Elan B string sounds thin. Log Out | Topics | Search
Moderators | Register | Edit Profile

Alembic Club » Owning an Alembic » Troubleshooting » Archive through November 30, 2011 » Elan B string sounds thin. « Previous Next »

Author Message
Username: wookie

Post Number: 33
Registered: 8-2010
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 7:01 pm:   Edit Post

okay guys and girls. I love this bass I've had it since I was about 17 (I'm 32 now) it was the first 5 string I played.I just broke it out today and the B sounds so poopy that I've strung it from E-C for years. the neck is fast, super awesome it's a beautiful bass, it really does sound like a piano....but the B string is horrible. I have 2 other alembics (4 strings) and I had a 6 string just for a few weeks that had the same type of thing so I sold that one. I'll never sell this bass. though I would really like any info or help on this topic. I played with the controls inside the cavity compartment, only 1 of them seemed to do anytihng to the sound. I took the nut off and noticed that there was a slight radius to the the headstock where the nut sits and when I looked at the nut the string slot for the B doesn't look round like a string... more like a V shape. this makes me want to cry! I love this bass I forgot how awesome it is (except for the B string)! also as a note (it's strung E-C) when I moved the E string to the A saddle it sounded way better. i haven't put a real 5 set on it yet, I will in the next couple of days but I know what it's going to sound like. my lutherie teacher told me that it could be a pickup placement issue. my jaw hit the floor something like that would never get out of the factory, right? It has a trans red maple top so any moving of the pickup would be very obvious.....what do I do? I heard the bass player for James Taylor and his B sounds fat and full. I know John entwhistle and Jason Newsted played these basses, what's up with mine? does this need to go back to the mothership?
Username: wookie

Post Number: 34
Registered: 8-2010
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 7:44 pm:   Edit Post

okay i just went through the whole archive of FAQ's this has never been asked. it's not an EQ issue. I've played this bass through a tiny peavey combo, an ampeg stack (2 different SVT heads), a carvin half stack and today through a little rocktron amp and my luthiers hartke rig the sound is the same. it's not a frequency thing or a amp/speaker thing it's just the B string. All of the other strings sound as you'd expect....freakin' sweet! To solve this I think I'll need a young priest and an old priest.
Username: mica

Post Number: 7499
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 7:56 pm:   Edit Post

My first thought is that most Elan basses are Maple bodies, which have a rather bright sound as the dominant tone. Yours is transparent red, so the top is probably Maple too. Paired with a Maple neck, and you've got one bright bass, even before you turn it on.

The controls inside (2 trimpots) will not change the tone of the bass, just the gain of each pickup. These are usually set so that the ends of rotation of the pan control will have the same volume as each other. I think you really want to focus on your pan control.

Provided that you have the trimpots set so that the pickups are of equal volume, turn the pan pot 100% to the bass pickup (that's the neck pickup). If you then turn the Q switch "off" (that's up to the ceiling when playing) and rotate the filter control all the way back to the minimum setting (counterclockwise), you'll hear essentially the "bassiest" tone that bass will produce. Move your right hand so that you are playing above the bass pickup, or even over the truss rod cover. This is a good starting point.

You will probably like the sound with the filter opened up a bit, and you might even want to include some treble pickup and the Q switch depending on the music you are playing. However, since this is a bright beast, you will probably have to use your amplifier if you want it to be beefier.

A v-shaped slot was pretty common for a lot of years here, so unless you think it was modified, or if it's not totally isolating the string movement above it, I wouldn't worry about it.

Also, strings string strings! You might even go crazy and put some flats like D'Addario Chromes on it (you will need extra long scale). At least don't play with steel strings if you are wanting a deeper tone.

Jimmy Johnson plays a Series II with a Mahogany body and Walnut top and back. It's not quite the opposite wood recipe for tone as your Elan, but it's close.

There is a chance that as much as you love the bass, you may want it to be something it isn't. It will always have a bright edge to the tone because of the materials it is made from.

As far as pickup placement goes, unless the string is outside of the magnetic field of the pickup(s), it's not due to the pickups. However, the closer you cram that bass pickup toward the end of the fingerboard, the fuller the tone will be. When you use the pan control (provided you have the trimpots set for equal pickup volume as described above), do you hear the same issue with both pickups? When you say thin, is it a volume issue or a tone issue?

You could change one or both of the pickups to a FatBoy, which has a really wide aperture. If you have a lutherie teacher, I suppose you know a thing or two about using a router. If your Elan has a PJ pickup set, you'll need to make a decorative ring to go around the bass pickup, since the split pickup is wider in one dimension than the FatBoy.

