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jonunders

Advantages/Disadvantages of headless basses

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What, if any are the advantages or disadvantages of playing headless basses. I have been playing about 18 months and
I have seen many examples. Are they worth the investment or do they just look good?

Jonathan

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Advantages: no danger of swinging round and clouting someone/something with the headstock :)

More seriously, the Steinberger tuning system that most seem to have is good. The strings are fixed at the nut and you tune at the bridge. There's no coil of string, and I found that this made the tuning exceptionally stable. Not to mention that changing a string takes about 10 seconds.

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I think it comes down to taste whether people think they look good (a bit like any product though!). People I know who own one seem to like them. Not for me I'm afraid

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Depends on the quality of the instrument. From my own experience with Status, the incredible stability of tuning and sustain - but I guess a lot of that is to do with the carbon fibre construction too. Balance is perfect. It just hangs exactly where you want it. I'm not that bothered about the looks to be honest, and you have to put up with a lot of stick when you play a Status headless in a pub blues band! :)

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[quote name='drewm' post='1128146' date='Feb 15 2011, 11:29 AM']Advantages: no danger of swinging round and clouting someone/something with the headstock :)[/quote]
That might also be seen as a disadvantage to some. :)

I'm a big fan of the headless system, it just seems so logical to me. Tuning is much more stable than winding a string round a machine head. The strings have a straight pull so nothing can slip. The strings are a fixed length and just slot in at the top of the neck and the tuner at the other end. A few turns of the tuner and you are playing. No cutting strings and fiddling about. Balance is usually much better as there isn't that extra wood and metal on the end to weigh things down, eg. Gibson Thunderbird. Add graphite into the equasion and...

However, logic isn't for everyone. Some people like the head and feel there is something missing.

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Plus, if you go as far as the Steinberger, you have a bass the size of a cricket bat, which would be so much easier to cart about.

Steinberger, Markbass combo - now that would be lightweight indeed.

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[quote name='drewm' post='1128146' date='Feb 15 2011, 11:29 AM']Advantages: no danger of swinging round and [b]accidentally[/b] clouting someone/something with the headstock :)[/quote]
There, I fixed that for you...

I've had a couple of headlesses over the years - most recently I bought one (Hohner Jack 5) because the band I was in played on a few microstages and it was, indeed, handy for not sticking the headstock through the singer's head, tempting though that was. I've kept it as a backup bass - it's compact to carry around and doesn't need a stand - perfect.

They balance well, the far end is less distant, and tuners are easy to use.

If you're not used to one, it seems odd when you're playing down near the nut because you subconsciously think that your hand has fallen off the end of the fretboard and you're trying to play the headstock.

I'd like a better one than the Jack. If only I had some money... :)

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+1 to most of the above.

My Hohner B2A cricket bat is a great little thing. The compact size was what drew me to it - easy for gigs where travel/stage space
may be a problem, and more importantly very light and manageable for old tw*ts like myself. Only disadvantage with mine is the
neck being more of a reach due to the strap button position, but this can be solved by one of the Steinberger type extensions
which put the bass in a better position - anyone got one they want to sell?

Also on EVERY gig I use it for, at least one person will come and ask me what the hell it is!!

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I've had a few and would happily use them again (in fact given the way my shoulders are going may have to). I never suffered with the "falling off the edge of the fretboard" thing either, felt completely natural to me. +1 to the tuning and balance advantages, and there's less weight on your strap shoulder which is an issue for some (like me).

One disadvantage is that some I've played have ended up very body heavy, which for me is equally as bad as neck heavy, but YMMV. The tension (or rather apparent tension, i.e. the feel of the strings) seems different too IME, but maybe that's just me.

I used a Westone Quantum for several years playing in a metal band and through the right amp it sounded great. It was a doddle to cart about too, I used to fly with it as hand luggage. I've also had a Hohner Jack 4 (nice but the neck was less stable than the Westone), an early-ish Status 2000 which I didn't get on with (body contour issues and a huge neck) and 2 Seis, a 4 and a 6, which were both lovely.

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Advantages:

Can change strings super fast
Smaller bass more portable with no headstock
The Status / Steinberger / ABM Monorail systems I've seen stay in tune really well
Often get a Zero fret (instead of a nut) so open strings sound exactly like a fretted note
Seem to be becoming more popular

Disadvantages:

Not all strings available double ball end, end up cutting and clamping at headstock end
Pretty sure you're limited to 34" scale length for double ball end strings (I may be wrong on this!) which might not suit a 5 string low B
Some people will assume you're a slap monster!

Edited by Fat Rich
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Anyone noticed any benefits re dead spots? Just wondered whether absence of headstock mass eradicates dead spots or just moves them a bit further up the neck...

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[quote name='Lozz196' post='1128193' date='Feb 15 2011, 12:06 PM']Plus, if you go as far as the Steinberger, you have a bass the size of a cricket bat, which would be so much easier to cart about.[/quote]

I had a Hohner B2A when I was at school (12+ years ago). School was a 15 minute walk from home, and as I played bass in one band, orchestra, choir or whatever almost every day of the week the B2A was great for carrying back and forth.

Else I would've needed a lift every day, and that simply wasn't an option.

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I had a Washburn Status 1000 for years, loved the feel and it always was in tune. The only disadvantage of headless basses is there is nowhere to put you fag Clapton style.

