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Author Topic: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!  (Read 4835 times)

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PB Blaster

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Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« on: October 01, 2012, 01:37:10 pm »

You know what they say, one thing leads to another... Or so the song went.

Well, I was out doing some horsetrading (or trying...) last week, drove an hour one way into town to show a guy a guitar (to his house which is being extra nice on my part), which he played, and it was light years better than the one he had, but "he had to think about it because it was like getting a new girlfriend" (I take it he hadn't had one of those for a while...), so anyway I tell him it's now or never because I have another guy who is a solid buyer (I've sold him two in the past, but I wanted to give this other guy 1st dibs, because the other dude is a well to do  - and a lowballer - lawyer type who frankly I'm not even sure can play guitar any better than someone who just took it up last week, but I digress... the lawyer dude lowballed me about $500 on the last deal and I took it anyway, but it didn't leave the greatest memory of parting with a very fine Les Paul...

So 1st guy flakes on me, I drive to the lawyer's office, "he can squeeze in 5 minutes", he looks at it and says I'll pass without even playing one flippin note on it, and THEN proceeds to tell me all this nonsense, like "it's beat up" even though it's in amazing shape for a 19yr old guitar... and that "the action is terrrible" even though it's right where it's supposed to be for this type of guitar, a somewhat high endy but affordable vintage Classical with amazing tone.

At this point, feeling a little bruised and dejected, I decided to go over to my buddy's cool vintage music shop because he had a 70's vintage Musicmaster bass in that cool aged Cream color, and I'd had that bass on the back of my mind for a while, just for something different. I figured I'd trade this Classical in to him, and get it out of my life. So I get there, and of course there's something I don't like about the bass. It's had the pickguard, pots and knobs replaced ;-( Well, what the heck, I may as well plug it in... to a pretty nice Carvin 1x15 Combo he had there. And hmmm, the tone kind of sucks. I mean, it's not that bad, but when you roll the treble back, nothing much happens (not like what I like to hear anyway), it's just gets kind of squawky and unpleasant sounding...

He says that's just basically a Mustang p'up, a guitar p'up in there, so you can't expect that great a bass tone out of it.

He's got some other basses in there, any of which would be a straight across trade or he'd have to give me cash back, and I plug a couple in. Some old Japan Beatle Bass copy, sounds ok. I use to have one of those (Kingston with scroll headstock) and would bring it to rehearsals and it actually sounded really great with the band I was in. But the quality of those instruments is just not something I think I want to live with at this point in my life. He's got a Univox Gibson EB-3 copy and plug that in, flatwounds on it and it's like WOW, what amazing old school tone. Except it was built on a Monday morning in Tokyo in 1970 whatever and the electronics are funky to say the least, the back knobs work the front p'up, the volume knob for same works the tone... and he says "it's weird, but it's all original inside and I didn't want to mess with it". Somebody at that plant had definitely got their wires crossed on following Gibson 1-2-3 position switch wiring scheme on an EB-3, which is probably fairly complicated, as guitar/bass schematics go...

Anyway, I played it, I really dug it, and it planted the seed in my mind to look for something completely different from my P Bass to get the tone I've been after lately. That BIG, WARM, FAT TONE that you'd get from a Hofner, or a Rick, or an SG bass.

So, then the gears start turning in my head, there's a guy who's posted this 1963 Gibson EBO on CL a few times, a guy who's always posting on CL with all kindsa stuff and he gets berated and flagged all the time by the CL Police for "being a dealer", bladi blah blah blah... Thank God for the CL police.

I actually know who this guy is, we use to be neighbors 25 years ago, he's kind of an odd one... and I never stayed in touch when I moved to a different part of town. So I look for one of his ads, and instead I find some outraged "Re" listing from some moron who's screaming at him in all caps to "ADMIT YOUR A DEALER, NOT AN INDIVIDUAL", etc ad nauseum, and then like the basement bedwetting dumb@ss that he is proceeds to cut and paste that whole ad in there, including the sellers phone number ;-{). Wow... some people. And thx for the favor, man. It's not very often a flagger reposts your lisitngs for you...

So I call the dude up, and he's in the middle of tearing off his roof and the back porch of his decrepit 100 yr old house, and he's basically a total jerk to talk to on the phone... but I get a couple details on the bass, "he bought it in '68 from the original owner, when it was 5yrs old, and it's 100% original with original case" but he ain't got time to talk, "call back after dark he says".

