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Wal Tone for $320? The answer is...

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bigsnack, Aug 10, 2020.

  1. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Hey guys!

    I hope you don't mind me having a bit of fun with the thread title. :)

    Like a lot of you, I've had my fair share of GAS over the years. A while back, I started recording quick little tone clips of the basses that have come into my possession, using a self made slice of the song Mellowship Slinky by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I originally did this when I first acquired a Wal many years ago, in an attempt to try and mimic the tone that Flea had on BSSM. Since then, I've just kept the Pro Tools session handy, and used it to test basses against what I've owned before to see how things sit against the drums, etc.

    Well my last couple of additions to the file made my eyes (ears) bug out. At this point I figured I would share and let people listen to see what they think about it. I won't comment further until after sharing the files.

    All files are recorded through the same signal path:

    1. EBS Sheehan Signature Drive. I have the tiniest amount of dirt added to the signal. Drive is literally a hair above the lowest setting, and the dirt level itself is only a hair above off. I prefer my drive to only add a little character to the midrange and nothing else.
    2. Growling Krizzly built by DiCosimo audio - 400RB preamp pedal to give me that old school GK sound.
    3. Two Notes CAB-M - Mesa Powerhouse 4x10 impulse response by 3 Sigma Audio

    There was a stretch of time where I really busy with family stuff, and didn't track a bunch of basses that I tried in that window of time (Dingwall, Spector, G&L, Fender). I don't know if I'll ever revisit those brands, but if I do I'll be sure to add them.

  2. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    Darn, I thought you were going to say you bought one from a thief or clueless widow.
    BrentSimons and bigsnack like this.
  3. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Hahaha unfortunately not! The two Wals I've owned were acquired by coughing up a LOT of my own money. Luckily the first time I got one (the Mk1 recorded in these clips) I bought it locally and got a tiny bit of a deal.
  4. Shlabotnik

    Shlabotnik Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    Cool! That BB sounds great. Follow-up questions... why did you get rid of the Wal (if the answer is technical and not personal) and how do the basses you play now *feel* compared to the way the Wal did? I hear lots of talk about how amazing the Wal tone is (and I agree) but I don't hear a lot about how great it feels to play one.
  5. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    That is a great question! I will say that the craftsmanship on the newer Wals is absolutely unrivaled compared to anything else that I personally have ever played. I had a Mk1 that was from '86 which was solid build wise, but I also had a Mk3 that I had Paul build that was literally a piece of art. That was actually part of the problem for me, as I started coming to grips with the fact that I don't bond well with ultra high end instruments.

    Once I got my hands on the BB604, and realized that the tone was nearly indistinguishable to my ears, I couldn't justify keeping the Wal anymore. The BB's certainly don't feel exquisite or expensive, but the basics are there: tuners and hardware that work, no neck dive, comfortable neck profile, decent fret work. Another thing, the Wals that I had were both on the darker side tonally. They had "that" tone, but definitely needed some EQ to bring out the amount of bark that I wanted to hear. With the BB's, they are bright right out of the gate. The Wal also has more of a V shaped neck profile, which isn't for everyone.

    In short, from a craftsmanship perspective, they aren't in the same league which is expected. From an absolute core tone perspective I'd say that they are uncannily similar, even though the pickup types (multi-coil humbuckers vs. single coils) are completely different. The Wal's electronics are notably more versatile because of the preamp, etc. However for someone wanting that grindy / barking Wal sound, I think the BB nails it amazingly well!
  6. Shlabotnik

    Shlabotnik Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    And that's a great, thorough answer, thank you!! :)
    bigsnack likes this.
  7. All I want from a Wal is the electronics. And I've played many. Though I haven't played any since Pete was building them.
    Shlabotnik and bigsnack like this.
  8. Shlabotnik

    Shlabotnik Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2019
    Right. They are beautiful but I agree. I'm not an electrical engineer but I'm kind of amazed that nobody has pulled one apart and reverse engineered it. Of course, at $7-15k a pop, that's an expensive thing to "pull apart" so maybe that's why it hasn't been done.
  9. If it was that simple why do folk still buy Fender P-basses ?

