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Lightwave Saber or Classica

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by sagryf1, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. sagryf1


    Oct 23, 2004
    What are your experiences with the Lightwaves? Do many of you own one? Any feedback would be greatly apprciated.
  2. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    So much to say, so in no particular order. If you buy a lightwave buy it from lightwave so that you can return it if you don't like it. They have a 10 day return policy. Unless of course, you can find a fantastic deal. I recently bought a fretless Saber A from lightwave. It is definitely worth purchasing an A rather than a B or C, if only for the looks alone. Also, it is worth mentioning that there is a rather significant difference between the ebay demo runs and the 2004 lightwaves. They corrected a number of problems after the demo run. I often see demo basses sold on ebay where the seller touts a $1000 list price. Baloney! You could always get the demo runs for pretty cheap. I'd stay clear of those unless you get a really good deal ~$300. The person selling should clearly indicate whether the bass is a 2004 model, which are much better instruments.

    Both the classica and saber look quite nice. My personal preference is for the saber. If you can, make sure to get close ups and then use photoshop to make the picture black and white. You can usually see the detail better.

    First my complaints:

    When/if you buy it, pay particular attention to any defects. The neck pocket on my bass was slightly off on the sides. Probably just within the CNC tolerances. Upon unbolting it, I found a small plastic shim on the bass side. That actually got under my skin. If I weren't converting the bass, I may have sent it back. But I convert my basses to use machine bolts and threaded inserts anyways. Better stability/sustain. I am exploring some alternative necks, but principally because I am looking for a different sound. Keep in mind that if you do want another neck, you can't find any off-the-shelf after market necks due to the design of the heels. Although apparently Moses will customize a neck for this neck pocket.

    My saber A has some neck dive. Or rather the bass balances horizontally. I personally prefer the neck to be tilted upwards. Hipshot ultra lites or a good strap would solve this. Due to the lower horn of the Saber being short, the bass will not sit like a fender in your lap. My understanding is that the classica's have slightly better balance.

    The fingerboard also had some striations and some longer indentations. Nothing that affected playability. They shipped the bass to me with steel round wounds, which no doubt caused the marks. Rather strange as I have found steel roundwounds to be simply too bright (bright isn't the right word, but this is sort of a stream of conscious review).

    The action was quite buzzy when I bought the bass, but I have hopefully found a happy medium. The set-up procedure is actually not too bad. Just make sure that you have the right screw drivers and allen wrenches so that you don't strip anything. They provide the allen wrench, but you will need the screw drivers. Using the lighting system in the control cavity is the easiest way to set the optics, but I generally get the optics close by eyeballing it and then use the lighting system.

    The recessed jacks are a nice touch. However, the jack for the charger was apparently put in after the finish was applied thereby resulting in a blackish recessed circle. They apparently farm the bodies out and then install the pickups themselves. This is really not a big deal. But if you are absolutely obsessive, this may be disconcerting.

    The cool/warm switch is a little strange. I'm not the only one that noticed. See http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/lightwavebass/message/182. With certain settings, intonation sounds funny. The current theory is that the lightwave pickup picks up more of the overtones than we normally hear from a bass. Dialing out the mids seems to help. It is also probably not something that you would notice unless you are wearing ear phones.

    I'm not the biggest fan of the mid-sweep. I haven't been able to use it effectively, but that's just me.

    If you are really obsessive, you will notice that the sound cavity isn't sanded and finished. They use some kind of stain or black paint. I may clean mine up with a little light sanding and tru oil.

    Now what I like about the bass:

    The sound is really pretty amazing. An incredible amount of bass. I actually like the piezo sound. It provides a nice attack. I have been experimenting with different strings and I like the TI acousticores. Keep in mind that acousticores are really the only non-ferrous strings that you can use right now, so Lightwave's claim that you can use non-ferrous strings is neat, but not really a dramatic bonus. See http://www.talkbass.com/forum/showthread.php?t=153310. Nevertheless, the bass does have a lot of tonal variety. Probably more than most basses that I have tried.

    The pickups are quiet. No noise.

    The sound cavity and the large control cavity make the bass quite lite.

    The neck is very comfortable, very "fast" feeling.

    I really like the design of the bass from an aesthetic and playability standpoint. For instance, I really like how the ebony board extends pass the 24 fret to provide a thumb rest.

    As for customer service, by all accounts, Lightwave has great customer service. I haven't really had the opportunity to use them (which is actually another plus). They are a bit hard to get in touch with. They respond much quicker to the phone than to email. I have had absolutely no problems with the electronics.

