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Why do DB's sound so good where lesser 'B's don't?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by macmrkt, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. macmrkt

    macmrkt Inactive

    Dec 4, 2002
    A few thoughts have been rattling around in my head recently after playing a wide variety of basses. If you'll bear with me, I will eventually get to my question!

    I have a few DB's and they sound wonderful. I've owned lots of EUB's, most recently the NS Design EU 5 string, considered to be a very fine bass in the non-acoustic EUB category. I also have and am trying several BG's. Here's my question. There is a trend in BG's towards longer 'necks'. Standard sizes are 34". You now see 35", 36" and even longer offered. In speaking with several notable luthiers, I was told that while the lower strings benefit from longer playing lengths, the upper strings suffer as they lose tension and tone. It seems that 34" is about right for the 'G' string on a BG. What I've noticed about the slab NS Design 41.5" mensure bass is that the lowest strings are disproportionatley full and loud compared to the upper strings. This seems to confirm the luthier's statement about longer mensure helping the lower strings and working against the uppers.

    With that very long-winded background, I can get to my question. Why does a real DB sound so balanced on all strings eventhough its mensure is typically 41"+? I can guess at what might contribute but I want to hear from those that know a lot more about this than me (that means just about everyone).
  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    A longer string gives you more tension. I would guess that the low strings being out of balance on some basses would have to do more with the amplification chain somewhere; pickup, EQ, etc.
  3. j.s.basuki

    j.s.basuki Supporting Member

    May 14, 2000
    Tension is also something to do with the material and the size of the strings.
  4. Jazzman


    Nov 26, 2002
    Raleigh, NC
    If the bass is designed correctly, it will have a balanced sound. I have played some basses where the low end was lacking and the higher strings just screamed out...but in general, most basses average price/quality are well balanced.
  5. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    For double bass and similarly designed EUBs setup can be a huge factor with this as well.
  6. Skeezix


    Sep 28, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    It really is amazing what you can do with a properly cut bridge. There is way more leeway on a DB than a BG.
  7. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    I have an NS CR5 and the sound is perfectly balanced across the strings....but I hear about problems on TB, with the newer "EU" models that I never heard about with the original models...quality control slipping too far, to cut costs? :meh:
  8. Fred W

    Fred W

    Feb 21, 2002
    Bronx, NY
    I've had problems with some bass guitars not having good string to string balance. I have to really tweak my 77 Musicman pickup and string height to ameliorate the weak presence of the G and D. But my Jazz bass is much better balanced, I don't know why. I recently talked to Kip Sophos about this. He plays a six string slab of his own build and design, and I complimented his sound especially the evenness string to string for a six. He told me he worked hard to achieve it including lots of EQ. Double bass with the longer string and more curvature is better but I have heard many DB's with imbalanced sound. Check out John Pattitucci on Natalie Cole's Orange Colored Sky, on the Unforgettable album. The low notes on the A and D sound huge and awesome but the upper register just drops out of the mix. On some Paul Chambers recordings his A string just jumps out louder than the others. I think this is endemic to the instrument, both DB and slab, something due the frequency range and maybe the fourths tuning. Every bass I've ever played, DB or guitar, the A string was the easiest to get a good sound, and the G the hardest. It just varied by degree.
  9. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Thinking about this again and as people have mentioned about setup...

    I would look at how the bridge is set up (biased towards one side ?) and if you are using magnetic pickups, it may be that the ones under those strings, are set too close to the strings or vice versa, too far way on other strings...?
  10. Some of my favorite recorded bass work on that disc, did he do Route 66 as well?

    Excellent point, this does seem to vary from one instrument to another, but is this just a "pizz" issue? :confused:
  11. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Take a look at a Dingwall EBG. His solution for this phenomenon is pretty interesting.


    While the whole tension/afterlength discussion has killed enough horses here at TB to supply all of our esteemed luthiers with a life's supply of glue, I think this same idea is part of what drives Mike Pecanic's thinking. Science aside, when I replaced the tailpiece on my Shen with a Pecanic compensated, there was a noticeable improvement in the balance of tone, resonance and volume across the strings.
  12. macmrkt

    macmrkt Inactive

    Dec 4, 2002
    I thought about this. But I prefer the piezo pickup's sound much more than the magnetic and there's no adjustment for the piezo. With the magnetic, the overall balance is better, but still not correct. Ironically, this was the opposite problem I had with one of the new Steinberger Synapse 5 string fretless BG's - the upper strings were fine, the lower had no tension, nor tone. And yes, quality control is spotty on all of these.

    But the other part of my question still intrigues me - what in the design of a typical DB makes them more balanced eventhough with the longer string length? Or is it as was mentioned, good design is good design, and you can have it on any instrument regardless of mensure?
  13. macmrkt

    macmrkt Inactive

    Dec 4, 2002
    Funny, that looks almost exactly like the Dingwall I acquired a couple of weeks ago. And yes, its sound balance is spot-on (as is everything else about it.)
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Or... a good set up is a good set up??!! ;)

    But as people have said - many DBs are actually unbalanced - audibly ! - and my NS CR5, which only has piezos is perfectly balanced in all situations.

    I think what you might find is that DBs are physically bigger and so it is easier to spot a misaligned bridge and adjust it properly - where the NS basses or BGs with smaller bridges are more difficult to set up correctly or it is more "critical" .

    But also as people have said - with amplified instruments there
    may be a tendency not to bother as you can compensate with EQ and moving things like pickups.

    So, if I found a BG with the problem you describe - I wouldn't bother getting a perfectly-balanced set up - I'd just adjust the pickups - i.e. raise or lower on one side.

    Whereas I can imagine that when you get a good setup on DB - the person doing it is aiming for a perfect balance...?
  15. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Saint Louis, MO USA
    Just to throw a wrinkle into the discussion, by far, the two best balanced output electric basses I have ever owned are 35" scale. They are are all I still have. Made by Modulus. Obviously, they are also overall very high quality basses.

    Of course, an exceptional 34" bass (our own Mr. Smith's offerings are my personal favorite) can also be well balanced top to bottom.
  16. RTB72


    Mar 8, 2005
    I have spent a fare amount of time trying to get the balanced thing worked out and have found two ways for me that @ least minimized the issue.
    1) If piezo: I utilized a bridge mount (similar to underwood) but with only one piezo pickup rather than the two on the underwood. I mounted it on the weaker side thus compensating.....eq out and roll with it.

    2) I also use a magnetic pick up sometimes that is going to have a better balance anyway. Set the pickup @ an angle and bend it until it is right...then don't touch it.

    Layman's opinion but that's what worked for me....

  17. 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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