Your profile shows a Spoiler 4-string. Depending on the year, it's a Mahogany or Koa body, which sounds worlds different from the Elan - also most Spoilers are 32" scale, which most people don't like for a 5-string, but some really do. You can temporarily string your Spoiler BEAD to see if you would.

Wow! I'm pretty long-winded tonight. There's lots to discuss, and you have some experimenting to do. Maybe you can also share what type of rig you are using. Between everyone here at the club, we should be able to figure out if the bass can do what you want it to.
Username: wookie

Post Number: 35
Registered: 8-2010
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 9:10 pm:   Edit Post

Mica you rock! I love your basses! This is a tone issue not a volume issue. As I said I've had it for a long time and I've talked about it with a few other people before the wonders of the internet. I have spectors (5 and 6 string) that are made of all maple and don't have any sound like the B on this bass. you're right! I do have a spoiler (which is mahogany and maple and awesome btw) and I just a got a Europa (4 string) about a month ago, that is again, all maple and has the same PJ pickups as the Elan (IDK about the electronics) but truly doesn't sound like the Elan. I'm going to try changing the string and I'll mess with the strings on the other basses as well. I got this Elan bass as a kid b/c I loved Jason Newsted and thought the lines on the bass were awesome. It took years just to find it and I've only seen a couple for sale since I've become an internet bass dork. I talked to you more than a few times back then sorry to bother you guys:-) but I'm a grown up now and surely not a metallica fan, though I still love Alembic basses:-)I've heard the "maple is a bright wood" thing but against the Europa and the 2 spectors, it shouldn't be that different right? it's driven me nuts for years and today just brought it all back. The part when I changed where the E string to where the A was at and noticed the tone differince made me really wonder, "is there a chance the pickup was put in off center or out of field for the B?" If it was slightly off center would it make a sound similar to what I'm describing? I really don't want to route the face of this bass, to me it'd be like branding the face of God. As for an amp I have just a Carvin Cyclops combo, which I'm sure is funny compared to what people have on here but I've had the whole metallica rig, you know, rock star waiting to happen:-) the Ampeg stack with the rack and all of that and I've had this bass through all of that and even back then I remember trying not to play the B string because of the tone. I play lots of stuff but my main goal now is sorta technical black metal, which no one probably knows but the short of it is; you know when you hear a super huge sounding B string, where the air is moving and you take a second just to see where it's coming from? In my mind that's what I want this bass to do. Jason Newsted played round wound steel strings on his Elan right? I haven't seen it in a long time but does anyone here have it to see if that B string sounds like this? why have I been forsaken? Thanks for any and all input.
Username: mica

Post Number: 7500
Registered: 6-2000
Posted on Monday, October 24, 2011 - 9:24 pm:   Edit Post

If you send just your P pickup in, we can check out where the magnets are inside and see if casting a new one with the coils squished out a little will catch the B string. If the middle string is louder than the rest, there might be an alignment issue - and that might be able to be fixed. Hopefully without sending the bass in!

Try this - put the B string in a different slot and see how it sounds. Yeah, it won't be intonated and it won't be the right sized slot, but it's just a test. How does that sound?

Since the E string sounds OK on the edge, I'm not sure about the alignment issue now, but anyway, just try it out and let me know what you find.

I wouldn't expect the Europa to sound a lot different from the Elan if the woods are all the same, but you've got a really unusual Europa if the main body wood is also Maple. They are usually Mahogany.

Sorry, I don't have much experience with Spector basses, so I can't comment on how the wood/electronics interact with their basses, at least not in any meaningful way.

Ok, it must be bedtime out here!
Senior Member
Username: cozmik_cowboy

Post Number: 1094
Registered: 10-2006
Posted on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 - 7:06 am:   Edit Post

"I haven't put a real 5 set on it yet, I will in the next couple of days...."

So you have it strung with a 4-string set & an extra string? Does it match - brand, type, proper gauge, etc? Any variation here could cause a difference; before you do anything else, try the string thing.

Senior Member
Username: dfung60

Post Number: 520
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Friday, October 28, 2011 - 11:53 am:   Edit Post

The low B string is challenging! It needs to be really fat to vibrate at that low frequency, but as it becomes fatter, it also becomes stiffer, which make it vibrate poorly. If you decrease the gauge, then the quality of vibration improves, but a less massive string wil sound wimpy compared to a normal gauge E.

