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Username: grynchin

Post Number: 3
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - 8:40 pm:   Edit Post

I'm new to the club. I have an Epic 4 string and now looking at a 5 string. My 4 has 5 piece maple/walnut?/maple/walnut?/maple. The 5 I am looking at is 5 piece, but all maple. I am curious to know, other than aesthetics(I like the looks of the dark stripes) is there any difference(tone, strength, cost, value, etc.)? ANY info will be "muchly" appreciated. I also noticed that the 4 uses smaller(pin line) strips of walnut? whereas the 5 has bigger more equally sized strips of maple. Oh yeah, both versions are laminated of course, I just thought the title might get more people to look... ;}
Senior Member
Username: richbass939

Post Number: 539
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - 9:26 pm:   Edit Post

Welcome to the club. I have a 4 and a 5 Epic. The 4 neck is 3 pieces of maple. The 5 neck is 9 pieces of maple and walnut (MWMWMWMWM). The walnuts are very thin and the maples are about 1/4 inch. They do sound a bit different from each other. It could just be my lack of a discriminating ear but I can't hear any difference that the necks make. There are so many things that could be bigger factors, I don't know how you would really tell. There are some real wood experts in the club that could explain the differences.
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 564
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - 10:35 pm:   Edit Post

I'm not qualified to comment on the sound differences here, so I'll just mention that the walnut pinstripes you mention are generally referred to as "veneers", while the wider strips (1/4" or so) are the ones referred to as laminates, especially if they are of a different wood.

Of course, even if you just have several pieces of maple glued together, then sure, it's a laminated construction. Again, without actual experience, I would be inclined to think that the walnut pinstripes have a fairly modest effect, compared to substantial laminates of something like purpleheart or ebony.

But I am convinced that fives are better than fours :-) Welcome.
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 59
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 12:23 am:   Edit Post

Purpleheart is denser/stronger/heavier than maple, and increases strength, sustain, and/but also mass/weight.

Ebony is even more dense/strong/heavy than purpleheart, and so increases the strength, sustain and mass/weight even more.

Ebony has particularily awesome tonal characteristics when used as a neck laminate or laminates. It SIGNIFICANTLY and most noticably increases not only the overall sustain, but also the sustain of the fundamental partial -which is the first to decay in a ringing note. Ebony makes the fundamental partial ring MUCH more noticably; the effect has to be heard to be appreciated; but if you dig around you'll find plenty of testimonials from club members -myself included. 6 of my custom 8-string europa's 13 laminates are ebony, and it completely smokes every other bass -even other Alembics- I've ever heard. I tend to think the only possible thing that could top my bass soundwise would be having the same specs with the legendary Series electronics.

Now keep in mind that most of the time when people get ebony laminates they do so on neck thrus, but I do know that there is at least one bass in the custom archives that has ebony laminates in a SET neck, so if your plan were to consider them in a set neck, it might be a good idea to find this person and ask his/her opinion.

Personally, I'd always recommend saving up for a neck thru. An essence bass with europa electronics and an ebony laminate or two probably wouldn't be TOO hideously expensive.

I'd never buy another bass (or electric guitar) without ebony. It's every bit as good as the hype. It's better.

Check out my bass "8 strings of power" in the custom archives, and in my thread "allow me to formally introduce myself" in the "introductions" section!

My bass is an exceptional beast in many ways, especially with the neck, with the inner core being mainly composed of ebony, then purpleheart. But it's heavy too, not for everyone.
Username: grynchin

Post Number: 4
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 10:50 am:   Edit Post

Very cool comments, and I appreciate the input. I would also like to know why they would use all maple in one 5 piece neck, and put two pinstripes of walnut in another 5 piece neck. Especially on the same model. Would cost be a factor, customer or factory preference, etc.? I agree that I don't think I would be able to hear a difference in that wood or neck configuration, but I am wondering more "why" they did it than anything I guess. Thanks again for your comments.
Username: mica

Post Number: 2962
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 11:09 am:   Edit Post

The original Epics had only Maple necks. After making them for a while, we realized that that much Maple stacked next to eachother resembled a butcher block, so we added the tiny Walnut veneers for decoration only. I do not think that you would be able to perceive a difference in sound between one with and without the veneers.

There is always one less veneer than laminate in an Epic (Orion, Excel) neck now, unless the customer requests differently. The reason is that we like the way it looks, just as you observed.

