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Preamp to get my bass to sound warm like Ken Smith

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by waytoodeep03, Apr 4, 2005.

  1. Is there one? I want to get my bass to get that warm mellow Ken smith sound
  2. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Lot of factors there, but you might look at the J-Retro's or U-Retro.
  3. The Smith sound has everything to do with the preamp.
  4. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    Well, reading your views and sorry to burst in un-invited But, Why does the Smith Bass sound the way it does in Passive mode?

    Why does it have the feel it has before it's plugged in...

    There is more than one test to judge an instrument and I welcome ALL the opinions and Arguments out there without remose whatso ever.

    I believe, 1) the feel of the Bass un-plugged and how it sounds acoustic is the first test..

    2) the sound of the Bass plugged in without any EQ/flat or even Passive as well as comparing the un-amped tone to the un-EQed sound Amped..

    And 3) a Smith Bass full blown next to another Bass using Smith Pickups and/or Smith Preamp...

    Be my guest and do these tests... I often tell people that buying our parts will NOT necessarly get you our Complete sound or Feel if the feel is even similar at all...In most cases you are left with a more costly Bass worth maybe the same before you started but not necessarly as much as you have spent.

    Explore the Acoustical properties first and you can better match the electronic componants second....... Happy Posting.. Ken
  5. This question [from Ken] is an excellent one to ask. I, myself, am thinking of putting a new preamp [Bartolini] into my Peavey because it doesn't have a full sound. Would I actually be throwing money away on a bass that still wouldn't sound the way a good quality bass would sound?
  6. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    When asked, I usually tell people to judge the Bass by how it sounds and feels before you plug it in.

    If you love the sound and feel as it is, it's worth the risk to improve the amplified sound. If not, it's more of a gamble and most likely not going to feel any better when you are done..

    Just one opinion of many I suppose...
  7. Juneau


    Jul 15, 2004
    Dallas, TX.
    Thats good advice Ken, thanks for chiming in.
  8. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I think the unplugged test is the one . The "smith sound" is present acoustically in all of the smith basses that i have owned or played. The preamp accentuates that sound, IMO.

    I can also say that I have built basses using the Smith preamp and they have not sounded like Smith basses.
  9. pointbass

    pointbass Jersey to Georgia Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Nov 4, 2004
    Acworth, GA
    Endorsing Artist: FBB Bass Works
    I've had the great pleasure to have played several Smith basses and I agree, they all have that "Smith sound". That warmth is one of the big reasons so many Smith's are used in Christian and Gospel bands .... it's just present in the bass, even unplugged. Beautiful tone :)
  10. Wow I didnt expect Ken Smith to answer my question. I didnt even know he frequented these forums.

    Thanks for the advice I will use it when buying my next bass which is now.

  11. You know, come to think of it, I think Ken is very right on this one. I can play my handmade fretless unplugged, and it still has that 'mwah' sound, and is probably why it DOES sound so good, . . . . . .well, that and the Bartolini pickup it has in it.

    Now, on the other hand, my Peavey doesn't do much for me unplugged. May waste my money on a new preamp then with it. :meh:
  12. ElMon

    ElMon Supporting Member

    May 30, 2004
    Oklahoma City, OK
    Ken, I'd just like to thank you for delivering such an excellent instrument to us bass folk. I've travelled around the bass market and have finally found an instrument that I will never let go. I generally just keep it in passive mode, because it sounds so damn good to me. Also, your basses solve the argument of 34 vs 35inch scale. On top of that, I think yours is one of the few highend bass companies that has an uncomprimising set of standards and refuses to put out a less than perfect instrument. I have yet to find a Smith that is a dud. A Smith is a Smith is a Smith. Period.
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    I'm following this closely too.

    I have a (don't laugh) 2001 PRS bass that's the best feeling thing I've ever held in my hands. Beyond the fact that it was a bargain (800 bucks new on a 2200 list), when I picked it up in the shop I just knew...

    The Problem, though, is the preamp. The set-up is 2 high impedence Jazz style pickups that sound really nice in passive mode. 3 pots with the usual Jazz layout of Vol/Vol/Tone and a true bypass switch for the pre. The pre is 18v...but only has one tone knob. In the rolled back position it's almost sub-bass...but anything past 1 throws in lots of upper highs, making that modern rock gankity-gankity tone... I can't believe that someone would put a pre in with only one tone control...definitely a bass with electronics designed by a guitar player.

    Anyway, I love the feel, and the acoustic properties of the bass are great...BUT what to do with the pre? I'm not going to drill holes but I'd love a three band or an effective 2 band so I can actually shape the tone and not have to make up for the tone with my amp. I can't change out the pick ups since the body is routed for them and it's not the same footprint as a regular Jazz pickup.