I called back after dark  - to see if it had ever been broke an repaired - and he must have had a rough day cause he totally goes off on me, saying people on Craigs are timewasters, and "do you even have any money?", and then hangs up on me...

Well, I felt like $hit and didn't want to call him back, but I had dinner to give him time to cool off, and called him back anyway... my wife asking me why I even want to deal with this guy? There ain't that many '63 Gibson EBO basses floating around this area... (understatement), and I want to check it out, it might turn out to be a piece of crap, but I at least want to check it out. So I call back, and he's a little bit nicer now and says NOT to bug him the next day, but Sunday morning he'll be taking a break from working on the house.

So I do other stuff all day Saturday, can't stop thinking about the bass, can't hardly sleep Sat night, up even before the crack o' dawn, and I drive out at 8 am to have a look at this thing, an hour away. I get there and he lets me in the house, looks like a museum of 60's and 70's stuff in there, crazy vintage music posters, etc. And there is the bass, in the case. It's got amazing artwork on the lid, and I forgot he'd told me to "bring a razor blade or something to take pictures off the case, he had pictures of his kids when they were babies, and him with bandmates down in the Bay area, etc, etc. Naturally I'd forgot to bring anything to take pictures off with but figured, and told him it would be a crime to deface that artwork, that had been on there so many years.

So I pop the case open, and there's this '63 SG bass, in freakin amazingly nice relic-ed condition, 100% original down to the funky cover in the middle, no breaks, no repairs, just yummy vintage goodness, and the smell of an instrument that has been sleeping a long time, that vintage guitar smell. It's all detuned and I bring the strings up to pitch, and it plays and sounds great with what is probably a 20yr old set of flatwounds  on it. So we negotiate a little, and I agree to return the case to him (once I find another one) because of the sentimental value, hand him some $$$, and eventually I'm on my way, then spend a few more hours in town running errands, hardware store, etc.

So I get home and unload the car, and eventually by evening I get it out and play a few notes on it, sounds really cool and looks amazing.  Then put it away and it's off to bed. This morning I bring it upstairs to plug it into my "other amp", which consists of a couple failed eBay purchases... well, not so failed but not anything that had worked out to the point where I wasn't still searching for "that rig" when I finally found the SUNN, which had brought me here.

Well I plug it in to what has become my "upstairs guitar amp", a 60's Traynor Bass Mate running 6V6's, good sounding head on guitar or bass, and a '66 Fender Bassman cab with original Oxfords or Utahs. This combination had been somewhat underwhelming with my relic '71 P Bass, and I quickly dismissed the cab of being capable any kind of serious bass tone. Until I plugged the EBO in. Amazing, really really, REALLY great tone. And pretty stinkin loud in fact, even with the head under 5. I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I was pretty blown away actually. I would totally gig with this set-up in an instant.

I have yet to take it out to the shop where I keep all of my main music gear and get it plugged in to the Sorado, which has been sounding sooo damn good ever since I transplanted the D140's, and then I have to introduce it to the P Bass. I hope they don't fight. ;-{)

Oh, I forgot. There was some SUNN content to this story. He had a SUNN Concert Bass head sitting on what he said was a Hartke 4x10 under a cover. That was his gigging rig and said it sounded great. He started to tell me how he wished he'd kept a tube head, even after all these years cause they sounded so good and mentioned a Traynor head, and then it dawned on me it was him I got that Traynor Bassmaster all those years ago that he'd gotten from Nicky Sixx's roadie while he was on tour in Florida, and he said, yep, that was him. I was wondering why he would get rid of this bass after so many years, and he said he didn't play anymore, that and needing money to pay for materials to fix up the house. A lot of his friends and old bandmates had died... he had clippings of obituaries on the wall for this friend, and that one, his keyboard player, guitar player...

Kinda sad... but Rock ON friends!

« Last Edit: October 01, 2012, 03:50:38 pm by PB Blaster »

loudthud

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #1 on: October 01, 2012, 03:58:13 pm »

A Bass Mate head is pretty rare! Does it have the warning on the back not to use it as a preamp?

