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drTStingray

Calling Wal Officianados......

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Gentlemen, having got over my urge to buy a pale pink bass recently without parting with any money, I've resumed thinking about buying a Wal again - i.e. a right proper bass.

However I'm curious about the difference in sound different types of body facing wood might have.

I quite like padauk and also the maples, but would they result in different sounds? Anyone able to advise? Many thanks in advance.

Edited by drTStingray

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I have only tried my own Wal so I cant compare it but I'd be surprised if the facing had much influence on the tone.

Plus, it's all in the fingers :D

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Top wood will make little to no difference on the tone of the bass, others will have a different opinion, but I'd advise you to pick the wood on looks and weight. The weight probably won't come into it much unless they use particularly thick facings.

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Before I start I'm going to set out some caveats because the moment I hit post what I say will be decried as snake oil. There is an element of truth to that but not to the black and white way in which many talk about it.

It's a matter of nuance. Certainly the main sound of a Wal will be from the unique pickups and active circuitry. That and the bolt on construction. A Wal sounds like a Wal irrespective of the woods it is made of. And, in a mix context, the nuance will be much less obvious than solo'd in a perfect listening environment. As many others have said in the inevitable/interminable tonewood debates it is very unlikely that your band or your audience would/could ever tell the difference. However, unlike some who say there would be no difference whatsoever I would say that there will be real, appreciable differences - albeit subtle ones. In any complex system all the elements will contribute to the results albeit to a greater or lesser extent. But other elements like how and where you pluck the strings eetc etc will have a much larger effect on any particular sound.

So, whatever wood you plump for you will still have a Wal that sounds like a Wal. However, there is an accepted understanding of how the various Wal woods tend to vary in sound... This goes from Wenge and Maple which tend to be considered the hardest/brightest sound through to English Walnut which is considered to be the most mellow (Ian and Pete always considered this the best wood for fretless).

So, here goes. Maple tends to be thought of as the brightest sound. Wenge is close behind and is thought of having more of a punchy sound. Shedua (a relative of ovangkol) comes more in the middle with a pretty balanced, punchy sound. It also comes with some very unique figuring patterns. Paduak is a bit more mellow and then softest is English Walnut.

However, I would underline that this is really subtle nuance territory. I would echo the other comments above... Focus more on the aesthetics of the wood that most float your boat and whether to go for a matt or gloss finish.

Wenge


Shedua
From...

To...

Edited by TrevorR

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[quote name='TrevorR' timestamp='1469981850' post='3102448']
Before I start I'm going to set out some caveats because the moment I hit post what I say will be decried as snake oil. There is an element of truth to that but not to the black and white way in which many talk about it.

It's a matter of nuance. Certainly the main sound of a Wal will be from the unique pickups and active circuitry. That and the bolt on construction. A Wal sounds like a Wal irrespective of the woods it is made of. And, in a mix context, the nuance will be much less obvious than solo'd in a perfect listening environment. As many others have said in the inevitable/interminable tonewood debates it is very unlikely that your band or your audience would/could ever tell the difference. However, unlike some who say there would be no difference whatsoever I would say that there will be real, appreciable differences - albeit subtle ones. In any complex system all the elements will contribute to the results albeit to a greater or lesser extent. But other elements like how and where you pluck the strings eetc etc will have a much larger effect on any particular sound.

So, whatever wood you plump for you will still have a Wal that sounds like a Wal. However, there is an accepted understanding of how the various Wal woods tend to vary in sound... This goes from Wenge and Maple which tend to be considered the hardest/brightest sound through to English Walnut which is considered to be the most mellow (Ian and Pete always considered this the best wood for fretless).

So, here goes. Maple tends to be thought of as the brightest sound. Wenge is close behind and is thought of having more of a punchy sound. Shedua (a relative of ovangkol) comes more in the middle with a pretty balanced, punchy sound. It also comes with some very unique figuring patterns. Paduak is a bit more mellow and then softest is English Walnut.

However, I would underline that this is really subtle nuance territory. I would echo the other comments above... Focus more on the aesthetics of the wood that most float your boat and whether to go for a matt or gloss finish.

[/quote]Great post. As said, the things that transfer mechanical energy into electrical energy will have the greatest bearing on tone. The construction and woods used all add something, but in a band mix you might be hard to put to hear the difference between two basses that are ostensibly the same, but built with different woods. Definitely go with the advice that Wal will give you after taking into account your own aesthetic choices. Exciting times ahead :)

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[quote name='TrevorR' timestamp='1469981850' post='3102448']
Before I start I'm going to set out some caveats because the moment I hit post what I say will be decried as snake oil. There is an element of truth to that but not to the black and white way in which many talk about it.

