Pots and switches on boutique basses

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Blazer, Jan 14, 2005.

  1. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    Not to step on anybody's toes but isn't having all those pots and switches a bit of overkill?

    Take a look at Stanley Clarke's new custom alembic bass, no question that it is a wonderfulll looking (and sounding) instrument but all those pots?


    I speak for myself, but I'm the type of guy who believes that tone is all in the fingers and I have modified my two pickup basses so they have a Balance pot, a master tone and a Master Volume. This enables me to back off the volume regardless of what pickup I'm playing over at that moment.

    Sure I can see the merits of being able to completely change the sound of your bass by just turning a pot or flicking over a switch but I wouldn't be able to do so between verses in the middle of the song and would easily grab the wrong pot or switch.

    To use Stanley Clarke as an example again: I saw him changing the sound of his bass mid song and change it again and again. And in his hands he could make the most of it. However, I also saw footage of Jaco tearing it up and he played a Fender Jazz bass, no elaborate electronics, no phase switches but 100% pure sound, no gimmics, just his fingers on the de-fretted board of his Fender.

    So I would like to pose you people who own such basses this question, do you people actually USE all of those sound posibilities?
  2. Well, obviously if an Alembic Series 1 or 2 is what you play, then I guess you want those possibilities, right? Each man or woman after his or her sound. We don't all want to sound like Jaco wannabes, or Stanley Clarke for that matter. I guess it's all a matter of preference. Do you want a passive bass? Then go for it, it's your choice and your sound :) ! Let other people take care of the high tech stuff!

    The old Jaco arguement... :oops:
    And IIRC Jaco used alot of chorus and one some songs. And I don't really understand what's so special about Jaco's sound? To me it sounds like "burp burp". I've nerver liked the bridge pickup on a Jazz soloed. Sure he created a new style and changed the role of bassists when playing. I still think his sound is just too "farty" for me, ironically just how Joe Zawinul described it...but it's Jaco's signature, and will forever be connected with the Fender Jazzbass' bridge pickup. In my ears it just needs more body, I like fuller tones that sustain for a long time, not much for the funky kind of style Jaco used.

    Go ahead, start the flaming now ;) !
  3. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    That's a nice collection of pots an buttons and whateverelse there!

    Take it easy, man. People are all different. Some say simpler is better, less is more - others like to be able to control many aspects of the tone, which would not be possible without all these.

    Me, I have Vol/active/passive switch, Blend, Bass & Treeble pot. I actually only use the Vol and Blend 90% of the time - perhaps even more. Do I care if someone has a 4-band-eq pre on his bass and a bunch of switches? No. If he likes it, its his thing; however, I can see a point in having all those switches and stuff - just that I'd rarely use them.

    OTOH, I'm thinking of upgrading my electronics.
    Plan A is to put in passive dual-coils and a three-band parametric eq.
    Plan B is to put in passive dual-coils and keep it as Vol/Blend/Passive tone...
  4. Frank Martin

    Frank Martin Bitten by the luthiery bug...

    Oct 8, 2001
    Budapest, Hungary, EU
    Today's specialty!

    BBQ'd rare birds with sauce of choice.
    Get it while it's still on fire!

    :D :D :D
  5. temp5897

    temp5897 Guest

    Tone may be "all in the fingers" but I've heard plenty of fantastic players on basses that sounded like crap. And guess what...I thought overall it sounded like crap as well. If people want to shape their tone the way they want to who cares as long as the end result sounds good?
  6. Bryan R. Tyler

    Bryan R. Tyler TalkBass: Usurping My Practice Time Since 2002 Staff Member Administrator Supporting Member

    May 3, 2002
    Reviewer: Bass Player Magazine
    I love having many knobs (I have 5 plus two switches on my two main basses, and past basses have had the same amount or more). I hate when a performer has to turn his back on the audience because he has to go to his amp to change his tone. The tone can only be so much in your hands-for example, how can you add bass with your hands without changes the attack or volume? The eq isn't something easily altered with the hands without changing your attack, volume or playing dynamics, and when you want to keep everything sounding exactly the same but want a little more low mids, knobs are the best way to do it.
  7. Exactly. It's not really how you get it, but WHAT you get in the end that matters!
  8. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    Just because the knobs are there you don't have to use them all.

    I owned a stack knob Jazz for awhile and found it too fiddly so rewired it for just two knobs, volume and tone (both pickups on in series).

    I also owned a BC Rich with a zillion knobs and switches. Once I located the sound I liked I never touched anyhting but the volume knob.

