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Ken Smith Question

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by ElMon, Sep 26, 2005.


  1. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Once again I must tap into the vast diaspora of Bass Knowledge that it Talkbass.com and ask these queries of all ken smith bass users....

    Have you compared the maple core, whatever-top neckthroughs against the mahogany core Smiths, and what if any difference have you heard. I once owned a BSRG 5string with a maple core and found it full in the lowend in every which way. Is the mahogany slightly deeper and warmer, or does it still have that "Smith Sound"?

    A thousand thankyou.
     
  2. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I have owned maple,walnut,and mahogany core'd smiths. My personal favorite are maple and walnut in that order. The mahogany core sounds mushy and not well articulated to me. OF course this is my personal opinion but i have played tons of Smiths andy never once liked the tone of maho over maple or walnut...
     
  3. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Bump it up yo.
     
  4. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    I'd really like to hear from Craig Garfinkel on this subject seeing as how he is quite the Smithite around talkbass. I'm contemplating getting into a mahogany cored Smith with a maple top, or just getting a walnut core with an ebony or coccabolo top, all in the goal of achieving thick fat lowend.
     
  5. BSR6P-Bob

    BSR6P-Bob

    Apr 5, 2005
    I'd recommend calling or emailing Ken Smith and telling him the sound you're looking for. I've found him to be very helpful.
    (215) 453-8887
    support@kensmithbasses.com
     
  6. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    I can tell you that Craig's favorite core wood is mahogany...
     
  7. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    If you are after a thick fat lowend i would go with a walnut core. Either one of those tops will add brightness to the sound. I think the fattest is wlanut core with walnut top and back...
     
  8. I bet if you "paged" Ken on the Upright Bass "Basses" forum, he'd tell you.
     
  9. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    I used to have a bolt on BSR6MW with a maple top & back and Walnut core...

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    now I have a neck thru BSR6EG with a walnut top, a thin sheet of maple and a mahogany core. (5 body wing laminates total versus a three layer bolt on body)

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The bolt on, as bolt ons will do, teneded to be a bit punchier, whether I attribute that to the construction or the wood, I'm not sure, but there is another thread about the neck thru / bolt on sounic and tonal differences. The bass was there, but it wasn't a bass-ey instrument as much as it was a punchy one. That thing could go a couple of rounds with Tyson in his hey-day.

    The Mahogany cored neck thru I have now is only slightly more...... ummmm..... fundamental (maybe not the right word) but the bolt on maple & walnut was a very excitable bass.... this one has that capability, but generally more subtle in what it does. It's more refined and the aggressiveness (while capable) isn't what jumps out at you. With that being said, I'll still take the current N/T I have over the B/O I used to have. It's just more of a cadillac of Smith's.

    Does it still have that Smith sound? Hell yeah. I don't think you'll find it disappointing at all!! The Smith sound (IMO) comes from a number of things, construction techniques, laminates in the neck, the bridge, the amount of wood, the cuts, the electronics, the glue.... you name it.... a Mahogany core won't matter nearly as much in a Smith and the characteristic Smith sound as say, if it were a Single cut version or was made on a CNC machine versus by hand, or had a graphite neck (like a modulus) compared to the wood. Ken Smith makes one product, the variations aren't really that great, all his basses look the same ( with the exception of the Fusion which gives me wood!!) and employ the same apprach to the neck build, lamiate thickness, finish, electronics, strings, wood choices, the KSD line excluded, A Smith is a Smith is a Smith. Which level of finish extra's you want (lacquer versus oil, gold hardware, neck thru/bolton, fingerboard wood) all those are window dressings on what is essentially a top notch product, a Ken SMith bass.

    IMO, you can't go wrong with either, and what the bass doesn't give you, your pre, power amp and cabs can or should be able to. You shouldnt have to tweak your tone section that much at ALL. (I know.... that's totally subjective.... )
     
  10. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    You think? maybe, who knows..lol

    Anyway, jokes aside and on topic as far as Cores and tone goes this is how I see it: The Tone 'bassically' or mainly comes from the top woods used. At least that's how I hear it. We use the various cores to color the sound one way or the other. Mahogany being lighter and softer than both the Maples and Walnut is the most Neutral sounding of the three. Walnut and the Maples actually sound (to me) opposite of their color. Walnut being the brighter and Maple being deeper sounding. This has to do with 'spread' and 'bounce' of the sound. Maple will absorb more and spread the tone where Walnut will reflect and bounce the sound quicker giving more audible mids, thus sounding brighter.

    Some combinations work better that others but to give an example, back around 1990 or so we had just completed a run of 12 BT6G model Basses. All were identical specs and wood. Quilted Maple top and back, Mahogany core, walnut laminates (5-pc wings) and our standard Maple/Morado 5-pc neck with Ebony Fingerboard and Graphite inlaid bars inside the neck.

    When I tested the batch b4 shipping them I found some that were brighter than the rest and some that were deeper than the rest. About 6-8 Basses were very similar but 2-3 went outside the sound of the rest of the Basses. This goes to show that when mixing woods some will lean one way or the other as a group but usually you can mix and match to get what you aim for. Limit your variables and you can control your results for the most part.

    I prefer a one-on-one conversation when a customer is choosing his woods over an on-line forum. It's easier to cut to the chase this way for me at least.
     
  11. Mario Lewis

    Mario Lewis

    Jul 6, 2001
    Clinton, MD
    Forget everything I just said.
     
  12. Ben Rose

    Ben Rose

    Jan 12, 2004
    Oakland
    Ken,

    I don't think I've ever seen a Smith with a Maple fingerboard. Is there something that you don't like about the sound or structural properties of Maple when used for fingerboards?
     
  13. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    Hey, you are entitled to your opinion...
     
  14. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    There are a few maple fingerboarded smith's out there. One was on ebay not long ago...
     
  15. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Yes and Violins and Basses were made with Maple until Ebony was discovered as being better for Fingerboards and Tailpieces in the last 100-200 years. Maple is not as durable as Ebony. Maple gets dirty fast. Maple likes to warp and twist. Maple sounds too dry to me ears. Not enough richness of tone to my ear.. I prefer Ebony or Morado.

    And Mario, what you hear is what you hear.. No problemo...
     
  16. godoze

    godoze

    Oct 21, 2002
    not too much...
     
  17. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Fascinating. Really, thanks for the input. As soon as I secure the funds, I'll make that call. I don't want to waste Ken's time while I day dream. Anyone want to loan me 4grand? I'll mow your yard for the rest of your natural life.
     
  18. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Ken's an active participant on Talkbass and you're worried about wasting his time? ;)

    But seriously, I shouldn't say stuff like for fear he realizes it one day and quits participating. I wish more knowledgeable luthiers like him would participate. His knowledge about double basses alone is worth the price of admission, let alone what he knows about electrics.

    BTW, if you're on a budget, you can a heck of a lot worse than his Burner and Retro-J lines. I'm over my boutique bass phase these days, but you'd be hard pressed to find an inexpensive boutique style bass that's better than a Burner. And those Retro-J's...wow! I played a friend's Retro J 5 recently and was seriously impressed. I thought it would cost a lot more than what he's asking for them. If my wife ever lets me buy another electric, the Retro-J's on my short list.

    And I say that not because Ken is on here, but because it's true.
     
  19. I think Ken makes some of the nicest looking backs around:

    [​IMG]

    And the fronts aren't too shabby either :D

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Oh man... :help:
     
  20. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    This is bringing back some memories! My wife always said that my Ken Smith bolt on 6 was the best looking bass I ever had and I should not have gotten rid of it. Since my wife will never look here, I will admit that she was right! :rolleyes: