How do I make my amp less bassy?
October 29, 2013 1:07 PM   Subscribe

I own this amp. It works fine except for one thing: the sound is tremendously bassy. Currently, I have the bass turned all the way down and the treble all the way up and it is STILL too bassy. I only play distorted/high gain. What are my best options for getting a treblier sound?
posted by josher71 to Media & Arts (16 answers total)
Guitar -> EQ or Highpass filter Pedal -> Amp.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:17 PM on October 29, 2013

Here's an example of a cheap EQ pedal you could use to filter out the low frequencies from your guitar before they ever get to the amp.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:20 PM on October 29, 2013

Change your speakers. After your guitar and the amp itself, speakers are the most important, final filter on your sound, and play a huge role in how the amp will actually sound. Do you know what speakers you have in there now?

If you think it's too bass heavy, it's very likely that others with your amp also think that, and have tried some other speakers in it. I'd suggest going on YouTube and searching for your amp and listening to some sound clips of Carvin Belair's with different speakers.

Also, keep in ming that you have a 2x12 combo amp (amp + two 12" speakers in one cab), so you can change one speaker or both speakers. Changing only one will get more highs while keeping ~50% of your current bass response, while changing both will completely alter your current bass response.

I'm also going to suggest joining and posting this on, which is a forum dedicated to discussing (and discussing...and discussing...) guitar-related gear. Post this question, include your current speakers, and you'll get a number of suggestions from other Carvin Belair owners (as well plenty of other advice from random people who own other amps). There are several great music gear forums on the web; TGP is one, TDPRI is another, HarmonyCentral is another, though they did a recent site redesign and kinda screwed things up, IMO. I think TGP is great for exactly this sort of thing.

On preview: An EQ pedal is a cheaper solution, but it may not truly solve the problem. If you get the right speaker, you won't need an EQ pedal.
posted by mosk at 1:21 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

> Currently, I have the bass turned all the way down and the treble all the way up and it is STILL too bassy.

For the record, you are already attempting 20db to 30db of EQ: -10db to -15db bass and +10db to +15db treble. I don't think you can EQ yourself out of this situation.
posted by mosk at 1:26 PM on October 29, 2013

Is it sitting on carpet or wood? You could always put something under the feet to raise it off the ground an inch.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 1:27 PM on October 29, 2013

The amp's onboard EQ (i.e. bass and treble knobs) may not be affecting the relevant frequencies, so I wouldn't rule out an EQ solution.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:49 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with mosk, above. The GT-12 speakers that are the stock units for that amp have frequency response specs of only 75Hz to 5.5KHz. Frequency response curve points are usually the 3db "down" points on the frequency response curves, but for a big speaker like that, with an average, apparently ceramic magnet, and probably a medium voice coil (1 inch or maybe 1 and 1/2 inches), the top end is likely to fall off a lot faster, for mechanical reasons, possibly as fast as 6 db per octave, or even faster.

The human ear's "presence" band is usually in the 1.5KHz to 4Khz band. Speakers that can reproduce this band of frequencies easily will appear bright, and "present". But these speakers aren't going to pop like the old vintage JBL D-120Fs, which had a 50Hz to 8KHz response curve, and which, thanks to the big Alnico magnet, the edge-wound aluminum 4 inch voice coil, and the cast frame, didn't fall off more than 6 db out to about 10Khz, and were still putting out usable overtone levels to maybe 12 or 13KHz. Their lighter coned D120 hi-fi variant cousins were even used as decent single cone hi-fi speakers, putting out respectable highs to 15Khz, but at lower overall sound pressure levels, due to the lighter cones. Still, some guitarists liked the sound and added efficiency of the hifi version of the D120, and used them, instead of D120Fs, just for their additional brightness, even though the hifi D120 needed to be reconed more frequently in guitar amp service.

But sure, first verify that your amp, and the rest of your rig is right, before you go putting money down for better speakers. And if you do plunk down for vintage JBLs, or something similar, make sure your cabinet conforms to JBL specs, to properly load the speaker cones, before you just start blasting away. If it isn't, you'll soon see pressure "dents" in those beautiful Duraluminum center dome covers.
posted by paulsc at 2:20 PM on October 29, 2013 [3 favorites]

It may be worth a quick run to the local music shop and having them check it out- you may have a blown capacitor or some such, which can make the sound weird.
posted by jenkinsEar at 4:07 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might have a technical problem, like jenkinsEar says. If it's not that, then it's a relationship problem. If this is the situation, then you should sell your amp, and get one that you love. It's an ongoing process..
posted by ovvl at 5:05 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding mosk that asking and/or searching on other forums may give you more useful answers. I'd add MyLesPaul to his list.

