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  • Go "Virtual Stereo" with Bass Amps

    By Anderton |

    It's easy to add imaging to bass -- just do it virtually



    By Craig Anderton


    It is not true Congress passed a law in 1957 forbidding the use of bass in stereo; that’s just a vicious internet rumor. You can do anything you please—well, at least nowadays.


    One reason why bass loves mono traces back to the days of vinyl, when music was reproduced by dragging a rock through yards and yards of plastic (I’m not making this up). It was difficult for a phonograph needle to track different bass waveforms in opposite channels; it was much safer just to keep the bass in mono.


    Synth basses have broken the mold somewhat, but there’s a great technique for stereo bass using amp sims—stereo stacks. Guitarists have known about this for years: They split the signal to two different amps, which become their two channels.




    Vinyl aside, there’s another reason why bass is usually in mono: It has more strength and power that way. Stereo sound broadens the bass, but diffuses it somewhat as well. So, think of stereo as another way to add a different type of dynamic to a song, where you can dial in whether you want the bass to lead the song, or follow. Another option is to “split the difference”—pan the bass slightly right and slightly left of center.


    For example, don’t use stereo bass throughout a song, but throw it in during the Big Chorus when the guitar is playing power chords—then fold it back into mono when the verse hits. You can change a song’s emotional character significantly by what you do with two bass amp sims and a couple of panpots.




    The “universal” way to set up stereo bass is to copy the track, pan the two bass tracks left and right of center, the process them individually. However, many of today’s amp sims make it easy to put amps in parallel, then pan them as desired in the stereo field.


    IK Multimedia AmpliTube: You can select two parallel paths by clicking on routing #2, which splits the signal into two independent paths. If you want a wide stereo image, pan the Cabinet and Rack for each channel oppositely; to pull things in a bit but still get some spread, leave the Cabinet pans centered, and pan the two Racks left and right.


    Line 6 POD Farm: Click on the Dual button to create two separate chains. The panpots are located  in the Mixer View.


    Native Instruments Guitar Rig: Use the Split module to create two parallel chains (remember to pan the two Split Mix panpots oppositely). There’s only one bass amp but three bass cabs; however note that the Jazz Amp works well as a second channel.


    Overloud TH2: The signal path is inherently split into two paths (Fig. 1).



    Fig. 1: Overloud’s TH2 splits the input into two parallel paths.


    Peavey ReValver: The Signal Splitter module works like the Split in Guitar Rig. ReValver's main bass amp is the bass channel in the Basic 100 amp—but split it using different cabs, and you can get a very wide bass sound.


    Waves G|T|R: You can’t really set up a true parallel chain without copying the track and using two instances of G|T|R, but you can come really close by using the Stereo Amp (Fig. 2). You have seven bass amp models and six bass cabinets, so you can split the amp sound into two different cabinets, and pan them oppositely. Experiment with the virtual mic placement, too; this can make a huge difference.



    Fig. 2: The Amplifier module in Waves’ GTR offers stereo and panning capabilities for each channel’s cabinet.





    Craig Anderton is Editor Emeritus of Harmony Central. He has played on, mixed, or produced over 20 major label releases (as well as mastered over a hundred tracks for various musicians), and written over a thousand articles for magazines like Guitar Player, Keyboard, Sound on Sound (UK), and Sound + Recording (Germany). He has also lectured on technology and the arts in 38 states, 10 countries, and three languages.



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