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What really makes a GREAT bass sound GREAT!

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by armyadarkness, Apr 15, 2018 at 9:24 AM.


  1. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    Over the last few weeks, I've been involved in a lot of threads, discussing quality of build and quality of sound.

    I'm going to leave amps out of this, because if you like Aguilar tone and I like Traynor tone, it would be silly to discuss what makes one sound better than the other. That's preference.

    But if we both play a 2010 American Standard Precision bass, we should be able to figure out why two of the same bass can sound a lot different...

    First things first... before the egg heads chime in... Nobody changed the strings, or pickups, or pots, or caps, and no "legends" Leo Fender wasn't arguing with his wife that day, causing him to melt his wedding band down into fret wire...

    Just two of the same basses sounding different... begging the question, what ACTUALLY makes a great bass sound great... or even a not great bass sound great?

    Disclaimer: For the record; up until this point, this topic has been a private discussion between myself and three other TBers, but in my futile quest to make the world a better place, I thought it should be public.

    And in a world where "What flavor of Pop Tarts do you eat before the gig" seems relevant... It just makes sense to discuss bass tone.

    Ok... so saying "My $3,700 designer bass sounds great" means nothing to me... saying that paint color effects tone, means a heck of a lot though, and that's what I want to hear.

    Music Man HH Sting Rays... they coat their maple boards with gun oil, Rickenbacker clear coats their rosewood boards! Are these tone secrets? Do they matter?

    So my friend comes to me and says "wow, this sounds great" , and I say...

    "Did you get the build sheet? If so, check the specs to find out why your bass might sound great to your ears.

    The G&L Magnetic Field Pickup (MFD) is sweet and makes killer tone, but digging deeper, is the body Ash or Alder?

    Also, what kind of nut does it have... Strings? G&L's come stung with DAddario's, but they could've been swapped out on yours.

    What about the neck... It's what led me to G&L. I like big, fat, old-school Fender necks... 1.75" width nuts with a bulky profile, heavy radius, and high gloss polyurethane covering the front and back of a maple neck and maple board. Mass affects tone, so a bigger neck has a different tone than a smaller neck.

    Are the frets stainless? They might be on a G&L."

    In closing, we all go to the store and try something, which sounds good or bad. Knowing "why" matters.

    The best sounding bass that I ever heard had a maple board and Duncan 1/4 pounder, so now, that's all that I use, but were they what made it sound great?

    For a few weeks, I've been saying that the neon green, Dean Zone is the best sounding bass that I've ever heard. Well today I'm going to start building another G&L... but why not just buy that Dean?

    Well I'm not going to buy the Dean, but if I can figure out why it sounds so awesome, maybe I can build that into my next bass! And yes I'll buy the Dean anyway.

    I know that we ALL have preferences, loyalties, and opinions... but there's more to it than that. Don't tell me that your Alembic sound the best because it's an Alembic.. Tell me why that passive Dean sounds as good as a $2500 bass.

    Oh and also, what flavor juice box do you drink while practicing?
     
    Suncat, Dave Hawthorne, B-Mac and 4 others like this.
  2. Deak

    Deak Supporting Member

    Feb 28, 2016
    Kansas
    That's one huge haystack you've built there. I do hands on now and buy or not. This is great material for the bass philosophers but it makes my head hurt and I'm getting old. I'll still check in to follow. Good luck on your search!
     
  3. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk

    Sep 12, 2011
    NJ or Pa
    It must be the player because I just bought a $300 bass and it sounds incredible through my tiny 5-watt amp and even better in my 300, watt one, which I just found out yesterday.
    I will add that I put on a set of "new" 30-year-old strings, too.

    Oh, yeah, my Dean Exotica (D'Addario black tapewounds) is the best acoustic bass I've ever heard…but I've only tried out a dozen, so…

    To me, strings are very important…the first, and often only thing I change.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 9:49 AM
  4. el murdoque

    el murdoque

    Mar 10, 2013
    Germany
    First of all, the most important factor is the fingers of the player.
    One plays funk with slap and fingerstyle, the other plays punk with a pick, the third plays oldschool reggae with the tone rolled off. All play the same P bass. All sit in their respective mix perfectly. All claim the other two sound terrible.
     