    I've been tossing about the notion of one of the Smith pre's or maybe Sadowski, or maybe Aguilar, or maybe Demeter...but most wiring diagrams seem to be 4/5/6 pot setups.

    Any ideas?
  14. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    Dual concentric pots. For a 2 band you could keep your Vol-Vol pots and get a stacked pot for bass/treble. For a 3 band you could get a stacked pot for Vol-Vol, a stacked pot for bass/treble, and a single pot for mids. Or, if the pre can do sweepable mid frequency, get a stacked pot for mid boost/mid frequency as well.
  15. Larzon


    Jan 15, 2005
    I agree, apart from...how the bass sounds unplugged. I think there are basses that are very good without a good unplugged sound. For example the Thumb NT 5, which sounds completely dead unplugged.
    Am I right?
  16. ZuluFunk

    ZuluFunk Supporting Member

    Apr 14, 2001
    I guess there's no harm in trying to get the Smith sound from another bass.

    There's probably a way to get close.

    Maybe one of those Line6 basses...haha.

    I do love the feel of my KS BT-4. It's an older model. It's just so fast. It gets great tone unplugged.

    I must say, I have an Acacia 6 that sounds great unplugged too. I ran it with passive Lane Poors...I wasn't happy with the plugged in tone. I dropped a Bart 2 band into it...sweet.

    I use it for different applications though.
  17. Pickebass

    Pickebass Supporting Member

    Jul 12, 2004
    San Antonio, TX
    Great point!! Wouldn't you say that your basses have a similar sound no matter what wood combo you use? And the electronics play a big part in obtaining the "smith sound"?

    One of the things I've noticed is that be it maple or walnut the lows are still defined, one not being too bright or dark, and when dialed in with the smith preamp can sound very similar.
  18. KSB - Ken Smith

    KSB - Ken Smith Banned Commercial User

    Mar 1, 2002
    Perkasie, PA USA
    Owner: Ken Smith Basses, Ltd.
    The Sound is in the Wood. Each completed Bass I test is Played both un-plugged and Plugged in using 2 different Amps. I can feel the differences between Basses before the Tubes Warm up in my 1989 Redhead.

    We hear the sound return during Repairs and set-up when people send their Basses in with different brand Strings on the Bass. As soon as we put a fresh set of our TCRM Strings , the Wood seems to come alive.

    Recently I have been testing Double Bass Strings from Pirastro in Germany on 3 of my older Basses ranging from 85 - 195 years old. Some Strings Make it and some strings don't. Some strings seem to choke the Bass and some make it come alive. This happens with one or more strings within a given set.

    Acoustics exhist all the time. The are just less noticible in a solid body. Our Pickups amplify the sound that a particular Bass HAS.. Our Preamp EQs it....
  19. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars
    IME, it depends on how similar you believe "similar" is. My MD7, with mahogany core and maple top and back, sounds quite a bit different than my Black Tiger 6 with maple core and walnut top and back did. Same preamp. Same ebony fingerboard. Same hands and technique...mine. Same feel...thanks to Ken and his craftsmen.

    Every Ken Smith bass I've ever played has had the same feel. They have all had tones dissimilar enough for me to remember the differences.

    The MD7 does have different pickups in that they do not have exposed pole pieces, but I really have no idea how much effect that has on the overall tone, if any.

    There are many ingredients that go into every player's personal "Tone Soup". In order of importance I would list those types of ingredients as: technique (the hands); feel of the instrument (build quality and tone woods); electronics; outboard gear (amps, speakers, studio gear). Just like cooking, all the ingredients need to be of equal quality to make a truly outstanding dish, but ultimately it's the skill of the chef that will get you a Michelin Star...you dig?

    Bottom line is, you're not going to get the true Ken Smith tone with out all of the ingredients and unless it was prepared by the master chef himself. :D
  20. Moo

    Moo Banned

    Dec 14, 2002
    Oakland, CA
    I've built 3 neck throughs with Smith pickups and Bartolini 2 band pre amps. Based on that experience I've found the "Smith" sound to be mainly in the pickups as all 3 had a very Smith sound to them. In other words they sounded gooooooood.

    In a bass with a Smith preamp and Bart jbass pickups I didn't hear the Smith sound so much from the preamp so in my experience and to my ears the pickups carry most of that sound.

    I wish I still had a bass with that sound, a wonderful mix of up front aggressive sound that still blends nicely with the rest of the band.

    As to the original post about a preamp to make a bass sound like a Smith, I don't think you can do that, to me it requires those 2 fat humbuckers in parallel & close to the bridge.