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Alder Jazz Body Shootout!!! Warmoth VS. US Custom Guitars VS. B. Hefner

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by troyus, Sep 12, 2008.


  1. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    2865904058_38541bf4f2.
    2865904018_52785b70bc.
    2865903968_117bcf4a67.
    2865074093_9ced7635fe.

    Ever wonder WHO to buy bodies from? Me too. Well, I got really OCD about it and ordered THREE ultralight premium bodies from different manufacturers. As of today they are now all in my possession and I will start going through the process of evaluating them this weekend!

    The questions I will attempt to answer are...

    How is the wood quality?

    How is the finish quality?

    How do they sound?

    How close are they to the real "Jazz" shape?

    ...and more!

    Stay tuned....

    :bassist::bassist::bassist:
     
  2. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    I'll start this off by going through initial impressions.

    B. Hefner:
    =====================
    Customer Service: Ordering from B. (Bernie) Hefner is no laughing matter. That's because Bernie is SERIOUS and definitely comes across as the kind of guy you don't want to get on the bad side of. He was knowledgeable but also extremely irritable, becoming incensed when I asked him if his premium lightweight bodies were two piece center joined. "No, they're not, and Fender never did that either, if you got a center joined 2 piece from Fender back in the day it was luck!"

    Wood quality: Lightest of the bunch, well under 4.5 lbs, with a nice wood grain, but as promised, not center joined. Some light Alder imperfections (those reddish 1/2 inch streaks you see in the wood sometimes) on the back of the body near the center. Not bad enough to exclude this piece from a burst finish, but there nonetheless. The figuring of the wood is the nicest, with an almost ash like grain in the larger piece (70/30 plank split.) Would look nice in a trans finish.

    Finishing Quality (Body): Routing quality is good, no biting on the pickup or control routing. There is a small burr of sots on one of the contours which could be sanded down, but nothing out of the ordinary. One interesting fact. The B. Hefner body is 3mm (41mm vs 44mm) thinner than USCG and Warmoth offerings. (This probably gave it the edge in the 'lightest body' competition.)

    Finishing Quality (Neck Pocket): Neck pocket is narrow side to side, so a tight fit. Pocket itself is a very smooth surface, but there is a slight burr around one of the edges. Could have done better there.


    US Custom Guitars:
    =====================
    Customer Service: Well, they did ship to the wrong address. I had my luthier make the order for this body and they were to ship it to me, instead it went to his shop. Oops.

    Wood Quality: Impressive. Aside from one very, very tiny knot that did not quite form, it's exactly what you would hope for. Creamy, buttery, smooth looking Alder.

    Finishing Quality (Body): Well finished but a little less so than the other two. Small bites into the pickup routing, indicating the bit was a bit dull, perhaps?

    Finishing Quality (Neck Pocket): Pocket surface a little too rough, and in need of final finishing, as it stand there is a slight raise in the middle, affecting body to neck contact.


    Warmoth:
    ================
    Customer Service: Extremely friendly and courteous when placing an order.

    Wood Quality: I was slightly disappointed. Noticeable streaking in the Alder, though fortunately, only on the sides where a sunburst finish would hide the imperfections. Still, this is a premium body, and they could do better than that. I also ordered a Jazzmaster body from them, and that one has similar Alder imperfections, but they are everywhere on the body, making it totally unsuitable for a trans finish, unless it was a Rondomusic SX you paid 100 and change for, at least.

    Finishing Quality (Body): Excellent. The best of the bunch. Every cut flawless, goofy Warmoth imprint in neck pocket notwithstanding.

    Finishing Quality (Neck Pocket): Well executed.


    Next up... SOUND!
     
  3. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Cool. An interesting experiment.

    For Warmoth, you said that you're disappointed in wood quality, considering that you bought a "premium body." Question: what is a "premium" alder body? I don't see a description or price on the site for a wood quality upgrade. Or do you mean that, in general, Warmoth product is "premium?"
     
  4. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    Sorry I didn't explain that in detail. All the bodies are premium, the definition of premium being under 4.5 lbs. in weight. Bodies of that weight generally cost more and are picked from the lightest stock.
     
  5. basss

    basss Supporting Member

    Aug 27, 2001
    NY
    Are the prices the same?
     
  6. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    All three are within a 15 dollar range (210-225).
     
  7. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    when working with USACG and Warmoth (and I would hope Hefner as well) you do need to specify if the body is going to be finished with a clear or burst finish. doing so may cost a little extra, but the wood chosen will then be visual defect free to the extent possible for that wood variety. there is significantly more to classifying a wood as "premium" than just its weight

    your builder/assembler should be aware of all of this, and if he/she's not you just might want to let them know so that they're more prepared for future orders


    if you let Tommy at USACG know about your proposed finish type and visual flaw preference, he will definitely make sure the guys select wood accordingly. I know this from first-hand, been there with them on-site at the shop type of experience ;)

    all the best,

    R
     
  8. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.

    Yes I am aware of it, but since I am doing a solid color, didn't feel the need to spend more $$$ on that option. I'm just reporting all the facts as I see 'em!!! The USCG wood was the most blemish free. My main interest was sweet sounding, light wood. They are all light, and I will soon find out how sweet the sound is! :hyper:

    Another thing I just noticed... the B. Hefner body has a footprint a few mm larger. So while it may be thinner front to back, the additional footprint may make up for it. Interesting.
     
  9. eots

    eots

    Dec 18, 2004
    Morris, IL.
    This may not be relevent but fwiw, I just finished an ash B Hefner body jazz. Bought used as a complete bass off ebay, so I'm assuming that the original owner who advertised it as a b'H body didn't have reason to lie. I wouldn't otherwise know the difference. Anyway, it's a 2 piece ash body, seam is right down the middle. Not book matched but didn't matter to me.
     
