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Best head to compliment Jazz bass.

Discussion in 'Amps and Cabs [BG]' started by mebusdriver, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. I've played my jazz bass threw many heads. Mostly Mesa, SWR, and Ampeg (obviously what I can get my hands on threw Guitar Center). And I have yet to find a head that compliments an overall jazz tone. My favorite tone, and probably impossible to achieve, is Jaco's tone. I know he got a lot of his sound from dynamics and his genious touch. But there's got to be a head that in some way emulates that kind of wah sounding, middy like, big warm, straight up j-bass sound.

    Ampeg is too low, SWR is too punchy and grinding, and Mesa just sounds like a metal head. So does anyone have any suggestions? Keep the Jaco sound in mind. Please Please Please :help: . I know this request is pretty difficult but there's some really knowlegeable people on this forum that should have some kind of answer. Thanks so much.
  2. Arranger


    Mar 9, 2003
    Thunderfunk does my US Jazz 4 Deluxe well. I'm actually running the head flat, a first for me. The Jazz EQ is also close to flat.

    It seems like the Thunderfunk is capable of coloring the sound in a wide variety of ways, as well, if that's what someone is in to.
  3. Mike Money

    Mike Money Banned

    Mar 18, 2003
    Bakersfield California
    Avatar Speakers Endorsing Hooligan
    Wasnt Jack-O using Acoustic 360's and 15'' speakers?
  4. Luckydog

    Luckydog Supporting Member

    Dec 25, 1999
    Good luck finding that specific tone. You know, the head is only one part of the equation. Here's an article on the gear he used.

    Jaco’s Gear Through the Years
    By E.E. Bradman & Scott Shiraki

    Although Jaco was known to say his tone was “in his hands,” the gear he chose was an important component of the “Jaco sound” and image. At a time when most bassists sounded like variations of James Jamerson or Larry Graham, Jaco’s sweet and punchy pre-’65 Fender Jazz Basses, bright Rotosound Swing Bass RS66 roundwound strings, and warm Acoustic 360 amp helped him fuse the upright’s vocal-like, expressive qualities and the electric’s quick and defined attack. Jaco settled on this combination by 1972 and largely stuck with it until his death in 1987.

    Jaco claimed to have owned over a hundred basses in his lifetime. Most were early-’60s Jazz Basses with the pickguard and pickup covers removed and the stack-knobs replaced with the three-knob configuration. Here’s a list of his significant axes, with insights and comments from two people who knew Jaco’s gear best: Bob Bobbing, who met Jaco in early ’68, and Florida repairman Kevin Kaufman, who worked on Jaco’s basses beginning in ’78.

    1967 Fender Jazz
    Fifteen-year-old Jaco got his first electric bass, a new sunburst Fender Jazz with binding and pearl blocks, in 1967. He strung it with La Bella flatwounds and played it through a Sunn amp in Las Olas Brass, and with the organ trio Woodchuck. It was his main electric until 1971.

    Upright Bass
    Jaco’s father, Jack Pastorius, gave Jaco his first upright around the same time he received his first electric. Jaco later acquired a second upright, which he played throughout high school and until around 1974. He loved the sound but found the instrument’s upkeep frustrating. Eventually, he traded it for Bobbing’s ’60 Jazz Bass. Bobbing eventually gave the upright to a friend, who maintains it as a keepsake.

    1960 Fender Jazz, SN 026100

    Jaco's '67 Jazz was louder, but he preferred the smoother, sweeter sound of Bobbing's black '60 stack-knob with clay dots on a rosewood neck. Jaco eventually sold this instrument-refretted-to bassist/guitarist John Paulus for $425 around 1971.

    1974 acoustic bass guitar

    Jaco and luthier Larry Breslin co-designed a fretless, 5-string acoustic bass guitar with a high C string; upon completion, Jaco paid Breslin $500. It featured a 34"-scale neck with a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with maple veneer fretmarkers, Brazilian rosewood back and sides and a spruce top. Jaco strung it with Rotosound roundwounds. In later years, the headstock broke off and Jaco brought the bass to Kaufman. He still has it.

    1962 Fender Jazz, a.k.a. the "Bass of Doom," SN 64437

    Like the fate of a mythic hero's mighty weapon, the original condition and final resting place of the world's most famous fretless are shrouded in mystery. Its legendary tone was well documented through every era of Jaco's career, and he himself told several versions of the tale.

    According to Bill Milkowski's August '84 Guitar Player cover story, the '62 Jazz was already fretless when Jaco bought it in Florida for $90. Upon meeting Kaufman in 1978, Jaco told him he removed the frets himself with a butter knife and filled in the slots and missing fingerboard chunks with Plastic Wood, followed by several brushed-on coats of Petite's Poly-Poxy. Kaufman's first job for Jaco was to replace the peeling epoxy, which he did by using his own method of pouring on the epoxy in one treatment and shaping it with a rasp. According to Kaufman, Jaco left it in New York's Central Park shortly before his death. It hasn't been seen since.

