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Ken Smith and Alembic - Traditional or Modern?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JRBrown, Feb 18, 2003.

  1. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    Here's a question that I've been pondering for some time. Are the Ken Smith and Alembic tones considered traditional or modern? Or are the Fenders and its clones the only traditional basses there are?
  2. alembicfive


    Jan 17, 2003
    Being a Alembic owner (and player) for over 10 years, I do not think you can put either label on the tone. The Alembic electronics are like no other. The vast array of tone settings and range is quite large (which can be a pain sometimes). But I can get that Alembic "ala Clarke" sound which I guess you can call modern. But with the flip of some switches and tweeking of tones I get it to sound close to my old Fender Jazz and a P-bass.

    Bare in mind that it is not exactly like a Fender, mainly due to the construction and woods.

    But that was main reason for getting that bass built. I was doing alot of casino work at the time and needed to get everything from that old Motown sound to a modern top 40 sound. This is part of the reason these instruments cost the amount they do.

    I believe the higher end Ken Smiths are the same (I only had a Burner which had a limited "modern" tone).

    I think you can consider these basses modern not for the tone, but for versatility of them and the construction.
  3. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I find myself thinking about the tone of basses in terms of evolution. I think that Alembic was the first bass maker to advance the tone palette of the bass beyond fender. Ken made the next advance in my opinion by creating a bass that not only looked gorgeous but offered a great range of tones.

    Once again, an evolution of tone. Can you get jazz bass tones out of a Smith ? Of course. Can you get jazz bass tones with the Alembic ? Close, but not as close as with a Smith, I think.

    IMO, the problem with Alembic is the limited palette. Sure, you can alter the sound, but you cannot entirely get away from the "alembic sound."
  4. niomosy


    Nov 9, 2002
    I would tend to think of them as modern, leaving the Jazz sound as classic.
  5. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    You'd be wrong...especially with a good valve amp, I can come pretty close to a J (with soloed bridge pup) and even a P with my Alembic. I never expected it by the way..always thought of Alembic as THE bass with modern tone. However, pups are pretty far apart, so the pup blend also becomes a tone control, and then there's the Q filter...lots of tones there.
  6. alembicfive


    Jan 17, 2003
    I total disagree with that. As Brooks said in his post, I too have the Q filter and the spectrum of tones is much, much more then most basses. Yes I can get that "Alembic" sound, but I can also get far from it if I wanted. Anyone who plays an Alembic knows that you can't just sit down and start getting your tones out of it. There is a learning curve, and anyone trying one say in a store, would have to sit there for hours before tapping into all the possible settings. Now I know it is not fair to compare an Alembic to a Ken Smith Burner (Ken's low end line), but one I had did have a Jazz sound, and nothing else. I ended up getting rid of it for a Carvin for just that reason.

    FYI, I am not taking anything away from Ken Smith basses, they are beautiful instruments. IMHO, the two manufactures (Alembic and Ken's) are in a league of their own.

    FYI, I have a Alembic Distillate 5-string...
  7. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    Traditional tones to me are the classic, passive sounds. Fender happens to fits in that category very well, but so do the early Gibson basses, the classic hollowbodies (Guild, Dano, etc), and plenty more I haven't mentioned.

    Modern to me means pingy-bright active tones. Alembic started things off, but cranking up the MusicMan onboard pre gets there too... as do many active boutique, neck-thru, and composite basses.

    That said: amps, basses, and those who use them are all getting more versatile nowadays... it's a lot harder to put gear into a certain category. I have little trouble making my Modulus Quantum 5 sound appropriate for blues/C&W, and Marcus Miller gets modern tone from his old (but modified) Fender Jazz. The Smiths I've tried could go from trad to modern quite easily.
  8. niomosy


    Nov 9, 2002
    Not sure if this was a reply to my comment but...

    While many moderm basses may be able to get a classic tone, the other way around isn't as likely to happen.

    Thus, I still classify Alembic as modern. It has the ability to go back thanks to the electronics.

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