Bass From an Unlikely Place

It all started in 1986 when I was about 12 or 13 years old and my buddy Stanley’s dad bought him a pair of Cerwin Vega home speakers with 15″ woofers (yes the ones with the ribbed, darker orange surrounds). Having older friends who were mobile DJs exposed me to loud music, early hip hop/electro, and DJ speakers like Electro Voice, JBL, and Cerwin Vegas at a fairly early age. I would imagine that most 9-12 year olds weren’t exposed to big speakers that young (I could be wrong). Of course these “older” friends weren’t much older and were still living at home so it’s not like they had giant woofers hooked up or anything. So when Stanley brought home the 15″ Cerwin Vega home speakers, I knew that I had to bring over my new RUN DMC record with the song Dumb Girl. If memory serves me right, RUN DMC’s Dumb Girl and 2 Live Crew’s Throw That D were a few of the first songs that used the Roland 808 drum machine to create the now widely used ultra low kick drum bass note. Stanley had a higher end middle of the range home system at the time so I knew Dumb Girl would definitely set off the CV’s 15″ woofers. He didn’t have anything as high end as Mark Levinson or anything. I think he had something more along the lines of a Carver amp and a Technics turntable. Either way, after school one day I went over to his house with RUN DMC record in hand. He had a listening room in his house that was well damped so it was a pretty nice setup for a 12 year old. After dropping the needle on the Dumb Girl track, we stared at each other in amazement as we turned the volume up. It was at that very moment that I learned to appreciate bass. The RUN DMC Raising Hell LP had more than one track with the 808 kick drum so we listened and listened for hours in awe of the bass emanating from the CV’s 15″ woofers. Stanley wasn’t a rap fan, but after the Dumb Girl experience he started to listen to rap. How couldn’t you? The Roland 808 kick drum sound was fucking awesome.

So now it’s 22 years later and my appreciation for bass has expanded beyond old school rap. Sure I still cruise down the street once in a while playing old school rap CDs, but whatever kind of music I listen to, I always want deep, full bass. My Lexus has two 15″ subs and 5500 watts RMS and was done by the geniuses over at Speaker Works in Orange, CA back in 2002. The USD 15’s hit so damn perfect: they hit deep and hard like 15’s should when you play something like Flo Rida’s Low and loud and tight when you play something like Chevelle’s Send the Pain Below (4000 watts RMS to the subs). The USD horns and USD 8″ mid-bass (the other 1500 watts) fill the rest of the audible frequency spectrum with perfection regardless of the type of music. The stereo is the reason why I am having a hard time replacing the Lexus with the EVO X that I’ve been eyeing. Oh and the transmission is fried, but that will be fixed in the next couple of weeks hopefully. But I digress. The point of this post is to share some tracks that are out of the norm with good, deep bass where you wouldn’t expect it:

  • DJ Icey – Ozzido Do Boss (Timo Mass Remix). This electronica track will trip you out with all the sounds in the background, but the bass notes are deep and the bass line will give your subs a serious workout too. 10s can hang, but 12s+ would be better.
  • Bjork – Isobel (Portishead Remix). Bjork’s voice is always a trip, but the bass line that Portishead mixes in there is perfect for a pair of 10″ subs. Turn up 50-80Hz +2dB. Make sure you mids can hang too or else they will fry.
  • The Housemartins – Build. This track is from the 80’s but their first studio album was probably recorded by a bitchin engineer as all the tracks on the CD sound great. I think they used a big acoustic bass drum that you wouldn’t expect in a slower song. You might think this track is gay, but tell me that after your voice coils eat shit and fry. This track is for 12s or 15s.
  • Ben Watt/Everything But the Girl – Corcovado (Knee Deep Classic Ben Watt Re-Edit). If you dig the bossa nova house sound, this track is a classic and Tracey Thorn’s voice is always a treat with horn drivers. The bass line is perfect for 12’s, but you can get away with 10’s and good mid-bass.
  • Mos Def and Massive Attack – I Against I from the Blade 2 soundtrack. Yeah it’s kind of hip hop, but you wouldn’t necessarily expect bass from Massive Attack. Perfect for 10’s and good mid-bass drivers.
  • Janet Jackson – Someone to Call My Lover. Sometimes you expect bass from R&B, but not this kind of bass. I’m sure you can thank Jermaine Dupri for the So So Def bass sound, but the mids and highs are truly amazing on this track too. If you have the sound stage set right in your car, close your eyes and you’ll think Janet is right in front of you. This track is for 15s and high end tweeters and mids or horns. Turn the volume up with care and watch the EQ or you’ll smoke your voice coils.
  • Bomb the Bass – Bug Power Dust (Kruder & Dorfmeister Remix). Ok, this song is a trip with the ambient sound. The whiteboy rap lyrics mean absolutely nothing from sentence the sentence, but K&D do their magic as usual and turn the song into a really chill song with a serious bass line that will surely destroy your unknowing subs if you listen too loud. 12s are fine, but 15’s recommended.
  • Groove Armada – Superstylin’ (not the album version). This song kicks ass and so does Groove Armada, but the album version is less exciting. I don’t know the name of the good mix, but it’s easy to find. The bass line is good, but you have to turn up the 50-80Hz +3dB to truly enjoy it. This song is catchy so beware. Good if you have 10s.
  • Aqua – Turn Back Time. Yes, I wrote Aqua: the barbie girl song people. Aside from this track’s sonic excellence, it is a catchy pop slow song on the euro tip. Once again, you might think this song is gay, but what’s that smell? Oh right, it’s your voice coils smoking, smart ass. Tell me it’s gay afterwards. Good for 12s and better with 15’s.
  • Gotan Project – Triptico (Kruder & Dorfmeister PK’s Trip De Luxe). Like the remix title implies, pop this song on after a long night of partying and chill. But if you’re in the car, crank the fucker up because K&D add a perfect bass line and some trippy noises to the song that make this remix just as good as the original version, but just in a different way. Good for 10’s, 12’s, and 15’s.

Enjoy bass carefully and not for prolonged periods of time as ear drum damage can be an issue. I don’t want the parents of 14 years olds reading this with bleeding ears to sue me. I think most of these songs can be downloaded, but the real CD tracks are better quality. But hey if you download them for free, that would be free bass huh? Ok, bad joke…

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