It's a matter of nuance. Certainly the main sound of a Wal will be from the unique pickups and active circuitry. That and the bolt on construction. A Wal sounds like a Wal irrespective of the woods it is made of. And, in a mix context, the nuance will be much less obvious than solo'd in a perfect listening environment. As many others have said in the inevitable/interminable tonewood debates it is very unlikely that your band or your audience would/could ever tell the difference. However, unlike some who say there would be no difference whatsoever I would say that there will be real, appreciable differences - albeit subtle ones. In any complex system all the elements will contribute to the results albeit to a greater or lesser extent. But other elements like how and where you pluck the strings eetc etc will have a much larger effect on any particular sound.

So, whatever wood you plump for you will still have a Wal that sounds like a Wal. However, there is an accepted understanding of how the various Wal woods tend to vary in sound... This goes from Wenge and Maple which tend to be considered the hardest/brightest sound through to English Walnut which is considered to be the most mellow (Ian and Pete always considered this the best wood for fretless).

So, here goes. Maple tends to be thought of as the brightest sound. Wenge is close behind and is thought of having more of a punchy sound. Shedua (a relative of ovangkol) comes more in the middle with a pretty balanced, punchy sound. It also comes with some very unique figuring patterns. Paduak is a bit more mellow and then softest is English Walnut.

However, I would underline that this is really subtle nuance territory. I would echo the other comments above... Focus more on the aesthetics of the wood that most float your boat and whether to go for a matt or gloss finish.

Wenge


Shedua
From...

To...

[/quote]

Thanks for the post - that's very informative. I get exactly the nuance issue with materials - having a few Musicman basses with body woods ranging from ash to poplar and mahogany I'm of the view that these constructional elements do impart subtly different elements to the sound, which is why I asked the question about Wal basses.

I'm also conscious that guitarists with same manufacturer instruments but different details, and especially facings, hear differences - usually at the extremes - especially treble so figured it must be similar for basses.

And that shedua looks fabulous - definitely a contender!!

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[quote name='ezbass' timestamp='1469983908' post='3102461']
Great post. As said, the things that transfer mechanical energy into electrical energy will have the greatest bearing on tone. The construction and woods used all add something, but in a band mix you might be hard to put to hear the difference between two basses that are ostensibly the same, but built with different woods. Definitely go with the advice that Wal will give you after taking into account your own aesthetic choices. Exciting times ahead :)
[/quote]

Thanks for the advice.

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Shedua is a lovely wood (and sounds great). This is mine under the lights setting up for church a while back. The figuring is so unusual... The light band in the middle is just the Shedua heart wood...











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I have to say that there has been no discernible difference in the tone of the various Wals I've had... not to my ears anyway.

It's my belief that its the pickups that are responsible for that unmistakable tone. There is more to a build than tone obviously and Wals have the balance, looks and playability of a top quality instrument, but it's really the sound that Wal players are buying into.

I am a huge Wal fan and for me they are the best bases I have ever played and I have little intention of playing anything else in projects where I have free reign over my tone.... but in truth I think the finishes are mostly a cosmetic choice.

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I thought Shedua was Ovangkol, rather than a type or related. Certainly looks identical to the stuff Warwick used on their 00's basses.

I concur that topwood will have little effect on the Wal tone. I would suggest the choice of finish would have more of an impact, satin vs gloss.

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Pete Stephens told me he though the wood altered the sound of his basses. That's why he preferred to use the mahogany core.

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[quote name='chris_b' timestamp='1470006672' post='3102684']
Pete Stephens told me he though the wood altered the sound of his basses. That's why he preferred to use the mahogany core.
[/quote]

Absolutely, core wood certainly has some impact on tone. Topwood? Not so much.

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I've had two Wals (only one at the mo) with different top woods, and I have to say I couldn't notice much difference (although, not helped by there being a five year gap between owning them so I've never done a direct comparison).

Thing is, as mentioned above, the star of the show is the electronics, and with so much control over the eq you can easily get more treble into a "mellow" wood and more bass into a "brighter" wood. I don't doubt that there are tonal characteristics that come from the top wood, but the electrics make it so easy to get whatever sound you're after that you can just override anything you don't like - it may well be that my two had completely different tones but I managed to get them both sounding like "me"

In summary, get the pretty one.

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I've probably mentioned this before, but when I ordered my fretless custom back in 1983 (Eeeek!) Pete advised against my preference for wenge facings. He felt wenge was too bright and middy for a fretless and much preferred walnut. Being young and stubborn I ignored his advice and went for wenge anyway (and the bass sounded bloody marvellous back then and still does now).

