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Ken Smith BSR-J vs Sadowsky/Fender/Lull

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by JRBrown, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    Ken Smith BSR-J basses versus traditionally styled Jazz basses (Sadowsky, Fender, Lull, etc).

    IMO, the craftsmanship of Ken Smith basses is much nicer than any traditionally styled J or P Bass. I made a comment in my Sadowsky thread that I'd like to own a bass that combines the Smith craftsmanship with the Sadowsky tone.

    But first, how do these basses compare?
    - Does the Ken Smith BSR-J bass have a traditional Jazz Bass tone?
    - If not, would replacing the pickups with a Dimarzio Ultra Jazz set bring it a step closer?
    - Or is the preamp a limiting factor?
    - Or is the use of exotic woods laminates a limiting factor?
    - Or was this bass designed to give you the "Smith" tone with J pups?

    Maybe they are closer in tone than I think.

    Just curious. :meh:

  2. bikeplate

    bikeplate Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2001
    Upstate NY

    JR, I don't know. The only high end bass I've failed to own is a Smith! I've tried a couple but for whatever reason have never pulled the trigger. I'm sure you know what I think of Sadowsky's! Read some threads over the last few months. I still contend Roger's basses nail the vintage vibe but will all the modern craftmanship and customer service. I hope more people can commit and help you out:)

  3. Chuck M

    Chuck M Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    San Antonio, Texas

    I had a BSR5-JMW. It was a great bass and did sound a lot like a Jazz bass. The electronics are very good on Smith basses and I personally would not change them.

    My only complaint about Smith basses is the very fragile finishes that he offers. He believes that thick and protective finishes hurt the tone of the basses. Could be, however, the finishes are simply too difficult to deal with IMO.

    I live in Texas and sweat is my middle name.

    Chuck Sweat Moses
  4. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    Is that KS neck thru? That would make the tone much different that a Sadowsky as would different woods. Appears to be another apples to oranges comparison as I see it from this limited perspective of mine (not knowing exactly the woods and construction of the KS).

    All the KS I have played were effortless for my hands: they played great. However, I prefered the Sadowsky bass tone and preamp. My Sadowsky jazz and PJ are great playing basses too.

    Good luck on your quest. You probably can't go wrong either way.
  5. Chuck M

    Chuck M Supporting Member

    May 2, 2000
    San Antonio, Texas
    A few additional thoughts............

    I've owned 3 Lull basses. They all had J PUs and all sounded very good, however, they really did not nail the Jazz bass tone. They were close to the 70's J but did not nail it. I had two 5's with SD single coils and Bartolini electronics and a Vintage 4 with passive Fralins.

    I have little experience with Sadowsky basses as I've only played one in a store a few years ago.

    I recently traded for a Lakland 55-63 that was supposed to have been built for Willie Weeks. It has SD Single coils, a maple fingerboard, an ash body and Bartolini electronics with an additional passive tone cut knob added. This sucker sounds exactly like a 70's Jazz bass should sound. Marcus would love this one. Don't know why Willie did not keep it except he usually plays 4 string basses.

  6. I A/B'ed a Ken Smith BSR-J 5 String with a Fender RB5 a while back. The RB5 won out in terms of sound and what I was looking for (and it was a grand less), but the Smith was still a fine instrument. The Smith's action was much easier and the attention to detail was superb. I don't think the BSR's sound like Jazz Basses, but they sound good and have their own thing going on. Smiths generally have a distinctive tone, to my ears, anyway. Like many people have said already, you can't really go wrong with one.
  7. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina

    I will be the first to say that you can't go wrong with a Smith bass. But if you are looking for the true J vibe, vintage tones and all, and the Smith BSR-J can't deliver, then you've gone wrong. The intent of this thread is not to see if the BSR-J sounds good, but to see if it can nail the traditional J-Bass tones, growl and all.

  8. Then the answer would be no.
  9. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    Then back to my original question, "Would a change in pups, etc bring it closer to the
    vintage sound?"
  10. first of all, these basses definately have what you call 'growl', as all smith basses do, but i don't know if you can't characterize the overall tone as vintage J. my impression is that it gets closer to that tone than the more high end BT's and BSR's, but's that's because its bolt on and its got J pickups. i think if the body was just a simple piece of swamp ash or alder, you'd get closer to the vintage tone using the smith electronics.
  11. JimS

    JimS Supporting Member

    Doubtful. The wood and neck-body construction create the tone. The pickups 'amplify' it and may accentuate or attentuate certain tonal nuances it but it's going to sound like the same bass.

    To make an analogy that is easier to understand:
    • think of the bass as a singer
    • think of the pickups as a microphone
    Mick Jagger singing into 10 different mics will sound slightly different. But you recognize Jagger's voice no matter what mic and mic preamp he uses.

    Jaggger singing into Bono's mic or Annie Lenox' mic won't make him sound like Bono or Annie. And visa versa.
  12. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    That's a good analogy! It even futher explains why Sadowsky, Lull, and Fender build bass the way they do; they're all after the same tone [sort of].

    However, my Eshenbaugh is more like the Smith in construction but its tone is Fender all the way. It's got tons of laminates and a set neck. The only real difference is the alder core. Now it was designed to sound like a vintage J-bass with a 5th string, whereas the Smith is designed to sound like a Smith J-bass. Maybe Ken chose to do his own thing because for him to capture the vintage J vibes, he'd have to put on a Sadowsky hat.

    But it doesn't eplain why my 83' Smith PJ sounded more like a Fender than a "Smith".

    And it doesn't explain why P pups in a J bass body will give you a P vibe and visa versa. :meh:

    The Eshenbaugh:

  13. Mike N

    Mike N Missing the old TB Supporting Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Spencerport, New York

    Something with those pickups has me confused. I can see that the B, E, D & G strings fall between the pickup poles, but the A string only has one pole, and the string sits directly above it.

    How does that work in terms of a balanced output?
  14. JRBrown


    Jun 21, 2000
    North Carolina
    My guess is that it doesn't matter. Here is a 4-string that uses the same pups. Strings are centered above every other pole piece.

  15. BassGuyNL


    Jul 20, 2000
    The Netherlands
    My experience with basses with Jazz-like pickup configuration (i.e. 2 single coils) is that the distance of the pickups in relationship to the bridge is essential for a Jazz-like tone. If the distances are not exactly the same as a Fender, it's just not going to sound like a Jazz, even if the PUs are original Fenders!
  16. you know, i have a feeling that maybe the brass nut/brass bridge combo has something to do with the acoustical sound of smiths when you play it unamplified. that sound doesn't sound like an older jazz bass to me.

    also, regarding the statement about pickups and the singer's microphone, the folks at alembic might have something to say about that!