!



As I was thinking of the toaster pickup comment, that led me to think of older Rics which led me to think of Paul McCartney which led me to think of... this very late 60s recording has a good example of that initial growl (albeit not as clear or pronounced or long as on the Petty track above). Best of all, this stereo version has the bass printed only on one channel which helps isolate it pretty well!


Thanks all, and the search continues... any more hints greatly appreciated, for sure I'll feed back any progress on my side!

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Progress report:

I'm beginning to see that my approach to driving the input harder was counter-productive. I seem to be getting incrementally closer to my desired sound by backing off on the input gains of my pre-amp and amp models, and raising the output volume really hard. Seems like Helix wants to go towards that sound as I'm driving the cab sim harder. I wonder how faithfully their cab simulator reacts when it comes to overdriving the actual speaker drivers for bass guitars.


The work continues...

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