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Alembic Love/Hate

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bucephylus, Aug 29, 2005.

  1. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    After playing for the last 35 years, I've had a bunch of basses come and go; and at some point I stopped selling the better ones. So, I now have what I would refer to as a bass accumulation, more than a bass collection. Let's see, there are 4 black Jazz basses of various configurations, a black SR5, a Tobias Classic 6 and two older Alembic Series I's. Not too shabby, but when you've been doing this stuff so long, that's what happens.

    Anyway, I mostly play the J's these days for a variety of reasons; and take the others out periodically to check with different bands and mixes. Last Sunday, I took the short scale Alembic to rehearsal. I must say that I am constantly amazed at the sound these things put out. I've had ALL the other instruments out with this particular group, and the Alembic's tone absolutely ruled. I wish they were more ergonomically comfortable. In fact, I really hate the way they don't fit, in massive contrast to the Fender. So, I guess that's it; Alembics rule for tone and play like crap (from MY perspective). If I weren't paying for 3 college tuitions, I suppose I'd go out and buy a new Series I with a different body style and shut up.

    Anyone else have similar experiences with these beasts?
  2. bill_banwell

    bill_banwell Supporting Member

    Oct 19, 2002
    Have never played an alembic, not too keen on looks of them, but absolutely love the tone, the crisp slap sound, mmm.. Level 42!

  3. Yggdrasil


    Aug 16, 2001
    Nothing sounds like an Alembic - I've had Series, Essences, etc. - currently a short scale Stanley Clarke - a short scale Series bass is the one bass I still have gas for! :)
  4. relayer66


    Oct 10, 2002
    Zushi, Japan
    Luckily you can order them in many different body shapes, and you can specify string spacing, scale, etc. My Alembic is quite ergonomic, for me at least (it's a 5 string Spoiler with a narrow nut width). I agree that the Series 1 body style is uncomfortable. I've never played a bass that sounded as good.
  5. utopia_imminent


    Jun 19, 2004
    aren't you forgetting the stanley clarke sound is from the Alembic
  6. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    I have two shortscales, a S1 and a SC Deluxe. I agree about the tone and also had a lot of problems with balance, but then I hit upon an unusual solution that works for me. I was futzing around one day and discovered the balance point of my S1 was near the neck heel strap pin. Putting both ends of the strap on that pin gave me the balance, angle and reach that I prefer. Now it has a dedicated strap, screwed in with a felt washer next to the body, and two metal washers sandwiching the strap. Because of a shoulder injury, I like to play with the bass a bit more vertically than many people though.

    The only "hate" (more a mild dislike really) I have with Alembic, is how expensive they are and that I can't afford more of them.
  7. How much do short scale Ally's usually go for?

    Other than the Clarke, of course.
  8. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya

    That's the standard price list. Apparently dealers will usually do a lot better, even on a custom order. Secondhand they can be from $US1500 up depending on the model and the options, woods etc. And of course condition. Check ebay and the bass specialists for prices. My S1 was <<$US2k but it's not cosmetically perfect because it was gigged around for 20 years. Still plays perfectly though and doesn't look as prima donna as the minty SC.

    The two different SC models are actually lower in terms of spec and especially electronics compared to the Series models. SC actually plays S1's himself.
    The Series models are the real Alembic sound.
  9. Thanks!

    I'll have to check it out. I really, really would love a short scale Alembic.
  10. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I actually meant to emphasize the Love side with the tone. They just kill. The ergonomics are such a curiousity. The long scale bass is even more so: Bosendorfer sound, but fairly challenging to play.

    Decent used SSB's will go for around 2.2k$, which is a lot of dough, but they really lay it down. The only issue I've ever had is taking it out at a gig and getting a lot of "Oh it's Stanley Clarke" razzing from the loudmouths in the club.

    I must say, that's a unique solution to put both strap ends on the heel button. Seems like it would have some real rotational possibilities; kind of like a windmill!
  11. hasadari

    hasadari Supporting Member

    Jun 23, 2005
    I play a Mark King Standard 4 and an Exploiter/Spoiler 4. I am negotiating for my first Series 1. I agree that the tone rules and bodies can be problematic. It all depends how high or low you sling your bass. I found that wearing them low works best and gives your neck arm a lot more flexibility.

