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Bolt On or Neck Through?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Murdoc_420, Feb 5, 2016.


Bolt On or Neck Through?

Poll closed Feb 12, 2016.
  1. Bolt On

  2. Neck Through

  3. Carrots don't have necks

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Murdoc_420


    Jan 20, 2016
    That's the Q. More details below but for quick readers:

    Do you prefer one neck type over the other? Not so much tone but more of a repair question.

    I've never had to replace a neck, or get a truss rod fixed, etc... Is there a preference on that? Seems like removing the fretboard would be the same deal either way. Watched vids of removing neck warp, etc..

    I assume you're in about the same boat repair wise either way (unless there was a catastrophic neck failure or something).

    ::More in depth info::
    So I'm looking at getting another bass.

    I have an ESP 35" with BEAD tuning (thick strings) but I'd like to also have a 4 string regular tuning and shorter neck (and thinner). (Mine has a fairly thick neck too). I like my current bass a lot just want something easier to play/practice (Mine's great for growl and whatnot but due to length and strings it's better for slower/heavier stuff).

    I think I've narrowed it down to two basses. I don't want to get into a 'get a Sire' thread so I won't name the companies. I also don't want to get into prices, etc...

    They are both same price range (within $25).

    Funny thing is the second one I hadn't ever really thought about, but noticed something funny.

    Both : Same country of origin.
    Both : VERY similar body shape and edge bevels (one has slightly more rounded horns and possibly a little fatter bottom (more rounded shape under controls)
    Both : Same colored/shape/style hardware (I am convinced they ARE the same parts)
    Both : basically same PUps. (One two Humbuckers - brand own name but..., One has identical looking EMG bridge PU, but jazz top PU.) Controls same (b,m,t - fade and volume)
    Both : 5 piece neck

    Main differences:

    One Neck through, One bolt on.
    Battery cavity in different spots. Control cavity very similar (probably exact)

    Headstocks: Same basic shape (more on this later) but one is a bit wavy in one spot. Tuners are mounted exactly the same.

    So I imagine it's one of those manufacturing deals.
    One 'No Brand Company' makes them both. But each 'Name Brand' chooses body shape or helps them design it. But each has agreement that nobody else can use their choice.
    (ie: one pointy horns, one rounded. One neck through, one bolt on. Each has different paint job/color scheme. One has wavy headstock, one is straight).

    I doesn't surprise me, Giant bicycle company had made MANY 'name brand' bikes for years. Eventually they started their own line, and when they did everyone was like 'WhoTheF' is Giant? They probably suck. Lol. But they loved all the other name brands (that were made BY Giant).
    So mainly I think it comes down to neck style and finishes. Neck either way, I don't know. No preference I guess. Also the Pickups, I like the humbucker styles, haven't (and won't get to play the other- humbucker/jazz combo )
    They both have sweet finishes, that's a hard choice.

    Really they are almost the exact same Bass other than a few small changes.
  2. Doctor J

    Doctor J

    Dec 23, 2005
    I've never approached a bass purchase with "What if something terrible happens?" in mind. What if you break the headstock off, why aren't you buying headless?
  3. Either can be good. Some neck through models have easily removable truss rods (as in, you just take off the cover, loosen the truss rods, slide them out, and slide a new set in), which can be good.

    If the necks on my neck through models get broken, I'll have them fixed. It'll be costly, but simple as that.
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  4. 5544


    Dec 1, 2015
    How much do you play below the 12th fret? I find that neck-through basses have easier access than bolt on necks.

    People are going to give the argument "you can't shim a neck-through" but here is how I look at it:

    If a brand new bass needs to be disassembled in any way, shape or form before being able to be set up properly, then the bass wasn't made properly from the factory to begin with.
  5. Murdoc_420


    Jan 20, 2016
    @doctorj, major failure is the one thing I could think of being more costly with neck through. I know, a little out there but...

    @satori, I suppose at this price range fixing a neck through would be a wash, just buy a new one... keep parts.

    @GNL2000, Not much actually, though I am trying to get around the neck more these days. The neck through model MAY (?) be a little thinner, easier to reach around. But like I said, the body shapes are almost identical and it seems the cut out is too.

    Guess I am swaying more towards the neck through. I think I like the finish a tiny bit better. I'll sleep on it and see what responses show up by tomorrow. Been contemplating buying one for a few weeks, was just hoping to get to GC to offload some gear first but that's not too important. Then I found these and it got the GAS flowing a little.
  6. I've generally found that Neck-thru is a touch warmer but slightly slower attack. Bolt-on tend to cut through better in live situations so I prefer them, though obviously this is not a hard rule and some neck thru will be really bright and vice versa.
    dfoehr and Murdoc_420 like this.
  7. Eh, depends how much the bass cost, and how bad the neck damage is.
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  8. Jaco who?

