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another installment in the tone debate?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by Matthijs, Feb 15, 2014.

  1. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    I have been building a bass, with as a starting point a cheap second hand stagg jazz bass. Step by step I've replaced parts untill the point where only the bridge, the control plate and the string tree are original.

    With each step I made a recording under comparable circumstances. I've edited several of those recordings after one antoher, just to see wich step has the biggest impact on tone. The recordings were done with both pickups on, through a Fedeck hpf as buffering amp into my Zoom h2. Not the prettiest way to record, but it allowed me to control the circumstances. Afterwards I normalised all recordings in audacity. .

    This experiment in no way offers empirical proof for any tone debate. It is anacdotal evidence at best, but anecdotal evidence is also evidence, you just have to know how to treat it. I think it does offer some interesting insights.

    Here's the file, for anyone who wants to listen through 6 cycles of a sloppy dumbed down version of the chicken: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15413056/stagg%20ontw%20mp3.mp3

    I'll share my conclusions in my next post.
  2. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    What changes were made after each cycle? It seemed that note definition got a bit tighter towards the end of the video, and the tone may have gotten slightly brighter.
  3. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    So what I did is:
    1 repace the fretted maple/maple neck with a USACG fretless one piece maple and rosewood neck.
    2 replace the bridge pickup with a fender 62ri.
    3 change the electronics from standard vol/vol/tone to a 500k pots, series switch, .3 caps etc.
    4 changed the strings from pressure wounds to boomers
    5 changed the neck pu to a seymour duncan scpb-2
    6 added a 2 chanel buffering pre to separate the pu's
    7 replaced the alder body with a self built swamp ash body.

    Possible biasses:
    -I took great care to have a similar setup and pickup heigths during the whole experiment. The strings were new and did not see a lot of action. Nevertheless: I setup has a very big influance that is almost impossible to control. Especially the scpb pickup is very sensitive to heigth.
    -Myself: I can hear my fingers striving for a certain sound. actually in all parts I mainly hear myself playing either the pressurewounds or the boomers. To me this experiment makes a strong case for using a playing robot if anyone wants to repeat this.
    -The body I built also has a neckpocket that is also a bit deeper with different placed screws, without a neck plate.

    Some possible conclusions imho:
    -Every single adjustment did not make a major change. The changes in flexibility and playability felt much bigger than the actual tone with both pu's on. The recordings do no justice to the the actual amplified sound, that I like very much.
    -The change the body made surprised me. I did not expect that much change. I'm sorry I can't attribute it to the woodtype though. The changes in neckpocket and possible faults in the cheapo original body can not be discounted.
    -On the other hand the changes in the electronics mainly contributed to the flexibility of the bass. To me strings have bigger impact.
  4. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    Would you have guessed this was a change from a cheap fretted jazz to a fretless with completely different wood, strings and electronics?
  5. Hopkins

    Hopkins Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 17, 2010
    Houston Tx
    Owner/Builder @Hopkins Guitars
    No I would have never once guessed that. But the rest of your changes make sense.
  6. Epidrake


    May 24, 2011
    In my experience, most everything makes a difference. Kudos for trying to see what makes the differences.
  7. Beej


    Feb 10, 2007
    Victoria, BC
    Pro-tone debate, anti-tone debate, no matter. My comments are on experimental design: it does not have a hypothesis to be tested. There are no controls implemented. There are multiple variables being affected in multiple ways. There are no controls on the design, the method or the interpretation.

    With respect, this is not any form of evidence that would be accepted in a research setting, anecdotal or otherwise...
  8. Matthijs


    Jul 3, 2006
    I'm noy claiming to have proven anything. I thought I made that clear.

    I think there's value in trying to record experiences, even if the real life circumstances prevent you from gathering perfectly controlable data. Science is not just about proving wich answer is right, it is also about finding answers that are worth proving. For that you also need curiousity and logic.

    For me the experiment gave a good indication just about any seperate change to a bass has a very limited effect. And it firmly supports the notion that you need to cut out the player if you want to proof anything.