Making the Most Bestestr esSeX Fretless Jazz Bass for Metal

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by hondo4life, Jul 18, 2016.

  1. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    I've had this SX fretless 5-string Jazzy bass for a while now, and it plays great, but the sound is just mwah mwah jazzy jazz all the time. I want to use it for playing metal, but it needs more... metal.
    I suppose this thread will just be whatever happens to it while it is being worked on. I just converted the Hondo to BEAD to give the SX unlimited downtime while it gets a new identity. I'm going to do it up.
    It already has Hipshot Ultralight tuners, so it's not like I don't mind buying nice things for it. I even have a fresh set of GHS pressure wounds standing by for when it is done.

    I want a big, hot pickup. Passive, but hot. Big lows on the B, and big mids. I don't mind routing this thing out for whatever will work best. I read a bunch of stuff about pickups n junk, and I can't decide yet.
    Bridge or neck? I figure the J pup is probably fine down there doing it's mwah thing while the bigger pup goes up by the neck and catches some real big vibes. Or, I could easily talk myself out of that and replace the bridge pickup. I drew an awesome picture with a new neck pickup. Really, the picture is pointless. Don't even look at it.

    A big fat MM or some soap bar seems like it would be good.
    SD SMB-4A? EMG 40 HZ? Maybe. And throw it on there at some ridiculous angle to give more definition to the lower strings and more powah to the higher strings. Very scientific.

    Works for me, eh? I'd probably wire a series/parallel switch, two volumes and a tone. All of the electronics will be gutted and replaced, save for one of the J pups. Copper foil shielding and grounding everywhere. I'll have a sparkly pick guard made to fit over the new pickup. Of course, the headstock is fugly, so I'll route it and paint it black to match the body. Also, I have no idea what I'm doing. I might buy a tiger, too.

    sx_ursa_2_mn_5_bk_fl.png ohwowwabass.png ?
    wraub and S-Bigbottom like this.
  2. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    Here is the real deal in its current state, mostly stripped and ready for modification.


    What will it get? Not exactly everything I had planned. I wanted to do fancy Nordstrand Big Blades pickups, but $$$ are not available for that (I can always upgrade later). So, I took a detour and went for two Mighty Mite soapbars (on closeout for $7.00/ea from Stewymac!).
    Ignore the black scribbles on the headstock. I got carried away while doodling with a Sharpie, and still haven't decided exactly how to recut it.

    Here is the plan/the new parts I got:

    -The original J pup cavities will be routed out to fit dual Mighty Mite passive soapbars. Both are for the "neck" position (@8.7K ohms), but each individual pup is dual coil/humbucking. The bridge may have a relatively lower output, but that's what volume knobs are for.

    -Full internal shielding with copper tape and lots of extra grounding.

    -I will have a new pickguard made to fit over the soapbar. Also, it will NOT be white. It will be something brutal because I'm in a metal band.

    -Three new 500K ohm audio taper pots. I have decided to retain a standard VVT wiring configuration, although all the wires will be replaced with 16 AWG pure copper stranded wire. Why so heavy? To reduce neck dive. It is also easier to solder.

    -A new 0.047 microfarad capacitor. Yes, I paid a full $3.xx for the "orange drop". Wow, so vintage. I don't trust these old SX electronics much, so why not.

    -A new Switchcraft mono jack. Nothing fancy, but the original one in my SX had RUST on it. It's not even a year old. LOL.

    -Mighty Mite 5-string bass bridge in BLACK, also on closeout. I think it has 1/16" narrower string spread than the original bridge. Cool with me.

    -The headstock will be reshaped to my liking, and painted black to match the body. It already has Hipshot Ultralight tuning machines in black, so that's pretty metal.

    -I will be drilling out the body to recess the straplocks for a nice flush look.

    -That cheap, white plastic nut is staying right where it is. I don't have a problem with it.

    -Got a set of GHS Pressurewounds waiting to go on.

    That's it for now.

    P.S. I might not know what I'm doing, so feel free to point out anything obviously stupid.

    P.P.S. Did you know SX uses scraps of poly strapping for the neck shims? Yeah, the stuff used for holding boxes together for shipping. LOL. I guess it works, but I'll use something better when I put it back together.
    S-Bigbottom and bassbenj like this.
  3. bak


    Jul 5, 2015
    Well if you're looking for a "conventional" metal tone turn the volume knob to 0 and it's done :p

    but anyway if you're using fretless I guess you'd like a tone similar to Dominic LaPointe's tone, check that out
  4. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    There are so many great bassits that I haven't heard of, and that was one of them. Thanks for mentioning him. I won't pretend that I can play like that, but I like it.
    I currently play with a P bass tuned to BEAD, and it makes a nice growl that really stands out.
    I do like the smooth "mwah" of the fretless, and I simply like playing the fretless more. I want to make this my main bass.