  5. Spidey2112

    Spidey2112

    Aug 3, 2016
    I compare what makes an instrument sound unique and lovely in its own way to the women in our lives...

    ... shape, aesthetics... I don't care what anyone says... she either catches your eye, or doesn't... and do you want to be seen with her, later?

    ... composition, what they're made of... some guys desire gals with a foundation similar to Mt. Rushmore, and others desire a softer approach...

    ... tone... both bark and bite, or just a nibble, every now and then?

    To each his own, I guess... if someone is happy with their purchase, and they're making it happen for them...

    ... dilly, dilly.

    Chocolate Fudge, for the Pop-Tart, though... and green M&M's, only... it's the player.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 9:53 PM
  6. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    If you like old strings, give me your address! lol. I change monthly.
     
    Iofflight and jd56hawk like this.
  7. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    Yes I was really asking for it, but it's raining and I had time! I'll get mostly opinions, yay. But maybe someone will actually know what kind of pickup that Dean has, or why the neon green fretboard is the way to go!! Lol... we'll see.
     
    Deak likes this.
  8. Stevorebob

    Stevorebob Well... I Am Here, Aren't I? Supporting Member

    Sep 29, 2011
    Los Angeles
    I dunno. I just get what everyone on TalkBass tells me to get. Then I don’t have to think.
     
  9. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    You may have stumbled onto something. Maybe the ink on green M&M's seals up the ridges on roundwounds! Sounds like a tone secret to me.
     
    Spidey2112 and Deak like this.
  10. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    That's very funny. Has it worked out?
     
  11. ugly_bassplayer

    ugly_bassplayer Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2009
    Québec
    Person behind the bass. Nuff said.
     
  12. ScrewDevil

    ScrewDevil

    Feb 18, 2018
    Ohio
    Pixie dust and fairy farts! That's the secret! Lol.
    Playing style influences the sound A LOT. That is always a contributing factor.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018 at 10:39 AM
  13. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    So in this example... eliminate everyone but you... You play funk with slap and fingers, and then punk with a pick, on a 2018 Fender American Standard P and then again on the Dean Zone (which is a P copy). You like the Dean better. Why?

    And I know this sounds like opening Pandoras box, because it SEEMS like it's preference, but it's not. I'm not talking about why two different people think something sounds better, I'm talking about why one person does.

    Let's say that you're not allowed to buy a new bass, so you have to now make your Precision sound like that Dean. Then what?
     
  14. jd56hawk

    jd56hawk

    Sep 12, 2011
    NJ or Pa
    I like Chocolate Chip Pop-Tarts, Chocolate Caramel, Chocolate Vanilla Cream, Marshmallow Hot Chocolate and especially the Chocolate Strawberry, but I sure wish they'd bring back Danish Go-Rounds in 30 or 40 flavors.
     
    mikewalker and EatS1stBassist like this.
  15. saabfender

    saabfender

    Jan 10, 2018
    Indianapolis
    In my estimation, it's the same thing that makes any instrument sound great on a recording: Lack of garbage. Any frequency area that's out of control and doesn't enmesh well with what else is going on. Things that prevent it from sounding like itself.
     
  16. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    I agree, but if it's the same player in both examples... then what?
     
  17. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member Commercial User

    Aug 18, 2002
    General Manager TecPadz LLC
    Great players make great (and not so great) basses sound great.

    Really.
     
  18. FirewalZ

    FirewalZ

    Aug 14, 2014
    S.E. Michigan
    I've started to see a bass and it's natural tone....as a result of the combined impact of all its parts and components. Some components have more influence and impact on tone than others, for example, pickups and strings, to bridge, body wood, weight, finish, fit, etc. They all play a part part to some degree or another, even if very small and hard to measure.
     
    SJan3 and armyadarkness like this.
  19. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    For the record, this is the most defined, crisp, and articulate Precision that I've ever heard, and I've had them ALL. AND!!! It's a floor model in GC, so it sure isn't freshness! preview.
     
  20. armyadarkness

    armyadarkness Supporting Member

    Nov 3, 2012
    Atlantic City NJ
    Now you're really on to something here! I agree 100%. Paint, nuts, strings... alone may be insignificant, but in the right combination?
     
    Pbassmanca likes this.