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Through-Neck vs. Bolt-on

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by B4ssDud3, Dec 4, 2013.

  1. B4ssDud3


    Nov 12, 2012
    Hey guys, so I have a fairly " simple" question. What are the advantages and disadvantages of through-neck basses and bolt-on neck basses. Is there a difference in tone? Does it help keep the bass in tune? I'd also like to know which is your favorite.
  2. bass12

    bass12 And Grace, too Supporting Member

    Jun 8, 2008
    Montreal, Canada
    My favourite basses have all been bolt-ons. I couldn't tell you if one construction method consistently offers different tonal characteristics over the other but the couple of luthiers I've talked to about it seem to think that bolt-ons generally produce more of a "punchy" sound than neck-throughs. One benefit of bolt-ons is that the neck can be switched out if anything goes wrong with it. Never heard of one type staying in tune better than the other. I guess my tendency would be to go with what the luthier generally builds though. So if I was buying an MTD I would not request a neck through but if I was buying a Smith (something I've never done) I would.
  3. grooveline1986


    Aug 3, 2011
    Good question! The neck thru bass allows more sustain than other bolt ons do and I feel that neck thru basses play more balanced in your hands than most bolt ons.
    I am a fan of pre Gibson Tobias, Pedulla, mtd etc. I really enjoy the tonality and sustain that a neck thru bass offers.
    Hope this helps ;)
  4. I prefer the tone of a bolt on. Sustain doesn't seem like a high priority to me in terms of real world playing.

    Does anyone have an opinion on a true bolt - on such as a Warwick vs. a screw on with a neck plate like a Fender?
  5. There are many, many threads on this subject.
  6. Thrillhouse

    Thrillhouse Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Chicago, IL
    What exactly is the difference between a "true bolt-on" and a regular/standard bolt-on such as what Fender uses?
  7. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    There are many of us who believe it makes no difference in tone or sustain on a solid-body electric guitar/bass, so long as nothing is moving around, of course.

    Therefore a bolt-on would be more practical for obvious reasons, and that would be my preference.
  8. WoodyG3


    May 6, 2003
    Colorado, USA
    Most neck through models have a nicer contour where the neck meets the body, and I like that. Otherwise I really think the differences are minimal.

    Fodera did a comparison set of recordings of three basses that were identical except for their neck construction.Check it out here:

  9. snyderz

    snyderz Supporting Member

    Aug 20, 2000
    AZ mountains
    I've had plenty of neck-throughs and set-necks, but my last 20 or so basses have all been bolt-ons. I've had to shim a few to get perfect setups, so I was glad they were bolt-on.
  10. lomo

    lomo passionate hack Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2006
    Close your eyes and tell the difference.....I dare you :)

    The main differences IMHE are not sonic, but practical. 1) If your neck goes bad or is damaged, a bolt-on can be easily replaced, but a neck-through becomes firewood.
    2)Neck-through is more complicated to build and generally costs more. 3)The body/neck junction of a neck-through is often smoother/more pleasing to the hand than on a bolt-on, although this is variable.
  11. Marko 1

    Marko 1 Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2009
    N.E. Ohio
    Agreed, and if I may add to #3- … for those who have occasion to play up there. :)
  12. antonspon


    Mar 27, 2013
    It's really down to personal preference. I used to like to believe that thru-necks have more inherent sustain - however, experience has taught me that wood type/density has more effect than neck/body joint. I've come across thru-necks with dead spots all over the neck and bolt-ons (and set necks) that sing and sustain forever. What I can say is that hard maple sounds brighter and sustains longer (generally) than mahogany, in my experience.

    I still prefer neck-through designs, mainly because they usually allow better access to the upper frets and the heel tends to be smoother (again, depends on which particular design - the Thunderbird has a thru-neck and cr@p access to the upper range!). My personal faves are Rickenbackers, but I also own and play Gibson, Musicman, Gretsch and Fender.
  13. RedMoses

    RedMoses Supporting Member

    Jul 4, 2012
    Neck through tends to have a more smooth Piano like tone but Bolt ons tend to have that Punch that we are familiar with. I used to insist that Neck Through is better but over the years i have come to prefer a bolt on Fender style Bass, i still have neck through Basses but i seldom use them, same goes for Passive vs Active...
  14. Hamlet7768

    Hamlet7768 Here to chew gum and rock. Still have gum.

    Jun 5, 2011
    A little pointless advantage of bolt-on basses: you can have a one-piece body. Those can look truly amazing.
  15. Greevus


    Apr 15, 2009
    Personal preference. The way the heel feels to your fretting hand is gonna be a big factor. Wood combinations can have lots of different tonal qualities, and that is going to be completely subjective to your ears and hands. I personally prefer bolt-ons for several reasons. They are easier to setup. I like one type of wood bodies in a lot of cases, and all maple necks. All preference. Bolt-ons are going to give you cheaper options also, and I don't need a multi-thousand dollar bass. I think the perceived "advantages" of neck-throughs are overrated. They can be beautiful, no doubt. Sustain is hardly going to be a factor.

    The only way to truly know is compare them side by side in your own hands.
  16. Bombadil


    Feb 19, 2009
    Golden, CO
    I have two BO Fender Jazz basses (one fretted, and one fretless) and a Warwick 5 string Thumb bass Neck-thru. I Love them all for their own qualities. I bought the Warwick bc I stopped into a music store-- played it and fell in love with the way it sounded and felt--- would've bought it regardless if it was BO or NT.....
    And of course they all sound different- and they all stay in tune.
    They all seem to cut through the mix quite nicely with my Eden rig.
    So back to the beginning- there are indeed lots of threads on this and assumptions made, but for me it was "how does this particular bass sound and play?"
  17. The "bolt ons" like my Warwick use larger bolts with metal studs in the heel of the neck (I think) whereas "screw-ons" like my Fender use 4 wood screws and a metal heel plate.

    Just wondering if anyone had an opinion on this.
  18. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    Lost Wages, Nevada
    I like the idea; to be honest, wood screws have always made me just a little nervous. Ed Roman's custom basses and guitars used to use the threaded insert/ machine screw method for mounting the neck; I messed around with a couple, and could see or hear nothing wrong with it. My Alembic Epic is a set-neck, but every other screw (even on the control cavity) is like that. I tried to have it done to my '78 P-Bass a couple of years ago; the luthier acted like I wanted to desecrate a holy relic, and absolutely refused. Was scandalized that I had dared to replace the pickguard. If I hadn't assured him that I'd kept the old one, I'm not sure he would have given it back.:rolleyes: And, the only real advantage to a bolt-on neck vs. neck-thru? They're easier, cheaper, and quicker to make; or they were, when Leo Fender started making them.
  19. bassbenj


    Aug 11, 2009
    Exactly. I can tell the difference in a second. Just go to the 24th fret and play the notes there. The bolt-on will be harder to reach.

    As for tone, I THINK I can feel a slight difference even on decent basses, but you'd never pick it out of a recording...unless, that is, the neck joint isn't optimum. For example there were the series of TB experiments with SX basses recorded with factory neck joints and a neck joint that was modded with threaded inserts and cranked tight. There was a clear noticeable difference on the recordings and you could even see it in the waveforms.

    However, my experience is that the tighter you make the neck joint the more the bass is like a neck-through. I've found that adding inserts to well made basses (like say G&L) makes absolutely no difference in tone or sustain or punchyness so why bother?
  20. Bolt-on Pros:
    - You can replace a damaged neck
    - You can change the neck (fretted to fretless)
    - You get a vibrato affect by wobbling the bass, which moves the neck
    - Better punch?

    Thru-neck Pros:
    - Aesthetic - looks better especially from the back
    - You can reach the higher notes much better

    - Sustain is better on thru-necks