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Bolt-on vs. Neck-through?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dancaldwell, Sep 14, 2000.


  1. dancaldwell

    dancaldwell

    Aug 18, 2000
    I was wondering if anyone would be willing to share their perspective on whether it's better to go with a bolt-on or neck-through bass from a quality and reliability standpoint?

    In 1990 I purchased a Peavey Sarzo neck-through that is now so warped it's almost unplayable and can't really be fixed. Looking back I can't help but wonder if I would have been better of going with bolt-on construction so that I could at least have the option of just changing the neck instead of buying a new bass.

    I'm just about ready to buy a new bass, but I'm worried that I'll be in the same position down the road that I'm in right now if I go with a neck-through bass.

    Any thoughts?

    Thanks,
    Dan
     
  2. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Whether it's bolt-on or neck-though, they usually use the same system for correcting a warped neck - that is a truss rod. I have had both and find no difference between tweaking the truss rod on a B-O or N-T - it's the same system and in my opinion it's not the fact that it's one or other method of construction that's important, but rather the quality of the wood used and the worksmanship that goes into building a bass.

    There is a theory to using different woods for building necks to avoid warping - like using laminates and dense woods as well as adding graphite re-inforcement, amongst other things. But these theories can be applied whichever method of construction has been used.

    This debate has come up many times and it always gets to the point where people say it's just personal preference. You can have cheap, poorly made, neck-through basses and you can have exceptionally well-made bolt-ons - try a Sadowsky for example.
     
  3. Doug

    Doug

    Apr 5, 2000
    Buffalo, N.Y.
    I've always owned bolt-ons. Not because of choice, but because I liked the sound and feel of that particuliar bass. I don't put to much stock in deciding whether I want one or the other. As long as the bass sounds good and feels right, that's all that matters to me. I personally never heard the difference between the two. I currently play an ESP bass with a bolt-on. I have also played the exact same ESP bass that has a neck through and never heard the difference.
     
  4. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    Bolt on necks have slightly less sustain, nothing really noticable to the naked ear, but the action on the 2 is totally different, Its a much smoother transition to the upper registers on the fretboard on a neck thru, you dont have the heel getting in the way. Play a few and youll see what Im talking about. Other than that I havent noticed any major differences.
     
  5. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Yes but the original post wasn't asking about sustain or sound, but about the quality and reliability point of view.

    The question is about whether one or the other is more likely to warp or not, not about how they sound or what the differences are.

    PS.
    I think the sustain thing is not "cut and dried" - a Sadowsky bolt-on can actually have more sustain than a cheap, poorly made bass that has neck-though contsruction.

     
  6. RAM

    RAM

    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    Well, cassanova, I would have to disagree, to some extent. There are neck throughs, such as Rickenbacker, that still have that large heel where the neck and body meet. Also, the only way to test your theory about sustain is to have two completely identical basses, one being neck through and the other being bolt on. And, that means using the same piece of wood, which is, frankly, IMPOSSIBLE!

    On the other hand, I do play a neck through (Spector NS-4), and it does sustain forever! And, it's solid! And the neck heel is sloping, as you refer to.

    And, to dancaldwell: my neck through neck is so stable that the only time I've ever had to adjust it was when I had a bad set of strings. But, no matter what I did to the neck, I still couldn't get the intonation correct on the "G" string. Other than that, my neck through has zero problems!!!
     
  7. I posted this a while back in a similar thread:



    "I played a Jazz Bass (bolt-on) for many years, then went to a neck thru Carvin for a few years, and now I play a Stingray 5 (bolt-on). In terms of tone, the Carvin comes in last, although that may be unfair comparing it to the other two. HOWEVER, I once had the misfortune of dropping the Carvin, and now there is a terrible rattling sound when I play certain notes acoustically or if I knock on the back of the neck. The truss rod is fine, so the neck may be cracked or the fingerboard may have separated a bit from the neck. This problem would be much more easily remedied had the neck been a bolt-on!

    Also, if anyone remembers a BP review of Rick Turner's Electroline bass, Rick comments that a neck pocket that's too tight leaves no room for wood expansion, leaving the body vulnerable to cracking. He says that as long as the bolts are nice and tight, there should be no sustain or shifting problems. My Music Man has a small gap on both sides of the neck, but with 6 bolts (and I've not yet found a practical reason to jerk the neck around!) I've never had a problem."
     
  8. sundog

    sundog

    Jan 20, 2000
    I'd have to agree with Bruce that it really comes down to the construction quality of the bass in question.

    All things being equal, a neckthrough will provide, at the very least, slightly more sustain. Most neckthroughs typically have the shaved heel and does allow for easier play higher up the neck.

    As far as reliability goes...it makes no difference. Both, if made well, are reliable. If one was worried about having to fix one because of damage, all I can say is...Regardless of which type you own, take care of the damn thing!!!

    Yeah, accidents happen (that's why they are called accidents) but I never worry about my bass as I always keep it in a safe place (even when on a stand between sets, for instance, my stand is duct taped down to the floor and my bass is locked into the stand).

    One other thing...It's always nice to find and develop a good working relationship with a local luthier.

     
  9. I think it might be important to distinguish between a "set-neck" and a "neck-through". Sometimes they are not easily distinguished from the appearance especially if opaque finishes are used. A set-neck is one that terminates at the heel and is attached (usually) with a dove-tail joint ala Gibson. A neck-through design is one continuous construction from the neck to the bridge. It can be a multi layered laminate or a single piece of material but both ends of the strings terminate on that one piece. I don't like the idea of set neck basses as there is a ton of pressure put on the joint between the components.

