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Username: earsplit

Post Number: 1
Registered: 2-2014
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 9:12 am:   Edit Post

I've owned a 1996 MK Deluxe for a bit I've loved to death, but I was looking to go short scale, as the MK gets a bit uncomfortable after a while. A shortscale 1979 Series 1 popped up for a reasonable price, and I've been thinking about making the plunge.

Have there been any significant changes in manufacturing over the last 30 years? (Weaker truss rod and thicker necks are both things that come to mind with other brands). Would I regret not holding out for a more recent model? How have the electronics improved?

I will leave you with a photo of my MK Signature as thanks!

alembic mk sig
Senior Member
Username: jazzyvee

Post Number: 3877
Registered: 6-2002
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 10:50 am:   Edit Post

Hi there and welcome. You already have a great looking bass.
There are many here with mature series basses and they will, I'm sure, chip in to advise about any issues that have been found with older basses.
I don't have an old series bass but a couple of things I've read to look out for are:

1) noise issues can be found with some of the older series models. Back in the 70's there was not the same level of electronic interference around like there is now so some older models are susceptible to this and will require an electronics upgrade. Thankfully not all do apparently.
2) it has been known for the mounting part of the pickup casings to warp due to over-tightening of the height adjusting screws.
3) Generally the older series basses tend to only output from the neck pickup only when using a jack lead and not the DS-5 power supply, later models output both pickups whether using DS-5 or Jack leads

All the best with the bass if you decide to go for it.

Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 2691
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 11:08 am:   Edit Post

There's also no doubt that the quality of woodworking has improved over the years and the finish materials are different. Much depends upon how they were cared for over the course of 30+ years as well.

That said, an old Alembic is a thing of musical beauty and a piece of history. I've never heard of any issues related to necks or truss rods with older models, so I would have no worries there. Also, if the neck is straight after 30 years, it's probably going to stay straight as long as you don't plan a radical departure in string tension.

Username: earsplit

Post Number: 2
Registered: 2-2014
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 11:32 am:   Edit Post

Thanks for the feedback. The bass in question lives here:

I think I"m going to let it pass for a Brown Bass or SC Deluxe. I've played those and I'm more confident about how its going to sound. Feel free to message me if you're trying to unload any short scales :-)
Senior Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 1968
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 12:30 pm:   Edit Post

It's not a bad looking bass. It appears to have some finish crazing on the back as is typical for this vintage of instrument. I would definitely want to get some get some higher resolution pictures before making an offer. The asking price is too high IMO.

Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 2117
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Monday, February 24, 2014 - 2:38 pm:   Edit Post

I'd agree certainly with Bob: These are very well-built instruments, but just a little regular care goes a long way, and as with anything, steer clear of an obvious problem child. We see ads for awfully abused ones occasionally, but after the shock wears off, you really see where they could be stripped and rebuilt without a lot of work (but bring cash . . )

They strike me that they have a lot of features that mostly insure they don't have to go back to Alembic or a good tech very often:

-Almost all plug-in connections, few solder joints to fail.

-The many laminations and the massive 1/4" ebony fingerboard resist time and climate way better than most: It takes a lot to get all the various wood layers misbehaving in the same way at the same time. You hear of the occasional fingerboard shrinking just enough to expose a fret tang or two (oil that fingerboard, son!), but that's about it.

-Save for the tailpiece and the locating screws in the tuning keys, every other screw is a machine screw into a threaded insert: No glue/toothpick jobs required (oops, and the strap buttons).

-They spec serious components, not a lot of cheapo-pot/wiring problems.

-And with the combination of the adjustable brass nut (no plastic/bone nut to string-saw or break) and the one piece bridge (adjusts like a tune-o-matic, no separate saddle heights) and the double truss-rods, they are hands-down the easiest bass to adjust for your preferred action to suit your playing style (and the easiest to learn how to adjust yourself).

Actually, in some ways, older is better. The wood is finally done drying to an equilibrium. I have an '92 5-string Spoiler, maple plus three-ply purpleheart and ebony fingerboard. It stays home, has worn the same brand/guage strings for years. I adjusted the action last time, maybe four years ago. I check it out of habit once or twice a year out of habit, but it just doesn't move. Eerie. I've never had a bass like that.

My green Elan five is a 2006, and aside from its' recent move from 40-125 to 50-135's, it acts about the same way. And as always, the electronics are quiet as a tomb unless I'm really somewhere so noisy any other guitar would have been unuseable.

J o e y

(Message edited by bigredbass on February 24, 2014)
Senior Member
Username: serialnumber12

Post Number: 1067
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 6:08 am:   Edit Post

My 42 year old alembic has aged Beautifully.
Senior Member
Username: briant

Post Number: 675
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 9:20 am:   Edit Post

"The asking price is too high IMO."

I agree with you. It's a SI that happens to be from 1979. Age doesn't somehow equate to value with Alembics unless you get into early serial numbers; and even then it's a very limited group who desires those over another similar instrument.

If I were interested in buying it I'd offer $3000 and hopefully settle on ~$3500.
Advanced Member
Username: 5a_quilt_top

Post Number: 259
Registered: 6-2012
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 11:50 am:   Edit Post

Re: age & value - I agree 100% with briant if we use today's pricing structure as a yardstick, however I believe $3,000 - $3,500 is more than a 1979 SI cost new.

So, after 35 years, it appreciated a little.

Maybe not as much as a 1979 Strat - I paid $539 for a new one in 1979 and they're now worth between $1,600 - $2,000 (depending upon condition). Oddly enough, that's approximately what a new higher end USA Strat or lower end Custom Shop Strat would cost.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 2692
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 7:20 pm:   Edit Post

Looking at the ad, it isn't a great value, but buying from a shop rarely is.

The one thing that can kill you (value-wise) on an older series instrument is the possible need for the noisy electronics upgrade. If you search around this site, you can find details. I don't recall precisely, but the cutoff date is pretty late, at least the 90's and maybe around 2000. The cost of the upgrade was $1K+. The reason was that the amount of electronic crap floating around in the world back then was much less than today, so what used to be perfectly quiet now suffers from electrical interference. Also, I've never owned a series bass, so my thoughts on this part are all recollections from postings rather than personal experience. Worth investigating, though.
Intermediate Member
Username: oujeebass

Post Number: 198
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 - 8:40 pm:   Edit Post

$3000 in 1979 = $9665 in 2014 dollars, so 25% of that would be "wholesale". That bass should be worth @ $4000 retail using industry standards.
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 5666
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 7:26 am:   Edit Post

As I recently posted in another thread, not all older instruments require the electronics upgrade. Neither my '76 Series I guitar, nor my '77 Series I 12 string guitar needed it - and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have lots of RF.

Bill, tgo
Intermediate Member
Username: nnek

Post Number: 108
Registered: 8-2009
Posted on Wednesday, February 26, 2014 - 7:54 am:   Edit Post

My '76 has never had a noise issue. I've played all over on tiny stages with neon lights and dimmer switches, ungrounded outlets etc. I always thought the tunable dummy coils were genius in removing noise. Once you balance the preamps the only sound is clean clear fingers, strings and wood!
Username: joweejojo

Post Number: 9
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Friday, March 07, 2014 - 5:51 am:   Edit Post

My SII is 33 years old and is still fantastic. The only bass in my stable that I haven't had to adjust the rod in over 30 years.

I've been a member since 2003 and this is only my 9th post??

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