Lightwave Bass Questions...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by uglybassplayer, Jul 6, 2005.

  1. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Hey Guys,

    It's been a while since I've posted (lot's of personal stuff going on). I've been missing that sweet "mwah" ever since I sold my fretless and so this past weekend I won an auction at a pretty decent price on a 2004 Lightwave SA-5 fretless that I came across on eBay. I've read quite a bit (some good, some not so good) about the 2003 "demo" runs, but I haven't really heard too much about the new "improved" models. Anyone out there who owns one of the newer models care share their opinions.

    I know a number of TBers have Lightwave equipped basses ( JAUQO III-X, mheintz, luknfur, lbanks, fhodshon... any of you guys care to weigh in?), I'd be interested in any tips, suggestions and/or things I should look out for with a bass with this pickup system.

    BTW, I'm planning on picking up a set of La Bella nylon tapewounds to try out on it when it arrives.



    Here's a few pics...


  2. 'llo,

    Well, I actually purchased a Lightwave bass not long ago myself directly from Lightwave through Ebay. It was a four string Classica, semi-hollow 2005 demo run.

    I was immediately very impressed by the singing quality of the bass, but one thing that bugged me over time was the thin strings that the instrument was shipped with. It sounds fantastic for slap, in my opinion, the brightest and cleanest slap tone I've ever heard, but the strings were really not good for really mellow jamming.

    As far as the negatives go, I believe that they really should, by default, drop thumbrests on each Lightwave. Considering I'm playing the four string and usually rest my right thumb on E, when I have to play E, my hand has to gravitate off temporarily to strike a note, which slows my plucking considerably. Resting my thumb on the bridge also is a lousy alternative, given how cramped it would be. I've taken up placing my thumb alternatively on the hollowed out portion of the instrument. Maybe some day I'll buy a real thumbrest, but until then...

    So, here's a breakdown:

    Things that may bother you:

    The factory string guage is very, very light.

    The lack of thumbrest.

    The natural brightness of this bass is incredibly bright.

    Things that I like:

    The construction was top-notch and contact was maintained between Lightwave and I from the day I ordered and until I received.

    The bass is like nothing that's out there, it has a very idiosyncratic voice and really gives you an opportunity to try your luck with many different types of strings for your own sound.

    I hope that helps.

    Here's a closing picture:

  3. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    I agree with marcusalan that strings make a big difference. New strings sound "phasey" to me on the Lightwave. You may want to try some Thomastik bronze roundwounds. Nickel rounds can be downright angry on a fretless. You may find that some strings are louder than others. This is likely to be a result of the position of the optic. I probably wouldn't adjust the string volume in the control cavity unless you are sure that the optic position is correct.

    With regard to technique, the instrument picks up quite a bit of finger noise, particularly with the piezo, so I use a floating thumb to mute the strings.

    I'm not really much of an EQ aficionado, so the rest of what I have to say may not be particularly helpful. I noticed that on some settings the fundamental of the note is muddy or hard to pick out. Others have noticed this too. In this case, more piezo helps.

    For a warm tone, I don't use the mag emulator setting and I back off the piezo. I generally bump the bass just above the middle indent and take some of the mids out.

    In general, I don't use the mag emulator much as it lacks the roundness of the other setting, but it's fun to play with. And all things being equal, the mag emulator is more present and more defined.
  4. kotodama


    Sep 19, 2009
    Congratulations on your new Lightwave! I purchased mine about 1 year ago. I have many more positives about the bass than negatives.

    It is helpful to develop a floating thumb while playing this bass. It requires some adjustment in technique but, because the bass has such an exceptional sustain quality, it is worth it.

    I love the preamp and how it is matched with the optical pickups. The bass is extremely quiet. In fact I've surprised some engineers who actually thought I wasn't plugged in until I played something! I've found that adding a tube preamp into the signal chain gives the bass warmth and punch beyond compare. Whatever tiny bit of noise you pick up from the tube is easily mitigated by the quiet nature of the bass electronics.