It sounds like your 4-string was made more recently than the 5-string you are considering.
Username: grynchin

Post Number: 5
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Thursday, January 12, 2006 - 1:37 pm:   Edit Post

Thank you mica for your input as well. I do agree with the butcher block theory, and that is pretty much what brought my attention to it. I like the looks of my 4 string walnut-striped neck better than the all maple 5 string neck I'm looking at getting. Thank you kindly....and you guys don't miss anything! ;}
Intermediate Member
Username: jseitang

Post Number: 137
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Saturday, January 14, 2006 - 9:15 pm:   Edit Post

hey why not have both?
i have ebony laminates plus ebony pinstripes , and i think thats is the winning combination.
Username: terryc

Post Number: 39
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 6:00 am:   Edit Post

Multiple laminates look great and it has said that ebony laminates make the fundemental sustain forever!
Some say that too many glue joints affect the tone..well that is absolute crap..the amount of glue between those joints wouldn't even fill a cup and modern glues are far more neutral than old style animal or PVA type adhesives.
Up market drum kits(DW, Pearl MasterWorks etc) use multiple glue laminates on their shells and they sound fantastic.
A single piece of wood is more suceptible to warp than laminates glued with their grains at right angles. Each species of wood has its own signature tone and when combined can enhance the sound spectrum.
Sorry but multiple laminates for necks & bodies are the way to go and they look so damn good too!
Username: george_wright

Post Number: 51
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 8:04 am:   Edit Post

Terry said


Some say that too many glue joints affect the tone..well that is absolute crap.

Here's a thought....

Consider the limiting case, a la calculus. Let's say we cut more and more laminations, in more and more directions, until the number of laminations approaches infinity. Then we'll have a bunch of fibers embedded in a glue matrix. Hmmm, that would be like a graphite neck, wouldn't it?

Yeah, I know I'm talking cellulose fibers instead of graphite fibers here, and it's only a thought anyway. Still, I don't think you can just assert that "too many glue joints affect the tone." I'd want to hear some rationale.
Advanced Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 327
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 11:37 am:   Edit Post

Well too many laminates I would imagine would make the instrument a bit like plywood rather than a nice hipppy sandwich.

I doubt if a plywood guitar would have that much sustain.
There would also be lots of glued joints to affect the tone too.

Sensibility is the thing, don't ruin a good thing by going ott. :-)
Username: terryc

Post Number: 43
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 1:58 pm:   Edit Post

The difference between plywood and laminates is the wood used..I mean could you afford ebony/maple/purpleheart plywood for your decking??
Graphite necks..that is not glue..that is a polymer,,an adhesive is a substance that joins two like or unlike materials together without adding strength to the materials Epoxy is not a is a resin which acts like a glue as well to bond AND add strength.
Just thought I would clarify that..I would hate to tell my drummer that his Pearl MasterWorks drums or his Bill Bruford Signature snaredrum is made from plywood!!!!
Advanced Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 328
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Friday, January 20, 2006 - 12:17 pm:   Edit Post

You could always try :-)
Intermediate Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 128
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Saturday, January 21, 2006 - 12:37 am:   Edit Post

A couple of comments...
1) Your drummer's drum *is* plywood. So is your Alembic. A big sheet of plywood is a big laminated sheet of thin plies of fir or mahogany or baltic birch. It's created that way for basically the same reason that your Alembic's neck is laminated - by orienting the grain of the wood in opposition between different pieces you get a stronger, stiffer result. Now, the details of the construction are quite different - plywood is usually oriented at 90 angles between plies, but the bookmatch-type laminations in an Alembic neck are intended to equalize any warping tendancies by mirroring them across the glue lines.

If you want a high performance neck, this is a good way to do it. Although you can find a single big piece of maple which would have equal stiffness, you'll reject a lot more wood to find that good piece.

You see exotic select, one-piece necks on a few guitars these days - rosewood neck PRS guitars, the Klein Electric (also rosewood, and these are truly a single piece including fingerboard). And of course, there's a lot of maple Fender necks out there, too. Given the existing Alembic pricing, it's somewhat terrifying to imagine the upcharge for a non-laminated neck! Or what could have higher wastage than a snare drum carved from a single, gigantic block of wood (of course, if Alembic were doing this, they'd probably pull a "continuous back plates" trick and build a whole concentric set of drums from a single block!).

