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Who plays Alembic, and why

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassGreaser, Apr 14, 2004.

  1. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I'm looking at getting a custom made alembic bass made for me, and I'm looking for people who own them to tell me their thoughts on them.
  2. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    If you haven't had a chance to play one, you REALLY want to do that BEFORE you place an order. I'm as big a proponent of Alembic as anybody, but I recognize, they're not for everyone. I have 2 and had 4 others before these two. It took a while to get a clear picture of what I really wanted. You need to know that before you order a custom.

    I also suggest you spend a little time browsing the threads at The Alembic Club. You'll get lots of input on who owns which types of Alembics and why.

    Now, to specifically answer your question....The basses I have are simply the best sounding, best playing basses I've ever put my hands on. And they look damn good too, but that's sort of secondary to the tone(s) and playability.

    Hope you get a chance to play some before you make decisions on specs for your custom.


    carsbybigd likes this.
  3. BassGreaser


    Aug 22, 2002
    Austin, TX
    I owned a Spoiler for about 2 years. Loved that bass, but sold it to raise money for the upright.
  4. maybe get a used spoiler or play as many alembics as you can until you find what suits you... you never get your money back on a custom alembic... thats for sure
  5. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City

    Agreed. With Custom Alembics, as with most customs, the value the person ordering places on each of the options is usually way higher than the value the next person would place on them. This is even more true with Alembics because they are so expensive and the options can be as crazy as the person ordering. You will not get your money back if you turn around and sell it soon after you get it. The number of people willing to pay more than $2,500 for any bass is small and unique. And most of them already have an idea of exactly what they want. Nine out of ten times it is NOT your custom ordered bass. This is why I always stress PLAY SOME OF EACH MODEL YOU'RE INTERESTED IN. BUY ONE USED AND LEARN WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. THEN FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU WANT AS OPTIONS ON YOUR CUSTOM.


    carsbybigd and Killer Of Giants like this.


    Aug 13, 2003
    Sulphur LA
    I have 3 Alembics and another on the way. They are clean, clear and record like champs. All the appointments and electronics are top-notch even on the entry level models. They are dead quiet and have tons of headroom. I love mine!
    carsbybigd likes this.
  7. Brooks


    Apr 4, 2000
    Middle East
    I have an Alembic Essence. It doesn't have Series I or II electronics, but it does sound like an Alembic, and is neckthrough. I gig with it fairly regularly as I can make it sound the way I want to - from dub to bright, hi-fi to grindy rock style...very very flexible. Playability, construction, everything is top-notch, and all that for $825 (used).
    carsbybigd likes this.
  8. I played an Epic 11 years ago, had plenty of salad to buy the bass at the time. To this day, I wonder why I didn't buy it. :confused:
  9. Fire-Starter

    Fire-Starter Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2002
    James, I have a Rogue 5 string, and I am curious about the sound of series 1 or II vs the Rogue, I have never played a series I or II, what are they giving that the Rogue is not??
  10. mike mcd

    mike mcd

    Dec 11, 2002
    I play an Alembic Spoiler. In my opinion, this is one of the best values on the used bass market. The electronics are very simple(pickup selector and filter), but the range of tones that you can get out of this bass is absolutely incredible. For around $1000 used, I haven't been able to find a bass that can make me nearly as happy as this one does!
    carsbybigd likes this.
  11. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    I've never played a Rogue, but I have owned a Stanley Clarke Signature, which I believe has very similar construction and electronics. From my experience, the Series I and Series II basses I have owned have had more flexibility in terms of the sound palette. You can dial in a lot more tones with a Series I or II. From what I understand, if you add an SF-2 Superfilter to the Rogue / Europa / Signature instrument electronics, you get very close to the Series I / Series II tones.