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The Headless bass is an absolute god send for me.. I really wish I'd gotten one years ago! All of the advantages listed above and I see no disadvantages verses a headed bass at all.

If you are used to playing a 6 or 7 string bass, the headstock and tuning keys can actually be a noticeable addition to the weight of the instrument when you think about them hanging off the end of a neck, bearing down on your shoulder. For those with back and shoulder complaints, it makes sense to try to remove any undue aggravation! Sometimes I think that my Shuker 7 string should have been a headless bass too! As for dead spots.. nep, Jon Shuker's basses don't have dead spots! :)

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[quote name='ikay' post='1128311' date='Feb 15 2011, 01:26 PM']Anyone noticed any benefits re dead spots? Just wondered whether absence of headstock mass eradicates dead spots or just moves them a bit further up the neck...[/quote]

For a given neck density/stiffness the deadspot moves higher up the neck, which makes it less significant. My first bass was a headless Hohner Jack. Steinberger licensed bridge gave it very stable tuning, especially for a cheap instrument. The aesthetics seem to work well if you're Robbie Shakespeare...

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Probably a "must have" if you're thinking of joining an 80s tribute band :)

Always thought they looked hideous. Does anybody (apart from Mr Rhino) still use one?

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I've had a Steinberger ZX2 for some time - recently rediscovered and put back into use after cleaning the strings. Advantages: lightweight, rarely goes out of tune and has a nice low action. In the 80s I thought that this was probably the way to go and that all manufacturers would eventually employ a similar system..A few have taken this on board and customs often have this option but the"big" manufacturers - Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Warwick, etc - have yet to go down this route. Maybe when the copyright/patent runs out on the Steinberger bridge..

Other than looks not being everybody's Cappacino and string availability I seen very few disadvantages...can't wait to see Neepheid's Thunderbird when it's done. I've often thought about a Fender type headless - I've got a headless sytem waiting till I've got the cashflow and I find somebody who I can trust to do it right..

Edited by TheGreek
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I tried out one of the original Steinbergers on a couple of gigs when they first came out.
I fell off the end of the neck a couple of times and found the tuning awkward.
I guess if I'd perservered with it I'd have got used to those niggles though.

I'm not a fan of the cricket bat headless basses but I do think the regular body shape one's look rather nice. :)

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[quote name='jonunders' post='1128105' date='Feb 15 2011, 10:59 AM']What, if any are the advantages or disadvantages of playing headless basses. I have been playing about 18 months and
I have seen many examples. Are they worth the investment or do they just look good?

Jonathan[/quote]
There are no disadvantages with the headless system as far as I'm concerned. They are fabulous. The one exception I might add is that it can occasionally be tricky to get the strings you like. I didn't like the D'addarios and Labella Steinbergers are hard to get hold of. Also, the E string wrap on them is sometimes too long and extends beyond the zero fret. I've had a few headless basses, and tried a remarkably good full bodied Sei in the gallery. I would always get a full body headless, the titchy cricket bat ones don't appeal to me anymore.

If you need a cheapy, go for the active Hohner Professionals, they beat the sh*t out of the Steinberger Spirits. I've had both, guitar, bass and double neck. The Hohner Pro Jack Bass is a great bass. Punchy and growly and capable of a good low action, they are built very well too. They also have a passive bypass switch if your battery runs out.

Headless basses stay in tune forever, they are the ultimate travel bass, and despite what some people reckon, they do look very cool. I've even had a group of pretty young ladies asking me about the lack of a headstock after a gig, they seemed quite fascinated, mind you the gig [i]was [/i]in Whitby :)

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[quote name='TheGreek' post='1128518' date='Feb 15 2011, 04:17 PM']I've had a Steinberger ZX2 for some time - recently rediscovered and put back into use after cleaning the strings. Advantages: lightweight, rarely goes out of tune and has a nice low action. In the 80s I thought that this was probably the way to go and that all manufacturers would eventually employ a similar system..A few have taken this on board and customs often have this option but the"big" manufacturers -[b] Fender, Gibson, Yamaha, Warwick, etc - have yet to go down this route. Maybe when the copyright/patent runs out on the Steinberger bridge..[/b]

Other than looks not being everybody's Cappacino and string availability I seen very few disadvantages...can't wait to see Neepheid's Thunderbird when it's done. I've often thought about a Fender type headless - I've got a headless sytem waiting till I've got the cashflow and I find somebody who I can trust to do it right..[/quote]
Hipshot very recently brought one out. I'd be very interested to see if it's an improvement on the Steinberger system.

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I used to have a Hohner Jack 4 string, it was a great bass, loads of growl and perfectly balanced. If I could find a 5 string model I'd snap it up in a heartbeat.

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I have a sweet little Hohner B2A, weighs nothing, takes up no space at all and plays/sounds great. All these new threads about headless basses are really making me question how come I've only got one! Something has to be done...

Oh, disadvantages? Well, they look unusual & unfamiliar - and as a couple of responses to this thread indicate, the unusual & unfamiliar can tend to provoke disdain & hostility in some people. Think you can live with that? :)

Jon.

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Sorry cant add to the thread, but just wondering, when this was first popular, was it simply a new take on the way a bass could look, or did they seriously promote the system as an improvement?

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