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Username: cosmo

Post Number: 2
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 5:31 am:   Edit Post

LED's on the side of the neck for position markers - anyone got 'em? How do you like them? Is the extra weight from all the batteries signigficant? Do you always use them or find yourself turning them off occasionally? Any input on the LED's would be most welcome. Thanks, I'm new to the club and planning to purchase an Alembic guitar. Seems like a great group of folks here.
Username: george_wright

Post Number: 74
Registered: 3-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 5:34 am:   Edit Post

From my (very limited) experience, you'll want a dimmer, not just a switch. For marking position, the less the ambient light, the dimmer you'll want the LED's.
Username: kilowatt

Post Number: 52
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 5:58 am:   Edit Post

I have both front and side LED's on my bass. I can switch from all off, side only, or all on. I can also use the dimmer to control the amount of light I need for a given situation. I love the flexibility of this set-up. The dimmer works excellent as the laser LED's are very bright. The guy's in my band call it the runway.

Advanced Member
Username: keith_h

Post Number: 354
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 6:30 am:   Edit Post

I have side LED's on one of my basses and no dimmer. They can be helpfull in low light situations. They have a definite cool factor. I find their brightness is just right for more me. I don't have any weight issues with the bass itself.

Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1033
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 7:48 am:   Edit Post

Welcome to the club, Robert! You might want to do a search of this site as this has been discussed previously. I know I started a similar thead when I was deciding on this issue for my custom Further (still in production). My first impression was that they were gimmicky, but the overwhelmingly positive response I received convinced me to order them. I'm getting red side LEDs (red doesn't affect night vision) with double ambers on 12 & 24. I elected to forgo the dimmer. I suspect I'll find one adjustment I like and leave it there, my instrument already has enough controls, and there is an internal dimmer (like a trim pot)

Bill, the guitar one
Username: daveo

Post Number: 31
Registered: 12-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 11:24 am:   Edit Post

Welcome Robert-
I have side LED's on my Tribute and have come to love them. They seemed flashy to me at first and I didn't think I'd use them, but I've grown use to them and they are very nice to have all the time but especially in a dim club. The Tribute is pretty heavy, but I don't think the 4 9 volt batteries add too much more weight. I tend to not turn them on whenever I'm auditioning with a group I don't know or when my band, www.shawnevans.com, is auditioning someone. We are currently auditioning bassists and sometimes the bass players identify my guitar as an Alembic and ask to see the lights! But I think side LED's are for the player, it is the fretboard laser LED's that are really for show. I don't have a dimmer, but it hasn't been a problem for me. Good luck!
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 92
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 7:41 pm:   Edit Post

I have side LEDs on my custom 8-string bass. Initially, the concept struck me as "gimmicky", but upon further contemplation, it seemed reasonable in theory... I've played in the dark lot's of times, and I've got pretty good non-visual/tactile sensitivity/response, but... nontheless, it seemed reasonable that they could offer benefits in theory, and Alembic assured me that many people were quite fond of them, and did indeed find them very practical.

So I went ahead and got this custom feature. I elected to only get the side LEDs -primarily because of price, but also because I preferred for them to be subtle (on the side) rather than obvious (on the front). (I've since come to the conclusion that it would be pretty freakin' cool to have BOTH the side AND the front LASER LEDs WITH the dimmer option...)

But, to relay my experience with what I do have, with respects to your inquiry... the side LEDs I have are in fact VERY useful... they are a very practical and functional option for playing in the dark. There simply isn't any downside (other than added cost, of course). And the (pretty much) obvious benefit is SIGNIFICANT. You can basically play in the dark JUST AS WELL as in the light. With the LEDs, it just isn't an issue. If the lights go out, just flick a switch, and think "no problem!" You won't miss a beat. The weight (of the batteries)really isn't significant. It's only the weight of 4 9-volts, and the weight of the wood that's hollowed out to accomodate the batteries is absent -so it's only a little more, at best.

The side LEDs work very well. I don't have the dimmer option, and sometimes I think it would actually be nicer if I could dim them slightly... if I had the option... but it's no biggie. They're always an asset. You should realize that if you get LEDs without the "Series" package (meaning: if you use batteries INSTEAD of the EXTERNAL power of the Series options) your LEDs will gradually fade as the potency of the batteries change. As the batteries fade, your LEDs will get gradually dimmer; when you finally put in new batteries -due most likely to them just getting too dim for your tastes, rather than from total failure- they'll seem really bright!

This is something, perhaps to consider... if you use the external power supply, your LEDs would tend to be consistent in performance.

Anyway, the side LEDs work cool, and I tend to think (but, not having them, this is, of course, speculation) that the front LEDs -with the dimmer option- would be awesome.

