Electronics for fretless?

Discussion in 'Pickups & Electronics [BG]' started by ii7-V7, Sep 18, 2005.

  1. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    In your opinion whats the best setup for a fretless?

    J-bass style two single coils? Musicman HB? With Piezo? Some other setup?
  2. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Well, of course its personal preference. But thats what I'm asking about. I'm new to the fretless side of the tracks. I'm hoping to find out what experienced fretless players prefer.

    Active? Preamp?
  3. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    It really doesn't matter. At all. It's all about what you want to hear. You're not gonna find a single setup about which the vast majority of fretless players say, yeah, that's the one. Some go active, some go passive. Some use J, some use P, some use MM, some use soapbar.

    It's a fruitless search. It's like asking, what's the best car? There's no real answer to that question. You have to ask, what kind of driving do you want to do? Under what circumstances? What are your goals and needs?
  4. PunkerTrav


    Jul 18, 2001
    Canada & USA
    ..and just like cars there is some intangible that can't be predicted or understood. Try things until you find somethign that "works."

    I have Basslines Quarter Pounders in my fretless jazz. They work lovely for me; you might hate everything about them.

    One thing to consider, switching between flats/rounds on fretless has a huge impact on sound. If you aren't entirely happy with your set up, you might want to try a switch. It will probably be cheaper than new electronics.
  5. DanGouge


    May 25, 2000
    I have Barts in mine and I'm not changing that set-up any time soon, or ever, really.
  6. I've been really happy with my '88 MIJ fretless Jazz, roto flatwounds. It now has the new Bill Lawrence J-45's (with alnico 5 magnets). The pups helped bring out the highs, and they're dead quiet. That was a big deal to me, since I often play with only the neck pup.

    Very natural and organic sounding, just about as close as you can get to an upright-esque sound without spending thousands (IMHO).

    Last year, Bass Player magazine did a review of fretless basses in the $400 range. The Fender Jazz was the only one that actually sounded like a fretless bass.

    In my experience with this bass, the most dramatic tone changes came in the following order of importance...
    1) The bass itself (woods, construction, etc.)
    2) Flatwound strings
    3) Pups. I used to have DiMarzio Jazz pups, but they took away highs on a bass that couldn't afford to lose highs. The BL J-45's were not only hotter than stock, they brought more clarity to my tone without making it sound nu-bass.
  7. nysbob


    Sep 14, 2003
    Cincinnati OH
    Bart P/J and pre work well for me.
  8. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Thanks, this is worthwhile info. I see that there is no concensus. I wasn't sure if the predominant opinion would be that there is no predominant opinion, or if a majority of people would give a particular response such as, "You really should find a bass with a piezo system installed," or some other such thing.

    Being new to the fretless world, I wanted to know if Piezo's and active electronics were used by most or if it really didn't matter.

    Thanks Joshua and others,

  9. danomite64


    Nov 16, 2004
    Tampa, Florida
    After trying several fretless basses, I finally figured out that the best thing for me was to use something similar to my main fretted bass, which is a Jazz with quarter-pounders and a 2-band preamp.
  10. RE:PEAT


    Jun 24, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    This probably applies to any bass. Start with strings and set-up. Find the mix that has both playability and sound to your liking, eg., I personally like very low action on a fretless with a little E slop when I dig in. I'm currently using TI Jazz Rounds.

    Then move to pups/preamp if you think the bass needs more tweaking. Still not happy? If you dare tread where few others do...pup placement :eek: At this point, most would bail and start over with a different bass, me included (Gearhead needs only the slightest provocation).

    I think your question is valid. Its nice to hear what works for others. A strong consensus on what not to do is usually accurate!
  11. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Just to be completely clear: when I said it really doesn't matter, I don't mean that there there's never a difference in sound between active and passive setups. I mean that whatever differences there are don't add up to a situation where you can categorically say, oh you can't use THAT for fretless, or you really have to use THIS. IOW, you just can't say, passive works better for fretless than active across the board, or vice versa. That doesn't mean that you can't prefer one or the other on a personal basis, just that there is no "right" answer.
  12. ii7-V7


    Aug 4, 2002
    Baltimore, MD
    Understood! Of course, electronics do make a difference...so do setup, and strings, etc.

    I was just trying to see if there was a concensus. I half expected someone to say, "You really need to hae a piezo system to get the most out of a fretless." Don't know why I would expect that, but I did for some reason.

  13. RE:PEAT


    Jun 24, 2005
    Los Angeles, CA
    Never having had a piezo pups I wonder this myself, Chad, with these forums, how you phrase the question and which fourm you ask it in often yeilds different responses, FWIW.
  14. Unchain

    Unchain I've seen footage.

    Jun 20, 2005
    Tucson, AZ
    Steve Bailey has some new ones out that are smokin'! Give those a try if you can.
  15. fretlessrock

    fretlessrock Supporting Member

    Aug 8, 2002
    In generic terms there is no "best", as you can see for the replies. But if you know what kind of tones you want then there may be a "better". May Be.

    Last weekend a few of my fellow fretless fiends had a get together at my place and we spent the afternoon playing basses and listening. So one player would play his bass and say "I like this about it and don't like that about it" and then the next guy would play the same bass and it would sound completely different. Same amp, same settings on the amp and bass. One example: The SR5 with flats that sounded tubby with one player sounded brighter and more open with another. The consensus was that generalizations are virtually pointless.

    If you know that a certain player has a certain sound that you like and he/she plays an XXX Super DeFret-U-Lator, maybe that is a good direction to start in. But don't expect the bass to sound like something specific. It will sound like you, playing that bass.
  16. As one of those fretless fiends I'm in full agreement, but there are a couple of points I'd like to add.

    There is no substitute for playing a bass through your amp (or one very much like it) with your fingers and, if possible, your band. If you know that you'd like to buy another fretless '78 Jazz that is identical to the '78 Jazz you own, know & love, but this time in green to match your shirt then you're _reasonably_ safe buying sight unseen. Otherwise you're in for a surprise...if you're lucky it'll be a pleasant one. As Pete noted above, fingers on a fretless make a hell of a lot more of a difference than pickups. Fingers used to be available from Tony Levin, but apparently he's sold out...

    But that's the beauty & horror of fretless bass - arguably the most "personal" of all low frequency instruments.
  17. Jonki

    Jonki I will not slap my Bee!

    Oct 14, 2003
    Arendal, Norway
    i got a passive Warmoth fretless P-bass with Bartolini pickup, great sound!