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Help me save my Bongo.

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Silas Martinez, Aug 29, 2007.

  1. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    I'm not certain that this belongs in basses, since it probably touches on technique, and amplification as well. However, its oriented on one bass, so I'm putting it here.

    Once again, I'm on the verge of trying to trade off my bongo. Here's the deal.

    I can't get the tones I like on it to last. I love the versatility - or at least the idea of the versatility. Its a 4HH. The EQ on it is great. By careful attention to which pickup, and how I EQ it, I can get a lot of different tones.

    Main problem, though, is that I'm having troubles getting a nice 'balanced' tone out of it. Its either very deep and round and warm, or thin and brittle. I'm looking for something sort of 'fire and forget' that will work well for finger funk, light slap, and some standard fingerplucking. I'm playing with a dance/funk cover band.

    I've tried (probably too hard) EQing its preamp all over the place. I've tried Rotosounds, Chromes, and elixirs, that I can think of off the top of my head. Chromes are great for rock stuff, but somewhat lacking in upper mid/high 'bite' for slap/pop. May be poor technique there - I'm not a stellar slapper - but I get great slap tone from the neck pup of my old Ibanez with PJ pups. Rotosounds sounded good to me, for the first few days. Then they rapidly got too flat in tone. Elixirs .. had good slap/pop tones, but I couldn't quite get the warmth I was looking for.

    Ultimately, the bass sounds pretty modern, no matter how I run it, and I think I'm playing stuff that calls for more of a vintagey tone.

    Part of it is likely amplification. I've got a Mesa/Boogie Bass 400+, running through ampeg 115 and 210s. Problem here is that the pre amp gives a pretty hot signal, so I end up with some dirt/mud on my tone from the get go (and yes, I can roll off the volume coming off the bass, but I seem to hear some loss of dynamic range when I do it enough to get a totally clean signal). I have an old Hartke 3500 that actually gives a tone I'm happier with, somewhat - so I'm guessing part of my tone woes are going to be solved by a move to a better hyprid amp (I'm thinking of possibly trying to trade the Mesa for a Genz - I hear nothing but good stuff about Genz).

    But what I'm thinking is that maybe ... I'm just ultimately not a Bongo guy. I'm not a huge fan of the 1 5/8" nut neck, but I've adapted to that to the point where I don't really notice the difference between it and a jazz style neck. As the music I'm playing is calling for more slap and pop, I'm finding that the neck MM pup is getting more and more in my way. I keep reading about P basses, and more and more finding myself wishing for a passive P with a jazz width neck. Maybe even a passive jazz. I've only played active basses, and I'm starting to think that maybe I'm missing something obvious here.

    Any suggestions - EQ settings or strings I may have overlooked? I could live with the personal playability niggles if I could get a tone I loved from it. Should I sell or trade off the bongo, and get something vintage styled and passive? Would I be happier with the Mesa head if I did so? (I really want to love the mesa head, but I just don't think its playing nice with the high output active basses.)

    Ack. Help, please!
  2. saxnbass


    Mar 9, 2006
    Nashville, TN
    I have 2 Bongos here with me at college. Know why? Cause they are awesome. They sound great, are very versatile, feel good, and are just very fun to play. Why 2? Cause one is fretted and one is fretless, otherwise it would just be 1. :D

    BTW, I play them flat through a MarkBass rig which is also set flat. That's my EQ settings. Seriously.
  3. bovinehost


    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    You might try simply setting the EQ fairly flat on the bass - I mean, get a sound you like with the pickup blend at 50/50.

    Then simply use the pickup blend to alter your tone. This is what I generally do when playing an HH Bongo. Blues? Rolled toward the neck pickup. Modern or aggressive? Back towards the bridge.

    Too much EQ on an active bass is just too much EQ. In my opinion, especially with a Bongo, if you have any tone knob past 75%, you're doing it wrong.

    Good luck.
  4. +1 to set it flat.
  5. BartmanPDX

    BartmanPDX Supporting Member

    +1. I've found that a powerful preamp in a bass like the Bongo can make it sound like poo in a hurry. Generally, I find the best tones are with the controls set flat.

    That's probably also a reason why I've ended up selling most of the active basses I've bought. I like a nice passive plug-and-go bass personally. More knobs often means more chances for me to screw up a perfectly good bass tone.

    That being said, my old Bongo 5HH had the most massive tone of any bass I've owned. Follow bovinehost's astute recommendations for the best sound.

    BTW, have you ever tried a Bergantino NV610 with the Mesa?
  6. thisSNsucks

    thisSNsucks Supporting Member

    Dec 19, 2004
    Yonkers, NY
    I noticed you didn't say you tried EB Strings. Super Slinkies are awesome strings and may give you what you're looking for. Also I know alot of guys that like the flatwound strings use TI Flats. I hear alot of good things about them, and if you want more of an old school tone, that might be a good option for you.

    Honestly the time I played one I liked it best set pretty much flat except with a little low mid boost when panning toward the bridge pup. I have one on order and cant wait to get it.
  7. bovinehost


    Dec 5, 2002
    Endorsing Artist: Ernie Ball Music Man/Sterling By Music Man
    Agreed on the Slinkys. Before I began my long-standing love affair with TI Flats, I used Slinkys on almost everything. They're nice and bright at first but mellow out purdy good after a bit.

