Tight Bass

I'm tired of hearing this term as it does not exist outside of the audiophiles world. Where does this term come from? Bass is not tight. It is loose, warm, enveloping, harmonically rich. What I hear from solid state amps and ported speakers is an extended low frequency without the definition and body that tubes and a good sealed box or transmission line speaker serves up. I equate tight bass with consticted bass and perhaps that is a question of semantics as I feel the bass should be full and round but not out of control, perhaps if those that use the term "tight bass" are actually trying to describe what I would term a "rich/ripe bass". I would like to hear some discussion on "tight bass", "rich/ripe bass" same or different terminology.
You bring up a very good point. If you ever have had the chance to attend a live performance of R. Strauss's "Also sprach Zarathustra", you will indeed notice in the opening bars of this tremendous work, how the deep bass of the organ and the huge double bass section of the orchestra open and unfold and come at you in one huge wave of harmonically rich sound....there is indeed no "tightness" in that experience. Quite to the contrary, as you so rightly say. Also listening to bass lines in a live jazz performance, the only "tight" sound may be the slap of the strings bouncing on the neck of the instrument, but not the sound as it unfolds from the belly of the instrument itself, which can be tought, that is cut short in its unfolding, but never "tight". "Tight" is not something, which you have in the live music experience, neither in the bass, nor anywhere else in fact. Its sort of against the laws of physics. If we describe the bass in our rigs as tight however, I think we use it as a synonym for "well controlled", with a fast and controlled beginning of a note and natural decay to its ending, close in its timing, its musicality and its inner rythmic qualities to the real thing. Just my 2cents. Interesting post!! Cheerio
Hear, hear, Detlof. To "well controlled" I would add, "...and sustained throughout the duration of the passage/piece of music...". All too often, amps either run out of juice, or otherwise fall short of giving us the full dimension of lower register without "plagiarising". Examples are cellos + organ / acoustic double base + electric base in jazz ensembles, or even an unique electric base that is playing front-line rather than support to the other instruments.

Yes, the bass should be warm and enveloping -- if such was the musician's intention. Usually, however, I find that base players work many nuances into their playing (striking notes, chords, soft, bold... in quick succession). IMO, we would all like to perceive these differences during playback. If we don't, it's "muddy".
When bass envelops me in my system, it's usually the result of 1st & 2nd harmonics being captured in the recording and reproduced in my room (finally!!) -- or booming.
In order to keep my system's sound balanced, hi-to-low register, I used to compromise in the lower bass (c. 80Hz), in order to hear a controlled version of what bass there was -- even if it meant losing out on harmonics...

Anyway, my long answer to a brief & to the point question. Thanks, all, for your patience.
The semantics of audiophilia (is that a word?) is rife with "borrowed" words like "air". Air really doesn't have a sound, except during our Florida hurricanes. Most 'philes know what these words mean in the context of this hobby but it can lead to misinterpretation. When I refer to a component as "open and airy" sounding, I know what I mean but it may have a different meaning to you.
Well done Detlof. When I use the term tight bass; I believe it to mean well controlled, quick and hearing the detail of the bass; not the boom that some subs carry for extend time limits. Some subs seem so one noted, so I guess some could also interpert tight as clearly transitioning from one bass note to the other. If a sub is boomy there's very little difference in bass notes, some bass can be quick and sharp. I am no music teacher but have heard my share of live performances. So I'll go with the understanding that tight is just another word for well controlled, quick and lack of boom. pete
Some folks and I would include the Pace and rhythm British followers,are audiofiles who are going out the the way not to have natural extended bass,as this Slows the music down or to borrow their term takes away the pace. If you add a accented upper mid range to this then these Linnies and Naimies, are even happier when the cembels and snar drum are given an added kick. But it does not sound like any real music I have ever heard. But it is tight.
"Tight" was/is a phrase used by many musicians to describe the way they played thier performance together.If you have ever played in a rock or jazz band you may know what I'm refering to? When you have many people playing a very difficult piece of music with a lot of punctuations in thier phrases,all in perfect timing,there is an uncanny feeling of "One-ness" with your fellow musicians!!!! Felt as a perceived tightness or unity.....My take on tight bass would be the cross-over of that "feeling",to the reproduction of the same music on your home system. Some amps and Speakers do not exhibit tight/well paced sound together,so to me the phrase tight does apply to the characteristic sound......Just my short feeling on Tight Bass......When everything else is crazy in life, Sit Back and Enjoy the Music!
Detlof and others have been very good on this question, IMHO. All I'd add is that room acoustics can certainly make bass sound UNcontrolled. I thought my bass was okay, not a problem area, but then decided to add a couple more perforated panel absorbers to the three I already had, these tuned to "tame" the lowest room resonant modes assocated with room length and the width. I was amazed at how much pleasanter it was to focus on the bass, or how much more I could enjoy it subliminally. I could follow pitch, for example, much better than before, even with quiet bass in a jazz group. Not surprising, if certain notes were no longer getting a big decibel boost and masking others. Components are important for good bass, of course. But don't neglect the room, for it has to be part of the good bass equation.
Room acoustics have a profound impact on live music as well. Having played music quite a bit in my younger years, the majority of our sound check time was spent fine tuning the low frequencies (bass and drums) and this was the same when recording as we preferred open instead of direct to the mixing board or isolated sound. I never had the opportunity to accompany a pipe organ though. Tight bass in a Hi-fi system to me means lack of exaggerated overhang along with natural sounding definition/detail (including harmonics). There is more music than one would think down there if it is allowed to come through clearly. I recently upgraded the power cords on my DAC and player with the BMI Whales and am receiving a lot more of this information than I was previously. I do not use full range speakers (Reynaud Twins) but am amazed at what I was missing before in the area that the speakers do cover.
In regards to the terminology that you've chosen to use, i would instantly think of "rich / ripe" bass as being a by-product of either a tube amp and sealed speaker or a sturdy ss amp / vented speaker. Many people call this "musical" bass. This means something that sounds slightly round, lacks a small amount of definition, typically has a small rise in the 60 - 120 Hz region, comes across as being slightly "wet" and "full" sounding but is not "accurate" due to ringing and poor rise time in terms of measurements. This does not mean that it is not enjoyable to listen to, only that it is a matter of personal taste.

