Let's talk B-15s

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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:25 pm

randall wrote:OK, so here's the thing. It has totally challenged my idea of what a B-15N is supposed to sound like. I have only ever played through this one, but I always thought Motown, Jamerson, Babbit. This one wants to bite my head off now. Playing my Lakland Darkstar P thru it with amp Vol at 7 sounds more like a mini SVT. The rich overtones are plentiful and great fun, but is this how this amp is supposed to sound? Where is the Motown vibe?

To be fair, I realize my Dark Star Lakie is a little hotter than Jamerson's Jazz, and things do smooth out when I turn it down a bit. And I did see a Youtube demo on the Heritage RI B-15 that has both the '64 and the '66 set ups in the one amp. The '64 sounded more Motown and the '66 sounded more rock. Perhaps I need to learn to dial it in, but what say the B-15 owners?


Welcome to the world of internet dealer/collector/forum shill bullshit versus reality. :rant: The Motown sound is very much a miked B15N, BUT it is NOT one of the earlier 60's models with blue tolex. Jamerson used a Precision with very old flatwounds through a 70's B-15N with the later, larger, Theile-tuned, black tolex covered cabinet and probably the original CTS speaker. The ciruit also has some minor differences from 60's models, as you are aware, but nothing significant. There are WAY more variations than published schematics, BTW. The two 70's B-15N's I have had (one a 76, the other a 73) have different circuits. The '76 came stock with cathode bias. Unless it was miswired at the factory (which is a definite possibility) that 'version' is not supposed to even exist... but I digress. It still sounds like a B-15N should to me.

Anyway, your Darkstars are WAY hotter and more midrangey than a Precision, and I'll wager your strings are much brighter too. The front end of the amp is VERY faithful to what it is fed and what it's getting is about twice the input voltage and a lot more harmonics. Feed that into the power section, which even though low powered, is also very faithful until you get to the speaker, which is extremely midrangey in early cabinets and you're left wondering how in the world that sound could have EVER been 'Motown.' The answer is that it wasn't, which leads to lots of wild theories involving DI's and tube limiters which are also bullshit. If you want to sound like Jamerson, the requirements are a P-bass with very high action and old, dead, flatwound strings into a 70's B-15N with the big Theile cabinet, and most importantly, an upright jazz vocabulary and attack that can be tastefully applied in a pop context. Jamerson's sound is for bassists what EVH's is to guitarists: it's not hard to get at all, but the 'talent and practice' part of the equations can't be circumvented with gear. :rant:
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby harleyyy » Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:33 pm

And, from a book that came out in the 90's IIRC....


Jamerson only used the B15 live, and later used a Kustom system for more power.

In the Detroit studio, all of the guitar players and the bass player plugged into a mixer panel mounted in the live room. They all had to listen to their instrument through one shared monitor. The mixer (I think tube-based) included a VU meter, which Jamerson used (along with the sound from the monitor) to dial in the proper amount of "mush" on his bass.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:27 am

There are lots of "authoritave" comments on the subject, but most of them are based on conjecture and pre-conceived conlcusions looking to justify themselves. Elsewhere In the same book (and movie), "Standing In the Shadows of Motown," it is stated that all the players had their own amps and would cut the instrumental tracks first all together with their relative positions to the mics defining the rough mix levels. The monitor was used for playback to the vocalists who would track later, sometimes days later, and any necessary overdubs. The monitor speaker in question was for that tracking.

The board did not have multiple group outputs necessary to supply a live playback feed for the studio musicians. It was a router only with outboard gear and patches determining what actually went through what with a single mono monitor mix output. The stereo output was reserved for the mixdown master tape machine. The mono mix was fed from the output of the multitrack master and as such would have always been delayed by the physical distance between the record and playback heads if they attempted to monitor live while tracking. It was unavoidable. At the time of Motown's Studio A, there was NO "patch panel;" mic cables ran over the wall through the ceiling from the control room. You can see it in pictures here: Image Image

The "mixer panel" in question, seen here: Image
...is a headphone mixer. You can see in the photo the two guitars are NOT using the curled cables plugged into it.

As cheap as Berry Gordy was, it is also extremely unlikely he would have tolerated using a very expensive piece of gear like a limiter dedicated to a single bass track. If the player couldn't play with the proper dynamics, he found a different player. A low powered amp like the B-15N would meet all the studio requirements much more simply and cheaply, and besides, as long as I can remember, the B-15N has been referred to as the 'Motown amp.' It was only with the advent of the internet that bass players on forums and later in print began to speculate that Jamerson's sound was anything else. For me, the most important piece of evidence is simply to play one. I can get the Motown tone with no trouble at all using one, and as anyone who has ever heard my 'normal' playing can attest, that's nowhere near my 'normal' sound.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:46 am

Besides, in the movie during the "tribute" concert, the onstage amp was Jamerson's personal amp. Even though Babbit wasn't using it, (his Carvin combo was under the stage) it is plain as day, a later B-15N. Kinda hard to dispute that.

randall wrote:I have had a 1966 B-15Nf for 25 years. I paid $75 for it. Back then I thought the square back speaker was cheesy so I put a big JBL E-140 in it. :hid: It was heavy as hell, and not loud enough to gig so it basically just stayed in my house for jams and practice. A couple of years ago I decided to yank the JBL and put in an Eminence.