    1960 Fender Jazz, SN 57308

    Jaco's main fretted Jazz Bass, a two-tone sunburst, of average weight and "very resonant" according to Kaufman. This was Jaco's main bass on tour with Joni Mitchell; it can be seen and heard on her Shadows and Light album and DVD. Its whereabouts are unknown.

    Early '60s Fender Jazz, SN 82429

    During his 1982 Word of Mouth tour of Japan, Jaco threw this bass into Hiroshima Bay; Ibanez Guitars then refinished it natural. Shigeru Uchiyama's photographs of Jaco and this bass appear in promotional material for the live Twins and Invitation albums, on the back cover of Invitation , and on BP 's Jan/Feb '91 cover. According to Kaufman, Jaco didn't like this bass as much as the others. Its whereabouts are unknown.

    1963 Fender Jazz, SN L14769

    The opening shot of Jaco's DCI instructional video, Modern Electric Bass , shows Jaco slotting the nut on this bass. The original neck was being repaired at the time, so Jaco installed a '70s Fender Precision neck on the Jazz body. This bass wound up at Albert Molinaro's Guitars R Us shop in Los Angeles and was sold to a collector with the original and the P-Bass necks.

    1960 Fender Jazz

    Longtime Buddy Guy bassist Greg Rzab bought one of Jaco's final Jazz Basses from the Pastorius family in 1994. Rzab played the bass, apparently used by Jaco during a six-month stretch of intense practicing in 1986, on Guy's 1994 album Slippin' In . "I used it on 'Lover with a Feeling,' and it was really alive in the studio-the notes and harmonics jumped out of that bass." Greg eventually sold it to a good friend-a famous bassist who chooses to remain anonymous. "It's in good hands and being kept safe."

    Acoustic 360

    The Acoustic 360 amp, which debuted in 1968, featured a 200-watt power amp. The separate preamp had a built-in fuzz effect, and the large cabinet housed an 18" backward-firing speaker and a folded horn. According to Bobbing there was nothing like it in 1971, when he and Jaco, just out of their teens, saw South Florida bassist Carlos Garcia using one on a gig with Nemo Spliff. "The Acoustic had something special," recalls Bobbing. "We talked about it, we loved it. We went down to Modern Music in Fort Lauderdale and put money down and got two of them immediately."

    In retrospect, the Acoustic was as important to the development of Jaco's tone and technique as his Jazz Basses were. "The Acoustic held up better than a Sunn or an Ampeg fliptop B-15 could. Jaco could play an open E while he did intervals up the neck, harmonics, and his muted fingerfunk style, which required punch and clarity. The timing of that amp was important, because no one would have been able to get that particular sound without it. Rumors continue to circulate regarding several of Jaco's Acoustic 360s.

    This article originally appeared in the January 2002 issue of Bass Player . All rights reserved by CMP Information Inc.
  5. Jaco was well known for his use of Acoustic 360 amps. He also used 2 of them if i remember right, powering a pair of 4x15" (!) cabinets.

    I've heard alot of opinions that Thunderfunks are close to the sound of the amp that Jaco used. This is what the factory website says:

    "The Thunderfunk TFB420 Bass Amp is the direct descendent of the amp that Jaco Pastorius loved, the legendary AMP BH-420, redesigned, improved, and handmade in the U.S.A. by Dave Funk. With an all-aluminum chassis, the TFB420 weighs less than 15 pounds. That's nearly half the weight of an AMPEG SVT-3Pro! And the amp can operate with or without the fan, so it's quiet for Studio or TV use."

    An aluminun frame is better for cooling purposes too, since the heat is drawn away faster. All around theyre some real nice amps. Id recommend it for what youre looking for.
  6. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    This letter might be of interest to you:

    "April 7, 1988

    Mr. Sam Dijan
    c/o Ross & Jacobs Inc.
    137 Woodbury Road
    Woodbury, NY 11797

    Dear Sam;

    You'll be happy to know that your amp has been thoroughly checked out (nothing wrong really, just a small wire that worked loose from its connector), tested and brought to the latest factory specs. We shipped it to you by UPS today, no charge of course.

    I think you'll be even happier to know that, in noting the repair in our Serial Number Log, I discovered that this amp (Model BH-420, Serial #1166) was originally owned by none other than the late, great Jaco Pastorius. We shipped it to him in May of 1985.

    There is some interesting history here Sam. As you probably know, Jaco used an Acoustic 360 bass amp for most of his career. in all these years, even tho he was offered numerous products no charge from many manufacturers, he always used the 360 in concert. In 1985 he finally found something he liked better while visiting Hartke Systems in New Jersey, the Model BH-420 AMP bass head. It was only after he received the amp that he learned that the same person designed both the Acoustic 360 and the AMP BH-420. That person is my partner here in this business, Russ Allee ... one of the best.

