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screw-on (bolt-on) neck vs. neck-through, can you hear the difference?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Killed_by_Death, Oct 1, 2019.

  1. absolutely

  2. not at all

  3. sometimes

  4. undecided, carrot-thru for me, thanks!

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. DrewinHouston

    DrewinHouston Not currently practicing Supporting Member

    Apr 20, 2009
    Houston Heights, Texas
    Disclosure: I am not a great bass player
    Yes, but I was talking about hearing the difference between P and J pickups without having identical basses to compare. I don't believe that I can tell the difference between a bolt-on and a neck-through in every (or even most) case, but I do believe some neck-through basses produce a sustain and immediacy that I've never had in a bolt-on. It would be interesting to do a blind test see if that is real or imagined.
  2. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    That's how I've traditionally heard the differences as well, and it's certainly how my neck-thrus sound compared to my bolt-ons.

    Set necks I've heard can go either way, though.
  3. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town.

    Oct 1, 2001
    How is the bolt on lighter? Different woods?
    A neck thru will typically have notably less wood at the join. Not to mention no neck plate.
  4. JohnArnson


    May 28, 2019
    Not sure, never did that test.

    But I would think I might actually quite likely be able to hear a subtle difference between two otherwise completely similar basses with the only difference of one of them having a neck through design and the other bolt on.

    I very much doubt though that the difference would be sufficiently noticeable to be worthy of any real consideration for me.

    But when that is said I personally do prefer bolt on neck designs, alone for practical reasons though, like making neck repairs and eventual swapping out the neck easier/possible.

    And if it actually really is true that basses with bolt on neck design tend to have a more snappy tone, then that would definitely be another reason for me to prefer it.
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
  5. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Many people believe many things anecdotally which, when tested methodically, are shown to be false. This isn't any disrespect to you as I'm sure I do the same, and attempting to discover patterns in data is innate within us and evolutionarily useful. However, I also used to work in artifical intelligence and know not to necessarily trust my own eyes (or ears) as I've seen results on a sound statistical basis that have confounded them too often. Of course, as I take my eye off the ball I'm seeing patterns in everything again!

    In terms of seeing if there is a pattern there are two main options: control for variables (Q. V. YouTube videos with people swapping components) or clustering : record characteristics of the sound and the construction, tone settings, preamp, strings, etc, from a million - and - one basses and see if there is any the centre of all bolt on basses is different to neck through, assuming that there are significant numbers of passive neck through basses, etc. If the cluster centres are pretty much in the same place then neck construction isn't the important factor. Or you could do formal principal component analysis. I toy with the idea of doing the clustering approach as provided people are honest then it doesn't require test equipment, just a lot of data and processing which costs $$$ but I might be able to get a grant for it. :) There might be confounding factors, e. G. No neck through players using a pick and I certainly managed to mess that up in my early AI days by getting an early 1990s facial recognition system to learn lighting conditions rather than faces...
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2019
    DrewinHouston likes this.
  6. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    It's been done with pieces of wood representing necks and a plucking machine.

    Actually you don't need to do fifty, just do it one by one until one exhibits a tone change as the null hypothesis would be no tone change. And then there woukd be an upper limit based on statistical significance. The tricky bit might be defining 'tone' objectively, but a panel of listeners might work. Perhaps you could have an expert panel, regular jill/Joe panel, and in a mix or not.
    mellowgerman likes this.
  7. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    I had a minor dead spot on the one neck through I had, and no dead spots on two bolt ons. The bolt ons with no dead spots didn't have the traditional Fender headstock and the neck through also didn't. I have a Warmoth neck with the fancy steel bars in I got to replace a neck which I couldn't adjust and had a mild dead spot, and it has a mild dead spot! (In the end the problem neck just needed a couple of washers to compensate for the truss rod nut having compressed the wood). Given that relatively few neck throughs have Fender headstock that might be the major factor.
  8. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Oh, I've seen people say 'classic P tone on Thingummy by Whatsit' to have it turn out it was a J... Even now people debate the type of bass used on classic tracks, especially when Geddy started using THAT J. Maybe his big book of bass porn reveals that.
  9. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Sometimes I like the thick sound some settings on a Wal get, but that seems to be electronics not construction. And yes, I've played some Wals and regret not getting the two I nearly did in the mid 90s when they were free with packets of Cheerios, so it seemed. Cheaper than a basic Fender in many cases, at least.
  10. -Asdfgh-


    Apr 13, 2010
    Some of it seems to be fashion. 1990s - Matsumoko Westone - firewood. Today - OMG - high quality vintage classic, $$$.
  11. Relayer71


    Jun 25, 2009
    That's a good question. I know Spector neck-thru basses are heavier than the bolt ons, from half to a full pound for a 4 stringer.

