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Neck Through vs. Bolt On

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Chop, Mar 22, 2000.

  1. Chop


    Dec 12, 1999
    Any opinions on why you prefer neck through to bolt on necks and vice versa. Especially interested in feelings about instruments that have been made both ways but have the same woods. Additionally, and more important to me, how do the two affect tone? Thanks
  2. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    I've had good and bad ones with bolt on necks but never a bad one with a neck through. The sustain is almost always longer. Pickups really have more to do with it than neck design but if you want high preformance, every detail counts.

  3. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I agree that tone is in my experience not affected by this. I also think that sustain is not a problem on Bolt-ons - you actually get a lot of people who want to use mutes to damp ths strings on Fender bolt-ons and there are always questions on this board about how to damp the strings and stop them ringing - so is longer sustain actually a desirable thing on basses anyway?

    My bolt-on Fender Roscoe Beck has got a lot of sustain, especially when strung through body - more than Yamaha TRB6P which is neck-through. But I can get thrm to sound the sound roughly similar,although I prefer the sound of the Fender, so I don't think tone is affected.

    There was an interesting article in Bass Player magazine written by Michael Tobias - the highly respected bass maker - who said that with a bolt-on, the fundamental wasn't present. He mentioned that a psychological factor influenced our hearing to make the lack of the fundamental in the note sound somehow "tighter". My interpretation of this, is that we don't actually like very low bass and this can actually make the overall sound "woolly" (Technical term : opposite of "tight" wink. ) I think Heavy metal players like this as it "scares" the audience, but in most musical applications a sound more biased to the mids, rather than the extreme bass, is actually more pleasant to listen to from an audience point of view.
  4. sundog


    Jan 20, 2000
    Everything else being equal, I don't think there is that big of a difference between neck-through and bolt-on.
    I personally prefer neck-through because, being a person who likes to work with exotic woods, I like the look and feel of them from an aesthetic point of view.
    There are great basses with bolt-on necks and lousy neck-throughs. Quality is what counts with respect to either.
  5. Chop


    Dec 12, 1999
    One comment that I have heard, and maybe this was what Tobias was touching on...was this..That with a bolt-on, you do not hear the 'fundamental' tone, but hear the harmonics more-which could/would be the mids. Not that this is a bad thing. Though I play a neck through, I haven't been playing it long enough to judge. I was at a show this past weekend, and the bass player was playing a P Bass. I have never really been into the sound of it. He was using a DI into the PA. It sounded awesome..really tight, deep, (but you could here all the notes) funk tone.

    I agree with the whole sustain comment by Bruce..people comment on it a lot (especially with guitars), if it really sucks..you don't want the instrument..but if it is average..what is the fuss..especially with fretted basses.

  6. JohnA


    Mar 21, 2000
    There are basses with bolt-on composite necks that have incredible sustain, as well as basses with bolt-on aluminum strengthened necks. If it's sustain your after, it doesn't have to come from a neck through.
    Blankandson likes this.
  7. Bernie


    Dec 12, 1999
    IMHO theres not much difference to worry about it as far as tone/sustain goes.A plus for bolt ons is if you damage it.With a neck thru so are you.Good luck!
  8. Chris A

    Chris A Chemo sucks! In Memoriam

    Feb 25, 2000
    Manchester NH
    My neck through Carvin is much more affected by the seasonal changes here in New England than my Washburn bolt-on. I have to have a truss rod adjustment done every spring and fall. It seems to be getting about that time now as I'm having alot of extra fretless buzz going on. The only other neck through I had was an old Ibanez musician model. The neck wouldn't stay when you adjusted the truss rod. It would loosen right up. I seem to have bad luck with neck throughs.

    Chris A.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I had an Ibanez Musician like that and I live in a fairly moderate climate! I tried adjusting the truss rod, but it wouldn't stay with a low relief and I eventually got it as good as I could and sold it to a shop before it could "revert" again.
  10. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    One other thing I have noticed about neck through basses. Most companies that make both a bolt on and a neck through always build their top line with neck through.

    That is to say, it is an indication of quality.

    Personally, I can get a better feel for the resonance and sustain of a bass, when playing it for the first time, by playing it without an amp and in almost all cases, a neck through will feel better like this. If they don't feel right like this, I never even bother to plug them in.

    I do admit that electronics will make even a crummy bass sound good so maybe in the long run it doesn't matter.
  11. I'm not sure I understand Tobias' comment about the fundamental. Double basses, though not bolt-ons, are glued necks. I've never had any trouble getting a pure fundamental from a fine double bass.