    I have owned both bolt-ons and neck-throughs (even now), like both, and can tell the difference between them. My current neck through also has the strings through the body and produces more sustain and clearly audible harmonics than my bolt ons. It happens to be a 5 piece laminate and I believe that to be the better type of construction for neck-throughs. I make it a point to be just a little bit more careful about the neck on this bass, as I clearly wouldn't be able to replace the neck should it get broken. But, to address the question of longevity, a well made neck-through (Alembic for example) will last as long or longer than any other type with proper care.
     
  10. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    I agree Bruce, it's not the design, it's the construction. For anyone who thinks one has an edge over another simply because it's a bolt-on or neck through...you haven't played enough basses. There are exceptions to these "rules" and they're pretty easy to find. All you have to do is look.

    A bolt-on with more sustain than a neck-thru?...sure

    A neck thru with more aggressive tone than a bolt on?...yep

    A bolt on with easy upper neck access?... absolutely

    They're out there:D
     
  11. dancaldwell

    dancaldwell

    Aug 18, 2000
    Yes, I too have played bolt-ons that had better sustain than neckthroughs, but I was asking more about which was more reliable quality-wise. It's good to hear a confirmation of my initial belief: that the quality of the instrument and the materials are the real key.

    This is great information! I really appreciate you all taking the time to reply. Btw, after a great deal of research and trying out a bunch of different basses I've narrowed my choices down to three: either a G&L SB-2, a G&L L2000, or a L2500.

    Thanks for all year help!

    Dan
     
  12. DarkMazda

    DarkMazda

    Jun 3, 2000
    NJ
    I heard that Bolt-ons make a much more Punchier tone to the bass.. compared to the neck-thru's.. I personally like the Neck-Thru's :) they are much more comfortable to me :)

    DM
     
  13. Brad Johnson

    Brad Johnson Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2000
    Gaithersburg, Md
    Boom Bass Cabinets, DR strings
    Those are three fine basses, Dan. All pro quality.
     
  14. phil_chew

    phil_chew

    Mar 22, 2000
    Asia
    If the bass is of a good quality, I really do not think it matters a lot whether it is bolt-on or neck-thru. In the light of how a bass is played, why do we need the "incredible sustain" that some people say the neck-thru produces. We don't normally strike a note and then leave it sustaining for more than a few seconds, do we? That's not the way we play the bass.
     
  15. JMX

    JMX Vorsprung durch Technik

    Sep 4, 2000
    Cologne, Germany
    BTW - There's an other possibility: set-neck basses!
    The neck is glued tightly to the body - examples are the German Le Fay basses...Fender used to offer set-neck versions of their Strats and Telecasters.
     
  16. MrGump

    MrGump

    Apr 20, 2000
    IMHO,Construction and materials are the key,as stated before.And I believe your more likely to find a better made bolt-on,in the low to medium price ranges.Once you get to what I consider hi-end($2000,give or take)the playing field evens out.
    The G+Ls you mentioned are perfect examples of what I consider a well made mid priced bolt on.
    Any of those three are a perfect choice.IMHO.
     
  17. sundog

    sundog

    Jan 20, 2000

    I would think that would depend on the music that is played. The band that I am in plays only original material and it is quite often that notes I play must sustain...and not only sustain, but retain it's clarity and fullness for the entire length it sustains. If the music requires it, then that is the way one must play.

    So for me the sustain issue is an important one for me. One can alter the technique to mute a note when required, but if the bass is incapable of sustain, no amount of technique will make it sustain.

    But, this topic is about bolt-ons and neck-throughs and if well made, both are capable of "sustain".

     
  18. Deynn

    Deynn Moderator Emeritus

    Aug 9, 2000
    Iowa
    Perhaps it is not the way that YOU play bass....but many of us DO. I do not want my musicals ideas to be limited by the limitations of my instrument.
     
  19. cassanova

    cassanova

    Sep 4, 2000
    Florida
    [

    Well, cassanova, I would have to disagree, to some extent. There are neck throughs, such as Rickenbacker, that still have that large heel where the neck and body meet. Also, the only way to test your theory about sustain is to have two completely identical basses, one being neck through and the other being bolt on. And, that means using the same piece of wood, which is, frankly, IMPOSSIBLE!

    On the other hand, I do play a neck through (Spector NS-4), and it does sustain forever! And, it's solid! And the neck heel is sloping, as you refer to.

    I know it is impossible to use the same piece of wood to see which has more sustain. Note that I said it is not noticable to the naked ear. A guitar tech once pointed that out to me. How he knew I have no idea. I know what you mean about the heel on the Rickenbackers but honestly how many of them do you see being played these days? Not many, I dont think they played that good and most people i know dont. But hey thats just us. I still think that overall the transition to the upper frets is much smoother on a neck thru than a bolt on.
     
  20. phil_chew

    phil_chew

    Mar 22, 2000
    Asia
    Sigh..! Read the post again. I said "good quality". If the bass is good quality, the difference in sustain between a bolt-on and a neck-thru is quite negligible. Sadowsky basses are bolt-ons, but most owners testify to their "incredible sustain".

    By the way, if a bass player only plays one sustained note for every 4 bars, maybe what he needs is a double bass and a bow.