1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
     
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Jazz: replace the Engelhardt M-1, or fix it up (and how?)

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by fovea1959, Aug 14, 2012.


  1. fovea1959

    fovea1959

    Feb 10, 2009
    SW Michigan
    I am starting to think about replacing my 1996 M-1; I play exclusively jazz, mostly late big band, occasional small combo work. I have a Realist and an AI Coda to get me heard over the trumpets (want to replace the Realist: too prone to feedback).

    In smaller (unamplified) settings, I just don't like the low end of the bass; not a lot of volume or sustain. I have it strung with Superflexible Solos, probably a couple of years old. The bass has had the bridge replaced since I had it (old bridge was seriously bent!).

    I've been thinking about trading up to something in the $2k-$3k range, and finally did hit some shops in Chicago and tried a few things out to see if I could find something in that range that sounded enough better to make it worth the expense. None of the newer inexpensive hybrids or plys did anything for me (better, but not $2000 better!), though they were more set up for orchestral work, it seems, and there were not a lot of hybrids in stock and set up in that range.

    For kicks, I did grab a couple of early 50s Kays (outside of budget): they did have the sound (my wife picked up on it immediately!)...

    I'm starting to think about just getting the M-1 restrung and setup to tide me over until I can drop for a Kay (and it will help resale, I hope). So several questions:

    1) Has any talkbassist gotten an Engelhardt to sound decent for jazz? If so, suggestions? I hate to continually experiment with strings, etc; expensive! If Engelhardt bought all the Kay designs, why won't mine sound like "that"?

    2) What besides an old Kay sounds like an old Kay? It seems like old Kay's are expensive (generally $3000+, occasionally $2k-$3k).
     
  2. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    For the kind of money that you have budgeted, a Kay or an Engelhardt isn't going to compete very well for sound or the feel of their little pencil necks. There are a lot of good options, so enjoy the hunt. I would try out any basses that you can find within a day's drive.
     
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    It sounds like what we have here is a preference that differs from that of most players. That's perfectly fine, but it'll make it difficult to advise you. For example, to my ears and hands, any hybrid or ply bass that justifies a $2-3k price-tag would be far, far more desirable than any Engel. The fact that you find that an old Kay has "the sound" is very revealing. It suggests that the sound you prefer is the "thump" of a ply bass rather than the complexity of tone and resonance offered by a nice carved top or that can be approached, to some extent, by upper-end and more refined ply basses. What doesn't fit is that you want volume and sustain. Those are not characteristics of Engels or Kays.

    What ply basses did you play? It seems clear that you're after the ply "thump." Now, in my experience, there are several options of new ply basses that are built better, have a better neck profile, a far better overall design, and sound waaaaaaay better than an Engel or a Kay. That takes us back to the preference issue.

    As for why your Engel doesn't sound like an old Kay, well, that's because it's not only about the design; it's also about the materials used to build that design. The Kay experts around here will tell you all about the difference between the wood used to build those old Kays and what was used to make your Engel. Much of the reason that Kays command the prices that they do is wrapped up in their collectibility as no-longer-produced bits of Americana. That is, much of it is not about the sound or the design as a double bass.

    How long have you been playing? Here's the reason I ask. If you're a seasoned player and your preference has been developed as a result of substantial experience, then fine. No one can argue with your preference. On the other hand, if you're a relative newbie and are used to the sound of ply basses, you may not yet have enough of a sampling to make an informed choice based on being able to discriminate along the typical dimensions of double-bass sound. If that's the case, then it's possible that you could spend money on something that you might later find is just not up to par. That would be an argument for getting some setup work done on your Engel and gaining more experience before dropping the $$$.
     
  4. fovea1959

    fovea1959

    Feb 10, 2009
    SW Michigan
    Tried a Shen SB-90. Liked the neck, volume seemed comparable to the Kay, didn't have the tonal character.

    No hybrids in that shop.

    Tried a 1984 Schroetter; twas ok, again just didn't like the sound. Got distracted by the Kay, and ran out of time (wife was along, was trying to be kind to her).

    Volume/sustain: the Kay wasn't great, but was certainly better than the Engel.

    I don't think that the thump is what I'm hearing; perhaps it's growl? My wife's ears perked up immediately when I played the Kays, so I don't think that it was volume or sustain (she has no idea of how hard I'm working to get a certain volume). Perhaps different strings on a hybrid or high end laminate?

