P-Bass Homework: My Observations and Your Feedback

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by FlabbaFan, Dec 8, 2004.

  1. FlabbaFan


    Dec 8, 2004
    Hello, I am going to buy a P-bass, I have read *every* "Which P-bass?" thread on the forum, and they have been very useful in helping me target the basses I try out. I would like to lay out some of my impressions/tastes and have those of you familiar with many of the models I mention respond according to your experience with them. This is primarily for the models I have been unable to get my hands on, I would love to hear how you believe they fit into my selection. I would like to spend *about* a grand, with a little flexibility for a real find.

    My Reqs: I play reggae, dub, roots, more reggae, and OK also some funk, soul, rock. I love the warm, booming, deep low-end sound, with good punch and definition. I am not into slapping, or mid-rangy, honky, or presence-y sounding basses. I don't want to overplay it like a guitar--I have guitars for that. I like to just lay in the cut and pulsate with power. I will throw flats on whatever bass I buy.

    BASSES I HAVE PLAYED (all on flat-eq'd amps, attempting to grasp the bass's sonic characteristics, and not boost anything on the amp):

    Fender MIA '57 reissue, new ($1090): Loved this bass, best new (affordable) bass I tried. Love the feel of the neck, the maple, and most-importantly, it was the most powerful and booming of the Fender P's I played (with 1 exception, see below). Even so, with the tone between 2/3 bassy and all the way trebly, it can sound a little twangy and metallic, just like almost every bass I touched. This is a sound area I would likely never travel into.

    Fender MIA '62 reissue, new ($1150): Good bass, but played on same amp in same shop as '57, was a little more middy sounding, a compressed freq range it seemed, a little honkier. I thought they had the same pups? The '57 was a clear winner between these two for me.

    Fender American P, new ($900?): Solid, decent, but mostly unremarkable. Also played the one with S-1 pickup switching. The second, thinner setting would not get used by me. Unimpressed.

    Fender custom Shop Relic '59 P-bass ($2350): Ridiculous, incredible-sounding bass. Likely the best-sounding bass I have laid hands on. Rosewood board, warm, powerful tone. Impossible to make sound bad--even with tone rolled all the way to treble it was incredibly warm and big sounding, a world of difference even from the '57. Played great, though I would take off the pickup cover. Now this is what I'm talking about--a bass that I can play across its entire tone spectrum without straying from my ideal sound. Why the hell does this thing sound so good, and why do the others venture so far into the hollow metallic and thinner areas when adjusting the tone knob?

    '68 Gibson EB0 ($850): Ok, not a P, but with that big neck pickup I had to hear it. Way too muddy however, next to impossible to get good definition, even with tone rolled to treble.

    Celinder P Update 4 ($2500?): Only active bass that I dug. Big booming sound, would snatch it up in a heartbeat if I could pay that much. Bass boost was *tough*.

    Even a Schecter C4($450): I bought this and later returned it after I couldn't get past the honky-sounding EMG-Hz's. Not a bad bass for the money though.

    ******I know some of the "twang-y" and "metallic" issues I have with the tone of these basses will be remedied by flatwoud strings (all the basses I played had roundwounds), but I want the bass to start from the warmest possible place. Then I can re-string, tweak amp eq's, etc.


    G&L LB-100, SB-1: I have been all over and cannot get my hands on one of these. Obviously the fact that they stopped production in 2000 doesn't help. I hear all the great reviews which, if true, would make these basses perhaps my best choice for the money. But I am hesitant to buy without playing. I know lots of you have played these basses....how do they stack up against some of my choices, like the '57 reissue? How about the warmness issue, and tone spectrum. Do they clanky too quick? I have played L2000's which are undoubtedly great basses, but the active MM sound is not by thing.

    Lakland skyline Bob Glaub: I can get one of these for $850, which would be a good deal if they are as good as everyone says. But again, I want to play it first, and no one has these lying around in LA. Has anyone been able to compare these with my current fav, the '57? Can you get a maple neck on these?

    I almost scored a "real find" off ebay with a Celinder P Classic 4, with a Nordstrand P pickup in it, maple neck, but I got outbid when things got hairy in the last minutes.

    Final question: Anyone with real experience comparing the supposedly stellar early 80's 57 reissues with the current ones? Should I devalue the late models and try to wait around for an early one? The new one I played did sound pretty tight. I have seen a couple '82s for 1200, 1300 at various retailers on the internet.

