The gent I bought the body from (which was DarkStar'd when I got it) said it was an older Pat Wilkins re-fin.
I bought the neck off ebay, it's a very comfortable 1 3/4 C neck.
Bright, punchy, fat down low, and clear as a bell.
If you can't serve as a good example,
You'll just have to serve as a horrible warning.
My DS Jazz with a VT Bass, I found the isolated tracks of this mars volta song, took out the bass track, and played one. I fade the tracks in and out at the beginning so you can hear the bass. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jWQVg-SAJdE
Well I'm more than a little surprised at Fred's sudden return but very pleased he's ok. He's also very kindly offered me some insight into his DarkStars, so for now I'm carrying on developing my version of the BiSonic. Here's a shot of the adjustable poles and the core laminations.
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Die costs (for stamping out the chrome ring) were a bit high for me to Justify entering the market. It looked like I was going to have to lay out $15K-$20K in tooling to get started. At $200 a pickup it's a long way to break-even with that kind of investment. Too bad.
I discussed this with Rick Turner for about 20 years before meeting Fred, and those were RT's figures, too. Fred had the know how and at one moment the money and commitment to do it. And yes, he spent over $10k on tooling.
Yes, they were active, at least if Jack is considered a trustworthy source on the subject.
You know the legend about if someone was really there in the 60s? So now, this this position being asserted, I'm going to have to defend my position or resign from the thread. That's OK for a few minutes because reading this whole thread and now doing this are helping me procrastinate this morning. And, obviously, its a subject I love.
So, beyond knowing Jack personally, all I can tell you all the way over there in Sweden is that Jack has said about me that I know more about his basses than he ever did. On top of that, I've figured out something about his basses that he either never knew or forgot. Bear once insisted to me that Jack never played a hollow-body bass in the 60s. What can you do? And I'm going to drop this and let you work on it.
As far as what Alembic did, there is far more than the filters. But having gone all the way through this and out the other end for the last 4 decades, for those who aren't already certain they know everything there is to know on the subject: the biggest difference in Jack and Phil's basses and tones and your own is their right hands. Its certainly true to say that Jack's right hand is the biggest part of his tone. But its also true of Phil. How your hand holds the pick, the stiffness and angle of the strike, is what distinguishes Phil. A passive EBO with Hagstrom pickups, a heavily modified Starfire, its all that hand, that angle. The filters make for a fun exploration, every bit as much as the amps do. But its mostly hands and strings. Its work, maybe the work of years, but test it yourself. What Alembic did in those days, before they settled on a product line and became a real company, was, stoked and largely funded by Bear, facilitate exploration. The filters are fun, but they don't make the sound. The musician makes the sound.
Re: Bisonics vs. Dark Stars. Yes, they are different pickups. I prefer DSs. But to really know how different they are takes more than one or two samples. Its might be safe to say that I'm the owner of more of each than anyone in the world, including a box of Bisonics at Rick Turner's shop. Its almost impossible to find sets of Bisonics that sound alike - like anything else, they all age differently. To obsess over it is to be obsessive, and there have been few people more obsessive on this topic than me, or for longer. I find I can use and do use them interchangably, with no thought as to whether the bass has one or the other.
Last time I posted on this topic in talkbass someone cited Dan Schwartz to tell me how wrong I was. Please don't bother; that guy doesn't know anything.
So there was no battery? How about lo-z? I am not questioning your knowledge. Just asking.
Jack Casady: I really wanted to get not only more power out of it but I wanted to get more quality of tone because with the 31 and a half inch scale I wasn't getting the low end like I would have liked to get. I mean the speaking length was part of the problem but also I wanted to take that tone and expand it. A friend of mine, Owsley Stanley, (famous for other things) was into electronics and he also knew a guy named Ron Wickersham who later on became involved with Alembic. And we started talking about that Guild bass. So that was when he suggested that we put a preamp and run it with a 9 volt battery and also use components that were of a higher quality, including the pots. I took the pickups, that was my idea, and flipped them out and added another alnico magnet on the other side so each pickup had twice as much power. The other issue that expanded the quality of the tone that they suggested was to take it and bump it back down to low impedance. By low impedance I was able to expand the dynamic range and that's what Les Paul had used and still did use his whole career, he played a low impedance guitar. Though he didn't get the volume of the squashed up high impedance pickups, that became fashionable later on.
OK, I think you guys might be at cross-purposes here a little bit. Yes, the basses in question had batteries, but no, the pickups (at least with the BiSonics) were not low-impedance. Further (or would that be further?), at least in Jack's bass and Phil's prior to the big rebuild in 1971, the actual circuitry was not active as we would describe active today in that the tone controls were not based on active circuitry but were passive. You can do a lot of interesting things with a passive EQ. The pickups were buffered (the active part) in order to reduce loading to keep the frequency response intact. So, yes, there were circuits in there that required batteries but the basses were not active in the sense that we usually mean these days.
I have to say that I love the sound I get from my Starfire with the low impedance (around 800 ohms) caramel Alembic pickups. But it's a different animal and there is a fair amount of noise.
If we are to believe Ron, that my M-85 was the first active bass, that means that Jack's brown Starfire had no impedance drop, which makes sense to me in terms of the evolution of the collaboration and exploration. Its a passive, hi-Z bass. It had lights installed, but they were never made to work.
It may also mean that Phil's EBO didn't have a lo-Z stage. That would place Jack's sunburst as hi-Z pickups, and emitter followers and then passive tone circuit as being the first of those to get out into the world. My M-85 was completely passive by the time I got it in 73, but you can see where the emitter follower was installed.
Also, George Mundy is not responsible for the filters in Phil's brown bass, he did the one in Phil's Alembic. But Pluto pedals are fun - that's where the idea for the SF-2 came from.
Edwin, have you heard your bass without an active stage, just the output of the pickups?