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Wal versatality?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by dwjazz54, Nov 15, 2004.

  1. dwjazz54


    Jan 21, 2003
    Jersey City, NJ
    Recently I've really been digging Wal Mach III 6-stringers, but I was wondering if Wal basses pack much versatality. The electronics look like they'd handle that well, but pretty much everyone I see who uses them plays rock (Geddy Lee, that guy from Tool, etc. ad nauseum).
    So the question is: is a Wal a suitable bass for someone who may do some tapping, but then needed to go from that to a mellow(er) Jazz-ish tone and then shake some serious booty with funk or dub in a flash?

  2. geshel


    Oct 2, 2001
    FYI - I've never actually played one :( but from what I've heard, yes.

    (I do have an Alembic Superfilter, which has similar operating principles).

    I think the low-pass filter style of tone control is the one most suited to big changes on the fly like that. I'm not a fan of bass boosts on typical active basses -- it presents too much of an overall volume change. And, you're stuck with whatever range it wants to boost. With the LPF, you can dial back a bit to just mellow things out, or a lot for the serious dub action.

    Also, with one filter per pickup, the pickup blend knob gains versatility as a tone control, effectively.
  3. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    Most of the time, the bass is only a problem if you allow it to be.

    (And your sig is political, BTW. I don't know if that's cool with the mods.)
  4. dwjazz54


    Jan 21, 2003
    Jersey City, NJ
    Signature edited (qualifiers added!).

    Thanks for the heads up, Oysterman. Sometimes I just let myself go...
  5. Wal basses are extremely versatile IMHO. The complaint many folks have is that the controls offer a bit too much in that regard. It takes a little while to get used to having no b/m/t settings and to master the controls, especially on a dark stage.

    Wal has rock tones in spades and technicolor, but those aside, the Mach III is extremely well-suited to slap/tap and you would be hard-pressed to find a better instrument for great dub tones. The funk and mellow jazz tones are there but take a little experimentation to find.

    Are you looking at going fretted or fretless?
  6. dwjazz54


    Jan 21, 2003
    Jersey City, NJ
    Probably fretted, though I do love fretless.

  7. i've never played one, (although the GAS level is through the roof!) but my guess is that for $4,000 (or whatever they go for) you should be able to get a very versitile bass, and not just a one-trick pony...

  8. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well, that's exactly what I thought before I tried them!! :meh: So, I played 2 or 3 Wals in the Bass Centre in London and other shops. So I was in the Bass Centre for a whole morning and couldn't get any tones I liked - or would even be happy using!

    After about an hour I handed a very nice-looking 5-string Wal I had been trying, to the manager of the store (a pretty good bassist) and said - can you get a decent tone out of this - after twiddling all the knobs to every setting - we decided that we coudn't get any usable tones - as in normal bass sounds you would hear on records - out of this!!

    I tried another one at another store and had the same problems - lots of weird sounds, almost ring-modulated tones - but no "classic" tones I would use at a gig...:meh:
  9. Bruce is our resident Wal hater at TB. ;)

    For what it is worth I have owned both fretless and fretted Wals and found them extreamly versatile in the tones they could produce.

    Sure some people say they have a 'Wal' sound but Warwick, Musicman, Pbass, Jbass etc etc etc have their own sound and also remember everyone has their own idea as to what a 'good usable' bass sound is. If the sound of a particular brand of bass is what you want, buy it. If it is not then don't.

    My only complaint in 10 years of Wal ownership, and the reason I ended up selling them, was that they are very heavy beasts and my back was complaining. However no complaints over build quality/craftmanship, sound/tone, or playability. All are right up there with the best.


  10. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well - I am just recounting what actually happened to me - read that how you want.

    I think it's valuable that people have an honest answer to their question and not just everybody saying - "Wals are great" - everybody loves their own bass, it goes without saying. :meh:

    What is needed is an objective view - really you can only get this by trying the bass for yourself - and that is what I am trying to emphasise!

    You cannot assume that just because a bass looks great and costs a lot of money, that it will suit everyone!!

