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Neck-thru or 35" scale = greater effect on tone?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bluebard, Mar 21, 2018.

  1. Bluebard


    Oct 21, 2014
    Hey all,

    The other day I had the opportunity to play an Ibanez BTB1805E at GC, and I was blown away by the lovely sustain and rich harmonic tones this instrument produced. The low notes seemed to have richer, more complex frequencies than any other bass I've played. I think I grasped what some TB-ers mean when they describe a bass's tone as "piano-like".

    Having only ever owned 34" and 30" bolt-on neck basses, having never played a 35", and having never paid much attention to neck-thru vs. bolt-on, I am now wondering whether this great difference in tone is more likely derived from the neck-thru construction of the Ibby, or from its 35" scale. I'm sure both aspects have something to do with it, but I'm wondering whether one might contribute more greatly to the tone I'm talking about than the other.

    The reason I'm asking is that I have small hands, and am therefore hesitant to purchase a 35" bass. So I'm wondering if a 34" neck-thru bass is likely to get me closer to this kind of sustain and rich tone, or whether the 35" scale might be what's making the big difference here. I'm sure the Aguilar pickups and zero fret have something to do with it as well, but the richness of tone and sustain seemed to be more of a physical thing that I could feel in the vibrations of the instrument, even when unplugged.

    Even with my small hands I might end up springing for a less expensive BTB model (under $1000, hopefully closer to $500) in the same series, but if a 34" neck-thru bass (like an SR model) with similar pickups might get me closer to this rich harmonic content and sustain, I'm likely to opt for that.

    Anyway, thanks for the input! Much appreciated! :)
  2. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    I have no science to back it up. But on my 35" scale basses I get more overtones than 34". I get more with the 34" than the 30". And my 35" basses are vastly different in construction. One is a single-cut neck through coffee table bass and the other is a bolt on MTD Kingston. Only similarities are scale, maple fretboards, and a MM humbucker in the bridge pickup position.

    I have heard the longer the scale, the more harmonic overtones are produced. I have no evidence to support that.
    Mechanical and Bluebard like this.
  3. Slater

    Slater Leave that thing alone. Supporting Member

    Apr 17, 2000
    The Great Lakes State
    I believe neck-thru construction will have more influence on tone than scale length, and the 35” scale contributes more to feel and playability. However, a bass is the sum of its’ parts, so liking an attribute on one bass, and having similar expectations from a different model with that same attribute, may have you chasing your tail. ;)

    The only way to know fore sure is, try before you buy. :bassist:
    matthewbrown, Low84 and Bluebard like this.
  4. Phlipper


    Feb 5, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Endorsing Artist: Old SS Peavey Lead Sleds and Peavey tube amps
    I read a very scientific article once testing neck-thru vs bolt that determined there was no diff. But I'd swear my SRX700 and now BTB846 had/have better sustain.

    But then again ... my SR800 sustains for days and just vibrates beautifully.

    Now I'm confused. :(
    Bluebard likes this.
  5. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    I've never used a 35" scale, but didn't notice tone or sustain to be different on a couple of neck throughs (different electronics though). Great upper register access, though.
    Bluebard likes this.
  6. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    If it vibrates (the body), then its sustain is being reduced from what it could be.
    Ellery and Bluebard like this.
  7. Phlipper


    Feb 5, 2013
    Fayetteville, NC
    Endorsing Artist: Old SS Peavey Lead Sleds and Peavey tube amps
    Dunno. It sustains for days. When playing, the whole thing just vibrates like it has some kind of energy. I have a Gretsch hollow body that does the same thing but doesn't sustain like the 800. Just an amazing feeling.
    Bluebard likes this.
  8. RGK


    Apr 25, 2017
    35" results in higher tension on the strings compared to 34" (when using same strings), which changes the way the string is vibrating as the mass of the string, between bridge & nut, should be the same under 34" and 35". In my experience this is changing the sound a lot and some like it, some not. IMHO string differences are much more of influence on sound than neck connections. Some instruments are available as BO and NT but often the NT is a complete different class of product compared to the BO version and the changes are not only the neck mount.
    Bluebard likes this.
  9. Double Agent

    Double Agent Supporting Member

    Mar 10, 2006
    Lakeland, FL
    My non-scientific contribution to this thread is that I’ve owned both 34” and 35” scale Spector Euros that we’re neck through 5-strings. They sounded pretty similar, the feel was a bigger difference for sure. There were definitely some subtle differences in the tone. But they both sounded like Spectors.

