Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Floating teetH, Aug 6, 2004.

  1. I always hear people saying that modulus bass guitars have a "sterile" sound. Could someone explain this statement to me? The word sterile can have a few different meanings but I don't see how any of them could be related to the sound of an instrument.
  2. It's a modern, hi-fi tone. Modulus is a very smooth, defined and clean sound.
  3. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    I sold my Modulus Quantum a few years back because I felt it lacked warmth. On live recordings, I'd hear the attack come through much stronger than the fundamental, and simply felt the tone had little richness to it.

    It was definitely clear and each note was pronounced more than anything else I've played, but I just felt it was harsh.

    Another problem I felt was it was way too strong in the upper mids...very honky sounding.

    I've played other Modulus', with both EMG and Bart pickups, with wood fingerboards, composite fingerboards, and even different types of hardware, and could never get past certain tonal qualities.
  4. Whafrodamus


    Oct 29, 2003
    Andover, MA
    They have trouble reproducing? :p
  5. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars

    For people who don't understand what you're talking about, listen to the song that Victor Wooten played Together with Oteil Burbage (sp?) On Bassday 98.When Oteil solo's Vic holds the bottom and vice versa. But while you can hear Oteil's Solo's very clearly, when Vic begins to solo, the whole low end of Oteil's Sixstring Modulus falls away completely, you don't even hear him play when Vic is soloing.

    Why? Because Victor Wooten's Fodera has a much warmer and fatter sound which drowns out the sound of Oteil's Modulus even when he plays in the higher register.

    I A/B tested the Modulus Flea signature and his previous axe of choice, the Musicman Stingray, the Stingray outperformed the Modulus by having a fatter sound and much more low end. I am told that Flea uses Modulus solely because of the fact that their necks don't warp.
  6. Lackey


    May 10, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Hmm, in regards to Oteil vs. Victa's tone, I personally preferred the Modulus for the fast fingerstyle passages, more defined. The Fodera sounded too thick and low-mid heavy comparitively.
    Then again, I played a Fodera Monarch w/ EMGs, and felt it lacked low end, with overly bright treble. Who knows ey?
  7. Aaron Saunders

    Aaron Saunders

    Apr 27, 2002
    Not only do they not warp, they're practically indestructible. Anyone remember when a TB'er got the neck from the bass Flea smashed in Melbourne?

    I loved the Modulus Q4 I played, but I wouldn't describe its sound as "fat" by any means.
  8. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I own a Quantum-4 w/EMG's and an EMG BQS 3-band EQ. I did have to do some amp tweaking to warm it's sound up, but I now could'nt be happier with how it sounds. It's a very responsive instrument and it's attack is ultra fast. My opinion is that the low and high mids sound a bit scooped when it's EQ is flat, but I make up for that with my amp's EQ along with the Quantum's onboard EQ. Yes, there are many basses that sound warmer, but IMO the Quantum's tone is defined, not sterile.
  9. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    Depends on what you want from a bass. If you prefer traditional lo-fi passive Fender tones, then a Modulus Quantum probably won't be your best choice. That said, I've never hesitated to play blues, classic rock, and C&W with my Quantum... I can tweak it so it sounds warm.

    I specified Quantum because one of the Modulus J-bass models has a wood neck with a graphite strip running through it... the one I played sounded close to a J-bass.

    I don't think a Modulus sounds any more "sterile" than other hi-fi active basses such as Alembic or Kubicki or even Steinberger.

    As for comparing Oteil and Victor: isn't it true that "the tone is in the hands"? ;) I don't actually subscribe to that blanket statement. But it isn't logical to conclude that the bass is responsible for comparative lack of lows, etc. Amplification is also a big factor, and so is the player's preferred EQ settings. And while I don't think "the hands" are the only factor in tone, technique certainly is one of them.
  10. BOOTZY


    Mar 4, 2004
    Amal, Sweden
    I´ve owned a Modulus Q5 for 2 years, i traded it away and have never missed it...

    Dont get me wrong, it´s a exellent bass but i could never get along with it. When i played alone through a amp it sounded incredible, but in a band setting it just disappeared. When i tried to tweak some mids into the sound it just sounded like i "forced" mids out of it. It didn´t sound natural at all. I experienced the same thing while recording with it.

    I ran it through a Ampeg SVT-2 + 8x10 and Mesa Boogie 400+ with Hartke 4X10 + 1X15. Both these setups made all my basses sound fine, but not the Q5.

    Maybe i just got a bad ex or maybe they just aint for me...These days i play a Lakland D55-94 through EA I-amp 800 combo.
  11. RAM


    May 10, 2000
    Chicago, IL
    A lot of the comments here remind me of some specific tonal qualities experienced with my Quantum.

    I remember the attack being incredibly fast, so much so that it almost sounded like someone hitting a bell with a hammer. I also remember the tremendously strong harmonic content in each note. What was notably missing was the thickness between the harmonics. That's what I think of when I think sterile.

    It's true the tone is in the hands, but I ask this back at ya'...Why is it I couldn't get the fullness of tone from the Modulus, but every wooden bass from a MIM Jazz, a Peavey T-40, a US Spector NS-4, and a Jerzy Drozd Mastery VI all *could* get that wonderful thickness...all using *my* hands?

