Opinions on the 'most' Versatile Fretless?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tyler Wilkins, Jun 21, 2020.

  1. Tyler Wilkins

    Tyler Wilkins

    Jun 21, 2020
    Hello All,

    I am in the market for a fretless. I know that a fretless J or fretless P will get me the classic 'fretless' sound pretty quickly, but I'm curious if anyone has an opinion/recommendation concerning the most versatile fretless.

    Just for the purpose of background knowledge and context, I went to college for upright and electric bass and now score films, as well as gig. I'm looking for something versatile that can provide a wider array of sounds for the studio, as well as at gigs - thus, I'd rather not be completely locked into the P/J sound.

    Lately, I've been eyeing up the Godin A4/5 ultras. They've got a Lace Sensor pup, along with the transducers in the bridge. The chambered body also has a positive impact on the sound and color options.

    Any other thoughts about other basses I could keep an eye out for?

  2. The Tony Franklin PJ Precision will be perfect...
    dkelley, mattj1stc, MonetBass and 8 others like this.
  3. Tyler Wilkins

    Tyler Wilkins

    Jun 21, 2020
    Love that one, but do you think it can pull off some of the more natural “piezo-ish” tones, as well?
  4. luciens


    Feb 9, 2020
    I'm biased of course, because I just got a Tony Franklin the other day and have been playing it non stop since....

    But in my judgement, if you're after more of a DB/acoustic sound, there are better options than the TF. And for less money. In particular look at the Ibanez SRF series; they actually have piezo pickups on them and give much more of that acoustic bass type of sound when played on the piezo:

    In my last few days with my TF, it doesn't sound anything like an acoustic bass and I think it would be not so good of a choice if you need that particular style of tone. It does a P bass 100%, naturally, :), and a really wicked Jazz bass on the bridge PU, though.

    As for the most versatile FL, I guess that's kind of like asking what's the best FL for metal. If I needed 1000 tones, I'd do a G&L L2K FL. I had an L2K FL for around 20 years and it really could do it all, even metal.

  5. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    I'd agree that a Tony Franklin is really versatile. Drop tuner standard is a nice feature too.
    Ibanez makes some great fretless basses that punch above their weight too.

    Only dumb advice I have is play as many as you can. I know the shops don't exactly stockpile fretless but ask around, ask your friends to borrow. You'll find the right one.
    dbsfgyd1 likes this.
  6. Inara

    Inara Fierce Fun Fretless Female Supporting Member

    Jun 12, 2017
    Seattle, WA USA
    I think the Ibanez SRF series, formerly called the Portamento, sounds like something you should check out, given your goals. I played one as my main bass for a couple of years. I agree with @luciens post above, in other words.

    I did not like the D'addario Chrome flats that came stock on it, but I've always hated those things. I switched to the same brand's tapewounds and liked them better, but strings of course are extremely personal choices.
    Tyler Wilkins likes this.
  7. thewildest


    May 25, 2011
    Florida, USA
    In my opinion, F-Bass hands down. No bass is as sensitive and has its ultra-wide spectrum of sounds as a BNF from these guys.
  8. Sean150


    Jul 18, 2018
    I went for the Ibanez SRF and never looked back on fretless. You can play piezo or magnetic or both. And it looks beautiful.
    thabassmon and sonojono like this.
  9. sonojono

    sonojono Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2013
    I’ll echo what others are saying here, Ibanez SRF.

    You could also look into Sire Fretless Basses with there sweepable mids option they got going on there onboard preamp.
    Brother Goose likes this.
  10. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    I’m extremely happy with my Willcox Saber VL. It bumped my Godin Acoustibass (forerunner of the A4) to second slot.

    Willcox uses the LightWave optical pickup which employs IR sensors rather than magnetic coils or piezos.

    Bottom line: You can use any string you want with these basses. Nickel, Steel, Phosphor Bronze, nylon, catgut or whatever. The optical pickup works with all of them.

    I have an older VL model which has the optical pickup plus piezo on the bridge. They also did one with the optical and a mag pickup. But AFAIK both are now discontinued and they’re just doing their newest model. So you’d need to shop used for the older ones.

    The latest version of this bass now had provisions for MIDI in addition to the optical pickup. More here.

    You can hear how it sounds in ensemble with Mandy Watson covering Kate Bush along with Kate’s bassist Del Palmer sitting in:

    Last edited: Jun 21, 2020
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  11. I favour basses that do a few things really well over basses that do loads of things 'alright'. In terms of pure electric sounds, the Pedulla Buzz series cannot be beaten as a fretless IMO (with maybe the Zon Sonus with a coated fingerboard being a credible alternative). However, I never go for that faux-upright thing, but that piezo sound tends to be quite generic anyway, so there are perhaps a few good options there. The Ibanez mentioned above looks like a good buy.
    mikezimmerman likes this.
  12. svlilioukalani

    svlilioukalani Supporting Member

    Sep 19, 2012
    Seattle, Wa
    If your getting one, and bringing it to a studio. An American made Fender Jazz is a safe dependable option. They play amazingly well when properly set up. I have others I like more, but studio engineers are always happy to see one. They have a great tone.
  13. Tyler Wilkins

    Tyler Wilkins

    Jun 21, 2020
    How has the reliability been? I looked into them, and like the sound, but was a bit concerned when I saw a vid of someone with a dead D-String and the steps necessary to fix it.

    Good notes. The Zon and Pedulla are awesome instruments - just out of my price range. I totally get your comment about the upright. As an upright player myself, I totally agree. I just want a wide sound palette to choose from...where I can get the classic sound but also experiment.
  14. Tyler Wilkins

    Tyler Wilkins

    Jun 21, 2020
    Yeah, I mean there are engineers in LA, Nashville, and NYC that barely stop short of denying you session work if you walk in without a P and/or a J. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but they are both relatively narrow in flexibility compared to what I'm looking for, although that Tony Franklin PJ is still super intriguing.
  15. 59jazz

    59jazz Infinite Rider on the Big Dogma Supporting Member

    NS Design CR4 Radius. A very versatile fretless with the best sounding piezo blend I've ever experienced. Sound guys will love you for it and they're dead quiet too.
  16. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    May 24, 2006
    No issues whatsoever. It’s been a joy to own and play.
  17. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    Here you go!
    Tommy V, Cheez, Luigir and 7 others like this.
  18. misterCRUSH

    misterCRUSH It's all jazz...it's ALL jazz...

    Dec 27, 2015
    Fayetteville, Arkansas
    have a look at the Godin A4 or A5. it has a piezo pickup and a magnetic pickup. you can run one at a time or blend. lots of tonal variations plus a DB sound if you are so inclined. Besides, they're hand built in Canada. Great craftsmanship!
  19. baileyboy

    baileyboy Inactive

    Aug 12, 2010
    I'm not a fretless player, but ended up buying an FBB because it was a tone monster, and less than 9 lbs. I kept it for several years before selling it (at a profit) only because I never gigged with it. I don't have any experience with other fretless basses, but the feel and tone of that thing was outrageous. If you get a chance, give one a try. They are very reasonably priced.
  20. Koshchei


    Mar 17, 2019
    Peterborough, ON
    The Godin A5 and the Ibanez Gary Willis are both incredibly capable instruments.