PB Blaster

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2012, 04:47:32 pm »

No, the back is very very blank. the PO thought it was a very early issue, based on the handwritten serial number. I just looked at it, there could have been a sticker, there looks to be one missing. Just one out, labeled "SPEAKER" with an inkstamp.  No sure how you could use it as a preamp? The head's got some pretty serious tone, it's not lacking in the bass dept, that's for sure. I kinda like it, although it's not very loud, about 20Watts, I reckon, maybe 30?

Happy Face

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #3 on: October 02, 2012, 06:09:17 pm »

A great tale with a happy ending. Thanks for taking the time to write it all down. Enjoyed reading it.

PB Blaster

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #4 on: October 02, 2012, 10:22:00 pm »

Thx man,

Makes me warm and fuzzy to hear that. I knew somebody would care. It's just a part of life, and the stuff we put ourselves through to get the gear we want, because it makes us feel good... and it's an escape from other things in life.

So today, I decided I would work on the EBO a little bit, after leaving it completely as found like some holy grail for a few days. 1st I pulled the control cover off to see inside, and it was as Gibson made in 49 years ago, so that was nice to see. Next I wanted to take that middle cover off (I was amazed that he'd left that cover on all these years, not many people do, or can stand them). I could play around it, but it actually completely interfered with my natural playing style, which is to lay my arm over the edge of the bass and play the strings roughly halfway down the body (exactly where that cover was) and I play with my 1st, 2nd and 3rd fingers, sorta like Entwistle did.

So I cleared a space on the table got my tools out and took the cover off, which I have to say the bass instantly looked 100% sexier. I love to see the strings, there's something hypnotic about the strings...

Now that I had the cover off, I started thinking about getting some of the last 20 years of someone else's DNA off of it, so I made a little warm soapy water and  gently removed crud from a few areas and dried it off, and out came my finest cotton polishing cloth, and a little (very little) Gibson pump polish sprayed on the rag, I proceeded to make this thing look real purdy, the mosaic of the checking is as beautiful as any I've ever seen on an instrument.

Next was the strings that looked like they'd been on 20 years, and wound on pretty screwy... all of the extra wrap (the strings were uncut) was on top of where the strings go through, so there these gobs of extra string going to the top of the tuning pegs and no down angle whatsoever on the string, much worse on the shorter A and G strings. The strings are flatwounds with Orange cloth wrap at the ends, La Bellas?

The A string tuner was bent pretty good, so I took it off, took it to the vise outside, stuck the tuner button in some nice thick folded leather I keep for things like this and little by little straightened it out until it was virtually perfect, then supported the split/riveted shaft (on a piece of hardwood) that had spread when the tuner got bent), and smacked it shut with brass drift. Good as new, dang near.

Next I removed some pretty heavy grime from the fingerboard, warm soapy water again, dried it off. Cleaned some more off... and put on a nice coat of Goerlitz Guitar Honey, something i save for truly special occasions... and let it soak in. The fingerboard was as dry as can by be and went from a medium brown color to an almost black. Frets have some wear  but feel nice. Lots of meat left on em.

I haven't bought strings for it yet, kinda researching that like I do in my anal way... leaning towards La Bellas maybe? But anyway, I wiped them down really good with rubbing alcohol and put them back on, wound on properly this time, tuned it up to pitch and cut the ends off. Intonation was a bit sharp on the A string so I found the right allen (tiny!), let out the screw jut a tad, retuned and voila. It's like the same instrument but better. I made it mine. This thing plays like a dream and sounds even better, plugged it into the Traynor/Fender for a while, and then realized I had a lot of other things I better get done ;-{)

Dang nice slab o Mahogany!



It's just too original...



Funky string job and bent A tuner.



Dried out fingerboard and vintage grime...



Straightened and re-pinched tuner ;-{)



Happy fingerboard looks like Ebony now!



Crazy crazing...



Re-strung correctly.



She's a beaut!!!












« Last Edit: October 03, 2012, 04:55:37 pm by PB Blaster »

Happy Face

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2012, 09:59:16 am »

Amazing transformation on the fretboard!

PB Blaster

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2012, 09:46:51 am »

Yeah, it really was. You can see in the 1st pic how dark it is on the edges, where some finger oils have been getting to the wood. I still haven't bought strings, maybe the old really dead ones sound just fine?