    I don't wish to say Modulus (or other non-wood basses) can't sound good, but in this case, I gave it a solid 2 years of my life and never found happiness.
  12. BOOTZY


    Mar 4, 2004
    Amal, Sweden
    Yeah, that´s a better way to put it...i tried to say just that in my own limited swedish/english kind of way...
  13. KeithPas


    May 16, 2000

    I recently bought a jazz bass with a Modulus neck, Koa body and EMG pick ups and preamp, it is not a Modulus VJ bass but it has about all of the components of one (exept EMG's instead of Barts). I love this bass!! It definitely has the jazz bass sound to it but it has a clarity that I have not heard. I agree with the lack of depth comments, I tend to have to EQ more low end in than with my other basses but my SWR SM500 takes care of that just fine. It really does comes down to a question of what you like and what you are looking for in a bass. I value clarity and growl above almost everything alse and this bass gives it to me. I would also consider the instrumentation in whatever type of band you are in and the tone of the players you will be playing with.
  14. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    I agree 100%. My Czech-Spector is much more focussed in the mids compared to my Quantum. I use a Read Purity tube preamp which has an 'EQ Bypass' switch. It's settings are for the Q-4, and the mids are boosted some. When I switch to the Spector, I hit the 'EQ Bypass' switch and I have tons of mids from the bass itself. Even though the Spector has the EMG P/J setup, it still has a warmer tone IMO.

    The Q-4 is still my main axe, but like I posted earlier, I did have to do some eq tweaking to help it cut through better.
  15. personally I think modulus basses are vastly superior when it comes to cutting through, especially in live settings. I have a really good Gov't Mule show where Dave Schools (who plays a Q6 (w/ through neck,)) and Les Claypool do a crazy bass duel type thing in Spanish Moon. Although Les Claypool proves to be an excellent bassist, in comparison, his bass seems very cloudy and "poorly defined." I guess a lot of bassists prefer the less solid low end, though. Q basses w/ wooden fretboards sound a lot more organic, if you want to call it that (meaning more bight/grit and less of what I would describe as cosmic perfection.) Genesis basses also have this quality.

    I prefer modulus basses to all others that I've tried, but I must agree there are problems w/ the sound being too much in the fore-front, and overly solid much of the time, but that's mainly with the composite fretboard. I always turn the mid highs down on my q4, as I find them to be overpowewring otherwise.
  16. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    I absolutely love my Genesis 5. Very warm, still very defined. This bass has shown me that mids can be a wonderful thing.
  17. I don't have a Modulus bass but a Status and when i got the bass for the first time i had the same feeling that the people that think that the sound from graphite necks is sterile, but with the use i have the opinion of Rob Green (Status owner) Taken from a interview in Global Bass "A lot of players get the idea that a graphite neck bass will sound harsh, thin, super-clean, lacking in midrange, lacking in low-end, lacking in 'warmth', 'un-natural', bright etc... or a combination of one or more of the above. Not so !! Graphite neck basses have the ability to sound as warm and mellow as any bass but they also have the ability to be clean, articulate and super-bright. The graphite neck / phenolic fingerboard combination 'absorb less frequencies and so allow the player to select which frequencies he wants to use and shape. Regular wood basses have a tendency to 'absorb selected frequencies, depending on the density, construction, dimensions and combination of woods....hence dead-spots. This only allows you to hear and use the frequencies that are left whereas graphite necks let more through and give you the choice which to use. The stiffness of the graphite neck also results in the legendary sustain and stability."

    I found that i have more control of the sound that comes from the bass, it is a little harder to get the sound and i understand that there are people that are used to plug the bass in and have the right sound, but that is why there are so many types of construction and makers of basses.

    About the sound i can give you two players that use modulus basses and have warm sound and massive low end, Stefan Lessard and Steve Rodby, if you ever seen or heard them live, it's a fabulous sound a superb and very defined low end. From my experience a graphite neck can give more low end because there isn't the tendency to muddy up like the wooden necked instruments have. (this is a general thought i haven't tried all the wooden necked basses there are).

    To awnser your question are graphite necked instruments sterile? No they aren't, you just have to work a little more to get the sound you have in your head.

    Just 2 cents

    Um Abraço
  18. zcwilkes

    zcwilkes Supporting Member

    Oct 1, 2002
    Barboursville, WV
    I've been playing a Modulus 5 for over a year now and I can get from a very warm to super harsh tone and anywhere in between. Someone said that it didn't cut through in a band situation. For me it cuts through better than anything else I have owned including my Alembic and Spector. I think it has alot to do with the player, setup and venue as well. As far as Oteil goes I've heard him before and his sound was alot like what the other poster said. I think it was a combination of 1) Might have EQ'd it that way because he plays alot of chords and/or 2) His sound doesn't come across well live or for the setting.

    Just my 2 cents though.
  19. xyllion

    xyllion Commercial User

    Jan 14, 2003
    San Jose, CA, USA
    Owner, Looperlative Audio Products
    If you want to hear Modulus, then listen to Steve Lawson's work. He uses a fretted Modulus and a fretless Modulus to record all of his pieces. If you don't own his CDs, he does have several MP3s on his web site:

    Steve's work is varied in style. So, you can get a feel for what Modulus is capable of.
  20. DaveB


    Mar 29, 2000
    Toronto Ontario
    When I got my Q5 a couple of years ago it was the killer playbility that attracted me, but the first Mods I auditioned were with EMGs and the phenolic board. I found them a little too "sterile" at the time (oh, yeah, I was coming off decades of Fender Jazz and Precison ownership). But in the months while I was searching for my new high end bass I found that what used to be "sterile" to me started to seem "clear". Conversely,what used to be "warm" was now sounding "muddy". After seriously auditioning almost every bass you have ever read about here I ran in into a Mod Q5 with a Barts and a Chechen board (and the killer Mod playability) and BANG...that was "The One".

    The Mod high frequency "clackiness" took some getting used to when I was practicing alone, but EQ fixes that. The funny thing is that same "clackiness" helps immensely to cut through the band mix. As every bass player, who has been playing for more than ten minutes, knows the tone/EQ you like when playing alone is almost never the tone/EQ that works best in the band mix. The Mod is a great example of that maxim.

    And another maxim that brings me back to the point is this: One man's sterile is another man's clarity.