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That "Sadowsky Sound"

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by THORRR, Aug 13, 2012.


    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado
    I'm trying to figure out what all you Sadowsky enthusiasts
    are talking about when you applaud that "unique" tone that
    comes out of a Sadowsky Bass, the one that you say always
    "cuts through the mix".

    What's producing it?

    The preamp is only a 40hz and 4000hz 13db Boost only.
    The pickups aren't anything that radical that I can discern.

    So what's so special that we can't get "that tone" from other basses?
    . . . especially those with preamps (most of which are more flexible than
    Sadowskys, with add/subtract and Midrange adjustments)

    I played a Will Lee once and was underwhelmed.
    Please enlighten me, cuz I don't get it.

    Thanks -
  2. FileBass


    May 9, 2012
    I don't know much about the "cut through" thing but I like sadowsky! I love the neck finish, the preamp, the fretwork and the size of the body. The neck finish is great. I like the slap sound of a sadowsky. The fretwork of these basses are good, not like those fender, squier, epiphone, etc... the size of sadowsky is a bit smaller for the jazz bass which really attract me. I don't know much but I like them. I think sadowsky have that unique bite slap sound.

    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado
    There's no question or issue about Sadowsky's quality of
    workmanship. It's terriffic and I'm sure his service is among
    the best in the business based on his impeccable reputation.

    But that aside . . . what's so special about the sound?

    I'm not knocking it. I'm in search of a clear answer:
    What's so special about the sound?

  4. Lightweight resonant bodies have a nice midrange presence (thats what cuts through). Roger is the most weight concience builder I know of. That cut thru, can be passive or active. The pre can alter the basses voice from vintage passive, to aggressive and cutting.

    Also, the bass boost on the pre is unique in that it also adds a certain tightness to the bottom. Some other preamps make the bottom sound huge ans sloppy. Not Rogers. Theres more to it than a simple 40hz boost.
  5. burk48237

    burk48237 Supporting Member

    Nov 22, 2004
    Oak Park, MI
    I think the key is they are remarkably even across the whole fingerboard from string to string in both tone and volume. You don't get a weak E string on a Sadowsky 5 or a G sting you to lean in to. And when you've got a good slap tone dialed in, it stays warm on the whole fingerboard and doesn't go tiny above the twelfth fret.

    Eq'd right a slight boost on both bass and treble, and the VTC flat with a decent amp they are very punchy and seem to sit in the same place in the mix as the floor toms instead of mixing it up with the kick drum. I will say that I've owned Alembic, Pedulla, Yamaha, Tobias, Factor, Fender (vintage and modern), and Guild, but I have gotten more compliments from FOH sound guys with Sadowsky than all the others combined.
  6. bassclef04

    bassclef04 Bass and Beyond!

    Mar 24, 2006
    Bronx, NY
    I have the Sadowsky pre in my custom Valenti 5 and I couldn't be any happier. If you know how to use the Sadowsky pre then you'll know what guys mean about cutting through the mix, my bass even sounds good through a so-so backline at some of NYC venues.
  7. mark286

    mark286 Proud to be a Gold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 6, 2009
    Central New Jersey
    This video "Behind The Notes with Roger Sadowsky" was recently linked to in another thread:

    At around 55:18, Roger discusses his two band pre-amp design which produces a scoop in the lower mids and how that allows his basses to cut through the mix so effectively.

    Laklandfan likes this.
  8. mmbongo

    mmbongo Dilly Dilly! Supporting Member

    Aug 5, 2009
    It's a sum of the parts.

    Chambered body, wood selection/quality, weight, electronics, construction, it just all comes together. I played a Sadowsky once about 10 years agofor about 2 minutes and I still remember how that thing sounded and felt.
  9. The preamp and the pickups, really. Of course, like others have said, it's the sum of the parts. The Sadowsky electronics package will sound a bit different in an actual Sadowsky as compared to another bass. Personally, I prefer non-Sadowskys myself but that preamp is a beast.
  10. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    You might as well ask what's so special about Catherine Zeta-Jones' looks. For some people it's simply a sound that works and is pleasing. I have to say, the first time I tried a Sadowsky (at a shop on Long Island) I too was underwhelmed. It wasn't until I got onstage with one (and I still own that one several years after the fact) that I was truly impressed. Sadowskys just tend to work really well "in the mix". It's a story you'll hear time and time again from Sadowsky owners: the "aha, I get it" moment that so often results from that first onstage experience with one of Roger's basses. But hey, it's a bass, and not everyone is going to be enamoured by what they hear - no matter how great the instrument. The main thing with Sadowskys, as far as I'm concerned, is to reserve a bit of judgment until you've played one onstage with a band.
  11. THORRR

    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado
    Thanks Mark -

    Roger describes a "scoop" around 300Hz that produces the elusive "effect"
    of cutting through the mix. The scoop is produced by the wide banded boost provided by his bass boost & treble boost.

