The PorchBoard Floor Bass is a simple percussion instrument designed to be tapped by a foot to provide a "kick drum"-like sound. It could be classed as an instrument of indefinite pitch containing complex frequencies through which no discernible pitch can be heard.
With very little audible sound by itself, the internal pickup provides both 1/4" and XLR output connections that may be used simultaneously.
The RP PorchBoard was introduced in January 2010. It replaces all previous models including all the features of all previous models in a smaller package.
Settings on the L1® for the PorchBoard
T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine
You can run the PorchBoard into T1® Channel 4 or 5, completely flat, no effects. While you could use T1® Channels 1, 2, or 3, there is no need to do that, so you can leave 1, 2, and 3 available for other inputs that require more gain.
The PorchBoard works well with the L1® Compact. If you are not using Channel 2 for a different instrument then run the PorchBoard ¼ inch output to Compact Channel 2 - ¼ inch input.
If you are using Channel 2 for Guitar or other instrument then you can run the PorchBoard to one of the Channel 2 RCA jacks using a ¼ inch to RCA adapter or cable.
Playing the PorchBoard through the L1®
Like any instrument, when you spend some time with it you can get different effects and be more expressive with it as you learn its capabilities & limitations .
With the new model, there is a shorter sensor rail and more consistent sound across the length. With older models you could get more variation of volume depending on where you placed your foot. With the newer model, you can moderate the volume by how hard you tap with your foot.
While sitting (which makes it *much* easier to use both feet!), I found it effective to place one foot over one end of the tap rail (over the support on one end) while the other foot did the tapping at various places. This acted something like a "damper" pedal/muffler, allowing me more control over how quietly I could 'tap'.
As with many percussive instruments, you definitely get different sounds when you do a
There's no reason to just tap with just the toe or ball of your foot. You can also turn it around to place the toe rail (the one with the pickup under it) under your heel, so you tap by raising your heel rather than the toe. In a lot of ways that is often a more comfortable position for me when I'm playing the keyboard (raising the heel rather than the toe). Besides that, it uses different muscles -- so when my leg is getting a bit tired, I'll sometimes turn the PorchBoard around before the next song.
Unlike an acoustic kick drum, or most other large drums, the PorchBoard seems to have few strong higher harmonics; for example, turning the High EQ way down seems to have little effect on the resulting sound. There is a three way switch
The L (low) setting allows the very low bass. This is appropriate with any model of L1® or bass amp or subwoofer
The M (mix) setting filters a mix of low and high frequencies, and
The H (high) setting provides for high end, stompbox slap.
It is designed to produce a tone in the 33-100 Hz range (very low). The 33 Hz (with a strong 99 Hz harmonic) was selected because it offers a strong supportive bass "thump" in any key- similar to a large marching band bass drum. Often the nature of the sound tends to resemble a note when another instrument (such as a guitar) suggests a note. 
Since the PorchBoard produces predominately low-end sounds it is subject to the same issues that can arise with any instrument that works in the low bass ranges. See: Bass Regeneration for more information. Because the PorchBoard does not make any audible acoustic sound, and it does not use a resonant surface to pickup the sound, it does not contribute to low end feedback in a live music setting.
The PorchBoard is uses a proximity sensor originally designed for the automotive industry rather than a musical instrument pickup. The sensor does not require a preamp and can be plugged into the line level inputs of the L1®. On the L1® Classic and L1® Model I that would be Channels 3 or 4. On the T1 ToneMatch® Audio Engine you can use Channel 4/5. On the L1® Compact use Channel 2 ¼ inch jack or the RCA inputs also work fine.
The new RP model PorchBoard has metal shielding around the sensor making it less susceptible to RF noise than earlier models.
The following notes are most applicable to the older solid wood model of the Porchboard
One can get really quiet taps by tapping on the heel rail (back), rather than the toe rail; that is, tap so the vibration goes through the whole board to the pickup, rather than tapping on the "tap-rail" itself (which is directly over the pickup).
