5 Audio Plugins To Make Your Bass Recordings Instantly Better

Recording Bass at Home

We’re thrilled to welcome Travis Huisman to the No Treble contributor family. This is Travis’s first column on recording at home.

Over the years I have had many bass players try to lower their recording budget by tracking bass at home, but most of the time, it doesn’t work. I will usually have to either re-record everything they did at home or more often than not, I will give them tips to make the bass tracks salvageable. Recording bass guitar at home is not difficult with the vast amount of quality plugins available to you today. As long as there’s a good tone coming out of your amp and a working DI box, these plugins will take your recordings to the next level.

Waves CLA-76

This is my go-to compressor for bass guitars because I have yet to hear a bass guitar that does not sound better after going through it. Modeled after the famed 1176, This plugin matches it very well. Every bass sounds fatter when it leaves the CLA-76. The 1176 has been the benchmark for bass compressors for decades. It will make your bass sit in the mix much better. It is the glue you probably have been looking for.

I begin by setting the ratio at 4:1. The standard 10:00 and 2:00 (input/output) settings are standards for a reason. They work! Like most Waves plugins, it does come in many packages. However, you can buy it individually for only $49. If you could only purchase one plugin on this list, this is the one I would highly recommend purchasing. It will instantly make your recordings better.

Waves SSL Channel

Every bass track that I have mixed in the box for the last 3 years has had this plugin on it. The compressor has punch as you’d expect, however, the real gem is the EQ. The EQ on this plugin will sound smoother than any other you will try. I’ll save you the time there. The low end sounds fat without distorting. The ability to dial in the mids is fantastic.

I always put a slight boost at 50Hz and 2kHz. I set the LPF to 5kHz. If you do choose to engage the compressor on this plugin, I would recommend a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1. Never knock more than 3dB off. The 3dB gain reduction light should just be flickering.

Waves L1 Limiter

This plugin has been around forever. There is a reason for that. It really works! You’re looking for your mixes to sound as good as your idols. To do that, you need subtle stages of compression. The best way to do that is to put the L1 at the top of your plugin chain. Then, just barely hit the limiter. Set the threshold so high that you’re only getting 1-2dB of Gain Reduction. That is the key to making L1 work for you, without sounding over-compressed!

SansAmp PSA-1

This is a secret weapon when it comes to mixing bass guitar. If you were having difficulty getting your bass amp recorded at home, this is what you need. Many times you either don’t have a great bass amp or while recording at home, you have to turn it too far down. When that happens all you need to do is record your bass through a good direct box. After that is done, put the SansAmp on it. It is amazing how efficient it is. This has saved many bass tracks on albums I’ve mixed. A great starting point is to put all of the knobs at 12:00. From there you can add more drive as needed. I usually roll off the high end on the plugin, also.
Waves MaxxBass

This is another staple in bass plugins for a reason. I will use this if the bass track that I am mixing is sounding weak compared to the kick drum. The kick drum and bass should be equally as powerful. If the bass needs a punch in the low-end subharmonics, this is the plugin I will add to the mix.

I set the frequency at 60Hz. From there, I gradually raise the MaxxBass level until it starts to fill up the speakers. If it’s sounding fuzzy or starting to distort, you’ve gone too far!

These plugins will improve your mixes dramatically. Try them all out, and let me know how much better your bass tracks sound!

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts

  1. John Riland

    I’ve used them all. But for me there is nothing better Vandal. Any bass put through this plugin will come alive. Very natural sounding.

  2. Fred

    Been playing bass on and off for a few years and haven’t even got to the starting block in recording bass lines. What I would really like to do is to play bass lines behind some of the Youtube uploads of great rock songs. But other than an Ernie Ball, 5-string, Stringray MusicMan bass guitar, Messa Engineering 2×10 speaker and a Carvin 2000 12ax7 tube amplifier, and an old version of Audacity, that I used to slow down a piece I was playing to, but I have nothing more. I actually need a step-by-step “idiots’ guide” to what I need, in order to be able to record backing tracks, and marry them to the Youtube song I want to accompany then save that to a separate file, or uploading to Youtube. HELP!!!!
    Fred Jansohn

  3. I have yet to find a sound that I like better than the direct signal of my basses into a quality preamp (I just use a UA Apollo Twin). I am interested to try these out though and see what they do, and it looks like they are all on sale! Thanks for the reviews.

  4. Stefano

    Hi! Very interesting column. When browsing the Waves web site, I can find an SSL E-Channel and an SSL G-Channel. Which one are you referring to? Also, any thoughts about the Soundtoys Sie-Q “boutique plugin”? Thanks a lot!

    • Travis

      Stefano, I was referring to the E channel. I haven’t used that particular sound toys plugin, but the rest of their stuff is fantastic!