    Other than that, there are some construction differences that may or may not mean jack to you. Series instruments are semi hollow. Rogue / Europa / Signature instruments are solid body. There are varying options for body and neck laminates. The Series II now comes standard with continuous wood backplates and inlaid shell logo.


    carsbybigd likes this.
  12. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I've a Orion. It has perfect balance. The neck is the fastest, easiest neck I've ever played. Its sound is what I was expecting from an Alembic. Its kinda beatup, but it still screams "I'm better than anything else you've seen or played!!"
    carsbybigd likes this.
  13. WarriorJoe7

    WarriorJoe7 Banned

    Mar 12, 2004
    Syracuse, NY
    Well I want an alembic eventually, but won't be able to afford one for years I am sure. I do have a decent tone wood collection and maybe I should start saving up pieces for that particular alembic so that in 10 years it will be aged a little bit. Only thing is, how do I store it?

    Already have some of the sweetest birdseye I have ever seen and cocobolo too (but it is not wide enough for a body.) I have a 48 inch long block of ebony about 3x3 square. This would work for 3 ebony stringers maybe even 2 basses worth. Boy that piece is heavy... geez. And it's SOLID JET BLACK, which makes it all the more desirable.

    Damn I wanted to get an Orion, should have got a used one on ebay for $700-$800 2 years ago. They rarely show up anymore.

  14. nonsqtr

    nonsqtr The emperor has no clothes!

    Aug 29, 2003
    Burbank CA USA
    Well, I've owned a couple dozen Alembic's over the years, starting with my very first (used) Series I in 1979. Currently I have two, my all-time favorite studio bass is an extra long scale 5 string Series II with extra wide string spacing, and my fretless fiver has a 3/4 size body and the Europa electronics. I have to agree that the tone of the Series I's and II's is why people buy Alembic's, the "fat boy" pickups are awesome. The MXY's are "okay", but the Essence/Epic basses aren't going to give you everything that a Series II will. I did play an Epic for a number of years, it was even my primary gigging bass for a while, but I eventually sold it in favor of a more "vintage" sound ('cause that was the application at the time).

    Now, I'll agree that the woodworking and craftsmanship on an Alembic is second to none. They're absolutely superb instruments, beautifully hand made, and individually tweaked to perfection. But, keeping in mind that this is a bass GUITAR, and you'll probably want to play it (as distinct from hanging it on your living room wall and looking at it as one might admire a work of art), you'll have to realize that you're buying the Cadillac of basses, and as with any Cadillac, it will immediately lose half its value when it leaves the showroom floor.

    Then, there's the concept that Alembic's have a sound all their own. Don't expect your Alembic to "sound like a Fender", 'cause it won't. Not even if you do a gazillion mods to it. It has a completely different sound, and it even EQ's differently. Once I let a buddy borrow my Epic for a gig, and when he gave it back he said, "how come this bass doesn't have any balls to it, like my P-bass does"? After some discussion, it turned out he was referring to the deep lower midrange that P-basses are famous for. I plugged the Epic into my amp, turned down all the tone controls, and voila, instant fat lower midrange.

    The Alembic pickups are extremely rich in all the frequencies that matter, and to get a particular sound one basically eliminates the unwanted frequencies. Alembic active electronics are intended to "subtract out" the parts of the tone that are undesirable, instead of "adding in" more of the desired sounds. In that regard Alembic's EQ philosophy is a little different from most manufacturers', and that difference becomes critically important when you're live on stage.

    One other thing I'll note, is that I've never spent more than two thousand bucks for an Alembic. I've never gotten Ron to build me a "brand new" one, I've always gotten them used, and then only after spending considerable time with each instrument to see whether it was really the one I wanted. I paid a grand total of 971 bucks for my studio bass about ten years ago (long story), and the fretless cost me 1600 (including the LEDs along the fingerboard). If I ever win the lottery and I'm able to afford to have Ron build me a bass to my exact specifications, I would want a Series II without any of the fancy omega cuts or anything (I hate a bass that you can't put down, or that falls over when you try to lean it against an amp), with as large and heavy a body as possible (most of the "real" Alembics are extremely heavy, they're great for studio work but you'll end up stoop-shouldered if you try to wear one all night).

