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How can I make my bass sound better?

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by gordslinger, Mar 9, 2008.

  1. I bought my bass onlnie from a guy who made it and basically I want it to sound as cool as it looks and I dont really know much about bass parts. All I know is that it is acryllic and the neck says Grand.

    Watch the video for further explanation...

    Any suggestions on what to do and how much it will cost?
  2. MooseLumps

    MooseLumps Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2007
    The trooper... Chipmunk version.
    Stop. please.
  3. Acrylic basses.... I don't know. I'm not a fan of the tone. There may not to be much to do.

    But if you're looking to swap out the pickups, you're looking at $150-$300. Q-Tuners would compliment the look, I guess. Rewire all electronics with better wires, and pots. Replace the bridge with something that looks like it's worth more than the metal of the money that was used to pay for it. And replace the nut.

    You could end up buying a better bass for the price of all that, really.
  4. Bassman822


    Sep 1, 2007
    Bessemer, AL
    Start with some good, brand name strings
  5. Yeah, that helps, too. Strings are very important. They don't have to be brand-name, but they definitely have to be good.

  6. haha that was an inside joke...

  7. really? damn...
  8. Illbay


    Jan 15, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    1) Get a backstage pass to a RUSH concert. (Not sure of the cost, but it's probably not inexpensive).

    2) Be sure to bring your bass, ostensibly to have Geddy sign it.

    3) At the end of the concert, approach him with a jaunty attitude and hand him the bass.

    4) Ask him to play it.

    It will probably sound better.

    (I'm goofin' wit' ya, but my point is that the number one problem with the sound of ANY instrument is "operator error.")
  9. dreadheadbass


    Dec 17, 2007
    a big part of a bass tone comes from the wood its made out of (ash alder etc) some woods are more trebley some are more bassy as well as this there's several other parts that effect the tone ie, pickups, bridge, nut, electronics etc

    and seen as your bass is made of plastic it looks like the best bet is pickups what pickups you buy depends on the tone you want (barts have a warm sound seymours have a punchy sound etc)

    but without knowing what kinda "sound" your after were gonna be a bit stumped recomending parts really
  10. Some basses are definitely just junk, though.
  11. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    Well a good set of strings and a good setup will help you to keep your harmonics in tune. This should help your bass sound a lot better. Sometimes people claim their bass is bad when the intonation is simply off, creating weird noises that you can't pin down but mess your sound. It will probably also play better, encouraging you to practice and hence improving your tone.

    After that is done, you could replace the pickups, and then the preamp, in that order. There are a lot of good pickups out there, but most of them are not cheap. I would check that the bass is actually comfortable to play, and has a good basic tone, before attempting this. You can check the basic tone by playing it unplugged. Have your ear against the body. If after the setup, the bass is still not comfortable to play, sell it and get one that is.

    I'd suggest Bartolini pickups if the acrylic is as bright as i think it is. The bart preamps are not bad either.
  12. What pickups would you suggest to get a tone that sounds similar to Steve Harris's playing?
  13. OK. I agree it looks cool. The loose pot needs to be tightened. Remove the knob. If there is not set-screw on the knob it probably pulls right off. Or if there is a set screw loosen it and the knob will come right off. Once the knob is off, take a pair of needle nose pliers or a deep socket that fits over the control shaft and tighten the nut down. That fixes that.

    OK you are comparing what is basically a passive Jazz Bass acrylic/Lucite clone to an active plastic (luthite) Ibanez Ergodyne.

    A cheap active bass is going to be hotter and louder than even a top quality passive bass. The Lucite/acrylic bass is never going to sound like the Ergodyne unless you make it active by installing an on-board preamp. There is enough room in the control cavity to do this but it is very expensive and complicated.

    To make it sound better the FIRST thing to do is to decide is WHAT you want it to sound like! So what do you want it to sound like? Just saying "BETTER" is not enough to go on.

    Since it is a J-bass configuration you are pretty limited to making it sound close to a J-bass.

    STRINGS are the first place to start. Thomastik-Infeld EB344 POWERBASS are my favorites for rocking stuff and Thomastik-Infeld JF344's for mellow jazzier things. Everyone has a favorite string or two, those are my two. If you have weaker pickups, the EB-344's will help the most as they are high-output and have lots of zing to them. So for your bass I'd suggest trying EB344's.

    Next let us talk pickups. Those are JAZZ BASS type pickups. Fortunately there are MANY different J-bass pickups out there. Also there looks to be PLENTY of room to put in decent CTS pots and a quality capacitor too. The best you can hope for is to make it sound like a decent passive Jazz bass. You can get Jazz Bass wiring diagrams from the Seymour Duncan site or from Stew Mac's site.

    You also have room to put in a small "opamp" type preamp if you need to make it active.

    Some people think that the "WOOD" makes a big difference and look down on any material other than wood. However the hotter the pickup output, the less "woodiness" to the tone anyway. Preamps often boost things to the point you are only hearing the pickup anyway.

    I put a hot pickup in one bass that sounded "WOODY" when stock and it lost every bit of woodiness to the tone once the hot pickup was installed.

    So, I'd recommend new strings first. See if that helps. Take it to a pro and get it set up correctly with the new strings. The pickup height may need to be adjusted and he'll know how to do that. Figure on 50 to 100 dollars for the labor for the set up plus the cost of the strings which should not be over $40.

    If after that you are still not happy, consider replacing the pickups with Lindy Fralin Jazz Bass pickups. That will set you back $160 a pair but you can specify overwinding to compensate for the low output of a passive bass, or go with Seymour Duncan SB3 quarter pounder Jazz bass pickups which are a bit less expensive at 120 a set, but with Seymour Duncan you have to take what you get.