According to Gruhn, the correct string gauge set is .040 to .095, so looking for a set like that maybe, the La Bella "McCartney" strings are very close.

For some reason since bringing this thing home and letting it grown on me, I can't get the bass line to Sunshine of Your Love out of my head... I just keep humming it all the time while I work.

Back to my SUNN Sorado, I tried a bunch of different pre-amp tubes in it one day, thinking some miracle would happen... Went from the very NOS looking Sylvania 12AX7 that was in there, to an Amperex Bugle Boy I keep stashed away... to a very nice old Toshiba, to a Telefunken, back to the Sylvania, which sounded just as good as the others, and that's how I left it.

Back to the EBO, strange thing happens when you roll the treble knob back, you actually loose some of the roundness, some of the bottom, which is a good thing. Strange tone control. There's an EBO on the 'Bay where the seller describes the tone control as "adding some dimension" and I would have to agree. I run the volume at 7.5 to keep the speaker from popping out of the cab... ;-{) and the tone at 3.5, and it sounds absolutely perfect there.

Now I need a hollow body bass! ;-{))))

Happy Face

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2012, 07:30:19 pm »

Try a 12AT7 instead. I found it makes my 200s more manageable.

PB Blaster

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2012, 10:04:06 pm »

I'll try that, I have a couple I keep for my tube drive pedals, as you said "much more manageable".

What about the 12AU7, are they also a low gain pre-amp tube?

EdBass

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #9 on: October 11, 2012, 07:06:39 am »

A 12AU7 is a much lower gain factor tube, about 80% less gain than a 12AX7. By comparison a 12AT7 is about 40% less gain than a 12AX7.
Here's the thing with swapping preamp tube types; you may or may not get any advantage from doing so.

Keep in mind what "gain" is. The gain in the preamp section of an amp is just one stage of the overall gain the amp can deliver from input to output, and downward altering of the preamp gain just causes the output stage to work harder to attain the same volume as you had before with the higher gain preamp tubes.
You may be able to turn up to "8" rather than "6" before the saturation starts getting obvious, but the amp will only be as loud on "8" as it was on "6" before you swapped out the 12AX7 for a lower gain V1 tube.

While overdriving the output stage, usually by adding additional 12AX7 gain stages to the preamp, can give you that "hi gain" sound the Sunns of which we are speaking weren't designed as "hi gain" amps; they were designed as Hi-Fi amps, and as such the 12AX7 was designed into that Hafler circuit to give the lowest practical THD at the highest possible output levels.
While tube rolling in V1 can indeed change the performance and character of the amp, it's doubtful you are going to gain any useful headroom. Doubtful, but not impossible.
As I mentioned David Hafler designed that circuit to maximize clean headroom, maybe swapping out lower gain V1 tubes can improve on his original design specification.
What did he know about amps anyway...

http://www.stereophile.com/news/11661/

All that said, you can't hurt anything by swapping out higher gain tubes for power gain tube and you might find the particular "flavor" that is your tonal Holy Grail. As I mentioned, you are sort of swapping preamp saturation for power tube saturation, and it's a different type of tone.
I ran 12AT7's in my Sunns for a long time, as I liked the richer sound of power tube saturation over the thinner, gainy type saturation.
However, for the last several years I've been back on the 12AX7's because I've found that it increases the touch sensitivity of the amp and my "pedals" and tone controls are mostly my hands rather than some stomp box or elaborate EQing scheme.
The hotter preamp allows me to dial up some dirt by just digging in, when I get the instrument volume and the amps input setup just right it's a pretty amazing difference just by leaning into it or changing my right hand position a bit.

Happy Face

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #10 on: October 11, 2012, 07:58:52 am »

Thanks for adding some meat to the discussion Ed. 

I should have mentioned that one reason I moved down to AT7s is that I am using two pretty "hot" basses (one with Darkstars and one active).  They saturate the Sunn pretty quickly. With the old Gibby, Blaster may not find it as useful. 

EdBass

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #11 on: October 11, 2012, 10:42:51 am »

Thanks for adding some meat to the discussion Ed. 

I should have mentioned that one reason I moved down to AT7s is that I am using two pretty "hot" basses (one with Darkstars and one active).  They saturate the Sunn pretty quickly. With the old Gibby, Blaster may not find it as useful.

