dull bass sound question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dju, Oct 6, 2016.

  1. dju


    Jan 15, 2014
    hi all, I just received a Fender American special jazz bass that I purchased on reverb.com.
    since it was an online purchase I had no way to play before buying.
    When I play it unplugged it is the dullest sounding thing I have ever owned. Not sure if dull is the correct word. it doesn't have much volume and no snap from the strings when played unplugged. I don't know what strings were on it so I swapped them out to rotosound ls66 strings which I was hoping would give it more snap and volume. very little change after string swap. plugged in it sounds kinda OK but I bought this to mod so there was already the idea of swapping pickups. It came with schaller 70's style tuners and a badassII bridge already installed which I had planned to do but since this was already done I don't have to do it. One of the things I learned about guitar nuts is that they can sometimes cause issues with the sound being dull if the slots aren't cut correctly. on this bass the strings sit in deep slots as deep as the diameter of the strings if not a little more. So thinking about having a new nut installed to see if that will help with unplugged/plugged sound. However there is a 14 day return policy with 15% restock fee that I can still use so I don't want to do anything that would not allow me to return it in the condition it was sent in like swapping a nut and pickups.

    does a dull unplugged sound mean that the plugged in sound will never be any good or can the plugged in sound be good or great regardless of the unplugged in sound?

    I'm on the fence regarding trying to save this thing vs sending back with a 15% restock fee loss.

    thanks for your thoghts,
  2. shawshank72


    Mar 22, 2009
    There's no way you can judge a bass unplugged.
    If it sounds bad to you while plugged in then you can remedy that with replacement parts or return it.
    fretlessguy likes this.
  3. markdavid


    Jun 29, 2007
    I would advise you try it with a different brand of strings, i have had one brand of strings sound awful on one bass and great on another ,maybe the strings are not a good match for the bass.
    On another note i find most basses sound completely uninspiring unplugged and only really come to life when amplified, if you have not already then try it amplified,if it sounds good amplified i wouldn't worry about the unplugged tone.
  4. Rib 13

    Rib 13 Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2006
    This is always a bone of contention here on TB because there are two schools of thought: There are those, like yourself, who agree with this. There are others, like me, that disagree. I personally don't buy a bass that isn't acoustically loud as the logic being that the electronics only magnify what is there naturally (I lucked out with my Sire V7, an online purchase, which was acoustically loud with a proper setup). However, even to this 'acoustically loud camp' person this doesn't mean its a law to me: My (formerly owned) '81 Alembic Series One was an acoustic dead fish but was rich, bright, and punchy plugged in, so I do understand both sides of the argument...granted, it was an Alembic and my personal only exception to that rule, so being an Alembic may have had a lot to do with that. I also play with roundwounds primarily, so Im not sure if that hypothesis transposes to flats as well. Personally, I find that acoustically loud basses are usually the brightest, livliest, and punchiest. As usual, everyone's mileage will vary

    To the OP: how is the setup?
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2016
    shawshank72 likes this.
  5. dju


    Jan 15, 2014
    I swapped the strings from whatever came on it to rotosound ls66 string. I little improvement but not much.

    [QUOTE="To the OP: how is the setup?[/QUOTE]
    the setup is ok. the action is about where I would set it if it was higher.

    thanks for the replies, I'm planning on dropping it off to have a bone nut added and seeing what the tech suggests.
    I'll see how it goes.

  6. What about the neck relief? That can have a surprising impact on tone. It could be that the neck is bowed toward the pull of the strings too much, with the bridge saddles lowered way down to compensate. This can give the illusion of a good setup but cause the bass to sound dull.
  7. Grumry


    Jul 6, 2016
    Have you not heard it plugged in yet? You aren't going to mic the body or strings like an acoustic in an iso booth, you plug it in and amplify it's volume.
    gebass6 likes this.
  8. I've never been to a gig or session where I was asked to play it unplugged. Now if it is dull plugged in there is a problem. Sounds like you are taking the right steps to solve the problem. Put some D'Addario Pro Steels. That should liven things up a bit.
  9. chris_b


    Jun 2, 2007
    Send it back.

    Why jump through hoops and spend money trying to fix a bass that should have been exactly right straight out of the box.

    If you have a bass that sounds good unplugged then it should amaze you when plugged in. That is not always the case the other way around.
  10. gebass6

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

    The plugged in sound is far more adjustable than the unplugged sound.
    Are you going to spend the majority of time playing this bass unplugged?
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
  11. If fretted notes are dull sounding, don't start by replacing the nut.

    Dull can mean the strings twisted when installed. Dull can mean the witness points aren't set. Dull can mean the pickups are too close or far away.

    Photos help immensely when attempting to determine a problem like this on an online forum.
  12. I can't see how you would define an electric bass by it's unplugged sound.

    It is designed to be "plugged in".

    Maybe you don't have an amp yet for various reasons.

    But take it somewhere where there is an amp...and plug it in...and play it. See what happens.

    None of my basses sound particularly exciting unplugged. But they do when they are.
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2016
    gebass6 likes this.
  13. dju


    Jan 15, 2014
    hi all, thanks for all of the replies and inquiries.
    to answer some of your questions, plugged into an amplifier the bass sounds ok.
    I took it to a luthier this weekend and he says I don't need a nut but it could use a setup.
    however since I purchased this bass with the intent of some modifications that I should wait until after I do them before having it setup.
    as far as the comments about it being played not plugged in, sometimes I like to sit on the couch and play it for a few minutes with out an amp. there is no need to do anything but pick up the guitar and play it. I realize there isn't much to turning on the amp and plugging it in but sometimes I might not play but for a few minutes and why power on the amp, uncoil the guitar cable and then have to recoil the guitar cable and power off the amp for only a few minutes of playing.

    I'll just chalk this bass up as to not being one of the basses to sit on the couch and play with and no amplifier.

    again, thanks for all of the comments, suggestions and feedback.

    have a great day!