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Played a few Ken Smiths today: Didn't like it

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Ostinato, May 25, 2005.

  1. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    I was in a local store today just bumming around when to my surprise, they had two KS BSRs hanging high in the rafters, so I asked the sales guy if he could kindly remove one for me, I'm 6'2" and even I couldn't reach them.

    In the store I used a Mesa Walkabout into a SWR Goliath II

    Just to let everybody know...The first thing I noticed about both these basses is that they were poorly setup....pickups were too low, and the necks were bowed on both instruments

    I first tried out a BSR4MW...a bolt-on with Walnut caps on a maple body...it looked great...but a lot smaller than I expected...

    Well ...After spending almost a hour dialing in various pickup combinations and preamp settings, I went through my half ass repetoire of Jaco lines, Marcus slaps, Paul Jackson grooves, and I was left scratching my head wondering "where's the ballz?" ...I was very disapointed. I knew I had to rethink my hand position, due to the longer neck and pickup placement, But I just could not find any sweet spot for plucking. The playability I could detect was definitely much more enjoyable...if only it was setup right.

    Maybe I need my ears cleaned! I guess my expectations where out of line with reality. With the onboard pre set flat, it seemed to have a huge hole in the upper mids, and the treble was in dog whistle territory. I would describe the overall tonal character as a Chihuaua with it's nutz in a vice.

    I then grabbed A BSR-J four string and expected to be redeemed of any doubts about these fine basses. ...Not...really.....although it was very versatile and it copped a J-bass tone, the basic tone I found was average at best. In both these basses, I found I had to rely on the onboard pre to get a passable meat and potaotes sound, or even what I consider a good solo tone.

    Anyway...after that big letdown, I spotted a Fender '75 Jazz Reissue and tried it as a reference. Rosewood fingerboard, light ash body... No contest. those '75 pickups just rock my socks. I guess the moral of the story is, if you grew up listening to Fender players , chances you probably will gravitate towards that type of sound. Still.. I want to like Smith basses. :meh:

    P.S. ..Anyone who owns a Smith could you tell me about the DIP switches in the preamp? Just wondering what the frequencies are. Thanks ;)
  2. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    I'm sure nothing is wrong with you. No bass, even Sadowskys, is for everybody.
  3. I'm sure dead strings and a some much needed set-up would would make any bass sound bad. Give it another try and ask the store to change strings and do a set-up.
  4. lefty007


    Jan 19, 2004
    Miami, FL
    I agree with Dr. Cheese: not all basses are for everybody.

    I'm a huge fan of Ken Smiths (I have a BSR-5) and I consider them to be "my" Holy Grail, after buying, trying and selling MTDs, good Fenders, Sadowskys and everything in between.

    In their defense, I would say that Smiths are very sensitive to strings (and all basses are, for that matter) so maybe an old set of strings and/or a bad setup spoiled your experience.

    And coincidentally, I like their sound because they are "not" Fender-like. I grew up playing Fenders, so after many years I wanted to have a different sound than, anybody else . . . (easy, boys).
  5. Dincrest


    Sep 27, 2004
    New Jersey
    It's like food. Some people like pineapple on their pizza while others don't.

    I've had an opportunity to try out a rather nice Modulus bass owned by a consumate professional, but I didn't like it. The sound was too clean/refined for my tastes and the bass itself was oversensitive to less-than-perfect technique- which is something I can't always help, since emotion can easily hit during a heated stage performance and I'll end up digging or otherwise not using 100% perfect technique. Thus I prefer a more 'forgiving' bass.

    That said, this guy's Modulus was a magnificent instrument and perfect for him, but for me it was a pizza/bass with a "topping" that just wasn't my taste.
  6. bassturtle


    Apr 9, 2004
    Agreed. Then slap them in the face for not keeping upper end basses setup properly.

    EDIT: and for what it's worth, I'm not a big fan of the KS basses either, but that's just me.
  7. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    I own a few basses, Ken Smith and Jazz Basses among them. The ken smith may not have the thump of a jazz bass, but it is among the best sounding and playing instruments I own. Taking into consideration what you said about the instruments you were playing. Give a good Ken Smith a chance and you will see the difference. BTW... I'm a BIG Jazz Bass fan and no it ain't the same
  8. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    I have a '94 Chuck Rainey 5 -

    I don't particularly like the sound of it right at my amp. But whenever I loan it to a friend for his gig I absolutely love it in the mix. We've worked together to mix it for the room (his amp provides the bass volume, not the underpowered vocal PA) and ignore what it's sounding like in his playing location. I'm working to see if he's willing to work my tone out for me when I'm using it on a gig.

    Bottom line ... not many basses can out do the Smith in the big mix, even if you struggle with the sound up close to your amp

  9. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    I suspect you're right. The preamp did have an impressive range, but I wanted to see if I could get the best range of tones with everything set flat on the bass. I found myself slightly panning towards the neck pickup to try and get fuller sound across the strings.

    But I'm VERY interested in hearing about the DIP switches inside because I was so frustrated I was ready to open up the back and start the fiddling myself ;)
  10. Bassmanbob

    Bassmanbob Supporting Member

    The people who like pineapple on pizza are the same people who like ketchup on their egg noodles. :scowl:

    Oh! BTW, I like KS basses. I've found them to have the best playing B string on a 34" bass.
  11. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    Now that's my cup of fur!
  12. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Line™ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    For the dip switches, take a peek here: http://kensmithbasses.com/accessories/Parts/circuits.htm

    Ahhh, I didn't think about the p/u selection as I'm a total neck p/u kinda guy. I run my bass as such:

    Vol: 11
    Blend: Full-on neck (I don't need no stinkin' bridge)
    Treble: flat
    Mid: + maybe 1/8 past the center indent
    Bass: flat

    The EQ on the Ampeg is set almost flat as well, but I do have a subtle bump up in the mids, and a cut 40Hz and below fairly sharp. I should also mention that I run this thru an Avatar 210Pro + Avatar SB112 (both get full frequency range, and both have the horn set to off)

    I might be into the bridge p/u if I was a slapper ...

  13. I Like Ken Smith Design Jazz's :smug: ;) :p

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