Really, having the options Kilowatt described seems like the ultimate... with no downside other than price. But I tend to thing that -functionwise- the side LEDs are perfectly adaquate; a dimmer would be cool, and having the laser LEDs on the front would be awesome... but my humble side LEDs are COMPLETELY up to the task of giving me 100% playability in pitch black (and... dude, the fact is... it is actually REALLY fun... a "sensory deprivation" experience where THE BASS becomes all...).

Anyway, my parting comment, as someone who commissioned a pretty freakin' extensively elaborate custom Alembic after a couple o' decades of pining for one... is this:

The LEDs are pretty cool... but they are -while surprisingly impressive and useful, to be SURE- the LEAST of my custom options...

Get ebony laminates in your neck... GET FREAKING EBONY LAMINATES in your neck... IT'S SO AWESOME!!! It's probably the best single upgrade, and far more significant than LEDs... ideally, GET BOTH, by all means... but the effect ebony has is... it can't be described, but... I tend to think (interesting question, actually) that other Alembic owners who have BOTH ebony neck laminates AND LEDs would back me up that ebony neck laminates are a LOT more important... they'll enhance/improve the fundamental nature of your sound.

Also, having INDIVIDUAL tone control(s) for each pickup (ala Signiture, if not Series, electronics) is also a far more awesome option...

My bass has essentially enhanced series electronics, a combination of Signature and Europa electronics with a "Q" that can be adjusted 0/4/8/12 DBs... and also has a "stereo switch" option that allows me to "play in mono" by assigning either set of tone controls to become "master tone controls" for BOTH pickups. I almost NEVER use it... once you get used to being able to INDIVIDUALLY tweak the "Q" and eqs for each pickup... YOU'LL NEVER BE SATISFIED WITH ANYTHING LESS...

The led's are VERY cool, and very practical and useful -that's a fact.

As far as options go, my best judgment with regards to "putting out" $ for upgrades/options is this: (1) place ebony neck laminates ahead of LEDs and virtually everything else; (2) next, go for individual tone controls for each pickup... Series electronics are universally regarded as the best, but Signature electronics are the next best thing... consider adding the "quick tone change" bass/treble "boost/cut" switches, or even the "East meets West" package in stereo (or at least, mono.)
LEDs are pretty cool, but -IMO- ebony neck laminates are MUCH more important, followed by individual filters and Qs and/or (hopefully both!) eq controls.

Hope this LONG and detailled response has some value for you!
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1045
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - 8:12 pm:   Edit Post

The nearly, if not completely, universal response will be that people who have them love them.
I find mine extremely useful.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 3343
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 7:07 am:   Edit Post

I could be wrong about this, but after reading Mark's post it occured to me that perhaps he doesn't realize you are considering ordering a Skylark guitar. But again, I may be wrong; a Skylark that's designed to be a replica of Mark's bass would certainly be interesting. But then it might not have that Skylark sound that the Skylark owners seem to love. I just thought, since you are new here, that I should let you know that most of the members who have ordered Skylarks don't do the types of modifications that Mark is recommending.
Intermediate Member
Username: j_gary

Post Number: 196
Registered: 6-2005
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 7:40 am:   Edit Post

Good catch Dave, I missed that completely on first read.
Username: cosmo

Post Number: 3
Registered: 2-2006
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 10:11 am:   Edit Post

My thanks to everyone for so much great input! Yes, I realize some of the comments were "bottom end" oriented, but hey... I like bass players too! Also looks like Bob is correct in that the universal response is very positive to having the side LED's on the guitar (or bass!).
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 98
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 7:04 pm:   Edit Post

Uhm... just for the record, my comments weren't specifically "bottom end oriented"... it's just that MY experience is with the LEDs on my bass.

The subsequent suggestions about ebony and electronics would presumably apply as much to guitar as to bass -at least, I assume so...

If this is, for any reason, a FALSE assumption, I'd appreciate it if someone would set me straight, as it is ALWAYS my preference to have false assumptions identified and corrected.

But of course, one way or the other... it's no biggie.
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 1047
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 7:52 pm:   Edit Post

I think ebony lams in a guitar might be a bit overpowering, but I suspect Mica might have more info on this question.

Bill, tgo
Intermediate Member
Username: the_8_string_king

Post Number: 101
Registered: 9-2005
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 9:10 pm:   Edit Post

Well, they're DEFINITELY overpowering in my bass, so I'd expect -and hope- for that in the guitar as well!

I'd be curious to know what -if any- downside there would be to having ebony neck laminates in a guitar -now that the question has been raised.

