Buzz Feiten Blues

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by secretdonkey, May 13, 2005.

  1. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I can't take it anymore! My high dollar MTD 535 has never been intonated to my satisfaction, and I find no straight answers or practical solutions... anywhere!

    I'm sure that the problem lies with me and my understanding of how to perform the intonation... but... I think I'm an intelligent person and I've followed advice from various people and... my bass is still poorly intonated above the 12th fret.

    I am using a Peterson Strobostomp tuner and have tried intonating and tuning the bass in several different ways that have been implied by the options and information that have been presented to me.

    At this point I'm tempted to: 1. Buy the Korg tuner with built in Buzz Feiten offsets and see what results I get, forgetting that the Strobostomp was presented to me as being far more accurate. and 2. Concluding that the Buzz Feiten system is a frickin' bad idea until such time as the Buzz Feiten people actually make public the intonation formula, rather than leave it to aftermarket speculation and/or advise that you take your instrument to an elite "licensed" shop to have it set up.

    I frickin' have an expensive bass that's never been intonated properly, and I'm unhappy at the moment.

    I am tuning my open strings to the EQU temperment, then programming the P-1 setting of my Strobostomp according to my understanding of the following formula:

    G = 1c b @ 12th fret (P-1 programmed so that G = 1c b)
    D = 1c b @ 12th fret (P-1 programmed so that D = 1c b)
    A = 1c # @ 12th fret (P-1 programmed so that A = 1c #)
    E = 1c # @ 7th fret (P-1 programmed so that B = 1c #)
    B = 1c # @ 7th fret (P-1 programmed so that F# = 1c #)

    Buzz Feiten temperments ignored for regular tuning or for intonating.

    My bass sounds like ass above the 12th fret. I've about had it with this Buzz Feiten crap. I have yet to try to see if I can intonate the bass in the standard fashion without ill effects.

    I'm sure that the Buzz Feiten system is good, but I am frustrated with the lack of clear information about it. I don't question whether it works, but I question whether it's a good idea to put it on instruments when reasonably intelligent people can't figure it out based on the information that is made available by Buzz Feiten, the instrument makers (MTD), and the tuner makers (Peterson).

  2. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    man that really sucks...Good luck, I'm still not even all that sure of what exactly Buzz Feiten is :meh:
  3. Planet Boulder

    Planet Boulder Hey, this is a private Supporting Member

    Nov 10, 2001
    6,482 feet above sea level
    I once had impure thoughts. Oh, and I pluck my ear hair.
    Is there a "licensed" shop nearby? If so, I'd cut my losses and take it there.
  4. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    no. There's not even a shop listed in Houston proper, which is almost 100 miles away and is only the 4th largest city in the freakin' U.S. of A.

    do i sound frustrated? sorry.
  5. sargebaker

    sargebaker Commercial User

    May 2, 2004
    Montreal QC CA
    owner/builder, ISLAND Instrument Mfg.
    dude you have every right to be :p If I were you I would have turned the bass in a while ago in favour of somehting else in the price range of equal quality or at least that can intonate
  6. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Well, let's not be hasty here... there's not another bass I'd rather have, and in *practical* terms, given my playing style and performance contexts, the intonation problems haven't been... a problem. Still, it's only natural to want a bass at that price level to be without *any* intonation problems. :bawl:

    I just changed strings and intonated the bass earlier this evening, with frustrating results (no improvement). I'm going to have a nice glass of grappa and intonate the bass the good, old fashioned way (intercourse the dang BF offsets), and will report back in a bit.

  7. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I still have a hard time thinking the BF tuning is anything more real than all the other magic tuning nuts I've seen in the last few decades.

    I have the same intonation problems on my bass without the magic nut, I solve it by simply intonating using notes above the 12th fret. Play notes up to your 21st or 24th fret and watch the tuner, if they go sharp or flat intonate based on that and not just the 12th fret.
  8. I've done mine numerous times with the Korg and it's easy and brainless.

    I know the Strobostomp has a setting for it (from reading the paper that came with it), but I've never tried to intonate one of my MTD's with my strobostomp.

    In fact I hate my Strobostomp and don't use it for anything; it just kind of confuses me. It's irrational and I realize it's more accurate, but it makes my brain fog over...


  9. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    The Strobostomp has a temperment built in for tuning a Buzz Feiten equipped bass, but it's not for intonating the instrument, from all that I gather - the offsets ARE NOT BUILT IN. The presence of this tuning temperment really just adds to the confusion - among indirect answers I've gotten from "the experts" - it's merely an "alternate" temperment not even recommended or sanctioned by the BF folks. For the average Joe trying to figure out how it fits into the equation (when the equation is secret), it's certainly more confusing than helpful.

    I just intonated my bass "the regular way" for the first time since I've owned it and though it's not quite perfect, it's the best it's been by far.

    BF = snake oil, AFAIC, as for now :eyebrow:
  10. BassFelt


    Mar 26, 2002
  11. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    My understanding is that after the bass is intonated with the BF temperment, the bass should be tuned with a standard tuner. The BF temperment is for setting intonation only.

    I could be wrong, though,...
  12. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    The patent filing has the offsets - a "description of the intellectual property," as I recall, but not the explicit instructions for performing an intonation with a strobe tuner.

