Zons: sonic differences between models
Took my first lesson in years with a gentleman named Steve Kim here in Seattle. He was playing a Zon Hyperbass and the tone absolutely knocked me out. I have absolutely NO need for a Hyperbass, and have always hankered after a Legacy Elite. How much difference is there tonally between the various Zon models? Do they all have that Zon tone, just shaded one way or another? What configuration of the Legacy Elite would one go for to approach the tone of the Hyperbass?
Not sure about tone but I will say Id go after one with a truss rod.. I know there are folks who say one is not necessary but Im in the category that says it is.
Oh and prepare yourself for the onslaught of "tone is in the hands" or "tone is in the fingers" responses
Yeah, I'm not worried about those folks. Zon fretlesses DO have a tone, just like Pedulla Buzz basses have their own tone.
And I should probably specify that I'm only interested in learning about their fretless models.
My wishlist includes the Zon Vinny, a relatively small travel sized, headless bass.
One would need the equivalent of a small car loan to afford a Hyperbass. lol
No doubt, and I don't need all the doodads associated with it. That said, man, what a sound.
I have owned a Sonus 6 lined fretless 2001.
Mine has Bartolini pups and pre amp..which is what I wanted and orderedand received.
Other pups/ pre amps are available; each with their own tonal signature...all pleasing I am certain. I am glad choices are available.
I know the ZON feeling..I had tried Alembic, Pedulla..All are fabulous, but ZON gave me the ...WOW... moment with Tobias being 2nd.
All the rest gave me cause for concern, especialy in price VS tone and feel. Alembic was very disappointing..WAAAYY too overpriced and felt bad to my hands. Pedulla makes beautiful instruments, but glad I chose ZON.
My ZON Sonus 6 does not have a truss rod..doesn't need one in my opinion and experience..VERY stable.
You can get a Hyperbass without any of the detuning features -- in fact, I believe it comes stock without them, with the headstock and bridge detuners available as add-ons.
Otherwise I imagine you could get closest with an Elite if Zon were willing to build one using the Hyperbass's pickup placement and wood selection, but even stock the tones should be more similar than different.
On that note, do you have any idea whether the Hyperbass you heard was in standard tuning and used more or less standard strings? Every Hyperbass I've heard has been in altered tunings with extra light (piccolo) strings, so that may be a large component of the sound you admire.
I'm pretty sure my teacher had it in standard tuning since he was showing me inversions which wouldn't have made sense in altered tuning. No idea what strings he was using, though.
I probably ought to just email Zon, but I don't want to bother him/them before I'm closer to actually making an order.
All Zons definitely have a similar inherent character, but the shades can have pretty wide variation. I've never encountered a Zon fretless that wasn't pretty great, though- the necks are just so well suited to good fretless tone.
IMO, the major difference (besides wood) between the body styles is just whether it is bolt-on or set-neck. The Sonus basses are all bolt-on standard, and the Legacy basses are set-neck. There are plenty of exceptions to this, but the majority are that way. I have some of both, though I don't know if I can quantify the exact sound difference. Since you know you like the sound of one with a set-neck config, so aim for that.
Most Hyperbass models have the same woods as are standard on the Legacy: mahogany body, maple top. Chances are good your teacher has a mahogany/maple combo on his Hyperbass. Does he have a coated (shiny) fingerboard or matte (uncoated)? That has a huge effect as well.
If you want a bass that sounds similar, get a Legacy (set-neck!) with the same wood combo and fingerboard finish. The sound will come from soloing the bridge pickup, so either an Elite or a Special will do it. You will not have the exact same pickup as the Hyperbass, but I think that is less important than the other factors.
I wonder how long Steve Kim has been in Seattle. I don't think he was there when I was still there studying, as back then pretty much all of the jazz electric students went to Randy McCluskey. (Edit: Apparently he was there. I wish I'd known!)
I have four Zons--4, 5, 6 & 8 string. Not a truss rod amongst them and they're all incredibly stable and sound amazing. I had the Legacy Elite 6 made around 1993. Never had an issue with the neck, never had to file a fret... Nothing. It plays like it's brand new. I just put some Thomastik flats on it and it's never sounded better.
Just drop Joe Zon an email. He's always incredibly patient and helpful and will give you the best answers to your questions.
Excellent info, Angus, thank you! I'm not sure how long Steve has been here, but I was pointed in his direction because I wanted fretless instruction specifically. I think he's been here for at least three or four years, from what I can tell.
A bit off topic, but I love his vibe. He's very laid back, seems to understand what I'm trying to do, and has a great approach. He's not throwing a bunch of stuff at me from the get go and he's not a nit picker. He looked at my mechanics and basically said there wasn't anything I really needed to change and that, even though there are one or two things I do that aren't perfect, since I've been playing for over twenty years and don't have any pain while playing or after playing, that I don't have any technical adjustments to make other than just getting used to playing five strings instead of four. I really dig him.
And his bass....
With the magic of youtube, it appears that he has the Hyperbass version I, with standard bridge, mahogany body, and maple top. Hard to tell, but based on the sound I'd stake my life on him having the matte finished fingerboard.
So there is your answer. An identical instrument would probably be around $6k I'd guess, or you could find a fretless Legacy with the same woods and you'd be most of the way there.
Steve is a monster player and he regularly gigs with a guitarist-friend of mine. I've watched him play the Zon hammering the notes with left hand while carrying a keyboard part with his right hand. If I remember right, it is a matte fingerboard.
From what I remember, Steve has been here as long as I've been here, at least 'since 98.
And yes, I do recall it being a matte fingerboard.
Don't know about the Zon tones, but wanted to say Steve Kim is the man, what a great guy and great teacher!!
That's definitely my impression thus far. :)
I also take lessons from Steve. I just got the Sonus 5 Special unlined fretless. Playing with Steve, who has his strung with DR HI Beams I believe, both have a similar tone. As he will tell you, the Zon is very response and has its own unique tone. The Special has the neck pup centered, with the focus of the build toward the mids with a very expressive mesh that blooms immediately on the attack. I ordered mine with the mid control which I feel is a must. Forget the truss discussion, if you go to an older one, it will be just fine. And, I play 3 different ftetless basses, the Zon requy the most
...require the most.... ?
Sent before I finished... The Zon requires a focus that the Modulus and Gary Willis don't, and rewards good technique with an amazing sound.
I figured. :) Any experience with Pedullas and how they compare?
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