I installed the electronics last night and gave it a whirl. It sounds pretty good, but I’m still waiting for the ceramic magnets to come in before I call it a wrap.
The li’l Lady sent me this pic this morning. She likes to put my guitars on this shelf for some reason.
I still have some more work to do on it. I have a rogue fret up by the 12th fret, and I need to get some new strings and do a proper set up. I might bring it to rehearsal tonight just for kicks.
Overall, I’d say it was a success. Most of the fellas didn’t know at first that I had actually made the whole thing myself and had assumed it was a new bass. I got compliments on the colors, while our drummer said he loved the Jetsons look.
It plays and handles really nicely and for a semi-hollow it feels really stable and solid. It’s about the right weight and is well balanced. I still have to address the fret noise, but it wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t play around it. I’ll take a look at that over the weekend. It may be as simple as adding some more relief to the neck.
Now, granted are these two things: the bass amp at rehearsal is this old 100w Yamaha 115 combo that basically sounds like crumpled paper and the neodymium pickup is a placeholder. That being said, I got a lot of compliments on the tone. The neodymium version of this pickup sounds kind of plain and nondescript to me, but where it excels is in playing dynamics. It really responds really to touch, and I really liked that I didn’t have to really pull on the strings to get a lot of tone out of it. However, the amp wasn’t really able to render those dynamics as well as my Markbass.
The one-knob preamp is a cool feature. When it’s turned all the way to “treble” the bass is cut way down and the highs are boosted. Turned to bass, the treble is cut and the bass is boosted. I had it somewhere in the middle, give or take a few clicks. While it’s not a very sophisticated preamp, it gives you a really quick way to dial in your tone. The pickup and electronics are dead silent when you are not playing.
We had a great rehearsal, and without getting into specifics, there a few pretty good jokes passed around about me being the white guy from Oakland. Our drummer went as far as saying he wants to commission one of my basses for his studio, but he was probably just being nice.
I went home that night and A/B’d it with the ceramic pickup in the test bass. The step boy was there and he plays guitar in a local band as well. We both agreed that while the neodymium version sounds good, the ceramic version is better. The ceramics bring a faster low end response and the ceramic version is generally fatter, warmer and punchier sounding. The neo is much brighter without sounding harsh, but that’s not to say the ceramic is not bright. Using a set of well-broken flatwounds, the ceramic pickup is definitely bright sounding. Brightness and bassiness aside, what really sets it apart is its well-defined upper-midrange. I think that while the neodymium version puts out wider more even tone, that is ultimately its undoing – it has no emphasis on anything in particular.
The good news is, I think my ceramic magnets will be here soon. I just got a shipping invoice from Magnetic Hold this morning.