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Do instruments sounding better unplugged sound better plugged as well?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by cyberprimate, Jan 11, 2014.

  1. cyberprimate


    Mar 6, 2010
    I always test archtop electric guitars unplugged before trying them with an amp. But what about solid body basses (or guitars)? Doesn't a loud sounding solid body guitar (unplugged) mean more absorption of string vibration and therefore less sustain and less harmonics recorded by the pickups?
  2. Jefff


    Aug 14, 2013
    WHile it always thrills me to play a "live"unamplified bass, it is rather low on the list of things I need to have.

    Knowing that any structurally sound bass can be made to play well, I go for how it feels in my hands and how it sounds flat when amplified.
  3. Caca de Kick

    Caca de Kick Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    I always like to test a bass unplugged first. It gives me a big idea to the attack, resonance, and timber of what's there without the coloring of the test amp involved. As long as the electronics don't ruin it for me (like Barts always do) then I'm typically knowing what to expect plugged in.
  4. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Pretty much this.
    Bartolinis are okay, though. Ya kinda know what you're getting with them.
  5. Mark4


    Oct 21, 2007
    Everything else being equal, I'd say that's usually the case, but all is not equal. Especially in terms of electronics, as others have mentioned. The unplugged tone can give you an idea of what to expect, or what an instrument might sound like if it has good pickups etc., but it doesn't tell the whole story.
  6. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve Supporting Member

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses, Hipshot products
    I never cared how a bass sounded unplugged. I own some basses that sound like crap unplugged, and great in a band mix.... and some that are the polar opposite. To each hizzone!
  7. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    I've always wondered about this. You read interviews with Luthiers and they often rave about how great their bass sounds unplugged, you can hear the sonic qualities of the wood, etc. etc. - OK, yeah, but does any of that actually come out though the electronics? Or is it just... how the bass sounds unplugged?
  8. Robert B

    Robert B Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2000
    Hampton, Va USA
    Same here! I don't doubt that there is a correlation for some between the way a bass sounds unplugged and how good it sounds amplified, but I've never experienced it.
  9. Rich McCoy

    Rich McCoy

    Apr 8, 2013
    I would say yes.
  10. Dave W

    Dave W Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2007
    White Plains
    Pretty much this. It's the first thing I do when I pick up a prospective bass.
  11. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Agreed,a dead sounding not resonant bass usually transfers plugged in.
  12. Nope I plug that sucker in! I couldnt care less how it sounded without an amplifier, as long as it sounds good through an amp.
  13. Rickenbass


    Oct 14, 2013
    Yes, definitely. Tone is generated by many components like strings, pups, instrument design, and the instrument construction. Different woods offer different tone qualities and how that instrument is constructed has a major impact on how it plays. If it were as easy as just slapping a certain wood species together in a certain configuration and with the same electronics, every instrument would sound and play the same. There is a reason they do not. The secret is in the wood and the materials used.

    While electronics certainly enhance tone or color it, the real test is how does the instrument sound un-plugged. it's been my overwhelming experience that if an instrument sounds great not powered, it has great potential to be an outstanding player once powered. It's not unlike building a house on an unstable or shoddy foundation. Nothing great comes out of that scenario.

  14. deeptubes


    Feb 21, 2011
    I don't plug prospective basses in either. To me, playing unplugged let's you hear the soul of the instrument. I do buy basses of the net, unheard. I've had a couple that I've received, sat down and played, and gone "Eww!" Kept them for a little while, but sonically they never appealed to me. Those are obviously no longer a part of my bass family.
  15. LoTone

    LoTone Leonardo please... behave yourself! Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2010
    Quebec, Canada

    I always test them unplugged first. That gives you an idea of how the bass resonates. The sound of the bass does not come only from electronics.

  16. GM60466


    May 20, 2006
    Land of Lakland
    Unplugged first but I don't pull out my wallet until I hear it through an amp or soundsystem
  17. RickC

    RickC Supporting Member

    Jun 9, 2005
    I used to believe this like religion, but after many years of experience I've found it's generally a poor indicator. More often than not, an instrument that sounds good to me unplugged will not sound good plugged in; and conversely, my three best basses don't sounds that great unplugged. A totally dead instrument; yeah, the unplugged test can tell you that. That's a very small minority of the cases.

  18. Eric66


    Sep 23, 2013
    The Netherlands
    Always test it unplugged and then plugged, but it is no guarantee at all. I owned several squier JV precisions in the past, and one of them sounded very good unplugged, and also plugged at home (low volumes). What an amazing low bass sounds! What happened? During rehearsals it seemed that the sound was muddy, undefined and dit not cut through the mix at all! This bass was useless and had to go.
  19. georgestrings

    georgestrings Banned

    Nov 5, 2005


    - georgestrings
  20. Jim C

    Jim C Spector#496:More curves than Sophia + better sound Supporting Member

    Nov 29, 2008
    Was curious to see how some old Duncan Designed pups would sound in a stock SX Jazz.
    This bass does not sound very good unplugged.
    The comparison was with a 72' Jazz that sounds great unplugged.
    The DD pups sounded much better than the stock SX pups and both basses sounded great plugged in.
    In this case, unplugged tone did not correspond to plugged in.