All that said, it REALLY sounds like you have the problem where the string is sitting outside the magnetic field of the pickups (it doesn't go to the ends of the pickup housing). Mica's suggestion is the best way to test this - if you move the B-string in to the middle where it's fully in the magnetic field and it sounds right, then that's the problem. You'll need a new pickup with wider magnets to fix this issue.

Another way to see if it's a problem is to buy some magnetic viewing paper, which will show you where the magnets are (you can call EMG and buy a piece from their tech support or look online at Amazon).

Even simpler, take a small steel screwdriver and hold it lightly between your fingers so it can pivot. If you slide the tip of the screwdriver around on the top surface of the pickup, you'll feel the grab of where the edge of the magnet is (this is easiest with the strings off, but you only need to take off the B). If the edge of the magnet is less than 1/4" past the resting position of the B string, you'll probably have low output.

Back in the older days, the string spacing was tighter, so there was no need for the magnets and coils to be out to the edges of the housing. These days, I suspect they're all farther out to avoid these problems.

David Fung
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 1776
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Sunday, October 30, 2011 - 8:15 pm:   Edit Post

I own a 5-string Elan with P/J Activators, all maple and ash, a 'white-wood' recipe simialr sonically to an all maple axe. See the Tiger Emerald in the Elan section, that's me. I'm convinced that this recipe has given me one of the best low B's I've ever heard.

First of all, I would not get too shook up about this until you put a new set of strings on this guitar. Until you do that, you will have no real yardstick to work from. I run a very average set of D'Addario nickel wounds in the usual 45-135 guages.

Once you do this, I'd 'level' the pickups: That is, adjust your pickup heights where they are parallel to the face of bass, and an equal distance below the B and the G string. As a begiining pickup setup, run the the J pickup half as close to the strings as the P pickup.

Then open your control cavity, set the blue trim pots to an equal setting (both in the same position), replace your battery with a fresh 9-volt, and close the back. Then come around the front and center your pan pot, as Mica recommended.

This will give you a starting spot to fine-tune the tone of the pickups. From here you can adjust your heights to even out any difference you may feel. The P pickup will typically be WAY louder than the J so you may want to offset some of this via the blue trim pots as you work through this.

Remember: These electronics and pickups are laser-like sonically, so they just aren't as 'point and shoot' as a Spector with EMG's. Dead strings and wierd pickup adjustments can be dreadfully obvious on an Alembic, a problem not nearly as obvious on other axes.

There could be a pickup problem, but I would work through the above process before I'd even think of pulling and sending them back to Alembic.

A five-string with B to G is an entirely different animal than a guitar running E to C. Passing that low B is a torture test for everything in the signal chain, and can flush out more than a few sonic quirks you never hear when the lowest you reach is open E.

Good Luck,

J o e y
Senior Member
Username: 811952

Post Number: 2051
Registered: 10-2003
Posted on Monday, October 31, 2011 - 8:51 am:   Edit Post

For a few years I strung my Series 4-string BEAD and had the same issue. I think it's just a matter of the neck not having enough mass for the low B fundamental. Every Elan I've played from that era had a slim neck, much as my '81 Series, and I think it's probably dissipating the fundamental by actually vibrating. Have someone play the low B while you're holding onto the headstock and see how much it vibrates. All that vibration is energy being dissipated.. You might also try the old C-clamp trick to see if that moves the dead spot away from the low B...

Senior Member
Username: gtrguy

Post Number: 404
Registered: 9-2004
Posted on Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - 9:59 am:   Edit Post

Wow, my Elan 6 will rock the house with it's low B. What amp setup do you use? Do you use more than 1 cab or speaker and are they phased correctly? How old are your strings?

I also know that sometimes it's natural to get my latest instrument to sound like my other ones as much as I can, as that is what I am familiar with, but sometimes that is a mistake on my part. The Elan is so different that it needs it's own setup (eq, amp, etc) to bring out it's own unique sound.

Mine does have the bigger pickups that are not like the Fender-sized ones. It also has a super thin neck and that does not cause any loss of tone.

Good luck,
Senior Member
Username: sonicus

Post Number: 2141
Registered: 5-2009
Posted on Wednesday, November 09, 2011 - 10:15 am:   Edit Post

Perhaps you can modify the response with the Alembic SF-2 Super Filter. I like to use very light strings at times such as 40-95 on a 4 stringer and can fatten up the sound with great ease with the awesome SF-2.

Topics | Last Day | Last Week | Tree View | Search | Help/Instructions | Program Credits Administration