The most interesting range of effects is possible when the gain is high enough that you have to tap softly most of the time. Besides that, it's a lot easier on the leg when you can minimize the effort involved in playing it. Yeah, it'll often "flash red" at those higher gains if you then stomp on the PorchBoard, but the associated distortion can (judiciously applied) have it's own place. Besides, why should guitarists be the only ones who have fun with deliberate distortion?!?! (Of course, for those of you who have seen Cliff Henricksen play the keyboard, if one stuck the PorchBoard under *his* foot you'd have to turn the gain waaaayyyy down! -- come to think of it, you'd really need two in order to stick one under each foot!)
PorchBoard Micro Bass
In 2012 the PorchBoard Micro Bass was introduced.
Comparing the Floor Bass and Micro Bass
Side by Side
Micro Bass on Top
Height Difference Front
Floor Bass Front Height to Rail 2 3/8 "
* Micro Bass Front Height to Rail 2 1/8 "
Height Difference Back
Floor Bass Back Height to Rail 1 3/8 "
Micro Bass Back Height to Rail 1 3/4 "
Floor Bass Back to Front rise 1 "
Micro Bass Back to Front rise 3/8 "
Enroute Music Choices A Drug Abuse Prevention Elementary School Assembly Program read this to get some insight into the people behind the PorchBoard.
From the PorchBoard website:
Our patented passive proximity sensor system creates an analog, clean bass beat without the common low-end amplification problems of noise, feedback or delay.
Added notes from Bill
Microphones and piezo pickups make use of a resonant surface, leading to noise and feedback, especially when amplifying low-end. Regular guitar pickups are wide range and not tuned to a specific frequency
Notes from Nadene Isackson
From his prior work in the automobile industry, Bill was familiar with electrically tuning a magnetic sensor for specific applications. This was the basis for our 'proximity sensor system', which uses a tuned, magnetic sensor that is capable of producing a very low dominate pitch when approached by a ferrous transducer plate.
By eliminating the common problems associated with the resonant surfaces used with microphone and piezo pickups and by eliminating the wide range frequencies that are used with guitar style pickups, the PorchBoard can consistently produce a specific, rich, low-end thump without noise or feedback.
The passive proximity sensor system is the basis of the PorchBoard patent that was granted to Bill and assigned to Nadene, owner of EnRoute Music.
constructed using durable composites (reclaimed plastics an recycled wood Trex)
features XLR and 1/4" outputs
passive - no batteries or additional power sources are required.
no noise, feedback or delay
disassembles for compact travel (no tools required)
This is included here because it gives insight into the different models. From the PorchBoard site
The PorchBoard Bass plugs directly into an amplification system (set up much like a bass guitar would be.)using a quarter-quarter guitar cord or an XLR cord (or both simultaneously). No additional power sources or batteries are required.
Beginning tapping (heel on heel rail and toe on suspended toe rail) with a very simple beat, tapping once or twice each measure. With a little practice you will develop your own style and rhythm and your PorchBoard playing will become automatic.
Adjust the amplifier controls for tone and adequate volume. We suggest using a maximum setting on the low end (bass) control and then adjust the volume control so that a good sound is achieved with minimum tapping effort. Extreme tapping efforts are not necessary.
The PorchBoard is designed to produce a tone in the 33-100 HZ range (very low). The 33 HZ (with a strong 99 HZ harmonic) was selected because it offers a strong supportive bass "thump" in any key- similar to a large marching band bass drum. Often the nature of the sound tends to resemble a note when another instrument (such as a guitar) suggests a note.
Excellent results can be obtained by using a quality bass amp, keyboard amp, capable PA system, powered subwoofer (the PorchBoard has adequate output to drive most powered subwoofers without the use of a pre-amp or any amplification system) that can reproduce these low frequencies at adequate levels.
The PorchBoard has a three way frequency response switch designed to match the frequency range of an increased number of amplifiers with higher frequency sound capability. The L (low) setting allows the very low bass, perfect for subwoofer or quality bass amp usage. The M (mix) setting filters a mix of low and high frequencies, and the H (high) setting provides for high end, stompbox slap.
The following pictures are viewed from the player's perspective.
This is the way you usually assemble a PorchBoard.
Try assembling your PorchBoard like this and the connectors will be protected. This takes a little less floor space. Just disassemble the PorchBoard, rotate the large section 180° and reassemble. The distance between the heel rail and the sensor rail is about 3/4" longer when you do this.