Alembic Style Basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by The Bass Abides, Oct 20, 2019.

  1. The Bass Abides

    The Bass Abides

    Mar 3, 2019
    Hey all,

    I was admiring some sweet Alembics online and realized that while I dig the style, I'd most likely never spend that much on an instrument. I then stumbled on the Fernandes FAB and a Kawai bass. I was just curious about any other basses that kind of give off that "Alembic" vibe.

    gebass6 likes this.
  2. The FAB and the Kawai are probably the most recognisable and well-known Alembic inspired instruments. The FAB basses in particular are very well regarded. Whilst imitating the style, shape and feel of an Alembic is not so difficult, their electronics packages remain a class apart. The Series and Series II electronics are still an industry leading product, and though there are other manufacturers of filter-based preamps out there, Alembic are still arguably the gold standard.

    The electronics in the Kawai are interesting, in that (IIRC) each pickup is active and has it's own circuit, being powered separately. However, I don't find the tone of those pickups to really have much of an 'Alembic' vibe about them.
    rickwebb, woodyng2, Gizmot and 3 others like this.
  3. Michael O

    Michael O

    Aug 31, 2018
    You may look for a used Ibanez Musician bass. They were sold as Alembic style basses and are very good basses. You have to look around a bit to find one in good condition.
    Low84, stringthrough, Luigir and 2 others like this.
  4. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    S.D. Curlee(now owned by Birdsong Guitars) was known as the "Poor Man's Alembic"
    for the pictured reasons.
    Sd 1.jpg SD.jpg

    The newer Birdsong/S.D. Curlee basses.
    SDCstd76c.jpg SDCstd78b.jpg
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
    Qlanq, stringthrough, J_Bass and 2 others like this.
  5. CTBassGuy


    Feb 3, 2018
    Danbury, CT
    The late ‘70s and early ‘80s Vantages seems to have an Alembic vibe. I think the one I got is great with Roto 77 flats on it. They can be found for less than $500 if you look.

    rickwebb, Beej, JRA and 5 others like this.
  6. Vinny_G


    Dec 1, 2011
    Aria Pro II SB1000

  7. Green Knight

    Green Knight Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2016
    There's one of these for sale near me. Can you say a few words about this bass?
    bobba66 and CTBassGuy like this.
  8. CTBassGuy


    Feb 3, 2018
    Danbury, CT
    I got this because I wanted a dual P pickup config. It sounds great to my ear; I call it my P on steroids. The neck pickup is still P-ish, but has some sparkle. They are also very hot, as they are
    Dimarzio clones.

    Mine is a VP-710b; set neck, 20-fret. They have weak bridges; they tend to bend in the middle, but can be replaced with a Gibson/Epiphone-style 3 point bridge for about $35. Transplant the saddles from the original, as they will be needed to match the fretboard radius. (Thanks to @Baa for the tip; he has 6 of them!!)

    Also, these were made in the Matsomuko factory in Japan along with Arias, Westones and other brands from that era; they were all very well made.

    Go play the one near you; you likely won’t be disappointed. Beware though, it will likely need to be set up, as they are almost 40 years old, but if it’s anything like mine, once done it will play and sound great!

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2019
    mmon77, Baa and Green Knight like this.
  9. Green Knight

    Green Knight Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2016
    CTBassGuy likes this.

  10. Good to see someone is still making SD Curlee. I have an old, original one that I like. The Birdsongs don’t appear the have the “bolt through” neck which is too bad. I don’t know if it did anything for the tone but it was an interesting, unique feature. Any idea if the scale length is still 32”?
    gebass6 and Bill Whitehurst like this.
  11. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Go back 20-30 years, and there were a lot of companies shooting for that "hippy sandwich" look. For the most part, that was as close as they would get.

    You can put a spoiler and ground effects on a Honda Civic - it's still a Honda Civic.
    Iristone, arbiterusa, wboyd68 and 4 others like this.
  12. Thrillhouse


    Jan 21, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    Or skip the 10k+ models and get an old Spoiler and have enough left over to buy a Honda Civic.
    BioWeapon, pbass2 and Anachronism like this.
  13. Gilmourisgod


    Jun 23, 2014
    Cape Cod MA
    +1 on the Spoilers, I nearly bought one, but didnt, and regretted it ever since. I was going to mention the Aria as well, the higher-end ones had a real Alembic vibe. What I remember most about the few Alembics I've played was the super hi-fi sound, very unforgiving of sloppy technique. If you play it, it comes out of it, for good or ill.
  14. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music. Supporting Member

    I think so.Wingfeather Workshop

    Today's SD Curlees are a little different but a lot better in ergonomics, build quality, and neck stability. They weigh a little less, balance a little more, and are made with boutique attention to detail. Yes, they will still most definitely shake the walls or throw down the funk through a good amp!

    31" scale 3-pc. maple neck. The great Birdsong neck? These are closer to that now than the old P-width long tenon style. Still fills the hand nicely, still 24 frets (plus a zero fret now for low action & consistent tone), and NO neck issues with our thick board and strong 2-way truss rod with MUCH easier access and smoother adjustment!

