Help me amplify my synth.
February 3, 2004 9:39 PM   Subscribe

What's the best way to amplify a synthesizer when playing with a loud rock band? (More)

Currently I'm playing a Roland Juno-106 into an Ampeg BR2 bass head which runs through one full range Electrovoice PA cabinet. What I'm playing are mostly fuzzy basslines in the lower octaves, with occasional bleeps and bloops for melody.

What I'm trying to achieve is:

a) maximum volume, without muddiness, to compete with an extremely loud drummer, and
b) the most "true" sound I can get from the synth.

Because I'm using a bass head, the sound is a bit muddier than I'd like and not as "true" than if I played directly through a PA/powered mixer. So--should I replace the bass head with a simple power amp? Or is my rig just about ideal for this scenario?

To clarify a bit, my main instrument has been guitar for a long time and only this year have I switched to synth, so I'm still experimenting with stage sound. The music is somewhere between Oneida, Devo, Young Marble Giants and Pere Ubu (or so we've been told) if it gives you a better idea. Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by dhoyt to Technology (9 answers total)


I play in a band with three guitarists (with sort of a sympathetic sound to what you're doing), when I play keyboards, I run it through a Kustom KB300 head into one or two bass cabs, using this set up for my bass too. The PA head doesn't have the same sympathy for low end that bass heads have, but it does let my keyboard match wits with 3 very loud guitarists and without the lowend fuzz.

If you can find one, you can usually buy old Kustom heads for less than $100.

Roland makes some nice keyboard amps, but they don't seem to be able to cut through very well.

Also worth looking into is a Sunn set up from the 70s. It was a 300 Watt head with 2 2*12" cabinets. A similar set up was used by the Who, but I believe the Sunn will cost around 300-400...

And if you ever need a show in Milwaukee...
posted by drezdn at 10:24 PM on February 3, 2004

On stage, our keyboardist simply plugs his keys into a DI box and runs it through the desk back to foldback.

If you need more than that, replace your bass head with a simple power amp and you should be fine.
posted by cheaily at 4:42 AM on February 4, 2004

I have a Peavey KB100 hooked up to mine and I think it sounds quite good.
(that was their specialized keyboard amp)
I think they don't make them anymore but there is one on eBay
and I've seen them at some local music stores not that long ago.

It has plenty of volume and seems totally clean even at high volumes
(which means it sounds kinda lame if you use it with a guitar and no
pre-processing - the reverse of your bass amp problem)
posted by milovoo at 7:26 AM on February 4, 2004

I think cheaily's DI box solution is the way to go, if you've got the equipment. One other thing that's worked for me is to run the keyboard through a relatively small (say, 25-w) amp, which is then miked and run through the PA. This is nice because it preserves the slightly-overloading sound of the little amp, as long as you can avoid feedback...
posted by COBRA! at 7:37 AM on February 4, 2004

I think given your description of your band, if you plug the synth into straight into anything PA-like you're really not gonna like the way it sounds. I'd say either stick with the bass amp or maybe add a crossover and a guitar amp. In any case keep something in the signal chain that will add some type of distortion. I second the Sunn recommendation.
posted by jeb at 7:52 AM on February 4, 2004

Response by poster: The main trouble I've had with playing directly into the PA is that it tends to step all over our singer's voice. When he sings, it muffles my signal, and vice versa.

COBRA!: Are you saying that you could use the small amp as an onstage monitor and otherwise run a mic through the PA? That may be the way to go, as long as I could hear myself well onstage.
posted by dhoyt at 8:12 AM on February 4, 2004

COBRA!: Are you saying that you could use the small amp as an onstage monitor and otherwise run a mic through the PA? That may be the way to go, as long as I could hear myself well onstage.

Yep, that's what I usually do. The little amp usually has its side or back to the crowd so that it can point right at the keyboard station (we rotate). Sometimes it takes a little bit of explanation with sound guys, but it seems to work pretty well for us.
posted by COBRA! at 8:23 AM on February 4, 2004

The other reason (and maybe this might not come up with you) that I wouldn't suggest only relying on plugging into the board, is that occassionally you might end up playing a show where the club only mics vocals or that there are no on stage monitors/the monitors aren't good enough.
posted by drezdn at 9:56 AM on February 4, 2004

You should buy a pair of JBL Eon 15 Self Amplified speakers and an inexpensive mixer (like one of the $40 Beringers.)

Bass or Guitar amps are not made for line level instruments and will never ever sound right at all, ever. Honest.

Get a pair and then you can add stereo chorus or delay and gain a lot of depth in your sound as well.

I've seen several bass-synth players use this solution with great success.
posted by n9 at 2:37 PM on February 4, 2004

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