    I want to make this the best fretless, passive, five string jazz bass for metal, as much as that can possibly make sense.
    bak likes this.
  5. Sid the Kid

    Sid the Kid Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2013
    Fretless gonna sound like fretless no matter the pickup. Imho fretless tone is swallowed up in a metal mix, but there are some outliers that play fretless metal and sound great.

    I'd focus on a good dirt pedal with versatile EQ in the midrange (Darkglass B7K) that you can cut. The mid cut will remove the mwah and the dirt will give your attack some click. You will hardly sound like a fretless until you slide.
    Fetzu and hondo4life like this.
  6. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    A B7K would be wonderful, but that's not in the budget. I play through a Bass Big Muff, and a BBE 383, which allows plenty of EQ options. I also like the mwah and crank the mids.
  7. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    I think you are really on the right track with your SX! Of course it's a Fender Clone so it needs some metal mods. I do the "dixiecup" headstock to mine, but I TOTALLY LOVE your "metal" shape. and painted matching headstock is icing on cake. Perfecto! For fretless metal pressure wounds are a good string choice. Minimal neck chews but still bright. I don't much like them because they seem to sound "clanky" to me, but for you, right on. Full copper shielding is always my "first thing" on any SX. 500k pots also are brighteners. Switchcraft jack is always good because SX cheap jacks tend to lose tension and die anyway. My favorite upgrade for SX bridges is:

    Bass Parts Resource  :: Music Man Bass Bridges

    Note: $23.99 and comes in black! But if you found a bargain bridge that's great too.

    So add in some big honkin soapar like an MFD or the like and a killer new pickguard and I think you are well on your way to the best SX for metal!
    hondo4life likes this.
  8. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    I have been considering the neck pickup placement (bridge will stay where it is).
    I play with a guitar player that puts out a ton of bass. His bass is very strong around his first octave, which would be my second octave. In order to decrease our frequency overlap, I could give up some of my second octave. Maybe I can do this by moving the neck pickup about 1.5" closer to the neck. Although, that will strengthen the 6th and 7th overtones, which supposedly contain second octave. So, maybe I'm spinning my wheels. I don't know stuff.

    In order to illustrate, I stole this image from and drew some new lines on it:

    The SX's original pickup placement lines up exactly with the standard J neck and J bridge from the 60s.

  9. Tell him he is in your zone and turn the Bass down on his amp.
  10. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    I do. I do. It is no use.
  11. bak


    Jul 5, 2015
    well, if you can't win on the eq with bass, take a look at his eq settings, if you see that he scoop mids, increase your mids, if you see that he scoop highs, increase your highs. In other words, your eq settings must be the opposite of his, this is how a bassist cut trough the mix
  12. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    It's not about cutting through the mix - I can do that - but it's about some kind of constructive interference that happens when his first octave and my second octave combine. It is a boomy, muddy mess.
  13. bak


    Jul 5, 2015
    well then I wish you good luck in a quest that great bassists like John Myung or John Paul Jones have failed tu fulfill: convince your guitarist to turn his bass down.
    colantalas and hondo4life like this.
  14. If that does not work then...

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  15. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    More importantly, which pickguard material should I choose?

    These are my picks from

    Nickel Florentine

    Black Copper Sparkle

    Copper Large Engine Turn

    Snake Skin Tolex
  16. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    On second thought, I don't think I like any of those.
    I think I will go with the faux carbon fiber weave
    S-Bigbottom and bak like this.
  17. lokikallas

    lokikallas Supporting Member

    Aug 15, 2010
    los angeles
    I recommend keeping the Jazz pup routes, but perhaps installing EMGs.
    Round wounds will have more pop in a mix, but the real trick is to live in the mids.
  18. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    I broke the nut. This is inconvenient. Now I have to find an elephant ivory nut to replace it.
  19. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    Change of plans again. I don't want a pickguard. I polished the finish where the old pickguard was, and it turned out pretty good. I also decided to leave the neck pickup where it was, but angle the bridge pickup. Whatever.
    So today I routed the cavities, did the shielding, and installed the pickups.


    Last edited: Sep 4, 2016
    S-Bigbottom likes this.
  20. hondo4life


    Feb 29, 2016
    For better or for worse, I cut the top of the headstock and painted it black.
    It is awaiting a custom decal, a new nut from Graph Tech, and a clearcoat.


    While I have the black paint out, I am thinking of painting the chrome control plate. All the other chrome is gone. The only shiny bits will be strings. Yayyy or neigh?
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2016
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