Getting More Punch from my F Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Wasabi1264, Mar 18, 2006.

  1. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004
    Hey folks. I am the proud owner of two basses...An F Bass BN5, and a StingRay 5. I love both of them, as they seem to compliment each other, but I'm trying to get some feedback.

    I really want my F to be my primary bass. It works great in my jazz/funk band, and it's really, really comfortable and fast to play. Plus, it's relatively light compared to my StingRay. The problem is that live in my pop/rock band (lots of Billy Joel, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, DMB, classic soul, etc.), it doesn't seem to have the punch that I need. I play live only through a DI (SansAmp Bass DI), and we use powered Mackie speakers. It just is a tamer sounding beast, very warm and dark...but doesn't have those low mids.

    I can't seem to get a good setting on it where I have enough gain going through without really messing with the EQ on the other words, flat (no boost) sounds best to me.

    The StingRay has that gutsy sound that just seems to cut through more, but its narrow string spacing and neck shape isn't as comfortable or fast for me, plus it's heavy. But I can just plug into the Sans Amp and seem to get a great tone with everything on the SansAmp at 12 o' clock and the boost (volume) between 3/4 and full. But it doesn't do the slap tone as well for me.

    So, any advice? Am I looking for something from each of these basses that I just won't get? I guess what I want is my F to sound like a StingRay, or at least have more "guts" (in that one band situation), and play like an F, but still have the great warmth and slap tone I love for my jazz band. Or my StingRay to have the string spacing and neck shape of the F.

    Any advice?
  2. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    I have a BN6, and in my experience, you have to adjust the input gain or the master level to get more out of it, compared to my Sadowsky.

    Using an amp, I have to activate the -14db pad for the Sadowsky, Valenti, and my ZON, but deactivate it for the F Bass, even thought it's active. Thjis way I use the EQ as I normally would.

    The outcome is all good once you find the level.
  3. Wasabi1264


    Oct 3, 2004
    For me, part of the problem is that the SansAmp's max "gain" doesn't actually make the signal hotter...I purchased a Behringer (I know, I know) active DI, which does boost, but just haven't found a workable level yet which doesn't send too much or too little.

    But beyond gain, there's a tone issue. Do you find the Sadowsky has more "booty" than the F? I know this is more comparing jazz styles to jazz styles, and again, maybe trying to get the StingRay slice and punch out of ANY jazz style bass just won't happen.
  4. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    I really love my Fbass, but I find that the lack of punch comes from the pickups. The pickups need to be hotter, IMO, and I've thought about having them re-wound or even having Carey Nordstrand custom build a hotter set for that bass. Outside of that, I don't think that there's a lot that you can do to change anything.
  5. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I think your problem is in the SansAmp: it eats all the low mids, unless you set the mix to 0%. And with the mix set to zero, then, like you said, there is not enough gain.

    In your situation, a device like this would be sweet.

    An Aphex Punch factory could help you too

    I use a Tech 21 Bass Compactor when going direct, and it always provide great extra gain and punch. But this particular unit is a tad noisy, so I would not recommended - just any good compressor will do.
  6. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I just changed out the preamp in my F and it made a world of difference. I got a 4 band preamp from Audere It's now a much more responsive and punchy bass. The low mid eq on the 4 band is the ticket for this bass. I do agree though that the pickups are part of the issue.
  7. Dave Hill

    Dave Hill Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    For me the F has plenty of punch, throughout a WIDE variety of styles. It has a more round and very "middle-fundamental" tone, which I have learned is an excellent place to start when sculpting a sound (or sounds). It definately lacks the more "sizzly" frequencies that I hear in a MM or Sadowsky, but I think these are the freqs that people tend to hear as "cutting through". Personally, I care for the more fundamental tone that when adequately amplified (and yes the F may need more amp. gain than other basses) sits in the mix with proper booty and a balanced, round high end. I totally agree that a F bass does not sound like a MM.
  8. jacochops


    Jul 2, 2000
    Suzhou, China

    Amen to that. Just have Carey re-wind them for you, and'll get what you need.
  9. Andy Brown