    All in all. I probably wouldn't have paid as much as I did. (Perhaps, I should have waited for the ebay auctions of the 2004 models.) But I really like the bass. It's a particularly nice bass if you have another in your arsenal. It will provide a range of sound that others don't. With a few modifications, I would put the bass up against higher-end basses. Perhaps not in construction, but in sound. One possibility to think about is perhaps buying one of the zons with the old lightwave system and then sending it in for an upgrade. Just a thought.

    If you need more, let me know.
  3. sagryf1


    Oct 23, 2004
    mheintz, thanks for the prompt and detailed reply. It was very informative.....

  4. Franklin229


    Jul 25, 2004
    Northeast USA
    I have a Sabre 4 with the latest pickups and I am totally pleased with the sound and playability. Especially with Thomastic non ferrous-core strings.
    With the mids and treble set way up, bass just past mid, piezo pickup selected, you get an awesome upright tone. Bass is also very responsive to finger pressure and vibrato, allowing for any fretless/upright playing technique to shine through.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    I own a Fretless 5 (tuned E-C)Lightwave Saber A model.I have no complaints at all,the construction on mine is top notch.I have no neck dive or body balancing problems with mine at all and it's one of the Best sounding fretlesses I have heard /owned.I use TI Acousticore strings on it they seem to offer me the best in tone capability.the Bass response is surprisingly strong.the Bass is very versatile and it has a very strong Lyrical presence.if want to see what mine looks like there is a pic of me with it in the July and August 04 issue of Bass Player Mag.
  6. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    Lightwaves have a nice range of sound. I actually tend to think of the sound as more growly than many other electrics. Less upright sounding than than the average piezo. I am principally (some might say exclusively :rolleyes: ) an upright player, so I don't think that LWs sound much like uprights. Maybe like an NS EUB. But perhaps this is a bit of UB snobbery. That being said, I really like the sound.

    From the man himself! Congratulations on the endorsement/bass player spread. Hopefully, we'll see you on the front cover soon.

    JAUQO III-X Banned

    Jan 4, 2002
    Endorsing artist:see profile.
    Thank You.
  8. wwittman


    Apr 21, 2004
    Westchester, NY
    My Fretted 4 from the "demo" run is for sale in the classifieds section if you're interested.
    It's basically never been played.

    If there are "improvments" in the new ones I'm not all that clear what they are... other than that the price has doubled+
  9. mheintz


    Nov 18, 2004
    According to Lightwave (and take this with a huge grain of salt), the improvements are:

    Optical Pickup System:
    • New piezo design. Improved reliability
    • Resolved grounding and conductivity issues. Improved reliability and battery life
    • 35" scale on Classica 5 strings
    • Pearl inlayed logo and name
    • Tuner spacing improved
    • Fluted headstock
    • 3 piece quarter sawn maple neck with mahogany inlay stripes
    • Graphite rods in neck
    • Dual action truss rod with Allen wrench included
    • Graph tech nuts
    • Slim tapered neck
    • Ebony, Indian Rosewood, and Brazilian Rosewood fingerboards
    • Larger pearl side and top markers
    • Woods (5a Quilted and Flame as well as Spalted, Birdseye, Myrtle, Walnut)
    • Colors (Clear, Transparent Blue, Transparent Red, Orange Sunburst, Black)
    • Recessed strap buttons
    • Cavity design with cover and brass inserts for ease of back removal
    • New pot spacing (more room to adjust and pot location pushed further out to the edge)
    • Reversed neck design
    • Jack and charger jack, flush mount to body.

    Of these improvements, only couple are significant. The graphite rods and dual truss rod are nice, because supposedly the demo basses bowed back a bit. The grounding issue with the piezos was also on some demo basses. You can read the reviews at Harmony Central to get some idea. I also much prefer ebony fingerboards on a fretless. The rest of the changes are just cosmetic. e.g. The other wood tops are a nice if you are into that kind of thing.

    For my part, I should note that I now believe that I paid too much for the bass. An auction on ebay for a new 2004 ended today where the high bid was $910, which did not meet the reserve. I was definitely too impulsive when I bought. Alas. That being said, I'm still pretty fond of the bass.

    By the way, for the price, you would probably be hard pressed to find a nicer sounding bass than the demo basses because some of them have been selling for really low prices. But you get what you pay for (or in my case, perhaps a little less). With my modifications, however, I think I'll have my 2004 bass for quite some time.

    Another suggestion, if you wanted a custom instrument and couldn't find a lightwave to test, you could probably pick up a demo bass for super cheap. Try it and then see if you want to buy a custom. I don't know what you are in the market for however.