Seconding The World Famous that more details might be helpful, especially regarding your guitars, other pedals, style of music, etc. The problem might not be the amp alone or really at all.

A quick bit of my own Googling (with results from several of the forums mosk suggests) leads me to think that a common concern with these amps is that the hi-gain/dirty (second) channel is "muddy." Combine that with blue t-shirt & paulsc's points about frequency responses, and it may not be so much that there's "too much bass" and more that there's not enough of other frequencies not really covered by the tone controls and/or the response of the stock speakers.

An EQ pedal may be one way to solve this, changing speakers another. Or moving to a cleaner sound on the amp and using a distortion pedal, if you're not already doing that.

Although "Which distortion/overdrive/fuzz pedal do I want?" is a rabbit hole you may not want to go down. (no i will not tell you how many i own . . . . what? they all sound different, OK? Actually i think i've lost track of how many pedals i own . . . . )

There are also apparently several mods floating around the interwebs explaining a variety of ways to alter the circuitry in the amp to clean or tighten up the response. NOTE: mucking about inside tube amps is potentially lethal and should not be attempted by the utterly inexperienced. But if you or a friend know what you're doing, you could do some tweaking to the amp itself.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:45 PM on October 29, 2013

> You might have a technical problem, like jenkinsEar says. If it's not that, then it's a relationship problem. If this is the situation, then you should sell your amp, and get one that you love. It's an ongoing process.

I thought about posting this, too. Assuming the amp is electronically OK, a different amp may be a better solution, especially for playing music that's high gain/heavy distortion. There are lots of amps out there that plow that ground.

I'll just add that once you get a sense for just how much a different amp and speaker setup can change your sound...well, it becomes more than a little addictive. I used to be a guy with a single amp with OEM speakers, but now I'm like the Crazy Cat Lady, except with amps and speakers instead of felines. Each amp and each speaker have their own distinct personalities and sounds, and a great amp (w/the right speaker) becomes an extension of your guitar, and in turn will inspire you to play better. It is very much an ongoing process.
posted by mosk at 5:55 PM on October 29, 2013

Would it make sense to have the tubes checked out?
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:57 PM on October 29, 2013

One other thing to say about changing to an amp or speaker combination with a lot more high frequency response:

Your string noises, pickup noises, plucked attacks, harmonics, natural feedback and even clothing noises picked up through your guitar, are all going to be more noticeable, for good or ill. It can be really sweet to suddenly have a whole new couple octaves of overtone harmonics at your disposal, and at the same time, be really irritating to suddenly find that your left hand is squeaking all your wound strings, with every movement, in a very irritating way, when you never really heard yourself doing that with your old rig.
posted by paulsc at 5:18 AM on October 30, 2013

Does the guitar's tone knob work properly? What does your guitar sound like through another amp, and another instrument through your amp?
posted by gjc at 5:25 AM on October 30, 2013

What sort of room are you playing in, what's the floor made of, do you have the amp on a stand, does it sound that way in live venues, other places, etc.?

The problem might not be the amp.

Quoting The World Famous because he touches on a point that I kind of can't believe didn't occur to me til now -

You don't have ears in your ankles.

Which is to say, if you've got your 2 x 12 combo just kind of plunked down on the ground (which is pretty normal), and you're standing a pretty normal 10-ish feet in front of it, and you're a pretty normal 5'7" or taller guy - you're not really hearing what the amp is producing.

This is because the higher the frequency, the more directional the sound is, and the smaller the wave of air is, so it's more likely to be absorbed or blocked or diffused. But lower frequencies are more omni-directional, so they'll couple with the ground and become more pronounced, and your amp is what I'd call a semi-open back, so lower frequencies will also come out the back of the amp and possibly couple with the wall behind the amp.

So you're trying to tweak your settings so the amp sounds right to you from where you're standing, but from where you're standing, the highs are shooting at the back of your legs but not really getting up to your ears and the lows are getting acoustically amplified by the walls and the floor. Then when you get to a studio or live situation, the engineer sticks a mic a couple of inches away from the speaker and goes, "Whoa! Ice-pick to the ear!"

So Step One is to put the amp on a chair or a case or a stand or something, get it away from the floor and the wall and closer to your ears, and then decide how to set your controls.

Marshall makes a "slant" 4x12 cabinet and Fender Twins have legs that allow you to tilt the amp back for precisely this reason - aiming the speakers at your ears so you can hear what's really coming out of your amp.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:17 AM on October 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

What did you use before buying the Carvin? What is/was your signal chain? It would help to know what helped set your expectations tone-wise.

Amps have their own voice and some are just more suited to certain things than others.
posted by tommasz at 11:41 AM on October 30, 2013

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