    Andy Brown

    Jul 23, 2004
    Rhode Island
    Founder: Wing Bass
    To me the Sadowsky tone is a totally different animal. If you mean, do I find the Sadowsky more responsive and 'cutting through' than the F? Yes, I do. However, I find the F Bass a lot more versatile in the range of tones I can get. The Sad is great for power jazz bass. The F is great for just about everything else. I love 'em both.
  10. Poon


    May 20, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    Try switching your pickups into single coil mode or "series", whichever it is. I think it definitely adds some low-mid emphasis. It changes the nature of the beast a bit.
  11. bassbrother


    May 9, 2005
    Maybe you should change the preamp to an aquilar OBP-3 or something like that. I 've heard good things about that preamp!
    BTW, I sold my Fbass for a Sadowsky MV5 (with VTC) because I had the same problem of missing that punch. The Fbass has a great very well balanced sound, but the Sadowsky is really much more ass kicking and stays better in the mix!!:hyper: and versatile enough for me to get a good sound in every playing situation...
  12. BassBuzzRS

    BassBuzzRS Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2005
    I agree. Set mix to zero. Add drive/gain/bass/treble as you please, but adjust mids somewhere else.

    Play nearer the bridge and with bridge pickup. Dig in a bit too, that'll punch things up.
  13. As others have pointed out, the FBass output is set very low, so that the output of the bass with all the controls off (flat) is identical to the passive output. I actually very much like that, and feel the FBass's preamp is one of the most transparant out there... it really does sound passive when in 'flat active' mode.

    That does require a much hotter gain setting on your pre than you are probably used to with a typical active bass... don't worry about cranking it up!

    The only thing I dislike about that circuit is the large volume drop (at least in the one I had) when you go from single coil to dual coil... strangely enough, it's the dual coil that suffers the volume drop. While I kept my FBass in single coil mode all the time anyway, I found that volume disparity to really limit the use of that feature. George explained the reason for it, but it was over my head:)

    Anyway, great basses... just crank up the input gain, pump the mids a little and let 'er rip:bassist:
  14. emjazz

    emjazz Supporting Member

    Feb 23, 2003
    Boston, MA
    I agree that more output from your bass will help with this issue. For me I've been putting a Seymour Duncun "pickup booster" pedal after my bass and before my amp. It really makes a difference. You can get these for around $50 used.
  15. Tom7

    Tom7 I'm so bright, my mom called me son! ;-)

    Jan 31, 2000
    Eagle River, Alaska
    I am very surprised that some people feel the problem is in the pickups or the preamp. To me (and this is just my opinion of course), replacing components is a last resort, not a first response.

    For starters, you can defeat the active electronics and play passive ... just like the old Fender basses that Sadowsky is imitating. That means you can get an external Sadowsky preamp, plug in and be most of the way there without doing anything to your bass. Not only is that a heck of a lot cheaper, but it preserves what you have in your F Bass that makes it so good, and all that tonal variety will still be at your disposal.

    Second, you are half way to your own solution when you identified the character of those Mackie speakers. I can see why you might not want to do this, but you could try finding the sound you want from a small combo amp and then mic-ing it for the Mackie. I don't really like working like that, but I like even less to not sound how I want to sound and it is surprising how effective that can be.

    Third, when I first got my BN5, the reviews I read had my expectations were sky high -- especially for tone variability. I expected Sadowsky-esque punch and a range of other tones. At first I was disappointed, but then I changed the strings from the factory set to Ken Smith "Slap Masters" and instantly was pleased. In the final analysis, the core of a bass's sound is a vibrating string. Make sure you replace your strings with Marcus Miller's Fat Beams and other strings associated with the Sadowsky tone before you start replacing electrical components in the bass itself.

    Fourth, the wood really matters. If tops don't alter the characteristics of a bass, then why does George Furlanetto take the trouble to make them so thin and tell us about it? I think the most Sadowsky-esque tone comes from a swamp-ash body and maple neck. Putting a maple top on the swamp-ash compresses the tone somewhat and tames it. It still sounds great, but the tone changes a step away from that Sadowsky punch you are seeking. I don't know what the make up of your F Bass is, but if you stuck with an ash body and a maple neck, while your bass may not be as pretty as others (in some people's opinion), nevertheless, your bass is like mine and mine does a VERY nice Marcus when I tweak it to be so. REALLY nice.

