Psst... Ready to join TalkBass and start posting, make new friends, sell your gear, and more?  Register your free account in 30 seconds.

Why do you love your alembic?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Flat Bass, Dec 18, 2004.


  1. Flat Bass

    Flat Bass

    Dec 8, 2002
    Most people I know that own alembics are very dedicated to that brand of instrument. Tell me why you love yours so much? Tone? Craftmanship? Playability? I hope not status symbol?
     
  2. Flat Bass

    Flat Bass

    Dec 8, 2002
    bump?
     
  3. dnburgess

    dnburgess

    Jul 20, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    Proprietor: Bass People, Green Square Music
    In 1990 I was looking to buy a serious bass - having converted from guitar about 5 years earlier and worked my way through an Ibanez P-bass and a Fender Precision(?) Lyte.

    I checked out all the music shops in Sydney and nothing really excited me - except maybe a Kubicki. I heard a store a couple of hours drive away (Pro Audio in Canberra) carried Alembic and made the trip.

    At the time I didn't realise that I was playing a Series 1, short scale. All I knew was that the finish was much better than anything else I'd seen and I was sounding and playing better than before. Needless to say I bought it.

    Fast forward 12 years - I hadn't been playing much after the onset of a new family and new busines. But the kids were a little older and I was ready to start playing again. Found there were no distributors for the gear I was interested in - tried it, liked it, figured others might too and Green Square Music was born.

    I became Alembic's Australian agent because I believe there is no other brand that matches it for finish, playability, sound, range of options, expertise when it comes to interpreting and realising players' visions of custom instruments and position in the history of the evolution of electric bass.
     
  4. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    The easy answer is to reflect the question back to you....what do you like about your particular favorite bass? There will probably be several Alembic owners who will have that exact same opinion about their Alembic. Some basses do one thing or another significantly better than they do other things. There are some butt-ugly basses (imo) that sound fantastic. There are some great looking basses that sound average. For the most part I think Alembics do a number of things very well and are at or near the top of the heap in many individual categories.

    Me personally, I'd have to say quality of tone and flexibility of tone are at the top of my list. My basses are Series I and Series II basses, so they have more tone options than the other Alembic models, but even the more mid-level instruments (Signature, Rogue, Europa) have a lot of range wrt tone. The whole Q-filter concept that Alembic has used since the '70s provides you lots of range. I can get almost any tone I want, and a few that I don't want, by fiddling around with all the knobs and switches.

    Second and third on my list, practically a dead heat, are the craftsmanship and the styling / design. Alembic pretty much pioneered the whole multi-laminate exotic wood boutique bass thing and they have stayed right there at the top of the list with a lot of highly capable luthiers that have come onto the scene since they started it.

    Ever since I saw my first point bodied bass and my first omega bodied bass, I said "one day I'll have one of them". Now I have one of each. Couldn't be more thrilled. Then they have to mess with my mind and develop the Balance K body with a Heart Omega cut-out.

    Playability is not high on my list of why I own Alembics. I actually find my main bass, my Alembic Series II 5 string, to be the hardest of my 5 basses to play. Part of it is because I ordered tight string spacing. I won't be doing that again. The other part is because if / when you make a mistake, it tells on you big-time. When I'm having an off day, it's not unusual for me to put the Alembic down and pick up one of my Hanewinckels or my Marchlewski. They are all easier to play than my Alembic 5 string.

    Status is not an issue for me. Most people I play in front of don't even know what it is. They just know it's not a Fender and it has really pretty wood and a whole bunch of knobs. A lot of time I'm in places where other bassists know what it is and immediately assume I have Wooten / Clarke / Miller type chops. Uhhh....no. In those situations, status actually works against me.

    Hope that helped.

    Peace,

    James
     
  5. vene-nemesis

    vene-nemesis Banned

    Jul 17, 2003
    Bilbao España
    Can anyone post a sound clip of a MK signature or a series 1/2 (this doesnt mean a half)???
     
  6. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    I have a more humble Alembic, a Spoiler, though it has the Exploiter body style. I'd say pretty much the same as Malthumb. Even the simplified Q-filter electronics are very flexible. The only thing I don't love about it is the neck. It's not the ideal shape for me, makes it more work to play than my other main basses which do have the ideal neck shape for me, but it is SO worth the effort.
     
