Fretless build for best tone

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MichaelRopp
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Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:28 pm

Hi, Kieselites. I hate to post such a general question as this, but I'm interested to hear the opinion of anyone out there experienced with this particular issue.

I'm a fretless bass player eternally chasing the perfect tone, which for me is a lot of "mwah" and growl, somewhere between Pino and Tony Franklin. I previously owned an LB75 fretless with active electronics and soapbar pickups, and it had SWEET tone (I used this on Auto Winder's last album--check out "Last Child In the Woods" to hear what this bass sounded like). However, it had 17 mm string spacing at the bridge, and in the end that just didn't work too well for me. I presently have a PB5 fretless with standard 19 mm spacing, the 18 V active module and a hum bucker in the J position (I thought the P + hum bucker would get me close to Franklin's sound). It is an absolute joy to play, but it doesn't *quite* have the fantastic fretless tone the LB75 did--it's GOOD, but not GREAT. So, I'm contemplating another build.

I see the soapbar pickups aren't an option on the LB75 anymore. What are the thoughts out there on build options that produce the best fretless tone? Also, how much difference does the "hard as nails" finish make in fretless tone? I've never played one with that option. Thanks in advance.

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MikeBass
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MikeBass » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:38 pm

What were the woods used on your LB75 versus on the PB5?

The HAN finish does add some sparkle to the tone and certainly helps get that mwah sound. Is it a night-and-day difference between a standard fretless fingerboard? Not really, but I’d absolutely recommend it.
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gumbynotpokey
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Jan 15, 2018 2:42 am

MikeBass wrote:What were the woods used on your LB75 versus on the PB5?

The HAN finish does add some sparkle to the tone and certainly helps get that mwah sound. Is it a night-and-day difference between a standard fretless fingerboard? Not really, but I’d absolutely recommend it.


Completely agree. HAN was about $250.00 if memory serves.

Call and speak with them about the soapbars. They often are willing to do more than the builder and website show.
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Mon Jan 15, 2018 5:56 am

Thanks, guys. The LB75 was a walnut neck and body (gorgeous) with a gloss finish. My PB5 has an alder body and maple neck.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby Praiser » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:15 pm

Don't overlook the importance of build type. I've got a fretless BK50 I built and a Fretless X54. The neck through X is the most lively and resonant bass I own and that includes 2 fretted LBs. The X has stock woods, electronics, rounds and no HAN. The muah is more pronounced than on either of my bolt on fretless basses.
I'm sure you are also aware of just how critical strings are to the tone you are chasing. I've got the stock rounds on the X and flats on the BK.
There just may be something in the construction of the instrument that gives you the sound you want.
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spudmunkey
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby spudmunkey » Mon Jan 15, 2018 1:18 pm

How much does action play into "mwah"?

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gumbynotpokey
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby gumbynotpokey » Mon Jan 15, 2018 4:40 pm

spudmunkey wrote:How much does action play into "mwah"?


A significant amount. Action height and amount of "mwah" are inversely related. It's significant.
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MikeBass » Mon Jan 15, 2018 8:54 pm

MichaelRopp wrote:Thanks, guys. The LB75 was a walnut neck and body (gorgeous) with a gloss finish. My PB5 has an alder body and maple neck.



That makes a lot of sense. Walnut and alder are two very different sounding woods. Walnut happens to be my favorite.
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby gumbynotpokey » Tue Jan 16, 2018 3:13 am

should we post pics of our fretless basses for our brother's consideration?

john, you got your ears on? :)
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Tue Jan 16, 2018 7:33 am

Thanks, everyone--good discussion, and I appreciate your insights.

Strings: yes, very good point. Historically I've used Carvin's own flatwound strings on my fretlesses. I've found them to be super-smooth, long-lasting, and good-sounding. (Anyone know who makes those?) I tried Ernie Ball Slinky Cobalts, and they were kind of cool in that they totally turned my fretless into a metal monster--very bright and some of the best slap sounds I've ever gotten from a fretless--but it made my fretless sound like a fretted dual-humbucker. (I presently have those Cobalts on my fretless Stringray. What the heck. :) ) I've also used good old Fender Flats, and those have been reasonably good. I played with roundwounds for a time on my LB40 fretless (tried Rotosound and GHS Boomers), and I got some cool sounds but they did chew up the ebony fingerboard, just as you'd expect. I don't use rounds anymore. I hear excellent things about Thomastik strings, but they're crazy expensive so I've never tried them. What strings have you found to be particularly good for fretless?