"tight" bass is low frequency response that is capable of fast attack ( rise time ), holds the note for the proper duration, has natural decay with the proper pitch and harmonic overtones and does not ring. This obviously takes both a well designed speaker AND an amplifier that can control or deal with the reflected EMF from such a speaker.

"dry" bass is what happens when "tight" bass becomes "too tight". Notes do not decay naturally or have any harmonic overtones to them nor is the duration of the note quite as long as it should be. This gives the impression of very "quick" bass but one that is lacking overall "oomph" or "body". Overall bottom end extension may or may not be lacking, depending on the individual design. Even if the bass is extended, it will never come across as being "authorative" due to the lack of sustain during extended notes or passages.

"boomy" bass can be the result of poor speaker design, poor placement, bad speaker / amplifier matching, poor room acoustics, etc... The end result is that very specific frequency ranges are highlighted while others are minimized. This results in what one percieves as "one note" bass, poor attack and definition, lack of tonality between different notes, "ringing", "hangover" or notes with TOO much "sustain" i.e. "bloated", etc... On top of this, even though there is more "apparent" bass, the bass that is produced is typically not extended in terms of the last octave of reproduction. All of these pretty much summarize the response of the car audio "boom boxes" that create "indistinct thuds".

In terms of dynamic drivers, sealed boxes with a reasonably low Q (.5 to .7) will do best at this. This is followed by transmission lines and aperiodic designs with the various "slop" produced by ports, vents and passive radiators bringing up the rear.

My "ratings" are based on optimal designs for each method as ANY of them can be made to perform and sound bad. Of course, each of these has their various benefits and drawbacks and that is why there are so many different designs and bass alignments. It is a perfect example of "trade-offs" and "preferences".

Once the speaker system is "right", it is up to the amplifier to deal with the load that it sees. As such, SS amps have a VERY pronounced benefit in that they typically do not have to load into a huge inductor ( matching transformer ). As such, they can respond faster and direct the energy to the woofer instead of having to waste both the time delay and energy ( heat ) of going through the output transformer. SS amps can also typically produce much higher current levels, which helps them "tame" the big motors that a quality woofer requires to function properly. Then again, matching a tube amp that is slightly "fuller" or "wet" sound with a speaker and room that has "dry" bass can result in a very musical AND relatively neutral system. The bottom line, once again, is system synergy and personal preference. Sean

Sean, you never cease to amaze me.
Thanks for all the responses. It has helped me better understand the term. Sean's in depth response was very enlightening as was Najo on his perspective of the pace/timing aspect and the trade off he is happy with.
Sean, the big advantage of solid state amps is that they tend to have very low output impedances compared to their tube brethren. The solid state amp therefore has an easier time sinking the back emf from a woofer allowing the bass to decay naturally instead of sustaining slightly longer. Because of the slight sustain some claim the bass to be boomy. The measure of the ability of the amplifier to sink the back emf is damping factor.
I always like to compare the bass that I like to that of a basketball hitting the wooden floor. If the basketball is filled with air very tightly, the sound of the ball hitting the floor is "thin" while if you let a little air out, the sound is a little "fat" which is what I preferred. I don't know if that's what you call tight bass, loose bass or whatever. Am I making any sense?
It's hard not to use the term tight bass. I was checking out subs the other day on the net and went to about 4 different sub manufacters and all of them used the term tight bass.
Najo, where do you find one of these subs that don't add the extra kick? I want real base and have not found it yet.
Yeah, what Sean said is what I mean when I say "tight bass"!! I was just trying to describe a musical, non-boomy sound. Sean has given me the words now to describe the type of tight bass I hear from my ARC VT100 and Genesis 500s: wet bass.
Thanks, all.
In another thread, they said that I am not a lady. I think they are right...whenever I see this thread, I read "tight ass" instead of tight bass. Must I go see a shrink?
Ka, lady or not, you deserve two points at least, because you made me laugh.....no, I would not get a shrink, I would get what you mention and enjoy!! Regards,