Bolt-On Advantages

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by PanteraFan, May 24, 2001.

  1. I remember reading a post sometime ago about some guy wanting to know why a thru-neck was better than a bolt-on neck, and a reply(can't remember who) listed a couple of advantages of bolt on versus thru neck.

    So, tell me, what are the good and bad points of bolt-on necks compared to thru necks. Besides them being cheaper, obviously.
  2. Well, the most obvious advantage of a bolt-on over a neck-through would be that if the neck is seriously damaged, you can replace it if it's a bolt-on.
    Some people say bolt-on neck basses have a punchier sound than neck-throughs.
  3. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Resonance and sustain are the virtues of the neck through, IMO.

    But here's what Mike Tobias had to say in an old Bass Player;

    "Neck-through bassses respond differently than bolt-ons. Neck-throughs have more sustain and a higher fundamental content in their notes, especially in the low end. This can be adjusted by using different body woods...Bolt-ons seem to lack this fundamental response in the low end, especially with the low B on a 5-string. (I believe the mechanical neck joint contributes to this). This characteristic of bolt-ons is often perceived as a "tighter" sound, thanks to a trick of the human ear....".
  4. G


    Apr 12, 2000
    I, personally, prefer bolt-ons to a capillary neck design. The only problem is the cancellation of certian frequencies, meaning that the body and the neck vibrate differently and this difference means that some frequencies are either not there or overlap. However, the trick of the human ear mentioned in the thread is a factor because your brain recognizes what is missing and fills in those frequencies for you. However, there are all sorts of other issues to consider, like attack and sustain etc. which are all effected by the capillary neck versus mechanical neck joint.
  5. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    I prefer neck-thru, because, to me, I just hear much more fundamental than in a bolt-on. They can be plenty snappy if needed, but they just get much more clear and defined fundamental. The tone and feel for me is just much better.

    However, all my basses are bolt on. :(
  6. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    This is pure opinion based on limited knowledge of radio wave generation and propogation, and I will throw it out though it will probably invite much flame, though I would love to hear other theories.

    A study of how waves travel through solid mass will reveal some of the reasons for perceived or real differences in the sounds. Here is my hypothesis -

    Low frequency waves travel better through a solid mass than a fluid through which it travels better than through a gas (why you hear the bass from the neighbors downstairs coming through the floor and not the highs). This may be why some prefer denser materials to make a bass. These waves also require more energy to be generated. The mass of two waves with equal amplitude will vary in that the lower frequency wave will have greater mass. Now think of a thick bronze church bell and a thin aluminum sheet-metal church bell of the same size and consider the different resonance they can generate. The loss of the wave shape and amplitude is more pronounced in an instrument made of lower-density material.

    However, the gap between the neck and the body on a bolt-on can effect the wave form as well. The vibrations within different woods will take on a different shape between the body and the neck. The vibration in the body and the vibration in the neck may clash or even harmonize to some extent because the vibration will not stop dead at that joint. Generally, with less mass through which to travel, the resonance can diminish more rapidly, though in higher density material it will resonate more with greater amplitude at the generation of the wave. (in lighter material that vibration is lost very quickly). This could be why there is perceived to be more "PUNCH" in a bolt-on and more sustain in a neck-though.
  7. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Yep, Zulu, you did your homework well.

    The "punch" is actually the rapid deleting of the primary resonanses of neck and body (high volume), leaving the resonanses common for neck-body-&-joint to sustain at a lower volume..
  8. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    the advantage of neckthru over bolt on are, you have no heels so you can play up high easily, a bit more sustain if you need, a more stable neck and you can set a really low almost flat action thus easier on your finger. I found that neckthru sound deeper than bolt on and less punchy.
  9. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    With the exception of one neck-through Modulus I owned, every neck-through bass I've had sounded way too compressed for me. They'd all get lost in the mix. I always end up going back to bolts. I've found higher-end bolts like Laklands, Sadowskys, Lulls, etc. to be a good compromise between bolt-on response and neck-through fidelity.
  10. While it's true that Mike Tobias espouses the virtues of neck-thru design, Roger Sadowsky gives equally strong arguments for bolt-on designs. IMHO, a great majority of the greatest bass playing and monster tone has been from bolt-on designs.
  11. Dave Castelo

    Dave Castelo

    Apr 19, 2000
    i was the guy asking that :)

    Warwick Thumb Bolt on Vs Thumb Neck thru

    my friend decide for the bolt on (not that he wanted, but the price is fine)
  12. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
    Since Mike Tobias's current MTD basses are all bolt-ons, I think it's safe to say that he recognizes the advantages of both. ;-) In fact, what he was saying is that bolt-ons sound tighter in the low range.