Lemme guess, Jess Oliver's recommended '4 ohm speaker' mod? That's probably what killed your PT. The original was a CTS, and fortunately, they're still available as old stock for pretty cheap. They don't have the upper end of "better" speakers, especially JBL's. I have a huge respect for Jess, but his ideas for improving the B-15N were not, IMO, good ones.

Also for anyone not familiar with me who might misunderstand my point, my derision regarding internet speculation is aimed squarely at Talkbass, and not anyone here.
Last edited by Psycho Bass Guy on Mon Oct 17, 2011 3:00 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby harleyyy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 8:18 am

Psycho Bass Guy wrote: Also for anyone not familiar with me who might misunderstand my point, my derision regarding internet speculation is aimed squarely at Talkbass, and not anyone here.


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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby harleyyy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 6:34 pm

Found this...

Live, Jamerson played through an Ampeg B-15 amp, but this wasn’t brought into the studio because of space constraints. Instead the bass at Motown was usually run into a custom made direct input (the first of its kind, in fact) into their Electrodyne console. Of course, the biggest factor in the Jamerson tone was Jamerson. He plucked almost exclusively with his index finger, nicknamed “The Hook” and never with a pick.



Here:

http://www.soundhow.com/315/james-jamer ... bass-tone/
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Psycho Bass Guy » Mon Oct 17, 2011 11:43 pm

I looked at the rest of that site. Even Motown aside, let's just say it's not what I would consider accurate or informed and professional audio production was how I earned my living for a very long time. Besides, just look at the pictures; there's plenty of room for an amp or ten.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby harleyyy » Tue Oct 18, 2011 5:31 am

Psycho Bass Guy wrote:I looked at the rest of that site. Even Motown aside, let's just say it's not what I would consider accurate or informed and professional audio production was how I earned my living for a very long time. Besides, just look at the pictures; there's plenty of room for an amp or ten.


Ya, especially with their dolly. I agree, people make legendary shit up.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Caca de Kick » Mon Nov 14, 2011 1:18 pm

Psycho Bass Guy wrote:Besides, in the movie during the "tribute" concert, the onstage amp was Jamerson's personal amp. Even though Babbit wasn't using it, (his Carvin combo was under the stage) it is plain as day, a later B-15N. Kinda hard to dispute that.


Just pointing a few details out... If you reference the SITSOM book, you'll see several pictures of Jamerson live with different B-15's, including early one(s). In the book, it says that he kept having amps stolen too, so he was always buying a replacement. The one in the SITSOM movie concert was one that Pistol Allen reported Jamerson stashed at his (Pistol's)house. And yup, there are pics in the SITSOM book with this later era amp as well. So it's very clear he owned more than one. It doesn't matter to me what era amp he used and that the book says that he actually didn't use one in the snake pit Detroit studio, but obviously used one in LA.
We have to remember, the book research was started in the 80's when most of the Funk Brothers were still alive, it wasn't just made up, and Alan Slutzky was talking to the actual players, including Babbit himself (who himself stated several times he disliked the B-15).
I'm not arguing, just the sake of topic, but I guess for those who are really bugged by this could simply ask Babbit wether or not a B-15 was used in Detroit. I know Bob has always responded well to questiones on his website.

So many things can go on and on about gear details. Just looking through the SITSOM book, stolen basses happened a few times in the very early 60's. And I can see the later LA pictures he playing a 65/66 transition era P Bass with a script logo, different burst finish, and way different pickguard. So what really happened to the famous 62, and when?
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B-15 Heritage

Postby jamie » Tue Nov 22, 2011 4:20 pm

Found the info below while searching for the build info on the Ampeg Heritage reissue.

Willing to bet Ampeg copped these guys work for their Heritage. Jamie

"Vintage Blue" double baffle cab.

CtG FCN-51-B custom amplifier

CtG FCBN 51B - Upgraded version

Garth Fielding's Ampeg Heritage Demo video
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Re: B-15 Heritage

Postby Freddels » Thu Nov 24, 2011 6:47 pm

jamie wrote:Found the info below while searching for the build info on the Ampeg Heritage reissue.

Willing to bet Ampeg copped these guys work for their Heritage. Jamie

"Vintage Blue" double baffle cab.

CtG FCN-51-B custom amplifier

CtG FCBN 51B - Upgraded version

Garth Fielding's Ampeg Heritage Demo video


Vintage Blue worked closely with Jess Oliver and also with Ampeg. He built the proto-type for the Heritage cabs.
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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby jamie » Fri Nov 25, 2011 9:14 am

Thanks for the info.

Wasn't aware Jess had input on the design of the Reissue.

Those Vintage Blues must be exceptional from the Testimonials on Mark's site.

Haven't had a chance to experience the older slot ports, or amps.

My limited experience is the post 67 Thiele cabs and amps.

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Re: Let's talk B-15s

Postby Freddels » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:49 am

My understanding is that the Vintage Blue cabs are actually better than the originals b/c Jess actually wanted to change the original design back in the day, but Ampeg didn't want to do it. The change was made on the Vintage Blue cabs. You can contact Vintage Blue for more info about what the change was. I don't quite remember what it was but I think it had something to do with the baffle. They are also much heavier than the reissue cabs that are in production now.
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Jamerson B-15 @ Pro Sound Discussion

Postby jamie » Fri Nov 25, 2011 3:21 pm

Jamerson B-15 @ Pro Sound Discussion

Interesting comments by Bob Olhsson on recording Jamerson direct mid 60s on. Said earlier they used amps.

Pic of his amp is 2/3 down the page.

Jamie
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