Thanks for the suggestion about the Xccelerator. I hadn't really looked at the X54 before, but maybe I should. It has the 19 mm string spacing I need, looks like it has the right pickup options, it looks cool, it's not quite as expensive as the Icon... hmmm. There seems to me to be a real dearth of audio on the interwebs showing the sound of Kiesel fretless basses--essentially nothing on a fretless JB, Xccelerator, or Icon. (BTW, regarding pickup options: I did contact Kiesel about the soapbars and was told those are no longer available. But they also told me the radiused humbuckers are even better, and those are an option on the X54.)

I hear you on wood choices. Maybe I made a mistake going with the swamp ash on my PB5. I tried that because (as you know) a lot of classic fretless basses are made from that wood and it's lighter than walnut, but it does appear to have penalized me a little bit in tone relative to what my walnut basses have produced.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby Catman10 » Wed Jan 17, 2018 6:02 am

La Bella made the Carvin flatwound strings, in case you haven’t heard already. I actually tried them on a 4-string P-bass going for the cool retro sound, but I found them to have a lot more tension on them than I expected.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Thu Jan 18, 2018 6:44 am

CatMan10: thanks. I did not know that.

Yes, I'd love to see any images folks would like to share, but what would be REALLY sweet would be if anyone has any audio for a fretless JB, IC, or X that they could share. What does that tone really sound like? At the moment I'm leaning toward the Icon, but doggone it, with the price increases it's starting to get pretty expensive. (I think it's still a good value, and I certainly understand the reasons for the price increases, but dang... I wish my income were going up to match!)

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby spudmunkey » Thu Jan 18, 2018 7:10 am

Were you planning on getting any sort of top wood? The icon costs $200 more than the X, but it also comes standard with an upgraded top wood that normally costs $250 on the X... So it's technically $50 cheaper if you were going to go that way.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Thu Jan 18, 2018 8:33 pm

I guess I should think about that. I'd probably go with a walnut body in which case I probably don't really need a top wood, but if they're putting one on there anyway... Claro walnut is awesome.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby MichaelRopp » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:28 pm

Thanks, everyone. I think I'm going to pull the trigger on an Icon in walnut and see what tones I can get out of that thing. I appreciate all of your insights!

(An aside: I'm mulling over whether to ask them for a birdseye-maple fingerboard with the HAN finish. A walnut fretless with a maple fingerboard would probably be a non-returnable instrument, but I think that would be a gorgeous instrument.)

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby spudmunkey » Sat Jan 20, 2018 12:34 pm

MichaelRopp wrote:A walnut fretless with a maple fingerboard would probably be a non-returnable instrument, but I think that would be a gorgeous instrument.)


"Gumbynoypokey...paging Dr. Gumbynotpokey..."

http://www.kieselguitarsbbs.com/viewtop ... 87#p393487

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby Greg Emm » Sat Jan 20, 2018 1:21 pm

spudmunkey wrote:
MichaelRopp wrote:A walnut fretless with a maple fingerboard would probably be a non-returnable instrument, but I think that would be a gorgeous instrument.)


"Gumbynoypokey...paging Dr. Gumbynotpokey..."

viewtopic.php?p=393487#p393487


Here we go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nh_lhGZS9sM

GnP's video demo of his LB70s.

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby gumbynotpokey » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:34 pm

claro catalog.jpg


I promised not to post her for a year and was rightly mocked as incapable of keeping my promise. But if memory serves I held off for like 2.5 years. Yeah, as regulars know, she made the paper catalog, which used to be a rather big deal.

BEM HAN CLARO with a walnut body, maple middle layer, and walnut neck with 2 maple stripes is SIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICK btw.

As many K/C players of the HAN basses know, their HAN fretless tone is rather nice.
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Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10

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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby spudmunkey » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:36 pm

gumbynotpokey wrote:
I promised not to post her for a year and was rightly mocked as incapable of keeping my promise. But if memory serves I held off for like 2.5 years.


To be fair, you didn't necessarily have to...we all love it so much many of us other users posted links and pics in your stead.
:laughhard:

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gumbynotpokey
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Re: Fretless build for best tone

Postby gumbynotpokey » Sat Jan 20, 2018 2:38 pm

spudmunkey wrote:
gumbynotpokey wrote:
I promised not to post her for a year and was rightly mocked as incapable of keeping my promise. But if memory serves I held off for like 2.5 years.


To be fair, you didn't necessarily have to...we all love it so much many of us other users posted links and pics in your stead.
:laughhard:


Ridicule for pic-posting frequency on this BBS, as you know, is validating of positive regard. I pathetically baited teasing. Thanks for helping. :)
Wife: C350, Claro top SH550, Vintage 16
Oldest: DC400M greenburst, C980TMW
Youngest: C750, GK1, CT624M Deep Black Cherry on flame, V3MC Celestion,
SH550 white/white, black binding, gold hardware
Me: LB70P jet black, LB70PF Claro BEM HAN, MB 10


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