The flip side of a Klein neck is a Kubicki Ex-Factor neck which is built-up out of 1/8" plies of maple, visible on the back of the neck. Another extreme laminated instrument are the Ned Steinberger NSDesign US/EU upright basses which are built of curved alternating layers of wood and graphite like the cross-section of an onion.

Every different material in the neck has some effect on the tone, but I think that glue is probably not a big factor vs. the wood choice in necks. Now, if you're building an acoustic guitar with that light shaved top, I think the choice of glue and joints may have a very significant damping effect.

2)Graphite - From a mathematical standpoint, I think george_wright's comment is correct about graphite. Modulus necks (and this includes the graphite Alembics which were fabricated by Modulus) are built up of layers of pre-preg graphite material - graphite fabric impregnated with epoxy resin.

As I mentioned above, I doubt that glue in a neck is a big factor in the sound (assuming a proper glue is used). By volume, glue is probably only 1-2% of the mass of the neck. In a graphite neck, I believe the resin is probably 30+% of the mass of the neck. Now that's cured into a solid so it's not like the fibers are floating around.

David Fung
Username: terryc

Post Number: 46
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Saturday, January 21, 2006 - 9:58 am:   Edit Post

okay I shall tell my drummer his kit is made from plywood and suffer the broken nose I will get as he a rather chunky chap!!
I still think the term plywood(even though it MAY be true) sounds on the cheap side..laminates sounds much more exclusive!
Looks like I have got something going here.
I hate graphite guitars..once had a steinberger..didn't like the feel at all but if you live in Florida, New Orleans etc and do outdoor gigs I guess thats why they use parker fly guitars and modulus basses..humidity + heat = warped neck
Great discussion over all this though
Username: longhorncat

Post Number: 39
Registered: 8-2005
Posted on Monday, January 23, 2006 - 8:33 pm:   Edit Post

An example of a very stable and excellent sounding Kubicki Ex Factor neck:
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 592
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 8:54 am:   Edit Post


Did I once read that one of the objects of graphite construction was that the stiffness raised the internal resonances way past audible hearing, eliminating dead spots, say the classic dead B on the Dstring up around the 9th or 10th fret region? If so, did they think of this first or discover it later?

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: adriaan

Post Number: 728
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 9:02 am:   Edit Post

I know the Kubicki necks are supposed to be multi-laminate - but that really looks like a single piece of very straight-grained wood to me (with a grain enhancer of some sort).
Username: dejan

Post Number: 15
Registered: 1-2006
Posted on Tuesday, January 24, 2006 - 12:49 pm:   Edit Post

I love graphite necks.The sustain and the clearity of each single note are incredibles.I've owned a Zon Legacy Elite 6 for a long time,and that bass has the best low B i've never heard!I admit that the feeling and the beauty of the wood is fantastic,i've never played instruments with ebony in the neck laminates and I'm sure that they sound great.Now my main bass is a Peavey BQuad4 that is a very bad bass,you must try to play a bass with piezo bridge and composite neck for Rock and slap.It would be nice if the Alembic return to use composite materials but I admit that They build fantastic instruments with the wood's better They don't change!
Advanced Member
Username: jlpicard

Post Number: 329
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 - 6:21 pm:   Edit Post

Mica has told me that Alembic will put graphite stiffening bars in the neck if you so desire.
Username: trekster

Post Number: 65
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 9:08 am:   Edit Post

Ok, let's take this to another take on the original question: Has Alembic ever done a neck that was one solid piece (non-laminated), and how would it compare?

To my knowledge, the only company I know that does a 1 piece neck-thru is Rickenbacker's model 4004cII basses. However, I have never played one, so I couldn't tell you if it is sonically better or worse. It is a little like comparing a good quality orange to a good-quality apple, though.

