Kiesel FF 5-string Vanquish or Zeus?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by kcducttaper, Jun 10, 2021 at 12:05 AM.

  1. kcducttaper


    Jul 1, 2019
    I'm casually in the market for a new fanned fret 5-stringer and have been flip-flopping between the Kiesel Vanquish and Zeus for the past several months. One month I'll like the Vanquish better and the next I'll like the Zeus better; then flip-flop again the next month.

    Obviously, the biggest immediate difference is that the Zeus is headless. I've never played a headless bass before, but it looks pretty sweet. I'm curious on 'playability' impressions of a headless. I assume it would be a little bit lighter and maybe some neck rise.....?

    I currently play an Ibanez SR 755 with upgraded electronics as my main bass and a stock Ibby SR 505 as my backup/practice. I love the tight 16.5mm string spacing and thin neck on them, but the low B string could be a little better defined and the 'tonal balance' between strings could certainly be improved. Fanned frets are supposed to help with both of those. Ibanez does make a fanned fret SR bass now that looks interesting, but I also do like the idea of specing out a custom bass at this point in my 'career' to be my forever bass.

    If anyone has any thoughts on the playability, tone, or balance (neck dive/rise & weight) of the Zeus vs Vanquish, I'm all ears!
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  2. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    In general, I'd go headless with a new fanned fret if it's an option - why not.

    What do you mean by backup/practice bass? You don't practice with your main bass?
    Nuage420 and halcyo like this.
  3. Lesfunk

    Lesfunk Bootlegger guitars : S.I.T. Strings Supporting Member

    Apr 5, 2007
    Florida USA
    I’d personally go for the Osiris
    That Zeus is going to balance funny as well as having a longer reach to the first position
  4. bigcupholder


    Aug 17, 2020
    I'm not sure if this is what you were thinking of, but neck rise would only be an issue sitting down (and even then, unlikely). Neck rise absolutely won't happen on a strap.

    My only experience with headless was a guitar (Kiesel Vader 7), not a bass, but I think if the aesthetics don't bother you, you're off to a good start. The only other concern is tuning. It's harder to tune at the bridge if you're tuning properly to the attack and not the decay. You have to pluck the string with your fretting hand while tuning, and the tuners tend to be a lot stiffer/jumpier.

    The weight reduction and improved balance of a headless are pretty significant advantages.
  5. halcyo


    Sep 19, 2012
    I dig the Zeus body shape, and the headless, fan fret design, a lot. It looks fantastic overall. My concern with the Kiesels is the tone. I keep hearing little negative remarks here and there about the sound of the pickups/preamp. That it sounds a little "boring" or "lifeless". I've heard some videos where I thought it sounded good, albeit a little "aggressive", and then I've heard other videos where it was hard to tell if it sounded good or not lol.

    Basically, I WANT this bass to impress me, but I have fears that it might not blow me away. Kinda wish Kiesel would sell it to you without the pickups and preamp at a discount and let you put other more tried and true electronics on this thing, cuz the look is awesome to me!
    arbiterusa likes this.
  6. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    The Zeus does not balance weird. The lack of headstock makes for perfect balance. The reach to the first fret is longer than some basses, but not much. The Osiris is not available in multi scale, so whomever recommended that missed the mark a bit.

    One thing to consider is the Vanquish has one inch longer scale length and the traditional tuners can handle thick gauge strings. Some guys have reported that a .136 will max out the headpiece on the kiesel designed string retainer. So, if you are planning some fat strings and massive Down tuning consider this.

    Their new electronics sound great. Very versatile with the EQ. Besides the strings this would be the easiest thing to change should you not love it in time.

    My suspicion about “lifeless” Kiesels is that people just configure the basses with all sorts of unfamiliar woods with no consideration to tone. Not necessarily opening that can of worms, but sticking with a more familiar recipe will yield more predictable results.
    DJ Bebop likes this.
  7. kcducttaper


    Jul 1, 2019
    Thanks for all the input! Basically what I'm hearing is that the Zeus will generally be lighter and balance better while the Vanquish will handle significant drop tunings and thicker strings better.

    I think that is a valid point about the 'lifeless' sound. That and I think many basses come standard with humbuckers, which often have a 'thicker' and less 'crisp' sound than single coils. Either way I go, I'd be getting a walnut body and neck with single coil pickups, so hopefully it doesn't sound too dull.
  8. pepj


    Mar 25, 2021
    I find Headless resets the position of how the bass sits with you.
    The lack of headstock throws out my reference of where I am on the neck.

    If that doesn't bother you, then no problem
  9. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    Ever play a Warwick? The way walnut bodies resonate (or don’t) reminds me of bubinga Warwick basses. I’ve never played a walnut neck, but I’d be willing to wager it would feel a bit Warwick-y. In a good way of course.