    Peterson has explicit, step-by-step instructions for how to program open and fretted offsets into a Strobostomp for guitar on their website forum, but not for bass. I have tried to use all of this information but have been unable to achieve satisfactory results.

  13. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Ahah!, and see how tricky it gets! My understanding is precisely the opposite. Not saying I'm right, as I haven't ever achieved satisfactory results, but I *have* tried it that way, and I'm responding not to attack you, but to use this to illustrate just how ambiguous the whole thing is. To wit: one must ask whether the temperment you mention should be used for open notes, fretted, or both (that's three distinct possibilites right there!*)- oh, the variations abound, and without definitive explanation! Oi Vey!

    After all I've been through, literally hours of tweaking, I will dismiss anything short of a step-by-step, *completely* unambiguous set of instructions from an authoritative source.

    As of this evening, ignoring BF and using regular intonation has yielded far and away the best results for me.

    *and not to knock the strobostomp, but toggling between the temperments becomes a royal PITA after awhile. After you've set up your instrument three separate times to try each possibility and it still doesn't sound right, it can get a bit trying.
  14. Tritone

    Tritone Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America
    Yeah, I bet it's frustrating, here's a blurb about it from the MTD website (Products Section):

    "While the DT7 is required for setting intonation, any standard tuner can be used to tune the instrument."

    Maybe give Mr. Tobias a holler, and he can help you guys? Just a thought.
  15. jeff schmidt

    jeff schmidt no longer red carded, but my butt is still sore.

    Aug 27, 2004
    Novato, CA
    I have a 535 and the Korg Tuner.

    You tune normally first, then set the intonation using the tuner in BF mode and then re-tune in normal mode again.

    Stop messing around with custom offsets - you'll never figure it out.
  16. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Thanks for the thoughts, Tritone...

    The real kicker here is that my issue involves technology/products from no less than three separate companies: MTD, Buzz Feiten, and Peterson. The buck really doesn't ever stop anywhere in these types of interactions, does it?

    If I were Mike Tobias, I'd tell me to just buy a Korg tuner as is recommended. Trouble is, that leaves me holding a relatively expensive Peterson tuner that by all accounts is far superior to any needle tuner (such as the Korg), and which I bought specifically to intonate *this* bass, on the recommendation of a top MTD retailer. So, I'd still be frustrated because I'd be casting aside a superior tuner that I've bought and paid for, simply because I can't figure it out. It may come to that, but I'll be bitter about it. ;)

    For now, ignoring BF and pretending it's a "normal" bass seems to be the best move I've made so far. :)
  17. secretdonkey


    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Yeah... well, I was sold the Peterson along with the 535, and given a list of offsets (posted above) that I was to program in. Sounded real easy at the time... :eyebrow:

    I'm not upset with my dealer who sold me the bass and tuner, not upset with MTD, not upset with Peterson, and not hugely upset with Buzz Feiten for keeping it's intellectual property on the downlow. But I find myself left with nothing but less-than-optimal solutions to my impasse: Buy an "inferior" Korg tuner and toss aside the Peterson, or simply ignore the BF system, or trek hours away to pay someone else to, in all likelihood, use a Peterson tuner to set up my bass. :oops:
  18. Rock City

    Rock City

    Apr 8, 2001
    B.F.= Snakeoil........IMHO. There were lots of great albums and players that seemed to be in tune long before this system was invented. YMMV
  19. Buzz Feiten sounds like a Star Wars villain. That should have set off warning bells right there. He was always messing with Chewbacca. So much so that they developed a shorthand. They'd say "What's the matter, Chewbacca, did you get BF'd again?". But I digress...

    I'd try setting the intonation open vs some of the frets right in the middle of the "ass" notes you mentioned. Pick the "crack" note of the "ass" area, that should be precisely in the middle. :D

    If you try those notes with normal tuning, see how that sounds. Then try those notes with the custom offsets they gave you, and last, the BF settings on the Peterson tuner. One of those ought to be decent, although not sure what effect it'll have on the intonation on the rest of the neck.

    Finally, if you have the guitar instructions, I'd try following them exactly on the EADG strings, and try to figure out the equivalent on the B string if its a 5. That could work. But without knowing what the BF system is trying to compensate for, there may be different offsets for bass vs guitar, based on the string widths. Hell of an extrapolation going from .11's on a guitar to .45's on bass.

    Is there some interaction with how high the action is? The bridge gets adjusted to make up for extra string tension raising the pitch when you fret the note. Maybe too high/too low action requires changes in the BF offsets? Just guessing, seems possible but its not clear what the effect would be, since the offset formula seems to be secret.

    The BF nut seems to be trying to compensate for the "bend" of the string over the nut affecting intonation. I'm thinking the rest of the "offsets" compensate for the nut. (Not sure if I'm referring to the nut on the bass, or the nut that came up with the Buzz Feiten system).

    Why doesn't a guy named "Buzz Feiten" develop some secret way to set the neck bow/action to eliminate fret buzz instead of intonation problems? "Buzz Feiten's Buzz Fightin' neck setup secrets".

    And last but not least, take comfort in the fact that if you're in tune, or even close, you'll just clash with the guitar player. They're NEVER in tune.... :D