    That was the assumption I was questioning.
  11. Emperor Elite

    Emperor Elite

    Oct 20, 2004
    New Jersey
    I've owned five Wals, including two fretless ones and now play a Fodera 5 with Wal electronics. If you are looking for a traditional "Fender" sound, then Wals are definitely NOT for you. The mahogany body and pickup placement, not to mention the huge magnets in the pickups and the semi-parametric tone filters make the Wal an entirely different sounding bass than a traditional bass.

    The best way to describe the tone of a Wal with both filters wide-open is a cross between the low-end punch of a good P-bass, the hard low-mid grunt of a Warwick Thumbbass, and the aggressive growl of a Kubicki. If you like this combination, then you will love Wals. The filters are very flexible, but they take a while to get used to. There are things that you can do with the Wal filters that you cannot do with a traditional BMT circuit, and vice versa.

    As for a mellow-jazz tone, Wals are known for their pronounced mid-range growl that cuts through the mix like butter. That is not a sound that I usually associate with mellow-Jazz or R&B. HOWEVER, that being said, if you roll off both the filters just a hair it will mellow out the sound a bit, AND if you favor the neck pickup, you will get a buttery fat sound that should work nicely for Jazz or R&B, especially if you pluck the strings right by the end of the fingerboard.

    Definitely try a Wal before you put down money. They aren't for everyone. But those of us that like them, really like them. For rock and fusion, they are tough to beat. The hard/aggressive/punchy/compressed tone cuts through the mix wonderfully and sounds fantastic in the studio.

  12. Oysterman


    Mar 30, 2000
    The way I see it, the only view you can get is subjective. What we could do is make an objective judgement whether the instrument sounds like a "bass" or not - and I'd like to think all of us agree that all basses can do just that, but if they're useable in a certain context? If they sound "good"? That's all subjectivity.

    But subjective views can be of some use as well - if you find 1000 people who love Wals and only one who hates them, the chance ought to be bigger that you'd share the views of the thousand than that of the lone "hater". There's no guarantee, but it's a statistical ground on which you can build hope.
    After reading all the Peavey Cirrus praise threads here, with all kinds of players saying how much they liked them, I bought one myself sight unseen (with the option to return it for a full refund) - and I happened to like it as well. (Although you could make all kinds of connections to group psychology, influence of majorities, etc, and decide that my opinions are merely formed by my need to be a socially conform individual, and be "in tune" with the majority of TB'ers. But then, I don't like neither Warwicks nor Stingrays. ;))

    I don't know what I wanted to say with this. Yeah, you got to try one for yourself, that's it. :D

    This is true, and an amazing amount of people are blind to this - I've been there myself, drooling over great-looking and expensive instruments. But when I finally heard them being played or played them myself, they did nothing for me, or at least far from enough to justify the price tag.
  13. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    Well this is exactly what I mean!! So, on most of my favourite recordings, the bass guitar sound is "Classic Fender" and I always look to be able to get this from any bass I try. I feel this is a minimum I want to get from a bass and altough I look for other tones as well, if it can't get that Fender sound, then I'm not interested. So my Tobias Classic 5 can get bright solos tones, but can really nail that Classic Fender J sound, as can all Laklands! :)

    So - when trying Wals (apart from them being very heavy and chunky) the most noticable thing, is that no matter what you do, you cannot get a Classic Fender sound!!
  14. godoze


    Oct 21, 2002
    I owned a fretless Mach I which i loved. It was capable of producing any tone i wanted. I still regret selling it. Hell, I do not even know why i sold it.
  15. Walbassman


    Nov 27, 2002
    Nashville, TN
    I have had three and the ONLY one that I had that sounded like a Fender was an old passive Pro I. If you like hi-fi sound, then this is the bass for you. It is like having a british alembic. They are VERY well made and VERRRRYYY heavy, so if you can handle a heavy bass go for it!!!! play one first before you buy....
  16. Well spoken Emperor Elite! It's great to see you here, Ben!

    There are certainly those who've either disliked or had difficulty with the Wal tone controls and while Bruce's experience may not be typical it's good to have some balance of opinion. There's also the question of weight, and there are some fairly hefty Wal basses out there. I've been three times lucky in that regard. The only way to be certain is to try one out before you plunk down your cash.

    So true.