  10. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    Well yesterday I got around to doing this as well as doing similar stuff with a couple of Gretsch drum kits, I'm sure the neighbors love me and the band of pirates that showed up to help out. :D

    First and foremost of course, is the obvious truth that pickup-truthers don't want you to know. Wood can make a difference! ;)

    Of the three bodies, two of them sounded quite similar, but there was no mistaking the third body from the other two. Even the most ardent denier of "wood tone makes a difference" in our group made a concession that "maybe" it was the wood that was affecting the tone on the last test (but then he quickly conceded he's "not an expert" so it could be anything. :rolleyes: )

    For test purposes, the following controls were dictated:
    • Same bridge used in all tests
    • Same strings used in all tests
    • Same electronics used in all tests (Nordstrand NJ4's clip-wired to externally mounted jazz control plate - hence the slight line noise.)
    • Same strings used in all tests (half dead 7250Ms)
    • Same Neck used (modern C profile maple/rosewood Mexican Jazz)
    • 5mm spacing pickup height vs. E and A strings (more or less eyeballed the spacing to be similar for the high strings)
    • Same tone settings v 100%/v 90%/ t 100%

    The only variable: The bodies.

    A few more quick notes on fitting the necks. USCG came together pretty easily, requiring a little time to seat the neck evenly across the pocket.

    This is where the Warmoth really shined, the quality of the fit was astounding. Easily the highest quality neck pocket rout.

    The Hefner required the most fiddling due to the burr in the neck pocket (had to smooth that out), as well as not as great neck pocket drilling.

    All three ended up working out great though.

    Anyway, if I could do it over again I would make a few changes, one being taping the tone and volume controls in place (just in case) and another being to measure the distance pickup-string height from both the 1st and 4th strings. I also could have take my time to setup the neck better for each instrument but with a bunch of people over I would have had a riot on my hands.

    The last regret is that I should have played more. I only recorded about 2 minutes of data for each instrument, only playing in 2 or 3 styles each, and all with a pick (sorry pick haters, but I do mostly play with a pick.)

    Anyhow... onto the recordings (as soon as I delete some of my old attachments on talkbass!)
     
  11. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    I have owned 3 B. Hefner bodies, alder p, swamp ash jazz, and an alder custom...All were very lite, and excellent quality! No problems here.
     
  12. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    so you really didn't have each bass set-up the same, as pickup height adjustment is critical to how it sounds ;)

    might I also suggest that you will need to use a torque wrench with a phillips socket to ensure that you have equal clamping pressure on all of the neck screws. this will help to validate your findings are not based on unequal neck clamping pressure between basses


    I believe the discussion on this topic was related to being able to predict precisely how wood will impact the final bass tone, not whether it can have an impact. ;)


    keep up your testing work by recording all three versions of your basses with everything exactly the same (pickup height and neck clamping pressure included, the song line and finger style played - for a reference, also play the same bass on three recordings to see how much variation you have in your own playing technique so you can document the anticipated variation limits within an instrument and your technique) ... mark each recording, and at a later date play them back to your friends to see if they can hear a difference. (to be sly, play the three times recordings of a single bass as a group, and also another playback session of the same recording of any one bass three times in a row, to learn if they are really hearing a difference or if they are just wanting to hear a difference :eek:)

    all the best,

    R
     
  13. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    Sorry if it wasn't clear, I had the height the same on the low string side of things, but I eyeballed the G side.

    As far as torque I'm pretty handy with a wrench (or in this case, a phillips, so my torque-o-matic hand I am sure got within a few foot pounds per screw. ;)

    Last night I was listening and accidentally loaded up the wrong track, and I thought "man, that doesn't sound like it should", and then I saw my mistake - so I am confident I'm not hearing what I want to hear. I had to pay for each of the bodies so there's no allegiances here. :)

    I will play the back to my comrades and see what they think in a few days good idea!

    I would have done more testing but since I am the only bassist the guitar and drum people are not as patient. :)



     
  14. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    US-NY-NYC
    Another possible variable: action height.

    due to: differences in pocket depth below the top surface, or in pocket parallelism to top surface

    physical result: variation in the height of the strings above the fretboard, and in the angle of the string passing both over the bridge saddles and at the nut or active fret. Further, results in a greater or lesser degree of bending of the neck shaft.

    potential tone result:
    - difference due to differences in string-body-neck geometry
    - further differences due to different player feel, resulting in different playing behaviour
     
  15. Hey Troyus,

    Cool experiment, an impartial experiment is way over due. After listening to the clips, the three are similar but distinct, even with cheap headphones.

    If we assume that the neck joint, bridge, action, pickup height etc are all identical, then we can conclude that different bodies of the same species sound different. We can then find which of your 3 bodies we prefer.

    Next we need to do a control experiment and compare 3 supposedly identical bodies from the one manufacturer. This will prove if tone is due to the manufacturer or just the chance selection of a particularly good board, or some other random factor.

    hmm...
     
  16. troyus

    troyus

    Apr 9, 2008
    San Diego, CA.
    I believe it comes down to the piece of wood more than anything.

    One thing that I do wonder though, I did prefer the sound of the one that was no center joined. I am wondering if that is luck of the wood or something more.

    And so in the end, more questions! :eyebrow:
     
  17. Very cool thread, dude. I like it.

    I think it's important to remember though is that if you bought three more blanks from the same companies, the results could be completely different on all facets.
     
  18. For a better result, i would use a frequency meter.
    It would show not only the difference in frequencies between 2 different pieces of wood (which i doubt have different freqs, but oh well), but it would show what freq EXACTLY are different. now THAT would be interesting
    no?
     

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