Username: keurosix

Post Number: 24
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, January 26, 2006 - 10:03 pm:   Edit Post

Well, this thread has gone slightly off the subject, but it hits a spot I can't resist to comment on. Joey, Yes, you are correct about graphite. The resonant frequencies are higher, way past even the normal harmonic notes sounded on the string, so says Modulus Graphite and others using graphite composite necks. I have an early Modulus Graphite Quantum TBX 5 string, 35" scale, neck-thru cocobolo / maple body that smokes. It started with 3 Bartolini P/U's and a Bartolini active preamp, but I wasn't excited about that, so I Activated it with a custom Alembic circuit. The combination of Graphite 35" scale neck thru and Alembic electronics is something to experience. I used this as my primary guitar for many years because the sound is hard to beat. The upper octave (12th fret & up) is so clean like a bell. No dead spots on this neck. The low B is spectacular, solid and true. Sounds like a grand piano. My 34" Europa low B doesn't compete. Sad but true. Go back and read 8 String King's input about ebony laminates. This is the only thing in wood that comes close to graphite, and so much better to look at - Plastic necks just look like plastic!
I think the ultimate neck would be ebony laminates alternated with maple and wenge and purple heart with 2 or 3 graphite strips under an ebony fingerboard. IMHO, I think the ebony fingerboard has a lot to do with the excellent sound of ALL Alembics. Because its EBONY! This wood is so dense with compact grain, it really intensifies the strings energy.

In addition to Treksters note, a one piece neck is so unstable that it's like playing russian roulette. This is most like a tree branch subject to every whim of the weather, humidity, temperature, etc. While it may look cool and exactly opposite to a laminated neck, it is returning back to medieval times to the begining of history of luthiary. A single piece of wood for a neck is a bad idea for many reasons including dead spots, active "hot" spots, and prone to warping and twisting! Yuk! A good way to describe the sound of this neck would be warm and mushy. But only if at ideal weather conditions. Not a good pick for gigging on the road. I owned a few Rickenbackers before I gave up on them. My luthier would only laugh at them when I brought them in for frequent repairs. He pointed out the numerous design flaws so I could recognise them from a distance. All Ricks have two truss rods, but only one truss rod anchor at the head stock. As you adjust one, the anchor or "nutbar" as some call it twists, and loosens the adjustment of the other rod. You can spend days adjusting the truss rods and never getting it right until the nutbar is replaced with individual nut collars which makes them totally independant - like Alembics. If you tighten too much, you can break a rod fairly easily. Also, Ricks suffer in other places too. The tailpiece which they claim is an engineering masterpiece has been cast from the cheapest material possible: Gunmetal, a powder cast nickel that is not very strong. In fact it is rather gooey. The far end starts lifting up from the tension of the strings, and you find yourself tuning up all the time. Eventually you can store your pick under the widening gap, and then when you get to 2 picks, it's time to go to the luthier for a repair: Screws drilled down from the top and forcing it down for good! I had an earlier 4001 which had a really pretty quilted maple top with a single piece maple neck. The inlays on the rosewood fingerboard were Abalone chips, and they were the triangles that went all the way to the edges of the fingerboard. It looked just like Chris Squire's Rick of Yes around the Fragile album. I also had a newer maple Rick 4001 that had triangle inlays with the rounded corners and a swirly sort of plastic glitter material, not Abalone, alas. One day in the repair shop my Luthier was looking closely at the fingerboard, and he said "Wait a minute, what is that?" He got his magnifyer specs on and looked very closely at the inlay then started laughing so hard, he couldn't stop. There was a soldering lug shaped like a key-hole under the swirly glitter just barely visible, but it was there! That's pathetic! The Ricks also suffered from a very flimsy neck. The neck-thru was attached to the body and just less than a 1/2" away, the neck pickup rout cut clean through the neck laminations on the body and nearly 3/4" of the way down to the back. Even slight finger pressure on the fingerboard was enough to buzz out the strings. With a low action the Rick requires a very light touch, much lighter than the average Rock player is capable of maintaining. And we all know that the style of the Rick is what Rock bassists were drawn to.
So laminations really make sense when making a wood neck. They look better, they perform better, They're more stable and they support the notes better than a single piece neck.
Username: terryc

Post Number: 55
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 4:44 am:   Edit Post

Rickenbackers are the biggest pile of crap ever made..I mean why on earth do you need a magent which looks as if it belongs to a particle accelerator to produce a sound if thats what you can call it..and metallic untonal clonk..have you ever seen jazz or funk played on a Ricky??
The looks are..well shall we say an aquired taste.
You are right about the neckthru..a chunk of wood which is hardly least fender secure there necks with screws..I have heard so many stories of warped necks with them basses
Let the rockers keep them along with the 60's diehards
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 910
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 7:12 am:   Edit Post

I insist on sticking my $.02 in the midst of all this Ricky bashing. I don't know about the basses, but I have a Ricky 360/12 (that's a 12 string guitar for the Rickenbacker challenged) that I love. It has that Byrds-like jingle jangle tone that nothing else achieves. My only gripe is that the neck is awfully narrow for a 12 string - exactly the same as the Ricky 6 string version. The design with the curved front and bound back, split level pickguard, and "fireglo" finish is classic.

