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Username: davehouck

Post Number: 4794
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, February 23, 2007 - 1:00 pm:   Edit Post

In a thread about bolt-on neck basses, Mica discussed Alembic's approach to midrange in the design of their basses and preamps.

.. Midrange frequencies can have a muddying result when played in a band situation. Construction, materials, and pickups/electronics all contribute to the final sound the bass is capable of.

Admittedly, most of my experience with bolt-ons is as an audience member at concerts. In that setting in particular, I almost always prefer the sound of a neck through.

.. Tom Walker's original Fender preamp design specifically has no midrange boost at all. The best you can coax from it is flat midrange response. This is the circuit on which my dad based the F-2B.

.. The traditional Tom Walker design does quite nicely, even with a neck through Alembic bass. We've got thousands of happy customers with this pairing, so there are some that share this opinion. It won't suit everyone's taste, and there are a variety of different ideas out there when it comes to preamps. When playing at home, many people miss the rest of the band, and pump up the mids when practicing.

I find that bolt-ons have less sustain overall, affecting all frequencies. Bolt-ons with a stronger, better fit joint improve sustain and frequency response, and a glued joint brings the two pieces together even more completely. Material choices impact the sound even more on bolt-on and set neck designs.

The skill of the fret installation and the setup work can have an impact on sustain as well.

Dense woods tend to emphasize high frequency response in Alembics. The shorter wavelengths can course through the tightly packed cells. Less dense woods emphasize the low frequencies on Alembics, where the longer wavelengths have room in the larger more open cells. The neck through construction still results in a predictable EQ "smile."

For instance, a Maple (dense) body Alembic neck through, like an Elan or original Essence, has a very bright sound. An original Spoiler, with a solid Koa (less dense) body produces a much warmer sound emphasizing lows. Both examples have the same neck construction and materials.

The basses we've made with Alder, a fairly traditional bolt-on wood, seem to have limited high end response when used on Alembics, producing an overall "thunky" sound. Ash for bodies seems to keep the midrange more active, even on Alembic neck throughs, but the smile persists.

With the personification of "eating" the mids, it's less important if they are lower or if the bass and treble is higher, the resulting sound is still one of an EQ smile on a neck through. If someone wants more mids, and a punchier sounding Alembic, I'll suggest a set neck construction so they aren't fighting the nature of the bass. There are many individual players capable of making a neck through sound plenty punchy through technique, but not every player has that at their disposal.

I'd also suggest that bolt-ons are less expensive to produce. If the neck or body fails, you can replace that part. On a neck through, it's a much more expensive task to salvage a body or neck. It takes us at least 10 hours more to produce a neck through over a set neck.

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