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The history of the hifi sound

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Tupac, Mar 15, 2013.

  1. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    From what I gather, the meaning of a "mean sound" has totally changed over the years. In the 70s, it meant getting a Rick, lowering the action, turning off the bass and spamming treble. Nowdays, it means getting something like a Musicman, cutting highs slightly, and blasting mids. Who pioneered this sound? Was it Geddy with his Wal? Was it Flea with his Musicman Sabre?
  2. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
  3. Tupac


    May 5, 2011
    Why que? I just want to know what started the hifi sound movement. Hifi = Wal bass tones, Dave Larue's tone, Flea Modulus tone, ect.
  4. might look to some of the artists who started using Alembics in the 70s like Phil Lesh and Stanley Clarke. Low impedance pick ups into an on-board preamp to give a much wider bandwidth than the passive high impedence single and double coil pickups before that (and obviously still in use).
  5. esa372


    Aug 7, 2010
    Los Angeles, CA

    ...and add Entwistle.
  6. Phil Lesh was the first guy going for super clean hifi sound. It started in about 1968 when Alembic started. Since Owsley was the money behind both the Dead and Alembic, it was a natural pairing. So that's where the hi fi active instruments started. Then, in the early 70s the Dead started using a ridiculous monstrosity of a sound system called the wall of sound. The bass (which at the time had individual outputs for each string to go to a specially configured line array) could be heard clearly and loudly over a mile away and the output of the bass system was full range.

    This is hifi, full range full spectrum sound. What you are Describing is contemporary or modern sound. I'm not sure there is a consistent correlation between the two.
  7. Entwistle did not have a hifi sound. Hi bass might have been a "hifi bass" but his tone was totally dirty overdriven tube city.

    Hifi to me is super clean and uncolored. I'm not a fan of this sound and generally find it boring and lacking character. Kinda like the difference between vinyl and cd.
  8. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Entwistle did actually have quite hi-fi sound for period, when his amps were getting bigger but before he started using distortion. Very big clangy new Rotos tone with heaps of treble.

    I said Que because your question is hard to understand, be jade you are defining it as three different things and asking who started it. Maybe you mean what do we call a Hi Fit sound and who started it?
  9. JimmyM


    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps, EMG Pickups
    Flea used a Sabre?

    Anyway, history didn't start after you were born, bro ;) A whole world of stuff went on before you got here. Check out Alembic's history. They were really where it all started. Tobias is another good one to check out. He came along a little later than Alembic but not much more, and he started the era of active basses that didn't require a rocket scientist to operate. EMG and Bartolini are also pretty important to the story as well. All started happening in a big way in the 70's, back before the wheel.
  10. Flea used a Cutlass, not a Sabre back then
  11. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Rick Turner and his PUP experiments probably should be mentioned, too.
  12. Turner worked at and was a part-owner in Alembic until 1978.
  13. sanderic


    Jun 3, 2011
    I think the OP was asking when a more clean sound became popular. I think this has more to do with improvements in amplification. The two I remember most were the arrival of the SWR Redhead and the Hartke 4.5XL. Oops, can't forget the 400RB.
  14. topcat2069


    Dec 2, 2007
    Palm Springs

  15. Hobobob

    Hobobob Don't feed the troll, folks.

    Jan 25, 2011
    Camarillo, CA
    Never heard a Hi-Fi sound be described as cutting treble and blasting mids. Actually, that's the exact opposite of my idea of Hi-Fi.
  16. As a bass player around in those days, the last thing I would have called hi fi back then was Chris Squire in Yes - who did exactly what you said - I was a big Yes fan back then and didn't think his sound hi fi at all.

    I think there are analogies between the development of guitar sound and then development of bass sound - the large Marshall rig liberated guitarists in the latter part of the sixties and transformed the 50s/60s twangy instrument sound into something far more powerful.

    Early 70s, solid state bass amps started to become v popular - these could keep up with the new found guitar power in rock bands - Acoustic being a very popular one. The R and B guys took up on this as well - they needed clean bass sound to cut through and reproduce those technical grooves (I'm astounded how many Acoustic 370s I see behind bands of the mid 70s - Jackson 5, The Wailers, Graham Parker and the Rumour, Average White Band - even Jaco used a 360).

    Then the active bass (Alembic - if you could afford it, followed by Stingray and others).

    Then the cabinets (4 x 10 especially - and as you say, the Hartke stuff).

    I would say the real hi fi bass sound came out of all of this development and the 80s was the real area to see this - players like Mark King in Level 42.

    I did an audition a couple of years back and one of the guys had a GB bass - I had a go on it - instant mid 80s pop/funk sound, almost inviting you to do complex slap - total antithesis of a passive Fender or even a Musicman which are much more solid, groove based insturments. The other thing to bear in mind regarding the 80s is the use of keyboard bass in music - from Michael Jackson to Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark, it pervaded the era - and bass guitar followed suit.

    We seem to have gone full circle (probably influenced by the vintage equipment market/fans) and retrospective music. We even listen to it in such a compressed state these days through the media on which it's put out (iPod with headphones) etc that the sound we're accepting as listeners has gone backwards. The funny thing is, from the 60s onwards, everyone was striving for ever better sound reproduction - it has gone backwards over the last few years, largely through technological advance in how we get out music these days!
    Matt Golgotha likes this.
  17. One Drop

    One Drop

    Oct 10, 2004
    Swiss Alps
    Great post, lots of spot on observations!
  18. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

    +1 Phil Lesh was kind of at the start of IMO creating a technology that allowed clean hi end to be reproduced without losing any low end. That was kind of the start of Alembic. Stanley Clarke took that to an entirely different level (also with Alembic) and kind of created (IMO), the 'bass as an instrument that can also serve as a solo voice in an ensemble).

    Jack Cassidy and a bit later Chris Squire also pioneered a 'new sound' that was more about grind and 'usable distortion' with plenty of low end using some rather hi tech equipment (Cassidy was again an early Alembic prototype player and Squire used the Rico sound into two separate rigs, one for deep bass, one for grindy highs).

    Everyone else IMO kind of branched from those 4 IMO, within that 1968-1972 time frame or so.
  19. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I still am totally impressed with the Alembic company. The innovation, the craftsmanship, the "colorful" company history. The Wickershams and associates are national treasures!
  20. FourtyOneHz


    Dec 16, 2012
    +1, but don't forget about John Paul Jones. It's a shame that Page refused to use the best studios until Zeppelin was almost finished.

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