Help with my Squire VM Fretless - tone tweak

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by SteveC, Jan 5, 2009.

  1. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I have a Squire VM fretless jazz. You all know the bass. Plays fine, nice for the money, etc. Right now it's all I can afford. But...

    I wish it sounded a little better. It sounds bright or brittle or harsh to me. If I roll off the tone, it gets better but then not as defined. I use TI Jazz Flats, and I think it sounds OK unplugged.

    As I said, I can't afford much, but would like to try a mod of some kind to get a little more mellow tone. I am thinking either pups (Bartolini 9J's) or onboard preamp (Audrer, J-Retro) or some kind of preamp pedal (Sadowsky, John East) but I'd like to keep it simple and cheap - $200 or so.

    I think the pups would be the best change, but need some input.

  2. sounds like you got the right idea. first thing i would do is try a string change. you can mellow it out dramatically just by using flatwounds. or you could try a half round. those stock strings are terrible for fretless bass IMO
  3. Darkstrike

    Darkstrike Return Of The King!

    Sep 14, 2007
  4. Low Main

    Low Main Supporting Member

    Nov 27, 2004
    The first and cheapest remedy is a new nut. The stock nut is just not a good thing.

    The stock bridge is also very cheap. Even a decent quality basic fender style direct swap replacement would help. Even the bridges on other low cost basses like the Yamaha BB 414 (same exact bridge to the naked eye) are much better made than the VM bridges.

    You didn't mention what strings you were using. That will be a big factor.

    I decided to go for flats on a VM FL. Keeping an open mind (and ears), tried a few different sets I had on hand, the TI's sounded the best to me.

    If you're staying with rounds, someone else will have a good suggestion on that.

    Not every VM FL neck is a thing of beauty. I looked at a few before I found one I liked. The boards on the VM FL's are sometimes dipsy doodle - not flat. I leveled and rubbed out my board - now much better.

    Clean out the neck pocket and replace the neck mounting screws. Very messy pocket and cheap screws.

    I think the stock pickups are OK, but Barts would definitely be a big step up. So many Bart J's to choose from...I haven't figured that part out yet. Might as well replace the whole wiring package while you're at it. No big deal.

    I'm not inclined to put a preamp in a VM myself. Just not real interested in doing it.

    Somewhere on YouTube there's a clip of a TB'er playing his VM FL after he put in replacement Barts. Sounds good to me.
  5. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I'm using TI Jazz Flats.

    I don't want to put a preamp in mine either - too much to spend.

    I don't know, maybe it was a bad purchase. I'd really like a Wendler but can't afford/justify it. I was hoping this would be good enough for me as it seems to be for many others.
  6. mikezimmerman

    mikezimmerman Supporting Member

    Apr 29, 2001
    Omaha, Nebraska
  7. As far as pups go, I installed Bart 9J1's and the bass really speaks out at you. I use roundwound strings because I like to accentuate the "mwah", the bass sounds really nice now. Even with the Duncan's, I didn't notice the bass sounding thin, to be honest with you.
  8. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    Has Bart's now. Sounds much better. Still unsure about the bass on the whole. Still doesn't "feel" quite right. I have a gig this on Thursday so I'll see how it goes there.
  9. ProfGumby


    Jan 15, 2007
    Michigan's U.P.
    There ya go!

    Flats are a good way to bring in some low end, and a warm mellowness.

    On my VM Jazz, I am using D' Addario Chromes. But I wanted a more crisp tone (think close to rounds) but not too bright. You have a maple neck, maple fret board and a maple body. Very bright, crisp tone...maybe too much for some.

    Try DR Flats or Detroit Flats from Web Strings.
  10. Mine originally came with 500K linear controls.

    You might want to try 250K controls, as you would be able to get a mellower tone from higher in the rotation.

    And be sure to use audio tapers, as
    A. They have a more balanced sound across the rotation from the logarithmic taper.
    B. They have a lower resistance than linear tapers at a higher setting.
  11. edburns


    Jan 10, 2009
    Reno, NV
    Steve, it sounds like your VM is growing on you. Don't give up on it yet...I think you'll be surprised.
  12. Fat K

    Fat K

    Mar 7, 2008
    Hong Kong
    +1 CHANGE THAT BRIDGE, NASTY THING!!! I use a Gotoh instant improvement, the bass "rings" a lot better. Tried a pair of Dimazio J's a bit too dark, now back to the original Ducans again.

    Next thing, I would redo the electronics with better ones pots and caps, then retry with the Dimarzio Js and some old Fender CS PUs.

    IMO, the key is to be patient ,trail and error, but not over the top! This is part of the fun, QUEST for "THE SOUND".

    I much prefer the bass in passive, it brings out MWAH and the woodiness better IMO. I roll back the tone to tatse, to kill the edge and harness out. I tried using it with the Sadowsky outboard preamp, not quite what I expect.

    I prefer roundwound on fretless, I string mine with DR Sunbeam which I am very happy with,
  13. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I do think new pots would help. They didn't have a blend in stock at the store when I did the pups so I left it. The pots are not good. They only "work" for a short part of the turn.

    I think I would like to keep it passive. The "drop in" preamps cost more than the bass so...

    Right now I have a buzz at the 4th "fret" that I need to get rid of. I am going to gig it again (haven't played a jazz gig for a while) and see how it sounds.

    If I don't have to spend $1,000 on a new bass, I'd like not to...
  14. the low one

    the low one

    Feb 21, 2002
    I’m surprised no one has mentioned pickup volume settings. Are you just using the bridge pickup? That can sound harsh by itself. Try bringing the neck pickup volume up. Both pickups together dives a darker and more mellow tone.
  15. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I run them even. It just isn't the sound - or feel - that I want. The sound part I could throw money at, the feel part I can't. I'm going to trade i tin for something else I can make better use of - maybe a DI or something.
  16. the low one

    the low one

    Feb 21, 2002
    Running the jazz pups even does create a natural mid scoop which isn't that friendly to fretless, unless that's what you want. Having said that you can get a nice full sound by running the pups even and boosting the mids to add punch back in.

    Have you tried setting the bridge pup at 100% and neck pup at 95% so you get plenty of neck pup for warmth but still some growl as the pups aren't even ?
  17. MIJ-VI

    MIJ-VI Inactive Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2009
    Since you are already using good flatwounds, try raising (or lowering) the height of your bass' pickups by a 1/4 turn of the pickup height adjustment screws at a time. A small change in pickup height can make a big difference in tone.

    The aim is to find that sweet spot where the pickups are close enough to the strings for a balanced & strong electrical output, yet far enough away to avoid string vibration being dampened (loss of life & sustain) by the pickup's magnets.

    When you get this right, your bass will sound big acoustically as well as full & rich when played through an amp.

    Also, flatten the EQ on your amp, turn it up as loud as you need it to be when you play with a light touch, and then tweak the EQ as needed to compete with other instruments and/or to compensate for room acoustics.


    If none of this works, then consider a change in wardrobe :D: