UBass sting height/action

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by DecoDean, Oct 1, 2021.

  1. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    Hello all,
    I recently bought an entry level UBass (by Horse) just to see what it is like.
    A few days after it arrived I took all the frets off and made it fretless and replaced the strings with Kala flatwounds. That made a HUGE difference in the sound and I am very pleased with the results.
    However, now I need to lower the action but I can not figure out how to get the saddle out of the bridge. It seems to be locked in and I don't want to force it out as I am afraid I will mess up the under saddle pick up which is probably pretty fragile.

    Here is what the bridge & saddle look like: https://prnt.sc/1ucuyix (and see uploaded file)

    Note that the saddle is a one piece unit...all plastic. The strings pass over a sharp ridge which defines the intonation so I do not want to cut grooves in the ridge to lower the action as that would be a mistake.

    It seems pretty simple...indeed, most saddles I have worked with on these sorts of applications just fall out. Not this one.

    If I can get it out I will sand the bottom and replace it which should give me my desired height adjustment. I might also lower the nut just a bit but that end of the strings is fine for now (and the nut is not even glued in).

    Any ideas? Note too: The Horse and the Carmel and a few other "entry" level UBass all look to me to be made in the same factory. Their promo images and descriptions on EBay and Amazon are almost exactly the same and the prices are all within a few dollars of each other. Any ideas on how these all seem to have the same genetics? For what it's worth, the Horse unit is very well built and an excellent intro to this odd UBass world! I would recommend it to anyone teetering on the edge.

    Attached Files:

  2. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    I unfortunately can’t help you with your question but am curious how these strings sound relative to the stock silicone ones? I got my first UBass yesterday.
  3. Gorn

    Gorn Supporting Member

    Dec 15, 2011
    Queens, NY
    The stock strings aren’t silicone, and I don’t really think the OP can accurately describe the tone of the flats if there’s trouble with the set up.

    There are videos on youtube that could give you a good idea of the sound.
  4. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Ha - thanks for your helpful post LOL
  5. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    The set up is fine...I just now need to lower the action a bit as I took all the frets off and made my bass fretless. That left a little more room between the strings and the fretboard.

    To answer the question: I would immediately and without hesitation replace those "stock" strings with flatwounds. To me they sound NOTICABLY better and are much easier to play. As I replaced them I graduated them to pitch universally...so the tension was not a shock the bass. I was a bit worried about the tension but the bass is flat and true and no adjustment needed on the truss rod. Note that you MUST NOT use standard bass strings for this guitar! Kala flatwounds have a lower tension and are built for the UBass platform. Regular bass strings will likely be too much for the UBass and will rip the neck off and/or the bridge out. The Kala strings are kind of expensive but are totally worth the upgrade!

    They work fine with my Horse (brand) beginner's UBass. It looks to me that a lot of these entry level UBass units (Horse, Carmel, etc) come out of the same factory somewhere (as their EBay and Amazon marketing photos and descriptions all look the same...not sure). Mine is a Horse model and the flatwound strings work fine and made a huge difference in the sound and playability. For me.

    A few pointers:

    1) The access door for the string change has 6 screws. The doors screw holes are quite fragile as the door is very thin. When you get it off, strengthen the holes by dripping a little bit of super glue on each one being careful NOT to clog the hole. This will help those holes from tearing out over the years.
    2) Those screws were VERY HARD to get out. I had to use a smaller Philips and, while pressing down, turn the screwdriver with a vice grips. No joke. Weird.
    3) Once the door is off, loosen one of the strings and thread it out and away. The NEW FLATWOUNDS will have a small flat washer in each string's envelope bag. Thread the washer on to the new string and then feed it up through that string's hole. That washer is very important as it distributes the tension of the string to the "sound board" and bridge keeps the strings from tearing through the thin wooden bridge area!
    4) On the tuning key side: Pull the new string taught until it reaches the appropriate tuning peg and then measure 3" beyond that peg. With a diagonal pliers, cut the string at that length (about 1" - 2" will be trimmed) then feed the loose end down into the hollow core of the peg. Bend the string and wind it so the windings go from the top of the peg towards the headstock.
    5) Repeat steps 3 & 4 until all are installed and up to pitch. Give them a gentle tug to set the tension, do a final tune up and you should be fine. It will take a few hours and a few re-tunes but, eventually, they will settle in!
    6) Replace the trap door.

    I have included some photos of all the above in case it helps!

    Good Luck!

    MyHorseUBassBridgeAndSaddle.jpg MyHorseUBassNewStrings.jpg MyHorseUBassStringHeight.jpg MyHorseUBassWashers.jpg
  6. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Did you file the nut slots down after the de-fret? That would make a big difference.
  7. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    Not yet. I want to relieve the upper height. Height near the nut is not too bad.
    Any ideas on how to get that saddle out without destroying the pick up? Seems like this was not intended to disassemble. Hate to lower the action by filing slots in the saddle as I think that will impact intonation and maybe even tone??