    Jaco who?

    May 20, 2008
    I've been looking at what Sweetwater has in stock, and as a general rule, it seems like bolt on necks tend to be more likely to be the weight I'm looking for - around 8, 8 1/2 pounds. I'm sure there are neck throughs that are light too, but I haven't noticed any yet, at least in the price range I'm trying to stick to.
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  9. Guinness20


    Jan 24, 2013
    Liverpool, UK
    Love the look and resonance of neck thru's, but not mad on a painted neck so bolt-on is the go to for me.
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  10. gebass6

    gebass6 We're not all trying to play the same music.

    May 3, 2009
    N.E Illinois
    I have both.
    But I prefer the look of neck through.
    And if the bolt-on basses that I have were offered as neck through,I would have gotten them as neck through also.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2016
    JustForSport, Sartori and Murdoc_420 like this.
  11. Clef_de_fa

    Clef_de_fa Guest

    Dec 25, 2011
    I much prefer neck through construction over bolt-on for ease of accessing the 24th frets. The instrument feel closer since the neck isn't attach to an inch of wood.

    The only reason I'll go bolt-on is if I would slap a lot.
    maturanesa, gebass6 and Murdoc_420 like this.
  12. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    I own one neck-through, four set necks, and five bolt-ons.

    I can't really say the neck attachment method employed made any significant difference in tone or playability for me.

    And repairs don't concern me since I take very good care of the music gear I own. So in my case, neglect and/or abuse is non-existent. And the opportunity for damage through a mishap is minimized as much as is practical for me to arrange.

    So I guess my answer is: If I like the sound of a particular bass, and it plays well, I'll take it whichever way it comes.
    fretlessguy and Murdoc_420 like this.
  13. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Always preferred the utilitarian aspects of bolt on necks.
    Bajo Clarkko and Murdoc_420 like this.
  14. rufus.K


    Oct 18, 2015
    I own both and dont have an overall preference. I really havent asked myself if this bass sound the way it does because of the bolt/neckthru aspect. It comes down to how it feels in my hand.
    Since youre asking from a repair perspective... Bolt On is more forgiving on the whole for obvious reasons.
    If youre spending a mint on an instrument, and buy a neck thru, it'll be worth the cost of repair if it ever needs it.
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  15. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    Bolt-On necks are designed with the whole "interchangeable parts" philosophy in mind. The neck is designed to be swapped out for good reason. Mainly, it cuts manufacturing and repair costs. If you get a bad neck on a neck through the bass can be done for. If you get a bad neck on a bolt-on, you can just swap it out for a different one and not lose the cost of a whole bass or require yourself an expensive luthier repair bill. I.e. you can reuse the body and easily swap to any other neck of your choice. Fender used bolt-on because he wanted to cut costs. Many of his decisions were based around that simply because he was a pragmatic businessman--instead of throwing away a whole bass if it has a flaw, he can reuse some of the major parts.

    Firearms are made with a similar design. If a part like the barrel is bad or wears out it's easier and cheaper to repair your firearm because you can readily buy replacements that will fit without requiring a highly-skilled worker to do the work. When firearms were made by artisans (generally muzzleloader days) the cost was not only higher to buy them, but if a part goes bad you need to commission a specially made one from a skilled gunsmith and sometimes the gun could still just end up as scrap. Interchangeable parts revolutionized manufacturing and reduced the costs of buying and owning products so that they were more affordable.

    There are benefits and detriments to either design. The detriment of the bolt-on design is you need things like adjustable bridge saddles and sometimes shimming to get things fitted properly. Generally, you don't need to shim a new bolt-on bass if it's made correctly. It shouldn't happen very often these days especially with CNC manufacturing. However if you want to customize a bass with a different neck (that's also a benefit of bolt-on) or the bass is exposed to environmental conditions for 20 years you might. If the neck develops a ski-jump there are ways to repair that separately or hey just replace the neck.

    I've had to shim exactly one neck out of the 20 or so basses I've owned. That was because I was using a 50s P body, and a fretless All-parts neck. The bridge on the body had huge barrel saddles that wouldn't lower far enough to make a playable action on the fretless neck. That bass body + bridge combo was designed to fit a fretted neck. One may look at that as trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, but I got it to fit together perfectly just by adding a small copper shim. The result was a custom bass not many have or can get. Fretless 51 P basses are rare.

