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Best bang for the buck upgrade?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by jive1, Nov 12, 2003.

Most bang for the buck

Poll closed Dec 12, 2003.
  1. Strings

    15 vote(s)
  2. Pickups

    25 vote(s)
  3. Bridge

    1 vote(s)
  4. Nut

    1 vote(s)
  5. Electronics (Preamp/Pots/Wiring)

    10 vote(s)
  6. Tuners

    0 vote(s)
  7. Neck

    1 vote(s)
  8. Body

    1 vote(s)
  9. Other

    2 vote(s)
  1. jive1

    jive1 Commercial User

    Jan 16, 2003
    Owner/Retailer: Jive Sound
    Since I've been in some "I'd like to tweak my bass, what do you think" threads, I'd like to know what you TBers think is the best bang for the buck upgrade you can do for a bass in terms of sound and/or playability.

    Upgrading the entire bass is not an option.
  2. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    It depends on what bass you already have.
  3. 43apples

    43apples Guest

    Nov 9, 2003
    Yeah, depends on the quality of the bass.

    But, very many basses have poor nuts. Changing a poor plastic nut to a brass one can give you alot better response and clarity from teh instrument.

    I'm not sure if strings count though :rolleyes:

  4. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    I seem to kill strings in a matter of days so when I change them my sound goes from bad to good. Even my Stingray sounds dull after a couple of weeks because my strings die so fast :meh:
  5. What strings are you using? Do you have acidic skin?

  6. If we're going bang for buck here I'd probably say strings. A good set of strings really can make a bass come alive. It's just finding the right strings can be a pain.

    BUT I'm also in agreeance with Erland_G and saying that the nut (properly cut) is another great bang for the buck. However, I don't see it so much an upgrade as a fix for existing problems. To have it be an upgrade must mean that the bass sounded somewhat ok (or usable) to begin with. Most of the time a new nut is needed when there's something wrong with the old one. But I've never had a brass nut in any of my basses, so I can't be sure whether I'd like one.

    Pickups make the most noticeable difference. But imho most of the time people want to change pickups when they have a perfectly good set already on the bass, thinking that they sound significantly better when in my eyes it didn't do a damn thing. I'm not saying that SMASH is guilty of this. Far from it. I mostly notice this in newer players who have money to burn. The first thing that comes to mind for them is new pickups (or a new bass even), when new (and better) strings or even more practice could improve their sound significantly. I myself have been guilty of thinking this. Also pickups are generally more expensive than strings or a new nut, so I dunno if it's a real bang for the buck. If I had to go through several sets of pickups to find the right sound, as opposed to several sets of strings, then I'd rather just go for the strings.
  7. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York
    How would changing the nut affect anything other than an open note?

    Btw I voted pickups.
  8. tyson


    Feb 9, 2000
    Dallas, TX
    as a bassist, it's your obligation to try different strings, thus i wouldn't really consider that an upgrade. for the buck, pots, wires, capacitors, shielding and nut will go a long way. for the bang...pick-ups baby, but only if your current ones are cheap and crappy. my first bass, a Yamaha RBX 260 really benefitted from a new pick-up.
  9. j-raj

    j-raj Bassist: Educator/Soloist/Performer Supporting Member

    Jan 14, 2003
    Indianapolis, IN
    Strings and Pick Ups...
  10. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Hey Treena! Ive used all kinds of strings like DAddario, Blue Steel, EB, Rotos... I used mostly nickel but have recently started using stainless DRs for longer life. They have also diesw faster then I would like. I dont know if I have acidic skin but my hands do get clammy when I play. Ive been thinking about trying TI flats on my p bass next.
  11. Justin V

    Justin V

    Dec 27, 2000
    Alameda, CA
    Hey metron. You may want to check out some Elixers. They came stock on my Ibanez BTB and they still weren't dead when I switched them after almost nine months (I just wanted to try a new set, still have them). The coating on them should be able to handle your acidic skin to some degree. Just don't freak out when the coating starts to come off and it looks like the string is peeling off skin like my former band mates did... :D
  12. metron

    metron Supporting Member

    Sep 12, 2003
    Thanx Justin. Ive thought about the Elixirs but never played them. They are kind of expensive though...:meh:
  13. Mud Flaps

    Mud Flaps

    Feb 3, 2003
    Norton, MA
    My bass teacher and I use DR's. They're OK. I'm always boiling up an old batch for me to restring. I get them really dirty really fast.
  14. To get back to the original question...

    One that no one will think of is to replace the usual wood screws attaching the neck with threaded inserts and machine bolts. This alteration goes directly to the heart of a bolt on bass itself - the coupling between the body and the neck. By increasing the pressure in this joint with the higher torque insert/bolt setup, you can increase sustain and really see what the tone of the instrument is capable of.

    It really works and might cost $5.00 for parts.
  15. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson SUSPENDED Supporting Member

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    DR Strings
    Head over to Atomic Music in College Park, MD. Upgrading the entire bass can be a very cost effective option;)
  16. permagrin


    May 1, 2003
    San Pedro, CA
    To go back to Mike's question...

    Soundwise changing the nut will only matter for the open string. But having the slot depths cut as low as possible (just so no buzzing occurs when plucking the open string) allows the overall action to be lower - it's slight, but the difference can be noticed in how high your fretting fingers have to go to "step" onto an open string (hope y'all know what I'm getting at). (I have a fretless with the slots nearly down to the board, near flat relief, and low action, and it's unbelievably easy for your fretting fingers to walk around). It also provides for better intonation at the first few frets - if the slots are too high, you need to bend the string a bit more for these notes, causing the pitch to go sharp.

    Also, having properly cut/shaped nut slots will allow a better witness point making intonation better/easier, and will allow the string to slide smoothly, making tuning smoother. And not allow the string to move side-to side, allow the string to bend over the nut gradually, perhaps some more stuff... what I'm getting at is that the nut has a lot of function.

    So the benefits are subtle, but sometimes those little things can go a long way to enhancing an instrument's playability and sound quality.
  17. Straplocks.

    And yes, it affects tone.;)
  18. Then the material of your frets would matter too! :)

    Some basses (ie Warwicks) have brass frets and brass nuts, so you would imagine the sound would be quite similar, and some basses, such as MTD's, have a Zero fret, so open notes sound as though they were fretted.

    That being said, I've replaced my bridge, tuners, pickguard, strings (of course), and in about 2 weeks, I'll be putting a brass nut in on my MIM P-Bass. I am definately going to keep the stock pickup because it just COOKS! I think the most beneficial though would be my bridge change (to a Bad Ass II).
  19. bovinehost

    bovinehost Supporting Member

    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    Gotta go with the straplocks, although a fancy, wide strap can also be pretty exciting.
  20. I recently had the fretboard of my new MTD Kingston fretless trued and smoothed. What a difference! My luthier sanded the ebanol board down to about 1000 grit and finished it off by buffing it on a wheel. The fretboard now has a mirror finish (I can read a newspaper in the reflection) and is a joy to play. When I got the bass, I experienced some unwanted string buzz at each of the inlaid fret markers. Now there is no unwanted buzzing, slides are smooth and beautiful sounding, and it's cool to look at. When I received the bass, the fretboard finish was about what one would expect on a $500 fretless. The fretboard work cost $90 and I'm glad I had it done.

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