    My rule is to just play the bass: if it feels and sounds great who cares if it's passive, active, has lots of knobs, what color, etc.
  9. My bass has so much versatility(vol/vol/passive tone/active bass/mid/treb knobs+on/off, active/passive & mid shift switches) that there's no way I can justify another bass to my wife. I do use them all- rarely all in one day, but I'll go through a passive tone mood, or rear pickup favored or whatever. The cool thing is this is all on the same bass & feels the same, but sounds different. Of course there's nothing wrong with simplicity- I'd love to have one of Rob Allen's fine pieces. To each his own.
  10. Strange...looking at that picture, it seems he could actually have more switches and pots than he already has.

    I don't know the configuration, but with 3 pickups (all humbuckers?) and a MIDI jack (a 4th MIDI pickup?) having so little volume/tone/blend/phase control would almost be a waste.

    I'm very serious...it looks like he's not really possibilities all tonal possibilities in this particular set of electronics.
  11. keb


    Mar 30, 2004
    Actually, I think that middle "pickup" is a hum cancelling contraption. And that MIDI-looking jack is for Alembic's outboard power supply thingy (the technical term for it. ;) )
  12. alembicbones


    Nov 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA
    Stanley's bass may seem to have more knobs than one would think necessary. However, when you become accustomed to the Series I or II electronics package, it's actually a relatively straight forward system. In its simplest terms, you basically have a volume, filter, and CVQ for each pickup. The other knobs allow you to blend the pickups to achieve your desired tone.

    All in all it's a pretty cool way to shape a bass' tone.

  13. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    I guess it comes from me being a guitarist with a bass guitar in his hands. Guitarists tend to be conservative about their gear, keeping it as simple as possible just taking what they need and nothing more. This picture shows me using my main stage guitar which has only one pickup and a volume pot knowing that I don't need more than that.


    It is true that with Knooren we built plenty of Basses with very ornate EQ settings but the most pots we've ever put on a bass was five. Jan Knooren himself has the same vision as me, his personal basses just use two volumes and a master tone. We make basses big EQ's on order from customers.
  14. SteveC

    SteveC Moderator Staff Member

    Nov 12, 2004
    NE ND
    I have lots of knobs and switches on my basses. Sometimes I like them, sometimes I use my handy dandy "pull for bypass" and just have a volume and blend control. Depends on the song, depends on my mood.

    I like having both options.
  15. mikeboth

    mikeboth The last thing you'll ever see

    Jun 14, 2002
    Tallinn, Estonia
    Operator: prophecysound systems
    Not the guitarists I have played with / play with! :) But then I'm sure if you are playing punk a minimalistic approach might be the only 'acceptable' one....

    For a boutique bass, it seems to make sense to add as many pots and switches as the owner thinks is necessary, given that the extra cost will be insignificant compared to the overall cost. And you *have* picked out somewhat extreme version to comment on ... most basses only have half the number of controls.

  16. Blazer


    Nov 27, 2003
    The Netherlands
    Rogue luthier employed at Knooren Handcrafted bass guitars
    Need I remind you of players like Lindsey Buckingham?

    One pickup and one type of guitar...


    And many punk guitarists don't bother with whammy bars. Metal players however do...
  17. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    IME guitarists are indeed conservative when it comes to their instruments... very very few use anything but passive electronics. OTOH, most guitarists I know use at least two stompboxes!
  18. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass P5 with overdrive Gold Supporting Member

    And yes, tone is in the fingers. It's also in the strings, the wood, the pickups, the electronics, the cable, the amp, the speakers...
  19. Tritone

    Tritone Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 24, 2002
    Santee, America

    I'll try to remember this the next time I see any guitarist plug straight into an amp....... : :rolleyes:

    No chorus
    No boost pedals
    No EQ pedals
    No Ring Mod
    No Envelope filter
    No compression
    No OD
    No distortion
    No phaser
    No pitch-shifter
    No harmonizer
    No tremolo (manual or electronic)
    No delay
    No reverb
    No flange
    No filtering
    No wah
    no outboard effects at all, and of course in mono only.

    Oh and I almost forgot, no whammy-bar either.
    And using a volume pedal is out too.

    I really get tired of the "why do you need all of that, it's only bass" mentality.... :scowl:
  20. I think the idea is that there is a lot of variety of tone. Some people want a bass they can go to no matter what... they can scoop the mids or blend the pickups differently, or even play through a midi pickup. The sounds are all there, you just have to choose the one that works. And some people like changing tones between songs (or even during songs) to accomodate many playing styles and sounds. It's easier to adjust your bass than to return to the amp every time you need to adjust settings, and some players like that versatility. I don't particularly need all those settings in an active bass... my main bass has a 3 band EQ and I don't change settings mid-song. I only play with the blend, and sometimes cut treble (which is like a passive tone control). But hey, the options are there, should I need it. When paying a lot of money for a great bass, it would suck not to be able to coax the sound I want out of it, and when you're spending thousands for the ultimate Alembic, you want that choice... to be able to bring one bass that can achieve all tones necessary. Agree with it or not, some people like those options.

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