    Thank you!
  8. Alexander


    Aug 13, 2001
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks so much for the thoughtful reply - I’ll have to give those a try when I get back home. The version I have actually doesn’t have screws holding the back plate on - it uses magnets, which are super easy. The stock strings are weird for sure
  9. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    From what little I know about these things, the magnet backed versions are the higher quality. Mine is totally "entry level" but I love it anyway! Congratulations on your new friend!
  10. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    The piezo is a single unit with 4 saddles and is very common for low cost ABGs as well. If you take the strings off, does the piezo fall out of the wooden bridge?
    You might need a bit of judiciously placed steam if the piezo has been glued into the bridge. Once the piezo is removed you would want to mak the channel a bit deeper so that the piezo sits lower. Do not sand the piezo unit or the saddle.
    thunesBARROW, MVE and groovepump like this.
  11. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    No..this saddle will not drop or fall out of that slot. I have never seen one this stubborn. I will take the strings off right now and try again. I have owned guitars for decades and each one that had a saddle seemed to be held in place by gravity or friction alone. Not this one! I can raise it from its seat on the bridge but I can't get it to pop out. Pray for me and stay tuned. Let's see what happens... Thank you!
  12. mrperkolator


    Jan 4, 2020
    I'd go really, really carefully with a file. By the way, you can buy a replacement nut preslotted from kala. they'll call it the roundwound nut.
  13. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015


    I got the thing out.

    Here is a photo and the legend:
    Note the ear on the left (#1). It tucks under the black slot (#4)
    Note the tab on the right is now broken off (#2) on the right and is hiding in the black slot (#3)
    I am sure I broke it.
    I don't think the (#3) wing broken tab is a big deal as it has nothing to do with holding the saddle in place.
    I think that, once the saddle is back on the pick up, the pressure of the strings will hold things down properly.
    HOWEVER...I now see what you mean when you talked about "four saddles" (I marked the E on the bottom).
    SO...not sure how to proceed. Sanding those four saddles down would not buy me much as they are not that tall...and, once they are flush with that recessed area, to proceed I would need to sand them deeper...soon intersecting with the deep three slots coming down from the top.

    Note that the strings are 5mm off the fretboard at the 12th fret.

    Also...for your knowledge base: this fretboard is bamboo. I am almost positive. Stained black. The blackness came off on my hands while I was working with the fret removal yesterday and the endgrain certainly looks like bamboo to me.

    Anyway..any ideas are welcome. I will sit still for a while until I hear back.


    Maybe I am better off cutting grooves in the TOP of the saddle which will then lower each string deeper into the saddle. Hi ho..if I completely screw this up, any idea where I can order a new saddle?? HA! (I don't think I will need one).
  14. groovepump


    Aug 3, 2020
    I'm happy you brought this up. It might not be obvious to everyone that the bridge saddle is the piezo bar.
  15. abarson


    Nov 6, 2003
    Santa Cruz
    Oh! That wasn't what I intended. Those black ears are part of the whole piezo unit. That whole unit should have come out intact.

    Under Saddle Transducer Pickup Piezo 4-String Acoustic Bass Guitar Parts | eBay
  16. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    Ha! Good to know. Hindsight.

    I thought those black buttons were part of the pick up but there was NO WAY they were coming out. SO, when took a small flat head screw driver and I pried the white part from the black button on the G side, that little white plastic tab broke and the rest of the saddle simply lifted out. So the remaining tab on the E side kind of guides itself into its place. Then the tightened strings keep it all intact.

    Anyway, I got it put back together and it sounds just fine...in fact, it sounds great! I can't believe this $150 instrument sounds so full! The E string is just a little quieter than its three brothers but that's ok for now.

    After I got it back together I filed the grooves into the summits on the saddle AND then filed deeper grooves into the nut ...a little at a time and, thus, lowered the action (enough). I did this on the tops of both (where the slots would normally be). The grooves are maybe 1mm deep...so, if I ever want to, I still have some work to do.

    Now I can stop fooling around and PLAY the thing!

    Thanks friend!
    MonetBass likes this.
  17. mcrawfordmusic


    Dec 11, 2010
    Hey man, just be careful with those flatwounds if you're using a non-Kala instrument, in particular an instrument that was originally strung with "rubber" strings.
    Bakithi Kumalo has said that Kala doesn't recommend the flats for instruments that don't come strung with them (or the rounds) from the factory. Apparently additional bracing and support goes into those instruments to cope with the increased string tension from those strings. They are low tension, but still a lot higher than the rubber strings.
    I don't have any experience with this though, so just going off what Bakithi said.
  18. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    That’s good to know, but the Kala website says they are good for any Ubass.
    ….it also says Deco Dean may have voided his warranty. Lol

    mcrawfordmusic likes this.
  19. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    I hear you. So far, so good but it's only been a couple of days. I had a guitar once that "caved in" because of poor bracing. Not sure if this one will last but, if it does not, I will go for a Kala.

    Indeed: Anyone reading this feed take heed of McCrawfordMusic's warning! I put these Kala flatwounds on my Horse UBass knowing full well that they might eventually (or instantly!) crush the instrument! The manufacturer did not authorize this at all...I did it on my own. SO...be forewarned and proceed at your own peril!
  20. DecoDean


    Aug 15, 2015
    Oh, I am positive I voided my warranty! :laugh: I will keep everyone posted on the long term effect these strings will take on my Horse UBass. A few days into this journey and having taken the flatwounds off and on several times and up to full tension: no adverse news to report.