does anyone else rely on unplugged tone to help their decision to buy?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Robthebastard58, Jan 15, 2016.

  1. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    A few months back I was in a local music shop picking up sticks for my boy(hs drum line) and like most of you the urge to try the instruments in the store. I was playing a g&l 4 and really liked it plugged in, unplugged not so much. Then a Sterling SUB Ray 4 caught my eye (black w/ maple fretboard!) by then someone else was using the amp so I began playing unplugged and to my delight this instrument just sung! I mean not only sounded great but was audibly loud. I wasn't even in the market for a new bass but with that price point ($300) and amazing tone I was GASing big time. She's been here since mid November and couldn't be happier. As always with cheaper instruments my desire to mod has got me GASing further. I'm thinking Delano or Nordstrand MM pickup, John East preamp, badass or omega bridge probably string through, im going to make a brass nut retrofit, later I may make an exotic pick guard cover and control plate. All I did was walk into a store...
  2. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Not necessarily required, I'd say, but to me, it's a big selling point if it does sound good by itself and if it seems to vibrate nicely with the strings, sure, it's a sign of a well built instrument.
  3. DigitalMan

    DigitalMan Bring Back Edit/Delete

    Nov 30, 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    I don't listen to how a bass sounds unamplified. Sure, you can get a feel for if its a player. I don't believe the unamplified tone informs much about how the bass will sound once it's plugged in. YMMV especially based upon technique. I would guess that players with a light touch might see more benefit.
    gebass6, J_Bass, Camaro and 3 others like this.
  4. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I'd consider an instrument having a certain resonance when unplugged a plus. Because my hands like the feel of a "lively" instrument. But it's never been a requirement or showstopper if it didn't seem all that impressive unplugged.

    Funny thing...when it comes to acoustic-electric basses...there's been many times when I liked some of those when unplugged, but thought they sounded absolutely awful when amplified. That was always a big showstopper for me.

    Fortunately, I finally found one that sounded great to me acoustically. And sounded even more impressive when it was plugged in. But that took dozens of try-outs, and about five years. Thank the gods of bass that killer solid and semi-hollow bodied basses are so much easier to find.
    zontar likes this.
  5. hasbeen

    hasbeen Commercial User

    Sep 23, 2004
    Vice President, KMC/JAM USA: Distributor of Ashdown amplification
    Unplugged is CRITICAL for me in my evaluating of an instrument. If the instrument doesn't resonate or sustain like I'd like it to unplugged, no amount of electronics is going to fix it.

    If I'm looking to buy, I will typically know within the first five minutes of playing it unplugged.
  6. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    I can't help but to think it is in fact important. The tone comes from a few places, fingers, pups, signal chain, amp, and wood vibration from the strings. I think a resonant acoustic tone in an electric has an advantage over a dead sounding instrument. I know there is much debate to be had on tone woods and I'm not trying to go there other than to say I think it has an effect on tone but perhaps not as much as people suggest. I would say that a good acoustic tone is what I'd call a "natural tone," and one that only sounds good via electronics and signal chain "artificial tone."
    Advantage: natural tone.
  7. Killed_by_Death

    Killed_by_Death Snaggletooth Inactive

    Yes, but mainly to check for fret buzz, which you sometimes can't hear over the amp.
  8. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY
    Always demo a bass without an amp. It's about playability, weight, and fretwork in my opinion. I'll plug it in if I think I might buy it
    jim nolte, bassie12, Camaro and 5 others like this.
  9. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    If an instrument is ONLY meant to be played plugged in, and is ONLY HEARD when it's plugged in, then it's acoustic tone is completely irrevelant. I may spend 30 seconds handling a new instrument acoustically, simply for feel and balance.
  10. Marial

    Marial weapons-grade plum

    Apr 8, 2011
    I always stick my chin on the upper horn, if there is one, of any bass I'm checking out and play a bit. If doesn't sound good I don't buy the bass. So yes, but that's just one of many things I check out.
    gebass6, jamro217, vilshofen and 7 others like this.
  11. Nev375


    Nov 2, 2010
    I put my ear against the upper horn of the body to listen unplugged.

    With the vibrations against your skull you really hear a lot more of the true tone of the bass.

    (Yes, I'm a weirdo.)

    If it doesn't sound good that way, no pickups in the world can help it.
    edit: marial beat me to it.
    gebass6, jamro217, vilshofen and 7 others like this.
  12. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    I totally agree, that's why I refer to an instrument that only sounds good when lit up "artificial tone"

    It's not bad, but not as good as "natural tone"
  13. Zebra


    Jun 26, 2005
    Do we know that what's perceived as a "good" unplugged tone will translate into a better amplified tone? This seems to be the premise that everyone is going with, but is it necessarily that simple?
  14. I do if it is used but usually not with a new bass, but it is more to find problems than it is about the tonal quality of the wood which maybe something to try in the future.
  15. guy n. cognito

    guy n. cognito Secret Agent Member

    Dec 28, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    The only tone on an electric bass that matters is the plugged tone. I've never found any correlation between acoustic and electric tone.
  16. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    The first time I was afflicted by GAS I bought a Schecter Stilletto 4. It was the most beautiful instrument is seen under a grand and bought it. I played it at gc and sounded good but over time I found the tone generic and thin. It took a while to admit to myself but I bought it based on looks alone. It was the first decent bass I bought but it was an important lesson, after that I developed a multi point checklist of what I need in a bass when buying. Only one if them us looks. I haven't been disappointed with a our head since. And "natural tone" is a must. That being said, my bass must be sexy, I don't care how good it sounds, it must also have eye candy appeal.
  17. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    The perception of the buyer is all that matters to that point.
  18. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    Sorry about the wierd words, stupid autocorrect
  19. Robthebastard58


    Nov 21, 2015
    That's your opinion. I don't think it's settled, and really it's the buyers opinion that counts.
  20. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Playing an electric instrument unplugged shows me how the strings are apt to respond to my fingers, which is something that a pickup, a pre, pedals, an amp and cab have nearly nothing to do with. Most basses are dook compared to those few magic ones and no combination of pickups and amps can help the dookers be as good as the 1%.