anybody try the Switch "vibracell" fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BartmanPDX, Mar 15, 2005.

  1. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I'm thinking about getting a fretless to fool around on, and I've read some good things about the new bass from Switch, which is composed of a compound called "vibracell." It's also known as the "innova" series, and is neck-through-body. Sells for around $400-500. They seem to have many guitar models, but not as many for bass.

    Here's a link to a PDF of their catalog:
    Switch catalog-basses at end
    The bass in question is on page 28.

    Being a happy owner of a Steinberger XL-2, I'm not afraid of a "woodless" bass, since non-organic compounds often have the benefit of greater stability, consistency, and evenness than wood. Of course, this may all come at the expense of a halfway decent tone, which might be even more disadvantageous in a fretless. Has anyone tried one of these? What are your impressions? I did a search on "switch" which pulled up lots of irrelevant information, and there wasn't much of anything coming up in the search for "vibracell" or "innova."

    Just curious!
  2. Tsal


    Jan 28, 2000
    Finland, EU
    Haven't tried any of their instruments but the design looks poor. It's like they got the syntethic material to play with so they are all over the place making cool looking bumps and lines, never thinking about the ergonomics or other aspects of a 'good design'.

    Looks like a bass built by guitarists..

    edit: If you're looking for a good syntethic materials bass, try Ibanez EDA - it might look like a futuristic fishing spear but it has a whole lotta better thought out concept, interesting pickup system et al.
  3. wulf


    Apr 11, 2002
    Oxford, UK
    I think Tsal is being a bit harsh although, then again, having looked at the designs...

    I'd certainly want to give one a good try before committing any money. I'd be interested to give one a go if I saw it in a shop, although I'd rather get my mitts on a Basslab instrument!


  4. You probably won't find those terms anywhere but the site itself. :rolleyes: They were likely conjured up for marketing reasons because to really describe what "vibracell" is would be suicide to the cause.

    When I got a Cort Curbow in my shop for a refinish, I had the chance to get into it's composition. I soon found that "Luthite" isn't a solid at all but rather a closed cell, high density foam that passes for solid. Upon further research, I discovered that this material - in different densities - is very common in the machining industry as a prototyping material. It's used to make mock up parts and pieces that can be handled roughly enough to be bolted up to answer clearance and fit questions while still be soft enough to mill quickly for instant changes to the design. It comes in sheets, blocks, and even liquid components to mix and pour your own molded shapes before machining. This supported what I had observed with the Cort body in that there was evidence that the body had been molded into shape before the neck pocket was machined on a router.

    BTW, you can buy this stuff yourself in most any quantity. For an easy search of suppliers, do a Google search for the word "butterboard". That's one of the slang terms for material such as this.

    So, I figure that the "Vibracell" spoken of above is pretty much the same thing - a closed cell, probably polysomething or other, high density (over 18 lbs per cubic ft.) foam used in CNC machining. It's not as innovative as they make it out to be and if it were some amazing technical advancement, you would have heard about it from other sources. Since All these guys have done is take a disposable product, put a finish on it and make it a permanent material for sale to us. But since they knock off the idea from Cort, it's not a particularly stellar bragging right. ;)
  5. HeavyDuty

    HeavyDuty Supporting Curmudgeon Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2000
    Suburban Chicago, IL
    I've seen one of their fretted fours, and concur with Hammy about the likely material. The playability and tone didn't do anything for me, plus the finish was straight from Power Rangers.

    The only cool thing (IMO) was the molded-in thumb divots...
  6. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    Thanks for the comments. I think Hambone is probably right on the money when he says that if Switch were really onto something great, that we would have heard about it from other sources, and it would be all the rage.

    It also occurred to me last night that if you get a synthetic body bass, you're probably stuck with the pickups and hardware it comes with. Somehow I doubt the "vibracell" stuff would respond well to drilling and routing.

    I'm still expecting somebody to come out with a good composite material for making basses that are not only have a consistent feel throughout the neck and fretboard, but also sound terrific and are an affordable and stable. I love the consistency and feel of my XL-2, but it's pretty heavy for its size. I've never had a bass with a straighter neck and that requires so little maintenance, but a Jazz bass one-piece, carbon-fiber neck-thru version would be unimaginably heavy, expensive, and difficult to make. :(
  7. The Thinker

    The Thinker Supporting Member

    Sep 17, 2003
    Chicago, IL
    I actually have played the fretless Switch. It sounded very good and played well. I hated the way it looked, though.

    Other than the looks, my main concern would be durability. I don't know how strong the body material is.
  8. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Actually, one of the main traits of butterboard is that it does respond well to drilling and routing. That's what it's made for.

    I would, however, question its use as a neck material. From what I read, it is meant to be structurally stable and machinable, but not necessarily structurally strong and stiff. But I haven't actually used it.
  9. Did someone ask about a neck from this stuff? :confused: Where did I miss that? Go with your instincts Pilot :)

    From taking apart and putting the Cort back together some 3 times in total I would guess that you only have about 4 or 5 assembly cycles before it will begin to get sloppy. This stuff has 0 memory unlike the natural fibers of wood which will give you a little leeway. In these days with CNC being spoken as fluently as chisel, this stuff has it's place and I would use it for contour plate duplication and all sorts of other utility chores but leave the actual body to traditional materials.
  10. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Yeah, the catalog says they mold the body and neck from the stuff. Scary.
  11. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
  12. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    The more I hear about it, the less it sounds like a Steinberger, and the more it sounds like a styrofoam-type plastic P.O.S.

    I'm betting it doesn't sound even remotely like an upright. :p
  13. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    Maybe you could hollow it out, and it would keep your coffee warm.
  14. Starwind


    Mar 26, 2005
    Glad that someone that really tried it replied...

    According to a bass magazine (forgot which one) this month it sounds a good choice for low budget fretless. It's unfair to say it's a P.O.S. before really tried it.
  15. A9X


    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    Bartman, iirc TBer Offbase has a fretted version and has spoken positively about it. Might be worth PMing him.
  16. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    I'm currently looking more to replace my cab. I have a DJ5 on the way, and while the wife might let me upgrade my Hartke 410 to an Avatar 212 to handle the low B, I doubt she'll go for me getting another bass when the main one I was gassing for hasn't even arrived yet. :D

    In any case, I'd have to play a fretless model myself to see if it suited me. I couldn't spend a few hundred bucks on a complete unknown, especially when I'm really skeptical about the neck feel and durability issues.
  17. renown


    Jan 5, 2005
    A buddy of mine is a sales rep for them. They ain't selling. Just too bizzare a concept. And the colours,.....yikes !!!!
    Bad acid.
  18. BassyBill

    BassyBill The smooth moderator... Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 12, 2005
    West Midlands UK
    :eek: :eek: :eek: :eek: Just had a look - that doubleneck thing is DEFINITELY the most insane bass I have ever seen anywhere. I would love to try that one out. Don't think I'd want to pay for it or be seen in public with it though...

    Sorry for going off topic, I'm just momentarily stunned.
  19. I want a fretless too and I've been doing my research on models under $500. It is clear to me that the best three options are a Mexican Fender, a Yamaha BTB, or the Ibanez SR300DX fretless. Did you consider those?
  20. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    From the looks of it (the .pdf file), it seems that it's really a cellfoam gadget. Poyurethane, surely, because nobody with his marbles intact would consider any other cell-polymer for use in a neck!

    PUR is really great. You can mold it into more or less any shape, density and hardness. But I would never even think "neck out of PUR" without reinforcement, preferably a fibre web around the perimeter.

    But still...from what I know of polymeric materials, I'd stay well away.
    And keep my mitts on my BassLab! :D