    I think your bass is probably just fine; you just have to learn what you need to do to overcome the Mackies.

    Another word on wood ... I think 6 string basses sound different than 4, and I think it is because there is more wood on a 6 string bass. I'm not saying one sound is better, but they are different. To me, that means the tone of a multistring bass, a 6 string bass especially, is more affected by its woods than say Marcus's 4-string '77 Fender. Consequently, as a 5 and a 6 player, I am careful to buy basses for sound first, looks second.

    As you know, you can't just set your gears' settings once and for all and count on sounding the same from venue to venue. Heck, your sound changes just by the room filling up with people!

    Don't give up on your F Bass just yet; the tone you are looking for is probably within its reach as it is.
  16. Halftooth

    Halftooth Supporting Member

    Nov 24, 2002
    Tri-Valley, NorCal
    The pickups and or preamp can certainly be the problem when the issue is about output.

    What you described as possible fixes, while all good and valid points, still may not address the issue of the low ouput from the Fbass. Changing strings, as far as I can tell with the experimenting that I've done, does not change the ouput of the bass, but rather it can change the attack or some tonal aspects relating to specific frequecy responses. I personally believe that the issue is with the pickups not being hot enough, but that's just my opinion, and others may think it could be the preamp, and I'm confident that changing the strings isn't going to really help my output problem (However, I do agree that the Ken Smith strings are an improvement sonicly over the stock Labella strings). Comparatively, Sadowsky's on average have more output when compared to the Fbass because both pickups and preamp are hotter, not because the strings or the specific wood choices (even though I agree totally about wood differences with tops and bodies, etc).

    I'm in total agreement with you about changing the electronics can certainly change what we all like about the bass. The eq is very transparent, and the pickups have a great tone, both of which I would really have to think hard about replacing. I still beleieve that if Carey Nordstrand can rewind the p-ups to have more output but still retain the tonal qualities, I'd really have to think hard about doing such an upgrade.
  17. pickles

    pickles Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2000
    Ventura, CA
    This thread derailed a bit from the original request ... its not about making an F bass punch like a Sadowsky -- its about making an F bass punch like a Stingray!

    That punch is why we love the stingray, and its not easy to get from other basses. F basses seem to be voiced close to a jazz bass, and I've really never been able to coax a stingray type sound from any jazz bass.
  18. rontalsaurus


    Aug 19, 2002
    I've got to agree with that last post. I think part of the issue here, or the whole issue, is that you're trying to put a square peg in a round hole. If you like the punch, and raw presence of the Stingray, and you're not getting it from your Fbass...but you like the tone of the Fbass in other situations, I don't think you're going to squeeze a Stingray tone out of the F. People have different basses for a reason.
    I was in your situation too. I bought my Kinal thinking it would be the last bass I'd ever need. Turns out, it's great at getting all sorts of modern tones, but it just can't deliver that old-school single coil jazz pup tone. I thought about altering it in ways, but then I realized that it is what it is and no modification is going to make it a vintage Fender...just detract from the great instrument it is now.
    If you dig the Stingray tone but think the axe is too heavy and the neck too chunky, I'd suggest trying out a Modulus Flea bass. The Bart MM-style pup will bring you the big, ass-kickin' humbucker sound, and the instrument is lighter and the neck much thinner. It's not quite a Stingray (lacks some of the rawness and zing of the Stingray tone), but it's similar, and in many ears better (mine included).
  19. Dave Hill

    Dave Hill Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Atlanta, GA
    I think the new F piccolo has side by side humbuckers in it...I wonder how one of those would sound in the MM position on a BN5 (still not like a MM). Anyway, I wouldn't change anything about my BN5... I've even gone back to the Labella F bass strings after some experimentation. Oh, and my Sadowsky sounded nothing like a Stingray either.
  20. Lorenzini


    Dec 31, 2004
    Los Angeles
    Well, just sell both and get a 55 02 or 55 94 with the Lakland pickups.

    Sounds exactly like what you want, even though it's pretty absurd.. :rolleyes:

    Good luck on your quest for tone!