I'm pretty sure the fella getting the awesome 7-string colo bolo guitar built now has a center ebony laminate.

I'm a little curious for educated opinions on this subject.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 1050
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Wednesday, March 01, 2006 - 9:15 pm:   Edit Post

Ebony is purported to have two main effects on the performance of the instrument. One is increased sustain from the dense wood and the other is increased presence of the fundamental frequency. The desirability of either or both would be in the eye of the beholder. There are bass players out there who like bolt-on necks, right?

For my taste, I don't think I would want to go past purpleheart for a through guitar to chase Santana sustain. If I were looking for a set neck tone, it would be standard maple plus pinstripes. The body would be chambered mahogany or vermillion with a figured maple top.

With regard to electronics, it's always a question of versatility against ease of use. Versatile electronics with a lot of knobs are great to dial in exactly what you want, but how many fine changes are you likely to want to make on the fly during a gig?

I like the electronics configuration of the FMT/Ultra Strat as a base (single neck and middle, dual singles at the bridge and the new S1 switching). On the Alembic version, I would add a bright switch and filter per pickup. If possible, the bright switch would be a 3-way with settings of flat, Q/mid boost and bright. Of course, that's an ideal. Skylark electronics would be just fine for what I need. Again, just my preference.

I guess I'd say the only thing false about your assumptions was that everyone is looking for the same thing.

Username: keurosix

Post Number: 39
Registered: 10-2005
Posted on Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 8:09 pm:   Edit Post

Welcome to the group. We're a weird but nice bunch of musicians who have come to respect Alembic as our preferred obsession. One thing that Alembics are known for are "Firsts" in the industry. First in active electronics, first in beautiful laminated exotic woods, LED's, etc.. etc. Now I know some other manufacturers may claim "First Rights" to these things, but Alembic gets all the glory, so too bad. In any case, LED's are synominous with Alembic. Mark makes a great point in that if you can afford them, do it. I would like to add that if you do, not only will you be delighted with them, but the value of the guitar will be at it's highest retail, like a "loaded Luxury car" instead of the base model. If you ever needed to sell it, appraise it, or just for your own enjoyment, for whatever it's worth.
P.S. The cost of adding them later is much more than getting them new - add refinishing costs!
(And FretX strips - while cool and cheap, just aren't the same as permanently installed ones)
Advanced Member
Username: jlpicard

Post Number: 386
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Thursday, March 02, 2006 - 9:07 pm:   Edit Post

Now that I have a bass with LED's, I'd hate to be without them. Besides, the jaw-dropping factor for the uninitiated is always alot of fun!
Intermediate Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 133
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, March 03, 2006 - 1:02 am:   Edit Post

Well, I hate to be the pooper in the group... I've got two Series II basses with side LEDs (1987 and 1992).

The good parts have been illuminated above - the look cool and are both visible in the dark but subtle to the outside world (at least with the red LEDs I have).

There are two bad points though. The first is that (on my basses at least) the LEDs only operate when you're plugged in on the external power supply with the 5-pin cable. Some of the newer basses have a bunch of extra 9V batteries solely for the LEDs. In my case, when I run with a wireless, I'm actually worse off than regular dot markers as the unlit LEDs are not visible at all. Again, on newer basses, this has been addressed by having the LED shine out through a sterling silver inlay dot instead of out of the wood. Whether on the external power supply or internal LED batteries, it is some extra hassle and cost if you play unwired.

The second problem is more serious. As you probably know, the side LEDs are implemented by routing a long slot along the side of the neck after it's built but before it's finished. A wood strip is wired up with all the LEDs, then installed into the slot. As a technical wonder, this is like flying under the Golden Gate Bridge upside down - it's *hard* to do. But it has the effect of making that side of the fingerboard potentially very fragile compared to a non-LED instrument. This means that the risk of damage is radially increased in the event you need a refret or other fretwork. The chances of damaging the LED strip when doing work on the neck will be reflected in higher costs for fretwork, if you can get anybody other than the factory to do it!

One of my Series II is a 4-string graphite neck and was one of my main basses for a number of years. These graphite instruments sound fantastic, but don't have a truss rod, so relief adjustments need to be manually cut into the frets. When I got to the point that I needed fretwork, it was a battle to get my favorite fret guy (an expert on Modulus necks) to even work on it. I had enough fret height that he was able to address my wear issues by re-levelling. He told me up front that if it required fretwire replacement that he wouldn't even consider doing it.

I find that my fret life is better on my Alembics that most others and this is a dull, practical concern. If you have the bucks to buy an Alembic with LEDs, perhaps a factory refret shouldn't be an issue. But it is a consideration

David Fung

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