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F basses: tops and tone

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nonsqtr, May 18, 2004.

  1. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Most of the F basses I've seen have solid swamp ash bodies, but recently I've seen a couple with beautiful tops. There's one in particular I have my eye on, it's a BN5 with a gently spalted maple top with a "cherry burst" finish, and a birdseye fingerboard. My question is, what should I be looking for tone-wise from this instrument? Do the F basses with tops sound any different from the ones without? Is there anything that I should know about tops in general, and specifically on F basses?
  2. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
  3. Most people agree that the sound of the bass is influenced more by the body and the fingerboard woods, not by the top wood, although it may color the sound slightly. There have been many threads on this subject, and there are many differing opinions. In fact, any given identically configured bass by the same manufacturer may differ drastically from it's mate.....especially if they were manufactured from different lots of wood. But if you've played an F-Bass with the same body and fingerboard woods WITHOUT a maple top, I wouldn't expect the tone to differ too much. And the F-Bass preamp is WAY flexible enough to configure YOUR sound. Your best bet is to play it and see....not always easy if you're ordering online. But most of us dealer-types offer a return policy.
    Any thoughts here, Adrian????? :)


  4. Very thorough site, Funk. But keep in mind that the tonal characteristics are largely opinions only. And there are a WHOLE bunch of variables that offset or augment the native tone of the wood.....like preamps, body wood, neck wood, humidity, atomospheric pressure, sun spots, ear wax, and what you ate for breakfast. :p

    It's kinda like reading a wine list: "bold yet fruity". What the heck does that mean? :meh:

  5. Funkize you

    Funkize you Guest

    Nov 4, 2003
    Westminster Ca.
    Yes it is an interesting site, and it give a Bass description of how it "Should" sound, Variables are ALWAYS present. None the less it should tell you how the sound is in stable conditions, And I think it said something about all of the woods being tested with Maple or Aldur... Maybe not though...
  6. I used to think that woods would change the sound on a bass, but a well known luthier from France(who builds awesome basses with brand new shapes..;) ), told me once that the construction of the bass is the most important(for exemple:with the same woods used a Studio has a different sound compared to a BN5).The different woods have a minor effect on the sound compared to the pups and electronics,hardware....Am I right, JP?!
    I have an F bass and I don't think a laminated top would change the sound. Anyway, a Fbass is a Fbass and it just sounds awesome.:hyper:
    The top is more for the eyes rather than the ears;)
  7. adrian garcia

    adrian garcia

    Apr 9, 2001
    las vegas. nevada
    Endorsing Artist: Nordy Basses, Schroeder Cabs, Gallien Krueger Amps
    tops DO change the tone of a bass, not as much as fingerboards, body woods, electronics or pickup placement but also depending on how thick they are-
    having had at last count something like 36 F basses come thru here, i can say this, the all ash F basses have the most " F Bass tone"- it is subtle, but i hear it, however, as one who is a sucker for a pretty top, i can add that it is a compromise i can live with. George Furlanetto makes the tops as thin as possible ( now more than ever) and that interrupts the tone of ash as little as possible. Also, different tops woods yield different tones, Maple is widely used and accepted. Zon uses a Bubinga top on the Special fretlesses because Bubinga is heavy and accentuates the mids. They do this in conjunction with an altered pup placement.
    With F bass particularly, the tone is very consistent, so feel confident that is you add a top, it will be very thin, and it will deviate ever so slightly from the tone of an all ash one, In other words, it will sound different, but not enough to be an issue, that is , with a THIN F bass top- the F Bass will sound like an F Bass. Now, if you are talking about a thick top as in a Roscoe, for example, there would be more change...
  8. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Well, I played it for about two hours today. Mostly it sounds just like an F bass. It does have a slightly more attacky character to it (which I like), but it's hard to ascribe that to the maple top, it could be partially due to the birdseye fingerboard too. Whatever it is, the combination seems to work pretty well. The bass does have a slight buzz to it (grounding issue), but I've fixed enough F basses with this same problem to feel confident that it won't take me but five minutes to address it. I'm about ready to jump on this bass in the morning, unfortunately to get it I'm going to have to sell a StingRay 5 that I just bought last week (no great loss, but the family's making me stick to the downsizing commitment, it doesn't look like they're going to let me get away with any surreptitious purchases this week). :)
  9. basses55

    basses55 Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    Endorsing Artist: Alleva Coppolo, FBass.
    I just thought I may add one more opinion to the discussion even though I may just be repeating some opinions above.

    After playing dozens of BN5s with and without tops..and back to back in many cases... I think the top does make a difference in tone..but not in a major way. The "topped" Fs still have the F tone in spades..but IMO there is some consistantcy in the differences. The "topped" basses seem to have slightly more compression to it overall (which could be a desired thing for some), and the midrange can be a little more pronounced...if you are very tuned into the F tone without a top the more I think you'll hear the subtle differences...the less so then IMO it probebly wont make any difference to you.
    Also, the differences can vary in degree between any two from either side...but to my ears it generally goes that way described above:)
  10. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Okay, I went ahead and bought it. I'll probably catch an earful at dinner tonight, and I may even have to give up one of my other basses to keep it. But, it's a very nice instrument. I'll take some pics tonight and post them as soon possible.
  11. hands5


    Jan 15, 2003
    good 'ol USA/Tampa fla.