    300 Hz is untouched by either, it sort of sits in a valley between the other boosts.

    I infer from his conversation that the same could be accomplished by the reverse,
    ie. a subtraction of db around the 300 Hz level.

    This is very good information, THANKS Mark.

    No one has weighed in yet about which pup combination they
    use or if they favor one pup over the other for good onstage
    cutting thru the mix. I'm guessing that would most likely be the neck
    pickup perhaps with a little bridge pup thrown in for emphasis?

  12. Coolhandjjl


    Oct 13, 2010
    There is some truth to this. If you scoop the correct low mids, (around 200Hz) you can crank the amp up louder without muddiness or boominess wrecking everything.
  13. I use a Reverse PJ Sadowsky. I think most people, myself included (including Roger too if I'm not mistaken) say that Sadowsky basses tend to sit perfectly in the mix, rather than "cut through", which I define more as sitting above the mix or rather standing out in the mix in a very obvious way.

    Also, playing a Sadowsky by itself doesn't say much about how it performs in a band setting; That's where they tend to shine (again, by blending in perfectly). IMO, they're not as mid heavy as some other basses, but as someone else mentioned, the bass boost has this way of being big, warm and tight at the same time, and you don't need to boost excessive amounts of it to get that, I boost maybe about 40% max (usually I'm more around 25%) and it more than gets the job done.

    The treble is equally impressive, it's the first one I've encountered that boosts highs in a very natural sounding way...it doesn't have that shrill, tinny sound that I've heard on so many other basses and again, like the bass boost, you don't need too much of it (I usually need no more than 50%, and that's only with dead or more broken in strings).

    It sounds good in all pickup settings I've used but my favorite is the 50/50 Mix with the P-pickup solo as a very close 2nd.

    Also, I think another element that gives them a unique tonal profile is they usually have a tone knob which works while the preamp is on. The P pickup with a hint of bass boost and the tone knob rolled off is one of my favourite sounds. Hope that helps to clarify.
  14. gre107


    Dec 25, 2005
    +1 What he said!
  15. phillybass101


    Jan 12, 2011
    Artist, Trickfish Amplification Bartolini Emerging Artist, MTD Kingston Emerging Artist. Artist, Tsunami Cables
    I've never owned one and only played one in a Music Store. But I've heard them many times before and yes there is a "Sadowski" sound. I can tell everytime I hear one.
  16. Joebone

    Joebone Supporting Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Los Angeles
    To me, the Sadowsky "sits in the mix" so well because it builds on traditional Fender strengths in this same way, by slotting above the kick and providing lots of presence below the power chords from a guitarist. A more "full-range" approach can start congesting the mix, IMHO.

    The 2-band preamp and VTC let you build on those strengths, according to taste and context.

    Don't be fooled into thinking that you have to have an active mid-range to sound good. This may be just me, but over time I've abandoned just about every single three-band EQ bass I've owned, as I find that the mid-range control gives me lots of tonal variation, but a lot of those tones just are not that usable - it's like they introduce a "cardboard" quality to the overall tone. I won't name names, but many of these are well-regarded axes....it just doesn't work that well for me.

    I have not checked out that Sadowsky link, but I also recall reading that the Sadowsky pre uses FET circuits, which can make for a more tube-like tone as compared with typical solid-state stuff.

    And I agree, particularly in the 5-24 configuration, that bottom-to-top balance and uniformity is outstanding.

    Finally, a lot of the Sadowsky's I've tried (or owned) have a some "growl" to them...these are not sterile instruments, and I'm gonna assume that's a function of careful wood selection and workmanship.

    Not to mention that fit and finish are first-rate.
  17. THORRR

    THORRR Supporting Member

    Jun 26, 2010
    Parker, Colorado

    You are really shedding some light on this subject - :hyper:

    Even though I don't own a Sadowsky, with my basses, preamps, and amp head, I can now simulate the Sadowsky
    frequency curve very effectively.

    I can't wait 'till Friday when I can try it at a gig.

    deepestend and Mr_O'B like this.
  18. I love Will Lee's tone on The Late Show. It really cuts through the band. Mind you, the sound is being produced with a combination of his amplification and TV production.
  19. bassclef04

    bassclef04 Bass and Beyond!

    Mar 24, 2006
    Bronx, NY
    I'm using the Sadowsky pre with Nordstrand 70's single coils

  20. I'd say it's like an all growed up Fender sound. Fenders have that distinct personality, but Sadowsky's take on Fender makes them sound clotted and stuffy in comparison. It's as if the regular fender tone profile is till there, but you can hear an octave of extra detail on either side. Then there is the even volume and tone of the notes up and down the fretboard. None of my best basses can do this as well as a Sad.
    deepestend likes this.

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