    Regarding the sustain issue: somebody else said it - how much sustain do we really need? I'm stopping my noyes from ringing 99% of the time.

    I think my overall problem with neck throughs is that the maker is forced to use very hard wood (i.e. neck material) for the body portion of the instrument where the pickups are mounted. I tend to prefer the sound of basses with slightly less dense body woods. They seem to resonate better to me.
  12. nanook


    Feb 9, 2000
    The resonance chamber of any hollow body base is a different critter altogether. We are mostly talking about solid body electric basses here.
  13. So am I. My old P-basses are made with much less dense wood than some of the newer, designer hardwood basses. Even though they are both made with hardwoods, I think different woods (and specific pieces of wood) tend to be slightly more or less dense than another. If a piece of wood is especially dense and rigid, it's not going to vibrate very freely. That's exactly why hardwoods aren't used for tops on acoustic instruments. Not all hardwoods are equally dense.

    I also suspect that basses with multiple laminations (i.e. many strips of different woods) probably will tend to vibrate less freely. I used to have a Yamaha TRB5P (the body was made from no fewer than 11 pieces of wood), and I always felt the body was very tight sounding acoustically. I always felt the electronics were doing all the work.
  14. Chop


    Dec 12, 1999
    Companies charge more for a neck through because it is harder to build and machine. Less glue ups with a bolt-on..the carving is also easier when you don't have the neck in the way.
  15. SEVEN


    Mar 25, 2000
    imo, the whole idea behind neck through and exotic wood basses (and instruments in general) is to do more tone shaping with the woods and construction involved, more so than pickups and an amp. you can get GREAT tone and feel from bolt on basses, i mean fender is how the bass guitar got its start, but you can re-shape and refine that classic tone and feel by changing the woods and construction techniques involved. there are very subtle differences in tone and feel with bolts and neck thrus and its really just an individual choice of what suits the *you* best.

    try this:

    go to your local bass shop and try a couple of alembic, fodera, tobias, ken smith, etc basses UNPLUGGED. then try a couple of nice fender, sadowsky, MTD, modulus, etc, unplugged as well. you WILL notice a difference in tone and feel, not only between the bolt ons and neck thrus, but between individual makers of similar instruments (ie: sadowsky and fender) because of the different woods involved. all the builders i mentioned make great axes, neck thru and bolt on alike, but they all sound different and have different approaches to building thier instruments. whichever YOU like best is the one for you.

    for more info try these sites: http://www.sadowsky.com http://www.fodera.com http://www.alembic.com http://www.mtdbass.com http://www.elric.com http://www.curbow.com
  16. White_Knight


    Mar 19, 2000
    Personally, I prefer bolt-on because of the relatively low cost of replacement necks as opposed to the problems that a broken neck through causes. I haven't played many neck through's at all, but I'm not noticing a drastic change in sustain from them versus bolt-ons. Plus, bolt-ons are cheaper and I personally (for some odd reason) like the look of a bolt on as opposed to a neck-through.
  17. top028


    Dec 14, 1999
    Lancaster, PA
    I have played two spector basses, with the same active electronics, on the same amp, and the same wood in the bodys, the only difference was that one neck was a bolt on and one was neck through. The bolt on sounded allot better when slapping, but the neck through sounded better when fingering, and there was a noticeable increase in sustain.
  18. virtual.ray


    Oct 25, 2000
    In a recent issue of BP mag. there's an article on 75 ways to improve your tone,and Gary Willis states that he prefers Bolt-on necks on a body made of light weight wood,because this lowers the resonant frequency of the instrument.While I would agree that Neck-through construction looks classier and can improve upper register fingering,it seems curious to me to note the largr number of world class bassists who probably could afford any type of bass out there who choose to play a Bolt-on design.Based on my own limited comparisons,I think that Bolt-ons have more "bark" on the attack of the note and more personality and almost all of the modern ones have more sustain than one would really need anyway.
  19. Neck-throughs just don't sound good to me when it comes to slapping, either--not nearly percussive enough. I mean, theoretically, it's nice if your fundamental sustains for more than 10ms, but that just makes everything sound all farty.
  20. Angus

    Angus Supporting Member

    Apr 16, 2000
    Palo Alto, CA
    Bruce, if Tobias was so against neck-thrus...why are all MTDs bolt-on? Makes no sense.

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