    Everyone and their Aunt build P-basses yet the ones with spaghetti logos sell like hot cakes :D

    Owned one of the original JG customs (leather scratchplate), 140 basses later I've yet to find one plays/sounds similar :thumbsup:
  10. Epitaph04

    Epitaph04 Always overcompensating Supporting Member

    Jul 5, 2010
    I owned a Wal mk3 6 string for a few months. I maintain that it is the best built bass I’ve ever owned, and likely the most comfortable, balanced, and ergonomic 6 string bass as well, and I say that as a Bongo fanboy. Only slight issue I had was the wider-than-I’m-used-to nut width, but all that required was a slight technique adjustment. Beautiful instrument and I wish I still had it, as I will likely never own a Wal bass again.

    Killer playing by the way...almost shocking how good the BB cops the wal tone.
    BWorm and bigsnack like this.
  11. It has been done and there's been a few clones produced. I've pulled one apart. It's not secret stuff, the circuit boards aren't covered in epoxy to hide things or anything like that. I just don't think the Wal sound markets well without the Wal label. In a world where many players leave their amps set flat a dual filter setup is too much.
    Shlabotnik likes this.
  12. I'm still having a hard time accepting it ;) to be fair bigsnack brought the feel which covers much of it. I've always felt that Flea get's a Stingray frequency peak in whatever he's playing.
    tindrum, bigsnack and Epitaph04 like this.
  13. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    I’m glad a few more folks are enjoying this one! I only posted it because it shocked me too. :) They definitely aren’t directly comparable basses, but it is uncanny how that one sound is there on both instruments.
  14. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    That’s true! The GK definitely has something specific that it does to the upper midrange as well, which I think contributes quite a bit to the sound. That plus the super hard fingerstyle plucking, etc.
    TrustRod likes this.
  15. MobileHolmes

    MobileHolmes I used to be BassoP

    Nov 4, 2006
    Those all sound great, but at least on my laptop speakers (not the best test) all 3 yamahas sound identical to the Wal
  16. stingray69

    stingray69 Talkbass Legit

    Aug 11, 2004
    St Louis Area
    I love it when TB delivers a gem of info like this - I know I've never been more pleased with my bass tones than with my Yamaha BB basses. To hear them compare so similarly to a Wal tone is quite unexpected.

    Heck, I'd have never otherwise even contemplated a Wal/BB tone comparison, let alone imagined they would be so similar.

    Thanks OP for sharing this very cool & interesting A/B comparison! :thumbsup:
    TrustRod and bigsnack like this.
  17. Vanheusen77


    Nov 9, 2016
    Very interesting find, and what a sound! I think the ones that sound "least" like the wal is the Aria and perhaps the Ray. I can hear the slightly different sound of the g and d of the bb734a as well. I have to ask, is the signal split amp sim and DI or just the amp sim? And also, what eq settings are on the Ray if you remember?
  18. bigsnack


    Aug 24, 2005
    Los Angeles
    Hello! Thanks for checking out. These are 100% amp sim on both. It’s just a straight output from my CAB-M directly into my DAW interface. I did record a direct out as well, but they are pulled down on every instance.

    Regarding the Ray, I’m the only owner of the bass since ‘99, and have modded it over the years. It has a Nordstrand MM 5.2, with a John East MM 3 band EQ in it. The bass is about 90% up and the treble control is at about 80%. The GK and the Mesa cab definitely give the upper midrange a very specific sound.
    Shlabotnik likes this.
  19. Vanheusen77


    Nov 9, 2016
    Congratulations, you've really nailed the album sound compared to isolated tracks i've heard! Especially with the Wal and Yamaha BB604!
  20. GTHintz


    Jan 9, 2018
    Thanks for sharing! I definitely hear the yamaha getting the closest to the wal tone but it's definitely fatter than the wal tone and the pick attack high boost really comes through in the wal which yamaha doesn't have. The overall vibe is very close and I'd love to hear how a Ken Smith and MTD stacks up. I think the Smith sound gets kinda close to the wal sound in the right context.
    bigsnack likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

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