    When changing the pickups I'd also replace the wiring, pots, capacitor, everything and that would be about $30 for parts. I'd also consider changing the bridge but you are sort of limited due to the holes drilled in the Lucite. I'd do the bridge LAST and only if you had to.

    When rewiring it, use Fender issue Jazz bass stuff like 500K CTS pots and the right value cap according to the wiring diagram. Use very good wire too and don't forget to ground the bridge. That is pretty skimpy looking wiring there. Replace the jack with a real Switchcraft brand jack too.

    That is about all you can do. Other than replacing the nut, which makes very little difference in my experience than the other changes.

    One thing to remember is to use a good quality cable from the instrument to the amp. This is super important with a passive bass like this passive Lucite one and less important with an active instrument. A good cable will cost a bit, but the return in tone is usually worth the investment. Consider a custom cable from one of the cable boutique websites. There are many good ones.

    To sum up, you are looking at a lot of labor and expense. Maybe you'd be better off buying a better bass like someone else said, then again there is a lot to be said for the uniqueness of a see through Lucite bass. It sure has personality and if you want to invest the time and money, go for it. Just don't expect a passive bass to ever do everything the same way that active bass will do no matter what you spend unless you put a preamp in it. Even then the Jazz Bass pickups are going to sound like Jazz Bass pickups and not like Soapbars.

    Good luck with your project.
  14. A Fender P Bass, Rotosound Flats, and being Steve Harris.
  15. ehque


    Jan 8, 2006
    And, if you want to do that with your clear bass:

    deep pickups (bartolinis, but they dont growl much, or SD, which growl, but which aren't the deepest),
    favouring the neck pickup,
    and being Steve Harris.
  16. I am not one of those who think it makes sense to tear apart and rebuild instruments unless there is a specific problem you're trying to address. I'm not sure that your present situation qualifies.

    What I'd do is put a set of Labella Flatwounds on it and play it. Strings are the absolute most bang for the buck you can get in terms of changing the instrument's sound. Change the strings and you will achieve as much change in sound as most of the things mentioned in this thread put together - the one exception being a major change in type of pickup.

    Then play it, change the pickup balance slightly to suit yourself and be content with a very unusual bass that surely will have a distinctive sound. You don't WANT it to sound like every other bass - and it won't - so be happy with it.
  17. You posted your first reference to Steve Harris while I was writing my first message, hence this second one. So I have two suggestions.

    1. Flatwound strings. The first choice might be Steve Harris ROTOSOUND flatwound strings. These are huge strings compared to what most players these days are used to, along the same lines as the Labella "Jamerson" set earlier recommended. The Harris strings are slightly smaller than the Jamerson Labellas.

    Both these sets are very fat and very high tension strings. Whether or not your neck is up to tension this high could be an issue in the long run. Whether or not your skills and finger strength are up to it is another. It will take you a while to get used to the feel of strings that are pretty fat. High tension strings like these can cause neck problems on basses. The Labella Jamerson strings are possibly the highest tension bass guitar strings on the planet. In reality the neck on Mr. Jamerson's bass was irreparably warped and whether or not the high tension Labellas caused this I don't know. I do know some people use the Labella Jamerson strings with no problems. At one time these were the "stock" strings on Fender basses.

    There are lower tension flatwounds that are easier to play and easier on your neck. The smaller diameter Labellas have slightly lower tension for example. The Thomastik-Infeld JF344's are ultra low tension, maybe the lowest of any flatwound. The TI JF344's will have a completely different sound compared to the Steve Harris strings or the Labellas.

    Only a qualified luthier or tech should be the one to decide or you could wind up warping your neck. Another option would be the Fender flats, which are much more common and about half the price of the previously mentioned flats.

    I'd start with lower tension flats, meaning the smaller diameter ones first and see if that is more like what you are looking for.

    As far as pickups, since Mr. Harris plays a P-bass and you have a J-bass based platform, the best option would be to get Lindy Fralin to custom wind you a set of the dead quiet SPLIT COIL J-bass pickups to sound as much like a P-bass as he can. These are expensive pickups. Figure on $240 a set plus $12 postage. You really only need one though, the neck pickup. That would be $120 plus postage. Plus you'll have to wait a few weeks while he makes them. If you don't like them, he will rewind them based on what you find out after installing them in your bass.

    I'd try the strings first and see if that helps. Figure again on paying someone who really knows what they are doing to set it up properly. I'd start by finding a Fender authorized service center. Call them and see if they have a Fender certified tech. Get him (or her) to do the string set up for you. And get a price for the setup first.

    All this stuff is expensive. A pro set up ain't cheap, but unless you know precisely what you are doing that is the way to go the first time you change to new strings. After that you can replace the strings (one-at-a-time) with identical strings yourself and you might get lucky like that for a very long time before it needs any adjustments.

    Good luck!
  18. Ok.... Is it possible to change the neck of the guitar to a neck that can handle high tension strings?

    If so... How and what type of neck should I change it to?

    And will the process be complicated and/or expensive?
  19. Just tighten the truss rod to accept the tension. You don't need to upgrade necks.

    Of course, whether it warps or not years down the line is another question... but worry about it then.

    Bartolini makes split-coil J pickups.
  20. EnderZ13


    Feb 19, 2007
    Utopia, Jersey
    The video was nice but a sound clip of you playing would have gotten you better advice to figure out where the error lies:eyebrow:

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