    Same select mahogany or walnut body. Those are the standard woods. Mahogany is more red with a slight midrange bump, walnut brown and more even tonally. Very slight difference in tone, big difference visually.

    Same vintage pickups: DiMarzio Model One (The "brick", in aluminum or black) or DiMarzio Model P (in cream, the high output P-style in our own arrangement for better tonal balance). All electronics are passive, but it’s fully shielded & star grounded now under that classic brass cover plate!

    Overall weight averages in the 8 to 9 pound range ready to rock.

    For the whole story & vintage instrument info check out the SD CURLEE INFO PAGE.

    For you car people, the machines pictured:
    "Sarge" the 1974 Plymouth Roadrunner street machine
    "American Beauty" is a 1960 Pontiac Catalina sedan
    "Highway Song" 1983 Ford custom '70s style van

    SD Curlee USA
    c/o Wingfeather Enterprises
    PO Box 1745
    Wimberley, TX USA

    (512) 395-5126
    [email protected] (put SD Curlee in the subject)
    Find SD Curlee on Facebook, like & share.
  15. My favorites of the 'Alembic-inspired' basses come from what I call the 'Japanese Bass Explosion' of the late 70's / early 80's, or what some would call the 'Matsumoku era'.

    These axes would include the brilliant Aria SB's, the Ibanez Musicians, the orginal ESP Horizons, and the BB Yamahas (though they were designed in Cali along with the SG and SA guitars), and the Daion Mark basses. The Japanese were hugely impressed by Alembic, and it shows in these basses. The Kawai and the dead-ripoff Fernandes are non-starters for me after the ones I mentioned, but they do have their fans.

    These basses existed at a point in time where Japanese production was still cheap enough and the market in those days was receptive to something different than the usual suspects. Musical instruments are fashion-dependent and we're now in the time of the Fender-pattern instruments as the overlord, but the pendulum always spins back, so we shall see their like again.

    In my time, I've owned or played just about everything out there (including a pair of Alembic fives), and while they're NOT for everybody, I can utterly guarantee you there is nothing like an Alembic. Nothing else is on this same planet. They can be heavy, out-sized, and way too different for some, but nothing else is built like that or sounds like that, and there's not another builder where they support, encourage, and help you like the Wickershams. A complete original, though they will be quick to tell you they adopted a lot of things from other places, but the sum of those adoptions filtered through Susan and Ron's vision and insistence on doing it right or not at all leads to totally unique instruments. After all the discussions about such things as LPF's and HPF's, etc., you must remember Alembics had these onboard (or outboard in their remarkable SuperFilter) since the 70's, to the exclusion on most of their axes of traditional or boost/cut tone controls.

    I'll let you in on a not-so secret: For me the quickest way to back-door a 'not-Alembic'? Rudy Sarzo back in his Aria days had the SB guts traded out for Alembic pickups and electronics, and coupled with the SB shape and construction, you can get pretty close. But the best way is to watch out for a used Alembic, where you can save a LOT of money over a new build if that's best for you.
  16. theguy316


    May 4, 2018
    Santa Cruz
    Couldn't quite put my finger on it, but this is exactly what I was thinking. They are really special looking.

    Never owned or played an Alembic before, but based off everything I've read the amount of intangibles really add up.
    They seem to be in a league of their own.
  17. If you can find the pick up, do this. D69EF2E8-5F99-4CFB-9CBD-F6354439FF1E.jpeg

    Attached Files:

    woodyng2, S-Bigbottom and mikewalker like this.
  18. Erik herman

    Erik herman Gold Supporting Member

    I LOVE my Kawai bass, it's got the Alembic vibe the sound makes me think more of WAL. The tone controls are interesting, the 3 way notch filters for each pickup really give it a unique sound. IMG_20190720_141935.jpg
    Beej, Dec1975, gebass6 and 4 others like this.
  19. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    As the former owner of an original S.D.Curlee -- see pic below, circa 1982 -- I can assure you this was wishful thinking at best. "Poor Man's" indeed; the only thing they seemed to have in common with Alembics was the semi-symmetrical body shape, and the use of unpainted natural wood finishes.

    Another term I heard kicked around a lot in the late-70s/early-80s was in reference to the Veillette-Citron instruments; I often heard these referred to as "East Coast Alembics" I think in part because V-C may have used that phrase in their own marketing! But they at least were also neck-thru instruments with multiple contrasting capillary construction and a separate bridge & tailpiece, as were the Alembic Series instruments. V-Cs had passive electronics though, so no comparison sound-wise.

    I also formerly owned a V-C; see second pic below.

    Someday I will own an Alembic!


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  20. buldog5151bass

    buldog5151bass Kibble, milkbones, and P Basses. And redheads.

    Oct 22, 2003
    Glueing a few pieces of contrasting wood together and putting a clear finish on is not made Alembics special, any more than a $300 Ric counterfeit being expected to play and sound like the real McCoy.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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