    Thanks for reading my long message, I look forward to all comments

  2. Mojo-Man

    Mojo-Man Supporting Member

    Feb 11, 2003
    Hope this helps.
    I've owned both the MIA- 57 and 62 P-bass.
    I agree, the 57 sounds better to my ears.
    Maybe the tight sound of the maple fingerboard.
    More focused sound. both are big and fat.
    This said, my Lakland Duck Dunn Lmt Edt. bass, is better than both fenders.
    Better pickups, fret-work and bridge.
    This is a Skyline model, one pc. ash body, maple fingerboard,
    gold anodized pickguard.
    Payed around $1000.00. this is as good a percision bass I've ever owned.
    Almost as good as mt 1966 P-bass.
  3. I have played both the Skyline Glaub and the '57 reissue P-Bass. I loved both but the Glaub is the clear winner. It was a much smoother sounding instrument and the workmanship was immaculate. By the way, it is available with a maple fretboard and it can also be ordered with a Jazz Bass width neck. Personally, I love the 1.75" width at the nut P-Bass neck and the Glaub feels very much like the '57 reissue and that's good. I have a wonderful sounding, playing and looking "player" parts P-Bass clone that I love but I am currently in the process of rationalizing the purchase of a Bob Glaub Skyline. I bet I'll have the rationalization process done in no time!
  4. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Supporting Member

    I like your comments on the various basses. My two cents: I recommend a P-bass with an alder body. Now, don't get me wrong: I'm the first to admit that there's lots of varation in the tone of wood even within the same species, but IME alder-bodied P-basses tend to have more fullness and punch in the low mids, whereas ash-bodied ones are tighter and have more honk and/or presence. Again, mileage *will* vary; I'm simply outlining a general tendency.
  5. Figjam


    Aug 5, 2003
    Boston, MA
    Id stand behind the Alder statement. Id also recommend a rosewood fingerboard, for the kind of tone you want.

    In my experience, the quality of Fender precisions varies a lot. I find that my favorite is MIJ fender precisions , though.
  6. But isn't most reggae done with a J bass?

    For P-basses mentioned above, the Bob Glaub is the winner, IMO.
  7. Fret Boiler

    Fret Boiler Pity World

    Apr 12, 2004
    Purdue University
    Get the Glaub. Lakland allows you to "test drive" it for a while, so you can return it if it doesn't fly for you.
  8. craigb

    craigb Supporting Member

    Based on what you've written above you probably want to stay away from the SB-1 (and SB-2) as far as G&Ls go. I love my SB-2, particularly with TI Jazz Flats, but the MFD split-coil pickup has a lot of presence. I think of it as having lots of clarity (more clarity than an L2K) and more bottom, highs and growl than a "regular" P pickup. And the SB-2, which doesn't have a tone control, can definitely be clanky and harsh with rounds. So while I love them an SB is probably not the bass for you. If you do happen to find an SB-1 give it a whirl, maybe the tone control woulc give you what you want. An LB-100 (or Legacy Bass - the original LB-100 name) has a pickup that is aimed at reproducing the "vintage" P sound so would probably be much more what you are looking for.

    And here's an "out of the box" idea for you to try. If you come across one give a Godin A4 a try. The piezo can be clanky if you don't roll off the highs (and it's awful with rounds) but no other bass I've tried, including a G&L L2K, can match the massive warm lows this thing can put out.

    An Epiphone Jack Casady would be another one to try if you see one.
  9. smperry

    smperry Moderator Staff Member Gold Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2003
    Bay Area, CA
    Endorsing Artist: Martin Keith Guitars
    Great list. Another "out of the box" idea is a vintage G&L L-1000. I had one of these for a while and it was a great sounding bass and I think it would fit perfectly for the music you describe. It did a great job copping a P tone, but with more dub. Great bass if you happen to run across one.

    I also agree with the Alder/Rosewood comments. But the pickup is probably more important-there's such a range in P pickups and it's good that you're trying a bunch of things in person...although I've never heard of a bad sounding Celinder.

  10. Reading your sound prefereces/requirements above, I have to second craigb's recommendation of an Epiphone Jack Casady. Its sound is definitely in the P-bass neighborhood, though not as percussive as a Precision.

    I've also played the American Vintage '57 P-bass, and agree that it sounds great.

    Just out of curiosity, where did you see a '57 for $1,050?

    At both Sam Ash and Musiciansfriend, they go for almost $1,300.

  11. FlabbaFan


    Dec 8, 2004
    DeKarr Music in Pasadena, CA had two, one black, one light blue hanging on the wall. Both alder, new models, marked down to $1092. FWIW, the black one was set up much better and therefore sounded better, the blue was a mess, it needed the action adjusted and was mushier-sounding.

    Yeah, I think I read that Sly & Robbie did a lot of the early stuff with a Jazz bass, but I know that the Beatles Hofner was also used by some of the original reggae guys as well. I also think Studio One had a Jazz lying around.
    Of course in recent years a lot of the Jamaican cats in New York and around the East Coast were showing up unfailingly with Steinbergers--it was/is a definite trend in the reggae community since the 80's. Even for guitar players.
    To my ear the P and its big, booming sound, esp. with the tone set right, nails the vibe. Of course, the reggae producers like Scientist and King Tubby were masters of sound production, way ahead of their time back in the 70's and 80's, so I'm sure with any solid bass you could massage the sound appropriately in the studio. And now that is much easier, and still remains true.