    I do have another trip to Chicago soon, so that's good...

    I've been playing about 5 years, doing jazz for 3, and that's probably what I'll play in the future (I suck at classical). I think I know what I want for a sound, but seem to have trouble articulating it.
     
  5. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Hmm... sounds to me as if the character of the instruments themselves is being confounded with their individual setups. Nothing growls and sustains like a nice fully-carved bass with the right strings and setup. As a group, plys are least able to do that. If growl and sustain are characteristics that are important to you, then I suggest, given your budget, that you look for a nice hybrid or an upper-end ply, preferably the former.
     
  6. Steve Swan

    Steve Swan

    Oct 12, 2004
    Burlingame, California
    Retailer: Shen, Sun, older European
    You should be able to find plenty of choices in the greater Chicago area. Let us know what you find!
     
  7. fovea1959

    fovea1959

    Feb 10, 2009
    SW Michigan
    drurb: I suspect you are right; I'm probably having trouble distinguishing the basses from the setups. Will pay more attention to that next time.

    steve: turns out I have to go to Chicago again in two weeks, so get to go shopping again. I'll post what I find.

    all: why would a Kay growl so wonderfully with just a set of Helicores on it, while nothing else seemed to?
     
  8. Eric Hochberg

    Eric Hochberg

    Jul 7, 2004
    Chicago
    setup and strings. I have to say that I think a ply Shen Sb80 is a much better sounding bass than the Engles I've heard.
     
  9. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    If you like the sound of old Kays, then that is probably the bass for you. Generally speaking, folks that like them REALLY like them and folks that don't REALLY don't; you'll find a ton of Kaybasherz around here.... The most important thing is what sounds best to your ears and your style of playing, not random advice that a bunch of half deaf geezers on the internet give you. Your ears and playing are very different than mine or the next fellow.

    Since you have been playing for a while and are giging regularly, rather than a transitional cheaper import or an mid grade Kay, set a goal for yourself and get a little more bass that you can grow into. People spend $2k on an old car and are excited if it lasts 18 months, yet they expect a bass in that price range to satisfy them for 20 years or more. I'd suggest you hold out and get a used New Standard; almost every one I've ever met is very impressed with those; the original American Standards are nice if the neck and body work for your.

    The true cost of your bass is not just what it costs to get it home. You don't get something for nothing; if you save $300 and buy a cheaply made import from poor materials with a fingerboard and neck joint that were put together with superglue, be prepared to exceed the price of the bass to get it worked on. I know a number of shops that refuse to work on them.

    If that fellow from Canada can trade one red paperclip for a house within a year, you can easily trade up to a much nicer bass in a short period of time.

    Good luck.
     
  10. DC Bass

    DC Bass

    Mar 28, 2010
    Washington DC
    Lots of good, thought provoking advice here.

    I think I like James' the best- get the Engel a good setup and check out a New Standard...then start saving! :)

    Joe
     
  11. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    See the irony? :)

    As I mentioned right up front, if the sound of a Kay is what one prefers and that preference is based on experience, then so be it. No one should argue with such a preference.

    I'm not so sure that applies to the OP. It sounds like he would even agree that more exposure to many more different basses would be of benefit.
     
  12. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    See the irony? :) I sure do agree about a New Standard over a Kay. That's not bashing and I'm quite far from being deaf. Now, the geezer part, well...

    As I mentioned right up front, if the sound of a Kay is what one prefers and that preference is based on experience, then so be it. No one should argue with such a preference.

    I'm not so sure that applies to the OP. It sounds like he would even agree that more exposure to many more different basses is in order.
     
  13. fovea1959

    fovea1959

    Feb 10, 2009
    SW Michigan
    The OP has learned that he is not sure if he liked (was hearing) the Kays themselves, or the setup of Kays, and is planning to go back and listen to more basses. He plans to bring a 2nd bassist (or a recorder) to his next shopping trip.

    The OP is also concerned that if he buys something else that has more volume and sustain, hoping the sound character turns into what he wants with different strings and setup, he stands the chance to be disappointed, or run a lot of expensive string/setup experiments. Have history here with son's violin...

    The OP also was listening to the old bass more last night (had a different sound guy, spent 10 minutes during break tweaking the PA), and is pretty convinced that the old bass isn't terrible (quite good amplified, though that stupid Realist was feeding back again...), and new strings (particularly E and A) are in order...
     

Share This Page