    Back in the day, twenty or thirty years ago, if you wanted a "real" bass (ie something better than y'r average Fender), Alembic was the only game in town (or let's say, one of the few). These days, there are thankfully many choices. You can get 3 or 4 F basses for the price of one good custom Alembic, or maybe 5 or 6 Roscoe's, and probably a couple dozen Fenders. That kind of math would make me think long and hard about dropping ten grand on a bass. Even if it is an awesome instrument and there's not another like it anywhere in the world.
    77stingray5, carsbybigd and M.R. Ogle like this.
  15. malthumb


    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    In that one paragraph you described what I have not been able to describe in 3 years on this board.


    timplog and carsbybigd like this.
  16. alembicbones


    Nov 10, 2000
    Seattle, WA

    It took me going through 3 used Alembics to decide on exactly what I wanted in a custom instrument. I ended up with 5 string Europa body w/ Series I electronics and a Coco Bolo top. The Europa body balances very well and Series electronics are unmatched.

    Happy hunting.

    carsbybigd likes this.
  17. I've got one Alembic bass, and (I'm pleased to say) another one coming next weekend. I'm enjoying an Orion (see the gear reviews) since last January, and soon a previously loved EvH Signature model is going to be its companion.

    Why Alembic? I won't say that the 'mojo' of owning a unique, handmade instrument by one of the pioneers of active electronics doesn't matter for me, also considering me being a de(a)dicated 'Dead Head'. But I'll try to be more specific, but I'm afraid I can't be very objective on this subject...

    First of all: if you love wood, stellar workmanship and generally beautiful looking basses, nothing and no-one is in the same league as Alembic.

    But what about sound and playability?

    The set neck Orion is one of Alembics 'budget' models and simply a wonderful instrument, very comfortable to play. It only has the basic electronics setup, but soundwise it's truly amazing: crystal clear, hifi clean tones on all strings and/or positions. The EvH Signature model is neck through, and has the series electronics, but without the fuss of the external power supply. That will give me alot of extra possibilities soundwise.

    You know, I have no doubt that other Alembics will follow as years go by, but I have to agree with previous speakers: try to buy them used.

    The 1999 Orion was a great deal because I could buy it N.O.S. Obviously the shop had experienced difficulties selling it (don't know why though) for five years and luckily never upped the price to today's standards.

    The EvH is a 1991 instrument in perfect condition, a rare model, especially outside the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) that would've been too expensive for me to purchase new. For great deals on used Alembics, you just have to look out for them, they're out there! On eBay there's always about 10 -15 of different models to be found...
    carsbybigd likes this.
  18. Geetar1870


    Aug 22, 2015
    To some this will sound completely crazy but to Alembic custom owners you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. There's a famous scene in the Spinal Tap movie where Rob Reiner asks about the sustain on a Gibson LP 1957 3 pickup. The spinal tap guy says, "please don't even look at that guitar." Reiner replies, "Well I wasn't going to touch it" and the guitarist says "I know you weren't going to touch it but don't even look at it." This pretty much says it all about an Alembic. On a recent trip to CA I saw a used BMW dealer who had several 2006-2010 be embers for sale -- each of them cost less than my Alembic. And you know what, I would not trade it for a Maserati for that matter. The idea of a "second hand" Alembic I simply don't understand. Like Dirk in Spinal Tap I don't want anyone's energy however intangible near this bass. Mine has never been played. I simply look at it from time to time and go back to practicing on a FMIC select active j bass. However here's the change in approach: knowing that I have that bass sitting there is like a catalyst to practice more. Which come to think about it is precisely what Jamey Aebersold said would happen, "Obtain the best instrument that you can possibly afford." There is absolutely no substitute to these instruments. Buy one now because the Wickershsams are not getting any younger.
    carsbybigd likes this.
  19. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    I am an Alembic player because when I hear a bass in my head I (usually) hear an Alembic. Although they are capable of a very wide range of tones, when it comes to a clear and full ranged piano-like tone they are second to none. Plus, every Alembic I've ever played (and I've owned or played more than 50 of them), from the less-expensive Epics, Orions or Elans, to the most expensive Series basses, is capable of playing like butter when set up properly. A nice bonus is that the folks at Alembic are the coolest and most helpful folks you could ever hope to meet.
    FC Bass, carsbybigd and alembicguy like this.
  20. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    Nonsqtr.... perfect, concise response. Bravo!!!!

    Oughta be a "sticky".

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