4. Connections / Ins and Outs in Detail
A cable is used to connect the amp to your instrument. This is achieved by plugging the cables into both the jack socket on the bass and the instrument input (normal labelled "input" or "bass in") on the amp. Since different basses may produce more or less volume, there are often two jack inputs on an amp: one of them intended for higher-volume (high-output) instruments, the other for lower-volume (low-output) ones. This difference is most noticeable with passive and active basses. Unlike passive basses, active ones feature a pre-amp inside their bodies, which amplifies the signal before it is emitted from the instrument through the cable. With particularly sensitive pre-amps, this high output may well result in an undesirable overload with the attendant distorted signal. Having an alternative input socket in your amp which is less sensitive may well prove useful in such situations.
Single-input amps featuring a switch to alter the input's sensitivity (gain reduction, for example -10dB) follow a similar principle. The gain controller described above is then only necessary for fine-tuning the sound.
The aux-in is a useful addition, which allows the amp to be fed with additional signals from so-called external sound sources, for example mp3 players or other devices. Such an input is even more vitally important in bass combo amps, which are frequently used in rehearsals. And what makes them even more useful is the addition of a separate volume controller to set the volume of the external sound source separately.
The connections for your speakers are just as important as the connections for your instrument, which after all play the part of getting the sound processed by the amp to the player(s) and the audience. These are usually found at the back of your amp and are labelled output sockets or speaker outs. While amps used to feature mainly jack sockets, the standard nowadays are speakon connections. Many amps, however, feature combination sockets which allow both jack and speakon connectors to be used. This may make sense if, for example, you want to hook up your new amp to significantly older speakers without speakon connectors.
The so-called tuner out affords you the convenient option of permanently connecting a tuner to your amp, which means you don't have to unplug from the amp if you want to check the tuning mid-play.
One day, the moment will come: you're about to play your first gig. If the venue is sufficiently large, your band's sound will be amplified using a PA system (with PA standing for public address, i.e. the signal being directed from the stage towards the public, the audience). In order to amplify the bass signal further through the PA system, you can use the old-fashioned way of setting up a mic in front of the bass speaker. Alternatively, the sound technician can "tap into" the signal by connecting to the bass amp. This is achieved through the so-called DI (direct injection) out, which is a standard feature in most modern bass amps. This connection provides a signal that is already primed for being routed through the mixing desk. The advantages are obvious: the technician is able to work with a flawless signal, whereas the signal transmitted from a mic in front of the box also contains ambient noises (e.g. drums, loud guitars, etc.).
Some amps feature further connections, such as for example a so-called effect loop. This can be a useful addition of you don't want to hook up your effect pedal between the instrument and the amp in. The first element of the loop is a jack out (the send), through which the signal is emitted from the pre-amp, as with a Tuner or DI out. It is transmitted via cable to the effect pedal in, and from the pedal out it returns to the amp's "return" input socket. You can connect any desired sequence of pedals between the send and return sockets. The point of the effect loop is that the sound from the pedals need not first pass through the pre-amp to avoid overload.
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