  7. ezstep

    ezstep

    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    1998 Orion 4-string, lefty, cocobolo top.

    Craftsmanship, material, professionalism, finish, playability, etc., etc.,. Everything you listed. BTW, I had to send the electronics back to the factory, and they were very helpful, courteous, etc. Absolutely no problems with customer service.

    The neck is the best I have ever seen on a bass (sorry Fealach). Long, straight, narrow, you just think about a note and your fingers automatically go to it. The feel is just. . . well, for lack of a better work, "right."
     
  8. For me it's the incredible craftsmanship, the unique and beautiful 'understated gothic' looks that appeal to me very much, the 'natural' versatility soundwise and the playability. If I pick up my Orion or my EVH there's an immediate connection that let's me play with my heart, instead of my mind. But it's a very personal thing, Alembic is still somewhat of a 'cult brand', and they're certainly not everyone's baby.

    If I wanted a status symbol, I shouldn't have gone for anything Alembic actually, because I've experienced a lot of antipathy and prejudice. For some reason or another I've experienced several almost agressive statements about Alembics being overpriced, soulless electronic monsters, too fancy etc. (in most cases without ever playing one themselves, might I add, they're not very common in this part of the world). I expect a significant amount of jealousy is causing this, but luckily I couldn't care less. I enjoy my basses for myself, not looking for any external approval. Apparently there's still a large group that thinks that (vintage) Fender and MM Stingray are the only way to go.

    I always enjoy starting a discussion with people like that by stating that Alembic is the main reason that IN GENERAL :smug: the bass community is less conservative and far more creative than the guitar 'scene'...
     
  9. knight

    knight

    Nov 3, 2002
    Europa 5 string, soon to be upgraded to a Series II.

    I think you cannot put it better than James did in the above post.

    - yes, they sound clearer than most other basses, even with the filter almost closed.

    - yes, they can go from deep dub to high and trebly. Flat response to 16khz for series basses, I believe.

    - yes, fit and finish is second to none.

    - yes, they're hard to play. they are among the least forgiving basses available.

    - and no, it's not about status, because most people do not, in fact, like the look of them.

    They also have a reputation for being expensive, but to be honest, play a series I or II next to a top-of-the-line Fodera and tell me they're not *at least* comparable in the categories listed above.

    Having played a couple of Foderas (but not owned one), in my opinion as far as tone and craftsmanship are concerned, Alembic comes out on top. And they're the same price! Don't assume that a fine Alembic will cost you more than a fine boutique bass; it's the options that add up raising the price a lot.

    Cheers,

    knight
     
  10. vene-nemesis

    vene-nemesis Banned

    Jul 17, 2003
    Bilbao España
    How hard and why?
     
  11. A9X

    A9X

    Dec 27, 2003
    Sinny, Oztraya
    To make this a bit shorter, I'm going to say I agree with David, James, Mule and Knight's posts.

    I have two Alembics, a Series 1 and a Stanley Clarke Signature Deluxe, both shortscales. Both are superb in playability, flexibilty, tone and tonal varations possible, fit, finish and aesthetics. My S1 is my fave and this instrument speaks to something in me like no other I've ever touched.

    Most responses by other muso's to my Alembics are oddly enough not positive, with comments similar to Mule's above. Not quite sure why as most people have never even played one. I certainly don't think I'm a better person or player simply because I own them (though they are unforgiving of errors, so you can be a better player with one). I just like them. I buy most things this way; if they speak to me in some way, I'll find the money to get them if that's important to me. Most cars for instance are just boxes on wheels that get me around so I don't care much what I drive so long as it's reliable. But I've driven a Lotus Exige a number of times and it was incredible, the closest experience to riding a sportsbike I've had in a car, and if I could afford it, I'd buy one for the sheer pleasure I get from driving them.

    Also like a lot of small family run businesses, the support and backup is excellent and they seem to really care for the people who support them and buy their instruments which I really like. When I can afford it, I'll order a new custom directly from them to my specs. I just wish they were cheaper.
     
  12. knight

    knight

    Nov 3, 2002
    Hard to say, but I think it's related to the extreme sensitivity of the electronics. If you don't fret or pluck consistently, you'll hear it. To give you an example, my Ken Smith has a more compressed tone, meaning that the dynamic range is somewhat reduced. This of course is an advantage in some cases, including, as James said, times when you are tired, not into it, etc.