    I don’t think you will have a dull sound at all with your recipe. My Zeus has the black limba body and black limba neck with maple stringers, single coils for the pickups. Sounds wonderful.
    Lenny JG likes this.
  10. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    It also seems to me that Carvin had a run of lackluster pickups/electronics decades ago, and it gave Carvins/Kiesels a reputation for lackluster sound that continues to this day despite that they've long since made drastic upgrades on that front.
  11. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I don't know if they still do it, but back in the day Carvin/Kiesel would install alternative pickups in their instruments if you provided them. I'm pretty sure it wasn't at a discount though.
  12. Bassinga


    Apr 12, 2021
    Finally something I have personal experience with!

    1) Alright so, headless instruments have a limitation on the thickness of the string you can use. My FF 5-string Vader can take a maximum of .130 on the B string. Since I tune down to A, this is not enough for me. Stringing anything higher than a .130 or tightening the grub screw too hard can cause the brass (yes you heard correctly, brass) headpiece to lose the threading and a new headpiece is required. My biggest nightmare really. Going on the Kiesel instrument group page on facebook and searching headpiece will show many examples of this problem.

    2) Headless instruments shorten the body to make the instruments smaller. On a 34" scale this is not a problem because the neck isn't too long. On a FF instrument which is 33.5-35" like the Zeus or Vader, the neck is longer to allow for the longer scale length, making it uncomfortable to play on the 5th string frets 1-3. This is not a problem with headed instruments. My 35" straight scale Cort is more comfortable on the upper fret access for this reason exactly.

    3) Playability on Kiesel basses is fantastic, I used to own an Ibanez SR505 and sold it afterwards because it got no play after my Kiesel arrived. That may just be my taste though. I must add that Kiesel and Ibanez neck profiles are very different. As are the string spacings. 16.5mm vs 19mm.

    4) I will agree with @halcyo that the pickups (standard pickups KRHB ones) sound a bit lifeless. Ideally you should tell them to install pickups of your choice with the sounds you like, before you order the bass. I know that they accommodate that.

    @kcducttaper Please read this comment and if you have any more questions PM me!
  13. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    My thought also. I had one of the Carvin LB75 models built in about 1999 and I did feel the elex were the weak link. Haven't owned a newer Keisel but I've seen and heard several in the room and they've all sounded great.

    I would consider a headless bass for a few of the club gigs I was doing for a while on tiny stages. There were a few places where 8 inches less radius requirement would have been noticeable.
  14. MCS4

    MCS4 Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2012
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    Headless instruments absolutely are great for those purposes.
  15. bordinco90


    Dec 7, 2011
    SW Louisiana
    I'd have to agree about the Kiesel basses sounding bland or lifeless. I've owned 3 of them (2 PB5 passives and 1 PB4 passive) and they just sounded bland to me. Not knocking Kiesel, their build quality is second to none, but I wasn't diggin em. If I was picking out of the choices you gave, I would get the Vanquish.
  16. 4stringfarley

    4stringfarley Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2015
    Cajun Country
    I was in the same boat a few months back regarding a build. I eventually went with Maruszczyk and couldn't be happier. Much better prices and pick ups / pre amps selection.
  17. bigcupholder


    Aug 17, 2020
    If you're open to headless, the Ibanez EHB is another option. From what I've read the headpiece is more flexible in terms of string gauges you can fit through it. Also, it doesn't screw into the end grain, so long-term durability might be better. There's a few cases (probably a tiny percentage of what they've sold) of the neck splitting on headless Kiesels where the headpiece screws in.

    Also check out the Vader. The reach would be a bit better, and the tuners would be easier to access.
    doran.dragic likes this.
  18. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    The Zeuss is likely to balance better, and will fit in a guitar-sized gig bag. The only disadvantage of a headless bass is that you cannot use a traditional neck hanger/ stand for it. My headless Vader 5 fits in an overhead airline luggage bin (and has logged a lot o' miles) :)
    donahue and doran.dragic like this.
  19. doran.dragic


    Jul 2, 2014
    I'd say try out the Ibanez EHB. I relly liked the model with the Nordstrand pickups. The only thing I disliked was the smaller body. I couldn't rest my forarm on that bass like I would on my jazz bass and it impacted my playing.

    But in terms of egonomics a headless basses are amazing.
  20. BluesWalker

    BluesWalker Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2008
    San Diego
    I have never played the Vanquish. I had a Kiesel headless Zeus 5-string multiscale bass (fanned fret). I really liked it. It was easy to play, balanced well whether playing standing up or sitting down. It had the radius pickups with active electronics. I could get a lot of good sounds out of it.

    For some crazy reason, I sold it. I currently have two other Kiesel basses: a fretless, headless 6-string Zeus with passive electronics and a fretted, headless 5-string Orius. I am very happy with both of them. I am considering another 5-string fretted Orius or Zeus.
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