    Enjoy Sam and do it in good health.


    Roger F. Smith
    Vice President"

    This amp was offered last year on eBay for $20,000. It went unsold (as far as we know).

    Dave "Thunder" Funk
  7. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Since the 360 was a preamp intended to be used with the 361 cabinet (a powered (200 Watt) 1x18 Vega folded horn (same dimensions as the later unpowered 301)) I don't think that he would have gotten very far trying to push Gauss loaded Acoustic 408 cabinets.

    I've seen pictures of him with both a 360 rig and a 320 head (the one that came after the 370) and a 408 (4x15) cabinet or two.

    Apparently Jaco also had the first Hartke 8x10 cabinet...not that would certainly sound different than a 1x18 Acoustic folded horn.

    Mebusdriver...since you have a GC nearby, take your bass in and plug into a Bass POD XT or Bass POD Pro...there's an Acoustic 360 model hiding in there.

    Let us know how that sounds.

    Also, what cabinets were you using at GC?...my guess is that bigger speakers (15s at least) with no tweeter are going to get you close to what you want. Something very old-school...

    TalkBasser Eli, 7 string fretless maniac, uses a Carvin R600 head and an old Sonic 115 cabinet with a Carvin (Eminence) cast frame 15. He also uses an outboard EQ (Behringer four band semi Parametric IIRC) to really dial in his mwah frequencies. Prior to the Behringer, he used (and still has) a SansAmp Acoustic DI. He chose the Acoustic model over the Bass model because it has a sweepable midrange section.

    An amp that really lets you massage the mids is going to be your best friend...

    Have fun and please keep us updated...
  8. Dave, i remember seeing that amp on ebay and reading the letter that went with it... there was a thread awhile back about it. I can imagine Sam was one hell of a happy customer after he found out.

    I had wanted to post that letter too cause i figured it would help show the connection between the TFB420 and Jaco's amp, but i couldnt find it. Good thing someone around here knows their stuff.

    Good luck with your hunt, mebusdriver.
  9. IvanMike

    IvanMike Player Characters fear me... Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2002
    Middletown CT, USA
    i hate to be the one who says it, but the tone is more in your hands than the amp
    that said, try boosting 500 Hz a bit on an amp while you have the bridge pickup soloed (or bridge full on, neck about halfway). That always worked like a charm on my amps with semi-parametric eq's (swr & eden)
    also, if emulating a jaco tone, dont ever use a preshape that cuts the mids (that goes for the swr aural enhancer and the eden enhance knob as well)

    oh btw, the AMP head was a direct ancestor to the SWR line, the AMPs i have played sounded very similar to swr heads.
  10. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    I've always agreed with this. Tony Joe White played at my shop and it sounded like it was raining in Georgia. An amp, or any equipment can't give you tone, but it can take it away.

    It was also the direct ancestor to the Eden heads, and the new Fender Bassman heads, even though Fender says theirs was independently developed. But if you search other threads you'll find comments about all these heads sounding different. You'll even find one saying my amp is an exact copy of an SWR design, even though mine doesn't sound as good. :p I guess the tone is in that guy's eyes. Maybe we should all just buy glasses? :D

    Dave "Thunder" Funk
  11. BillyB_from_LZ

    BillyB_from_LZ Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2000
    Wow Dave, I had never heard or read anything but praise for the Thunderfunk amp...

    Mebusdriver...I forgot to mention that there is someone out there that builds/sells a stomp box version of the Acoustic 360 preamp. You might want to look into that too...

    But like so many have said...it's the magician, not the wand!
  12. Thunderfunk


    Mar 27, 2004
    McHenry, IL
    Completely based upon an original (?) Steve Rabbe design? Copied but never duplicated? I think the intent was to "explain" why the TFunk sounds louder than its 400-watts. It's the "compression" effect? Not true at all. There is no compression effect in the amp. If the amp sounds louder it's because it doesn't clip until it runs out of power, which is rare. :D

    I have a jig used to test the TFB420's preamp boards, and it's a cut down BH-420 that I got from Gibson. I also have a prototype power amp board which says AMP on it. I'm not sure if the BH-420 was changed before it was sold to Gibson. The front panel had been cut out and replaced by a new piece drilled for the new control layout.

    In any case, the TFB420 has been redesigned and sounds "better" than the BH-420. This comment is from guys who own both. Of course your results may vary. :bassist:

    Dave "Thunder" Funk
  13. Lync

    Lync Supporting Member

    Apr 13, 2004
    No wonder why I feel so at home right away with my Thunderfunk. I used a Bassman 400 for a couple of years and loved the tone (it just blew speakers and rattled all over the place).

  14. Mel Monihan

    Mel Monihan

    Mar 30, 2004
    Dave is the best IMHO. He has my old AMP BH-420 ,and was gracious enough to work me a deal for one of his TFB-420's. His amp is all that everyone here has said it is.I would never part with it.Rock on buddy!