    These basses require, it seems to me, more focus than others.

    Cheers,

    knight
     
  13. Flat Bass

    Flat Bass

    Dec 8, 2002
    Thanks gang I really appreciate all of your in depth honest answers. I really hope to be a member of your family one day. Ever since the day i laid my eyes on a Stanley or S1 small body short scale I have said I must have one. But yet I have spent enough money on a ton of other botique basses to of had one by now?
     
  14. malthumb

    malthumb

    Mar 25, 2001
    The Motor City
    Knight pretty much nailed the playability question, but there are a couple more points I would make here:

    Alembic necks are placed such that the fretboard is further out of the body than most basses
    • This means that you'll have a longer reach to 1st position on a 34" scale Alembic than you would on other makers 35" or 36" scale basses

      It also means that some models, especially when you add the 5th and 6th string and the larger headstock that results, can have neck dive issues

    Of all the Alembics I've owned and played, the '79 Series II small body 32" scale bass had the best playability from a physical mechanics stand-point. The reach to 1st position was not as far as on a 34" scale and it balanced reasonably well (Alembic will not make a small body 34" scale for ANYBODY because of balance). My guess is that a standard body 32" scale would balance even better.

    Peace,

    James
     
  15. ezstep

    ezstep

    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana

    Very true. I can get extreme dynamics from my other basses easier than with the Alembic, but that can be positive as well as negative. Overall, the string-to-string volume and tone is, well, smoother than most other basses. But, smooth may be what you are looking for on many, many songs. I don't use a compressor with the Alembic.
     
  16. Fealach

    Fealach Guest

    Apr 23, 2003
    Gone to a better place
    Just to clarify my comment on my Alembic's neck. This particular bass has a somewhat thick neck, not too wide across the fingerboard if you were to measure it at the 24ht fret, but a little beefier than I like in terms of thickness. Also, there is practically zero taper from the width at the 24th fret to the width at the nut. I don't know what most Alembic necks are like, or if there is such a thing as "most Alembic necks" considering the total customization that's available on all models. Some people no doubt would find it perfect for them, but I like a super thin, narrow neck with plenty of taper, like a Jazz. Everything else about though is top notch, it sits perfectly and the design allows for pefect balance and instant access to the upper frets making it a breeze to play on my Alembic things that would be much harder or impossible (due to lack of frets) on other basses.
    Of course Entwistle was an influence in deciding to buy this bass, but his choice of neck wouldn't be mine. I loved the look and sound of his "Fenderbird," but I'd never put a P bass neck on anything, I've read that's what it had. Not knocking either the Alembic or the P neck, or those that prefer them, I just prefer the Jazz.
    It seems to sound great through any half decent rig. With my big tube setup, it sounds ballsy and warm. It sounds bright and twangy through my Genz Benz combo, not too sharp but it really cuts. The more hi fi reproduction of the Genz Benz though really highlights the slop in my playing. I'm gonna go practice now.
     
  17. What is the string spacing at the bridge on Orion's?

    4 and 5 strings?
     
  18. dnburgess

    dnburgess

    Jul 20, 2003
    Sydney, Australia
    Proprietor: Bass People, Green Square Music
    The newish Balance K body shape extends the upper horn of the standard body shape to address these issues. Body shapes like the Rogue have quite elongated upper horns and balance very well.

    The balance issue seems to be very personal and relates a lot to playing style and position. I never noticed balance as an issue with my small body S1, whereas some players have found it off putting.
     
  19. ezstep

    ezstep

    Nov 25, 2004
    north Louisiana
    4-string width at nut - 1.625
    5-string width at nut - 1.875

    I don't know width at the bridge.

    For comparison,
    Fender Precision 4-string at nut - 1.625
    Fender Jazz 4-string at nut - 1.50
    Fender Jazz 5-string at nut - 1.875
     
  20. Arthur U. Poon

    Arthur U. Poon

    Jan 30, 2004
    SLC, Utah -USA-
    Endorsing Artist: Mike Lull Custom Basses
    It's tone, playability, and construction. My Europa is one of Alembic's mid-priced models, but IMO it's an incredible bass.

    I've been cured of G.A.S.,(and I really hope I can resist it for a least a few years) but one day I'd like to own a Series-II Alembic.