    In any cae, they look awesome and sound awesome. :bassist:
  12. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    I didn't think I needed to add how much I love mine.
    A guitarist friend played mine (on the original strap pins) and described it as an Occupational Health and Safety issue. :)
    I also have a Kawai FIIB which is my close-enough-to-an-Alembic bass for longscale. Although the body is similar to a lot of the 'Standard' Alembics, the single piece bridge shifts the playing centreline about 2" to the right and it makes a big difference. Balances quite nicely on the strap, but a bit lower than I prefer. Absolutely beautiful construction and sound, and been thinking of adding some Fatboys into it later with my own custom onbord electronics to make it even more Alembic-ish. Just an idea, but if the non-replaceable active pickups ever die, it'll be a definite.
    It's actually more stable than my Steinie XL2 with the pivotplate and works a treat on this particular bass. The SC has a different construction and I'd need to move the strap pin a bit to make it work.
    My beard is getting long, and I have some spare white shag carpet, so maybe it's time for a Dusty Hill 'signature' Alembic.

    ...ev'rybody's crazy 'bout the Shortscale, Man...
  13. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Usually I would disagree vehemently and say Stanley's tone is from his fingers, but there is something about an Alembic that makes it sound pretty much the same on anyone who uses one. Don't know what it is, but if there's any bass that forces its tone onto the player, it's the Alembic. Not so much the Essence and Epic and their other cheaper models, but the models that they're known for definitely do. I've seen players as different as Stanley, Andy West the original Dregs bassist, Chuck Panozzo of Styx, Joe Bouchard of Blue Oyster Cult, and a few local guys get almost identical sounds out of them. When I play them I get that exact same sound, too. So while I do think tone comes from the fingers first and foremost, Alembic projects their tone onto the player.

    For certain applications, that Alembic sound is like getting a massage from 4 naked hot chicks while drinking a martini on the beach, but despite its zillion tone controls, it sounds pretty much the same on everyone who uses it. That's why I never bought one. Even if I had a chance in hell of affording one, I'd still never get one.
  14. That is so my new signature.

  15. D.A.R.K.

    D.A.R.K. Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2003
    i was lucky to have a 6-string elan2 custom in '91...neck through, dual truss, body kind of like a jazz bass, humbuckers, ebony board, macassar ebony top, maple body, purple heart, the neck had like 7 laminations with stringers in between...only bass i regret selling out of the like 80 or so i've had...sounded like a piano! gotta pull out the old photo album and find it...
    and i paid 1, 800.00 new for it from chuck levins!!...
    thanks again for that one, paul schein...
  16. relayer66


    Oct 10, 2002
    Zushi, Japan
    I've played a few of the "cheaper" ones that sounded damn good...and still had that unmistakable "Alembic" tone...including my own Spoiler. Just not as much tonal control, or the option of going low-Z.
  17. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    I guess Alembic is not OSHA compliant. I'll have to discuss that with Mica.

    In fact, their new balance points look correctly designed. I just can't afford one.
  18. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I've owned an Alembic or two in my day. (Actually six, still have two)

    I've owned three different small body Alembics. They are definitely more than a handful to balance. I used to wear the Stanley Clarke Signature I owned very high up on my chest. Totally defeated the neck-dive issue, but you gotta like to play it like that or it won't be worth it.


    For the two Series basses I currently own, I use 4" wide Moody's / Alembic straps. I can play with either bass strapped on for a couple hours. My main bass, the 5 string Series II weighs 13.5 lbs, but with the wide strap, it's fairly evenly spaced out.


    As has been pointed out, there are new body shapes (Balance K) that are beautiful and very well balanced.


  19. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Hi James,

    That first photo is truly beautiful! The gorgeous Alembic, plugged into a Crate combo on one side and the baby swing on the other side. Gives new meaning to stereo separation. Yeah, you are my kind of cat. Get that swing goin' and groove to it.

    Have you ever noticed that when the baby is not in the swing, you get cut time?

    The first Thanksgiving after our first was born, we were invited to this big formal Thanksgiving dinner. Our baby would not stop wailing. We ended up with the baby sitting in one of those swings at the table through the whole meal. A good illustration of the fact that the groove is NOT mechanical.

    I also like the second photo with the Alembic outside the Ethan Allen shop. It somehow fits. Maybe EA should get into Alembic distribution; what do you think?

    Sorry for the late night foolishness. Thanks for sharing the great pics.

    - pt
  20. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Hey, my first TB quote in a tagline! Even though you edited out the other part, that's still pretty cool. I am honored.