Bill, tgo
Username: bassdr

Post Number: 39
Registered: 10-2004
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 1:36 pm:   Edit Post

And now my $0.02 as well. My '79 4001 has a 3 piece neck and has been very stable for years with a nice low action, no issues. However it doesn't get played except rarely since I got Flame Koa Essence, my Alembic is so much better for me in every way but I won't part with Mr Rick. Michael
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 601
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 10:09 pm:   Edit Post


I know that feeling about the absolutely neutral tone that the graphite necks have: I 'test-drove' an original Steinberger for about 20 minutes one time, and while it wasn't for me, I've NEVER forgotten that every note on every string on every fret sounded the same from nut to last fret. Ultimately, though, I'm a 'wood' guy, and the laminates help a lot.

A one piece neck is one of those things that sounds like a good idea . . . until you think it through that grain going in different directions (hell, even knots) can be hidden, and lay waiting to do VERY high strangeness.

Although 4001s are somewhat iconic to me (they're so cool looking in black), I could NEVER get a decent sound out of one, the pickups are a joke, the tailpiece should be legislated out of existence (though HipShot is now making a first rate replacement), and somewhere there is a mountain of thrown-away Ric-O-Sound boxes. Lots of people have made terrific music on them, but they always eluded me, somehow.

And yet one day, they WILL reissue the 4005's with the 360 style hollow body and the 'R' tailpiece and I'll be in line to get one. Go figure!

J o e y
Username: terryc

Post Number: 56
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Monday, January 30, 2006 - 6:21 am:   Edit Post

well I suppose I caould eat a littel humble pie about Rickys, I don't like 'em but I couldn't imagine Lemmy playing an Alembic or Bruce Foxton from The Jam in the 70's/early 80's so I suppose each to there own.
Username: trekster

Post Number: 71
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, February 08, 2006 - 11:43 am:   Edit Post

Hey K6, in some instances you are very correct. One thing of note -- the Ric bass in particular I had mentioned was the 4004CII.. while what you said is true about the bridge for the 4001/4003 basses, the 4004 have a Schaller-style bridge that is by far more modern, stable, and user-friendly. They also sport different pickups than the 4001/3 models.. still have some Ric quality to them, but with the 4004 using walnut for the body wings (some with maple tops and backs, but always some walnut) instead of the 4001/3 having solid maple wings, they are reportedly much different than the classic Ric.

However, the 4004's are the basses with the very-evident one piece necks (most of the 4001/3 basses I've seen are Maple-Walnut-Maple, but that has changed on and off during the years). Hence the question. :-)

Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 662
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, February 13, 2006 - 7:53 am:   Edit Post

Dave Brubeck's bassist used a fretless Rickenbacker 4001, and it sounded wonderful...

Rick James played a Rick 4001 as well I believe...
Intermediate Member
Username: terryc

Post Number: 168
Registered: 11-2004
Posted on Friday, June 01, 2007 - 8:05 am:   Edit Post

Thought this thread had gone to the archive, I still have my doubts over Rick basses though, latest I heard is that a friend of mine had one and he said the neck went like a banana and no amount of adjustment on the truss rods solved it(obviously from the explanation that Keurosix gave).
Maybe they were built for gentle useage as in country players.
Username: henry_crun

Post Number: 8
Registered: 12-2006
Posted on Saturday, June 02, 2007 - 8:24 pm:   Edit Post

Hi, to add my NZ$0.02's worth...

I've owned and played a Rick 4001 manufactured in 1975. I've owned it from 1986 until I upgraded to an Elan 5-string. The Elan is by far the better instrument, both to play and for my audience, whose ears have stopped bleeding now (lol).

But... 20 years I played the Rick, the neck and action have been superb! I agree with the comments about the tailpiece (I thought it was made of lead), and I've had issues with the electronics. Maybe my 4001 has a 3-piece neck, but it's painted black.

I still reckon it's a fantastic bass for it's time, but the Elan is better!

With warm regards from new Zealand


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