    Anyway, for some the benefits of bolt-on outweigh the detriments. I personally think bolt-on can rival some neck-through benefits if it's designed appropriately. Ibanez and G&L I think do a good job of making the higher frets accessible and they use bolt-on designs. G&L also uses a six-bolt with saddle-lock bridge design I think helps bring the sustain out like a neck-through design might (although neck through might do it better, it's close I think).
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    It always seemed odd (to me) how often comments about increased or enhanced sustain come up in electric bass discussions.

    Maybe it's just me…but from my experience, lack of sustain is the least of an electric bassist's concerns. Most times we're dealing with far more note sustain than we want or need.

    I can't speak for everyone - or every musical situation - but I spend far more time muting notes on an electric than I do trying to coax them into sustaining longer. So while it may be true (I don't know) that certain neck attachment methods can prolong sustain more than others, in practical terms it doesn't seem confer any real benefit. And in many situations may actually be a drawback.

    It's like salt. Once something is seasoned the way you like it, the rest of what's still sitting in the shaker becomes moot.

    Or so it seems to me.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
    Dougie44, oaklandthumb and Murdoc_420 like this.
  17. Antisyzygy


    Dec 8, 2014
    The only reason I brought it up is because that seems to be one of the "Advantages" people talk about when they are advocating for neck-through. I agree in general. A standard Fender has all the sustain I want or need.
    Murdoc_420 and 40Hz like this.
  18. Gaolee

    Gaolee Official leathers tester and crash dummy

    I have mostly had set neck and neck through guitars and bass guitars. But not 100%. It makes no difference to me because I have never broken a neck or a trussrod. Famous last words...
    gebass6, Sartori and Murdoc_420 like this.
  19. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    No…I wasn't criticizing. I'm actually very glad you did bring it up even though we seem to be of similar mind on the subject. And you're right, it does seem to be important to some players.

    But I could never figure out why - and I'm always worried I might be missing something.

    So…any Sustaniacs out there want to let me in on the secret?
    Murdoc_420 likes this.
  20. StuartV

    StuartV Finally figuring out what I really like Supporting Member

    Jul 27, 2006
    Manassas, VA
    Neck-thru does not automatically mean painted neck. E.g. Peavey Cirrus neck-thrus are not painted on the neck. I have a Cirrus for sale in the classifieds. If you want to see what that looks like, click the link in my sig to see a picture of the back of the bass.


    I've had a number of neck-thrus and more bolt-ons. I used to prefer neck-thru, but it was a philosophical preference. As I became more experienced, I have changed and now really prefer bolt-ons.

    The reason is setup.

    I have needed to shim the necks on Fender Americans, U.S. G&L, and U.S. EBMM basses (just as examples) to get the action as low as it could go. OTOH, I have a neck-thru right now that I can't get the action as low as I would like because some of the bridge saddles are bottomed out. I would shim the neck, except that it's a neck-thru.

    My FEELING is that a lot of guys who have never had a neck shimmed and say "the action on my bass is very low and doesn't need a shim" - my feeling is that those guys would be seriously impressed by a bass that really did have REALLY low action, if they ever got to try one. A friend of mine has been playing bass for years. He just treated himself at Christmas to a brand new Fender American Jaguar. It was noisy (humming in single coil mode), so I offered to do a shielding job on it for him. He said he would bring it over. I mentioned that, as long as he was bringing it over, I could possibly work on the setup and improve the action for him. He said something along the lines of "oh, no need to worry about that. All my basses have good action. This one is fine." His other basses are all MIJ and MIAsia Fenders. He brought the Jag over and I checked it out and told him I thought I could improve the action, if he wanted. After watching me do the shielding, his comfort level with me tweaking his bass had gone from sketchy to good, so he said okay. I ended up with some saddles bottomed and the action still not good enough, so I popped the neck off, shimmed it, put it back together, and got the action even lower. I ended up with the string height at the 12th fret probably half of what it was from the factory. All said and done, he tried it at my house then took it home. He emailed me a few hours later just raving about how much nicer it played (and sounded, for that matter). Basically, he thought his action was good because he just didn't know any better. Even though he's been playing for years, he never had tried any bass that really had genuinely GOOD, LOW action. His still doesn't have what I consider REALLY low action. It needs some fret leveling to drop it down even more and my skills do not extend to that particular skill.

    MOST manufacturer specs for production basses (i.e. not high end boutique basses) do not have the action as low as I would want it. Yet most decent quality production basses CAN achieve action as low as I want with some basic setup work (including good fret work). But, because the manufacturer specs don't call for action that low, there is no guarantee the manufacturer will make the bass with suitable geometry for the bridge to allow action that low. With a bolt-on neck, that is not a problem. Shim it (which just slightly changes the angle of the neck) and the bridge can go as low as you want. With a set neck or neck thru, if the bridge won't drop that last millimeter lower, you are just screwed.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
    Murdoc_420 likes this.

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