    When they're REALLY old, they're almost like flats!

    But not everyone likes flats. I don't know why and I don't understand it, but I finally have to admit that it must be true.
  8. Jazz Ad

    Jazz Ad Mi la ré sol Supporting Member

    Forget the neck pickup. They're evil.
    Use bridge, don't boost too much but rather cut highs when needed.
  9. CamMcIntyre


    Jun 6, 2000
    I agree-get a set of slinkys. On my Ray5 [single H]-i went through a variety of strings and then one day opted to go back to what i used to play-Slinky 5s. It was like someone gave me back my sound that i had been looking for. Now-i'm playing Power Slinky 5s, but that's more so because i like the heavier gauge for when i'm doubling. It's crazy logic i know, but it works for me.

    So-yeah, try setting the instrument flat and using some Slinkys. It could solve the issues that you are having.
  10. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Sounds good, thanks for the advice. I'll try setting things flat as recommended, and see how things go. I'll also try the slinkys - at this point, I'm going to try a lot to get to 'my sound'. Thing is, as the music I'm playing has shifted, so has my perception of my sound. I loved my combination - bongo, lixirs, mesa, and the cabs I run - when I was playing prog rock. Now that I'm playing old school dance and funk, the super aggressive isn't doing so much for me.

    Not yet. I really want to, and will probably do that before actually letting go of the Mesa. Only concerns I have with the bergies are the price of entrance, and my doubts as to their ability to fit into my current transportation.

    Thanks again, folks!
  11. abngourmet

    abngourmet Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 11, 2004
    I'd recommend the Tech 21 Programmable BDDI. What I've found is that I can emulate a tube like tone with it, as well as have two other presets for dirty/clean. And it's simplicity in and of itself - set the tone/level controls on the unit, push the footswitch twice, and it's set. It also has a direct out, so it has that capability as well.

    I agree that the Bongo's pre is pretty hot. It overdrives just about everything I own amp wise if I'm not careful.

    This being said, I'm a Bongo fan. For the money, you can't beat the versatility and tone (and mine, at least, plays like buttah). And the workmanship is top notch as well. The looks ... well, they're not for everyone. You might want to experiment with some of the tips offered here before going Bongo-less.

    My two cents,

  12. Silas Martinez

    Silas Martinez

    Jan 17, 2007
    Denver, CO
    Mine plays great, as I said. I'm totally satisfied with how it plays - except the MM neck pup, and my craptastic slap technique, as I mentioned.

    As for tube tone, well .... as I said originally, I'm running a Bass 400+ - can't get much more tube tone than that. I may consider the BDDI anyhow, if the other stuff fails. We'll see.
  13. Joe Nerve

    Joe Nerve

    Oct 7, 2000
    New York City
    Endorsing artist: Musicman basses
    I usually go flat and then a wee bit more on the bridge pu, and add little drops of bass and treble to suit the room. I never really touch the upper mids, and I'll fiddle with the lower mids depending on what mood my fingers are in. If I'm playing lightly I can push them a bit, if I'm digging in I keep them flat or cut a bit.

    I pretty much treat my amp settings the same. Althoug I often have to cut back on the bass with my GK.
  14. Set everything flat and use the blend. I've only ever used the tone controls to compensate for weird-shaped rooms or when I want it to sound like a RIC (please don't kill me). Also, cutting frequencies helps more than many people seem to think. If you want old-school sounds, subtract the technological assistance, and voila! Instant thud.

    Bongo also sounds ok plugged directly into the PA-I wouldn't recommend trying that with a Precision, though.

    Slinky's generally are ok if you use at 40's at least. Some sets go off really quickly, but others (my current set) still sound bright after six months.

    HELLonWHEELS Supporting Member

    Jun 13, 2005
    Instead of telling you how awesome my bongo is, im going to give you a suggestion. Take your Bongo to a local store and play it though a whole bunch of amps. If you find the tone your happy with and your comfortable with feel of the bongo. Then switch amps.
  16. Lebowsky

    Lebowsky Effects Forum Resident

    Mar 18, 2007
    Lausanne, Switzerland
    I felt just like you after having bought it! I didn't play it extensively through amps at the shop, but it felt so good in my hands that I had to take it him :D

    But then, when playing through my amp, it took my ages to find the tone I wanted - either too muddy, or not enough balls, etc. I only recently (3 months later!) found a sound that I love:

    I boost the mids a little bit (around 700k I think, I don't have it here) on my Eden EQ, and boost the bass a bit on the Bongo (cause I prefer the bass boosting on the Bongo rather than on the Eden, but thats more because I don't like the Eden bass boost than because I like the Bongo one). I play with all the pickups (both bridge and neck), but without the piezo. It's an HS.

    I just recorded an album with this setup and it was pure pleasure.

    So, in short, and imho: if you need EQ, do it on your amp, unles you want to do a little bit of shaping, then slightly use the Bongo preamp.

    As for the slap problems, well I personnally got used to the neck pickup position rather quickly, but if you are not able to adapt, then I can see it being a problem.

    Strings will also play a big role in your slap tone. I personally would not play anything else than Sadowsky SS roundwounds! :)

    Hope that helped save the Bongo!

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