    I do wish Lightwave had chosen to go with an ebony fingerboard. The only trouble I've had is premature fingerboard wear on the fretless board. I've been trying various strings to slow down or stop this premature wear problem. I've found that compressed rounds or half rounds help. I've talked with a luthier about replacing the original fingerboard with ebony. The procedure is not cost prohibitive. I may try this upgrade in the future.

    I play mostly fusion and traditional jazz. My fretless Saber VL is perfect for this purpose. That's my take, enjoy this fine instrument!
  5. uglybassplayer


    Aug 24, 2001
    New Jersey
    Interesting, my Lightwave (the one pictured above) did have an ebony fretboard. I sold it several years ago, but the ebony board was one of the things I really loved about it.
  6. kotodama


    Sep 19, 2009
    That's interesting. They've now opted for an ebanol/basswood composite. They claim it is tougher than ebony but the factory installed rounds began to eat it up.

    I'm glad to hear you liked the ebony board. It encourages me to have mine retrofit.
  7. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    I bought a Lightwave Saber VL 4 string a couple weeks ago on, of all places, The price was too good for me to resist. I've been playing it quite a bit since it arrived and my impressions are:

    1. Excellent build quality. Everything about the bass is flawless. A nice flame top with a matching flamed headstock. The *only* criticism I have is that the truss rod cover is cheap looking. Not in line with the rest of the bass.

    2. The bass arrived set up perfectly. The action is low, the neck is thin, and it plays like a dream.

    3. It's very lightweight. Under 8lbs.

    4. The sound, as someone mentioned before, is bright. Even though the output is very strong, and the bass boost has a ton of muscle, there is an element of warmth missing throughout the entire range of sound the bass offers. Outside of that, the bass offers a staggering range of tone.

    5. The electronics are dead quiet.

    6. Lightwave customer service is superb.

    Overall this is a great looking, great sounding instrument that is fun to play and technologically fascinating.
  8. XsSpeed


    Sep 14, 2009
    What a good price for one of these used and what should I be looking for when i test it out? thanks


  9. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    A "good" price on a used VL5 would be $550 or less. If it's less than $500, jump on it.

    Make sure the charging light comes on when the charger is plugged in, and that all the tone knobs and the warm/cool switch works. You'll notice the tone change with each knob.
  10. XsSpeed


    Sep 14, 2009
    ok thanks. Theres one locally for 699. I played it and it was nice but some of the knobs when turned a certain way silenced it and it wasn't the top one. thanks man
  11. Testing123

    Testing123 Eschew obfuscation

    Jan 21, 2006
    Orange County, CA
    Don’t know if this helps, but Ed Friedland has done 3 video reviews of Lightwave instruments.
    Here’s the Saber VL5 fretless bass YouTube review:
  12. Oh great.
    Thanks guys!
    As if I didn't have enough GAS already.
    This looks like the way to go for fretless.
  13. TRichardsbass

    TRichardsbass Commercial User

    Jun 3, 2009
    Between Muscle Shoals and Nashville
    Bassgearu, Music Industry Consulting and Sales
    The Lightwave is a completely different beast. So treat her like that.

    The piezo system in the Lightwave may be the best, most sensitive system on the planet. So keep that in mind while playing it. You want some high end and cut through the mix? This baby will do it in spades.

    Lightwave production quality today is the best its ever been. Period. Chris and everyone there have always looked to continually improve on that.
  14. XsSpeed


    Sep 14, 2009
    I love it, I just don't want to overpay for a used one that may need work.
  15. smcd


    Jun 28, 2009
    Boston, MA
    And "work" on one of those is much different than work on a standard bass.

  16. XsSpeed


    Sep 14, 2009

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.

    It's really not as bad as it looks in the above pic.

    I do all my adjustments myself. Intonation, action, calibration, etc.