    I also happen to have a 5-string, 35” scale Spector with a bolt on neck (Rebop 5) with the same electronics (active EMGs with EMG pre) as one of my 35” scale Euro 5s. It was also pretty similar to the neck through, but the differences here were more noticeable than the differences between 34” and 35”. Less mids, more clarity, not as much sustain as the neck through. Again, they weren’t miles apart, the difference were subtle but noticeable.

    In a mix, however, the differences were almost, if not completely, irrelevant. Pickup type and placement and active/passive will have a much more noticeable effect on your tone, both soloed and in the mix, than either 1” of scale length or thru/bolt neck would IMO/IME.
  10. Lownote38


    Aug 8, 2013
    Nashville, TN
    Your notes will hold out exactly one inch longer than with a 34" scale bass.
  11. Bluebard


    Oct 21, 2014
    Thanks for the helpful input guys!
  12. lz4005


    Oct 22, 2013
    The confounding factor in comparing bolt on and neck thru is often neck stiffness.
    The majority of bolt on necks are one piece, the majority of thru necks are multi piece laminates.
    I realized the difference the first time I played a bolt on laminate neck. It had all the tone and sustain characteristics I previously associated with neck-thru only.
    Bluebard and Phlipper like this.
  13. Wfrance3

    Wfrance3 Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    Tulsa, OK
    I have a 35” neck thru Schecter with high mass bridge. Babicz individual saddles, but still pretty beefy. I also have a Squier 34” bolt-on jag. It has a hipshot a-style solid Hugh mass bridge. Both are 5s. Both are passive. Neither are string- thru. Both have similar flat wound strings. I’d put the sustain of the jag just barely ahead of the schectet under similar conditions. I’ve never weighed my basses, but would estimated that the jag is heavier by a couple pounds. I personally think that think that has a lot to do with it.
    Bluebard likes this.
  14. scuzzy


    Feb 15, 2006
    Troy, MO
    Why do large orchestras use grand pianos instead of spinet?
    Bluebard likes this.
  15. BassBrass


    Jul 6, 2009
    Boston MA
    I noticed the "piano like" B phenomena when I got my Lakland 5501. The wood is maple and ash of course, med heavy, but I believe the sound is from the 35" scale. Now I have 3 35" 5s and they all have "piano like B" the laminate neck-through one has no more sustain but it does have a different, more complex, mid. range voice.
    Bluebard likes this.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Pianos and spinets are acoustic instruments. Electric bass guitars are not. So your analogy is comparing apples to oranges.

    I can take a short scale bass and likely give you a subjectively bassier sound than I can get from my 35” scale Spector. Because when it comes to solidbody instruments, the magnetic pickups and strings you’ve got installed combined with the amp and cab you’re plugged into will make up virtually all of that you’ll be hearing. There may be some small additional contributions to the tone and timbre resulting from the construction and materials used in the bass. But at normal performance levels - and especially at stage volume - it’s doubtful they’ll be noticeable.
    jd56hawk, -Asdfgh- and MEKer like this.
  17. Spectrum analyzers are great. This is a good discussion. Novax Guitars: Information: Technical Lecture
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
    mikewalker likes this.
  18. Trouztrouz


    Feb 6, 2013
    I don't think you'll find consensus on whether either of things things have any affect on tone, let alone which would have a stronger affect.
    Bluebard likes this.
  19. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    I always take heat for this, but here goes: A neck-through will have more sustain and harmonics. A bolt-on will have more pronounced attack and quicker decay.

    The classic Rick vs Fender comparison.
    Bluebard and Low84 like this.
  20. Speaking only from my own personal experience, I can't hear a compelling difference in 35" vs. 34" scale length, though as reported above, others can. So for me, I would prefer the slightly sorter reach and the bigger range of choices in 34" length for strings (and basses) as reasons I've never felt led to go to a 35" scale. Other guys feel and hear a difference and that's their preference.
    Bluebard likes this.

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