Now I'm jealous. Darkstars? I don't know what happened with good ol' Fred Hammon, but I have been jonesing for a long scale semi hollow/hollowbody with Darkstar(s) for years.
I didn't pull the trigger on anything because I am picky and somewhat snobbish about my basses; gotta be new (I wouldn't hack on a vintage collectable), gotta be 34" scale and gotta be US made. That pretty much narrows my choices to zero, and real Darkstars became unobtainium so I sorta gave up.

Then those rat bastards at Gibson did THIS to me...

http://www2.gibson.com/Products/Electric-Guitars/Bass/Gibson-USA/Midtown-Standard-Bass.aspx

Of course Darkstars are just a memory at this point, and if Fred Hammond every does start producing them again there is apparently a mile long list of people he's owed pickups and/or money to; some for a couple of years or more.





Happy Face

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #12 on: October 12, 2012, 07:46:41 am »

Ed -

This bass doesn't qualify, but the pickups may interest you.

http://www.letstalkguild.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=33487 

I briefly owned an EB3 modded with the Chisonics. Sounded pretty good, but I preferred the feel of my Guild. But the Chisonics are an alternative. (As would be a vintage bass that was already gouged and hacked up.)

EdBass

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Re: Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!!
« Reply #13 on: October 12, 2012, 10:10:32 am »

I've thought about the Chisonics, nice but the clips I've heard didn't really have that wide frequency, big round clear tone that the Darkstar clips I've heard did. A little punchier and maybe a tiny bit cloudy in the mids by comparison. Of course all of this speculation is based on clips on the internet; I've not had the opportunity to check them out in person.

I've also thought about the Curtis Novak EB-BS (http://curtisnovak.com/pickups/EB-BS.shtml), and the French Daguet Bisonic copies (http://www.daguetguitars.com/).

I think DMN has one of the Daguets in the neck position on his Jazz Bass and loves it.


In another chapter of MY search for "Discovery" of "Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE", I recently bought a Godin Shifter so I could check it out because I couldn't freekin' find one to play in the places I'm regularly in; SWOhio, Nashville, Chicago or Los Angeles.
I called Godin and they told me I would have to check dealer by dealer myself, that they couldn't tell me where they had sent one.
That was almost enough to make me never buy one of their products in and of itself. I know full well the guy with the French accent that I was talking to could pull up a screen with what they shipped and where they shipped it while we were on the phone...

However, it's an excellent concept IMO; a "Strat" bass, and the sound clips showed the versatility I was interested in to hopefully limit the basses I take to gigs.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-5zQNB8TGE

But as I said I couldn't get my hands on one unless I ordered and paid for one. So, I did.
$1000 to "test drive" a bass. I get mad at Godin's customer service all over again just typing this out!

Anyway, I ordered it through Guitar Center so I have 30 days to change my mind, although in 40 years of dealing with GC I have NEVER returned a purchase except for bad strings or just plain broken "new in box" gear.

This Shifter is a beautiful piece of wood. Very well done, gorgeous flame top, wonderful fit and finish, and indeed has the tonal versatility I was looking for.
BUT... While it sounds Okey Dokey by itself, when I took it to a rehearsal with my Jazz and P by comparison it sounded a little "spacey", almost slightly phase shifted, and lacked that strong "sit in the mix" fundamental that the Fenders have. Also while it shares the 1.5" nut of the Jazz Bass, it has a deep C borderline D shaped neck reminiscent of some Gibsons. Kinda feels like a shovel handle from the 5th fret down, not horrible or uncomfortable really, but not my preference.

I feel guilty about returning it, and I'm still on the fence about whether or not I actually want it or not; sometimes I think I'll keep it, 5 minutes later I'm resolved to return it (and maybe order one of those Gibson Midtowns while I'm there).
As I said, it's an extremely nice bass; rock solid, feels good, looks good, plays well, Every bit as quality as any of my American Fenders...

Anyway, I have a rehearsal this evening and I'm going to make this weekend my "do or die" deadline.


One more thing; I personally DON'T think I'm straying from the thread topic by relaying my personal
"Unreal Superlative Old School Bass TONE Discovered!!! (or not...)" stories, and it certainly isn't  an attempt at hijacking PB's thread.

I think it would be interesting to hear other stories from members about their personal quests for tone Nirvana.