    Don't know what exactly accounts for the difference but maple is heavy so if you have a maple neck that goes all the way through the body (and becomes much thicker when it reaches the body), that probably adds more weight than the screws and bolts used on a similar bolt-on.

    That's assuming both bodies are not all maple.
  12. Eilif

    Eilif Holding it down in K-Town.

    Oct 1, 2001
    Interesting. I suppose that the maple is denser/heavier than most other body woods and that could be a factor, but that really doesn't explain a pound of difference. Especially when physically there can be a rather large chunk of wood left-off of a neck-thru. Could the neck-thru be made with premium woods that might be heavier? (maple, Mohagany Koa, etc).

    Perhaps the neck-thru body is joined to the neck (at least on the bass side) closer to the headstock? A feature that would add stability but also weight.

    This might be a good question deserving it's own topic.
  13. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    The various modes of propagation of sound in solid, oddly shaped objects are very complex. I don't find much literature on it, but I suspect the interface between the neck and body is about as important to the overall mechanical response of the instrument as any other aspect. The transmission and reflection of the many vibration modes will be a huge mess of stuff. So, it is quite possible that there are significant response differences related to different neck installation types. What exactly those differences will be and what is preferred are separate questions that I don’t care to speculate on.

    raal likes this.
  14. Nez4


    Aug 3, 2019
    man, that's just too deep to consider
  15. LowBarryLow


    Aug 18, 2017
    Here's where I really feel the difference: In the WALLET!

    Actually, my fav bass sound is a set neck. I always have felt that a screw-on neck gets a bit more punch than neck-thru, but neck thru gets a bit more overall tone... set neck is the best of both. My next bass dream is a Fodera set-neck Emperor. Dare to dream, right?
  16. ofajen


    Apr 12, 2007
    92.4W 38.9N
    For me, the reason I don't ponder this very much is that I think pickup type, location and electronics matter so much more. I'm sure I'd still be digging the Ripper even if it had a "bolt-on" neck. I certainly dig the SX P which has the bolt on neck and I dig it way more now that I added the Q-filter mid cut like the Ripper has. And I'm equally sure I'd dig the MM sound and active electronics of the SB-14 even if it had a set neck.

  17. I hear a definitely "punchier" sound with most screw-on basses. I think they have less sustain and therefore the drop-off after the initial pluck is more pronounced. The neck-thru's I've owned tend to sound rounder, fuller, though that's not always an advantage...
  18. TravStaff


    Mar 9, 2016
    I had always been a Fender player for years. I have an elite P-Bass, a MIJ Power Jazz (big Duff fan) but once I played my first T-Bird I fell in love with the neck through. I still have my Fenders but now rarely play them. I bought one Gibson Bird, then another.

    I can’t speak for other brands but IMO nothing cuts through the mix better than a Thunderbird
  19. RobbieNuke


    Jan 22, 2008
    My experience has been this;
    • Bolt-on necks have less fundamental/more overtones (which I prefer for live performance).
    • Neck-through have more fundamental/less overtones (which I prefer for recording).
    Not that EQ can't address these differences, but just a general guideline. With bolt-on necks I feel I can turn up the volume before the bottom end gets too muddy in live situations.
  20. FiddleFixr

    FiddleFixr Supporting Member

    Sep 22, 2016
    Luthier - Jan's Fiddle Farm
    Absolutely there's a difference. Recall Les Paul's steel rail experiment where he took a piece of railway line and fixed a guitar string to it. He said that when plucked the string would "ring forever". He also said it had the "clearest" ring tone he ever heard. (This inspired him to build the "log" guitar in early 1940s in the Epiphone factory, NY.)
    Now if a section of that steel rail is replaced with another material, or changes in mass or density, the string would not ring so true, thereby have shortened sustain and not yield as clear a ring tone.
    Same deal with your bass, especially an acoustic bass where that medium onto which the strings are suspended is far from uniform. You'll find if you stick a 2 x 4 between neck and tail blocks inside your acoustic bass you'll have longer sustain, clearer ring tone, and more even response.
    That difference in sound in a hard body bass can be rather subtle, but its definitely there. :)

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