To use or not to use IRs for bass? That is the question. And is there an answer to this… grand opening phrase? Yes there is, it’s of course to use IRs! Why? Let’s start with the facts:
Whether we use a preamp or an amp sim with the bass, whether we connect to a PA for live or directly to an audio interface for recording purposes, our bass tone serves one ultimate purpose.
To fit perfectly in the mix!
Yes, every situation IS different and it makes a whole difference if you have a loud drummer next to you or a “controllable environment” like in a recording session as the final mix is quite different in those cases BUT there is a mix, either way. But why is there a question in the first place, someone might ask, and why can bassists still not use an IR and… get away with it? It is a fair question and it does make you ponder, doesn’t it?
The bass tone that goes directly to a PA or audio interface is pretty close EQwise to the final bass tone we want for the mix (as it might rarely happen to a clean guitar too) although the main difference comes in what we call the “bass mids”. Depending on the bass pickups, the mids of the bass may make the overall bass tone too muddy and cover both those low frequencies that make our heads move with the groove and the high frequencies of the bass that provide its clarity in a mix. Moreover, the low frequencies need to work together with the kick at all times while complimenting the guitar in many situations.
A good IR does exactly that. It enhances the low frequencies, tames the mid frequencies and polishes the high frequencies. BUT, there’s also a small catch here. You might need a different mix depending on your situation. It is something that you can sometimes do with EQ although there is a noticeable difference in using a different IR instead!
Using your bass for an acoustic project, or combining it with distortion are two examples where your bass characteristics drastically change! A good IR for the first occasion will not have the best results on the second one. An acoustic mix gives to the bass a lot of space to fill in the low frequencies while a distorted bass sound needs the bass mids in order to shine and it is very frequent to use both the dry and the wet tone in order to maintain the bottom end and not ruin your mix.
Conclusion: Use bass IRs and continue with your life? Yes, although as pointed above you’re going to need more than one IR if you use distortion with your bass or you need to fill that gigantic void when there are no drums involved because every situation and every mix is different. But as always, do what you have to do and keep playing, no matter what!
Check out our FREE Custom Bass IR Pack that includes EIGHT different mixes!