  13. re. the mechanics of a bolt-on joint

    I've got a slightly different theory about it- I think that the body of a bolt-on bass if freer to resonate than that of a thru-neck bass, which usually has a rigid maple section running through it, or a set(glued)-neck bass, where the area of the rigid joint between neck and body is greater.

    the resonance of the body takes some of the fundamental content of the note and and converts it to overtones - hence more "snap", but less sustain of the fundamental.
    I think it's similar to the difference between a light and heavy body, and the more extreme case of a hollowbody vs. solidbody.
  14. Suburban


    Jan 15, 2001
    lower mid Sweden
    Yes, Mock, you are quite right.
    However, you must remember to see the main difference from the proper direction, because the main difference in resonance properties are in hte actual joint.
    Put the bass on a table and look at the bass from the side. It is the stiffness in the "up/down from the table"-direction that shows the major difference. That is what causes the different damping times, that decides the "punch"/sustain.

    Of course, the wing-beats of the body has different modes depending on the neck-body joint, but that is when the note is clinging/sustaining. And a looooong story.....;)
  15. A lot of emphasis has been put on the elimination of gaps from the neck joint, and most basses these days have very good joints, but I believe this to be a misconception. I have seen early Fender Jazz basses with bad gaps, and they sounded wonderful. I have seen a Fernandez Gravity 5 with a terrible gap on one side, and it had one of the tightest B strings I've ever come across. I would have bought it, but it looked bad.
  16. MikeyD


    Sep 9, 2000
    Sustain has a lot to do with energy loss to the surroundings. If you had a bass in which none of the string energy was transmitted to the neck, nut, or bridge, nor to the air, nor converted to heat within the string itself - you'd have infinite sustain. When a bass's body vibrates in response to string motion, it means energy has been tranferred from the string. It could also be coupled back to the string from the body. It's a very complex vibrational phenomenon. I suspect that neck-through designs tend to have more sustain because the stiffness of the string's "suspension" is greater in general. With a bolt-on, there tends to be less stiffness, and the joint creates a more complex interface to the body that promotes higher-order body resonances (or vibration modes). These body resonances, IMO, add character to the sound - which is why wood bodies have a lot of sonic appeal. An extreme example would be an upright acoustic bass. Most of the sound quality of it has to do with the body shape and materials used. The way resonant mode shapes in the body are generated has a big influence on the quality of sound. But those vibrating panels radiate into the air, and the energy is quickly dissipated.

    To me, "punchiness" is the other side of the sustain coin. It means a strong attack followed by a noticeable decay, whereas sustain is characterized by low damping.
    - Mike
  17. DarkMazda


    Jun 3, 2000
    I am a definate Neck-Thru bass lover. Bolt ons aren't bad or anything, its just that I love the sound of Neck Thrus much more than Boltons and its much comfier to play. The Warwick Streamer Stage 1 I have is a Neck thru. My Salas Custom 4 is neck thru as well

    DM :D
  18. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Mike gettin' all scientific and technical on us....;) On the neck-through, I'd add the fact that neck-throughs are often body-throughs as well. That seems to make a tremendous difference in sustain, (besides body woods, e.g., alder vs. "punchy" swamp ash). I can pluck a string on my neck-through, body-through, Carvin and it will sustain till next week, whereas my bolt-on Precis stops on a dime, relatively speaking.

    Then there's the factors of scale length and string flexibility. But that's an even longer subject revolving around the Pythagorean "perfect string" concept, a string that has length and mass but no thickness or stiffness.
  19. mchildree

    mchildree Supporting Member

    Sep 4, 2000
    I agree that neck-throughs sustain longer than bolts, but often is all that extra sustain needed? There are many times I have to dampen the sustain on my Laklands, and they're bolts.
  20. dwynsen

    dwynsen Guest

    Aug 31, 2000
    Ohio, USA
    I have several opinions based on 30 years of careful listening. But they're still just opinions.

    1. I much prefer thru-necks from an aesthetics standpoint. Most (not all) classically-trained luthiers would sooner die than create a bolt-on. But these aesthetics have nothing to do with which sounds better to you or me.

    2. The Fender J's and P's are inarguably the most popular basses in the history of the planet even though Fender takes every shortcut in the book. Cripes, Jaco played one. They can sound great, but I still don't like 'em. Call me crazy.

    3. For all of those who claim they can hear a difference between bolts and thru's, it would be interesting to do a double-blind experiment with a live band. With EQ and volume set identically, how many could actually tell the difference in the mix? I'm skeptical.

    4. Having said all that, I still lust for "the sound." Every bass I pick up sounds different to me, although I'll admit the difference is harder to pick out in the mix. But then I'm a bass player and I listen for those differences. I wonder if the audience can tell, or even cares.

    5. In my experience, the amp I'm using (and associated stage sound gear) makes a bigger difference in my sound than the axe I'm using. I have a Hartke amp that sounds bloody dreadful to me. My Ampeg tends to blur down low. My Eden is sweet, and my Carvin is somewhere in-between.

    6. When it's all said and done, the axe I choose to play is the one that satisfies the compromises we all have to make. My favorite axe has a combination of sound, playability, weight, scale and looks that suits me. It's the best for me, but I would never claim it's the best for you.