P

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Do Wal necks vary much in construction (number of laminates and wood used)? I think that the way a neck responds to string vibration (seeing as it's more flexible than a bass body) ought to have more impact on tone than the body itself.

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The design of a Wal neck is pretty standard across all models. Multi laminate... Rock Maple, Mahogany, Rock Maple, Rock Maple, Mahogany, Rock Maple. Topped off with a rosewood board or ebony for fretless.

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[quote name='TrevorR' timestamp='1470093321' post='3103284']
The design of a Wal neck is pretty standard across all models. Multi laminate... Rock Maple, Mahogany, Rock Maple, Rock Maple, Mahogany, Rock Maple. Topped off with a rosewood board or ebony for fretless.
[/quote]
They used hornbeam for the central core for many years. I read that it was dropped because it was too stiff, curiously!

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[quote name='pineweasel' timestamp='1470139672' post='3103499']
They used hornbeam for the central core for many years. I read that it was dropped because it was too stiff, curiously!
[/quote]

Yep they did. I heard they could no longer source it though rather than it being too stiff. Either way Hornbeam is great stuff, kind of the native equivalent to Ebony (in hardness not colour!) I've used it for fretboards before and it works great.

And yes Shedua [i]is[/i] Ovangkol, just another name for it :)

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[quote name='pineweasel' timestamp='1470139672' post='3103499']

They used hornbeam for the central core for many years. I read that it was dropped because it was too stiff, curiously!
[/quote]

Yes, for many years the laminates (outer to inner) were maple, mukulungu, hornbeam.

I've heard the story too but it's always had the whiff of urban myth about it. They certainly ditched the carbon fibre stiffeners from the Pro series necks as the necks were more than stiff enough already.

[quote name='Manton Customs' timestamp='1470147470' post='3103586']

Yep they did. I heard they could no longer source it though rather than it being too stiff. Either way Hornbeam is great stuff, kind of the native equivalent to Ebony (in hardness not colour!) I've used it for fretboards before and it works great.

And yes Shedua [i]is[/i] Ovangkol, just another name for it :)
[/quote]

Ah, knew they were both guibourtia but couldn't recall if they were the same sub-species.

Edited by TrevorR

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What are the necks like on a wal 4? I really fancy saving up for one but yet to try one. Are they more stingray/p than jazz?

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Wal necks are, as I remember them, pretty chunky and barrel-like, for want of a better term. They are certainly nothing like the shallow D of a Stingray, more like a slightly narrower chunky Precision.

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My 1985 Mk 1 has the following dimensions...

Fingerboard width:

At nut: 42 mm
12th fret: 55 mm

String width (outer edges E-G):

At nut: 37 mm
12th fret: 47 mm
Bridge: 56 mm

As to the profile, the neck has a subtle V-shape which I find very comfortable to play. I'm not a fan of wide or chunky necks and this fits perfectly in my hand.

My Pro series bass neck is quite different. I've not measured it but the width feels sort of similar. However, the profile is much more of a rounded C shape. It feels different in the hand but still very comfortable to play.

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[quote name='TommyK' timestamp='1470308515' post='3104924']
What are the necks like on a wal 4? I really fancy saving up for one but yet to try one. Are they more stingray/p than jazz?
[/quote]

If you can arrange a day trip up to Surrey from Dorchester in September my two and a good few more will be at the SE Bass Bash. See in the events forum. You'd be welcome to try them out (which is half the fun of a Bass Bash!).

On your last q in your post. I have a real dislike of the fatter P and Stingray necks and love Jazz bass necks. The Wals have always felt more akin to the latter than the former to me. But of course, if you were ordering, personal prefs may be able to be accommodated.

Edited by TrevorR

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[quote name='TrevorR' timestamp='1470338993' post='3105340']


If you can arrange a day trip up to Surrey from Dorchester in September my two and a good few more will be at the SE Bass Bash. See in the events forum. You'd be welcome to try them out (which is half the fun of a Bass Bash!).

On your last q in your post. I have a real dislike of the fatter P and Stingray necks and love Jazz bass necks. The Wals have always felt more akin to the latter than the former to me. But of course, if you were ordering, personal prefs may be able to be accommodated.
[/quote]

Hey thanks Trevor. Great info, that's pretty much what I wanted to hear.. I'm happy enough with a stingray neck but can't get on with a P. Jazzes are generally too narrow for me... My Sandberg is a compromise of both I'd say...fussy lot aren't we...(well I am anyway)

and I'll check out the events re: the bass bash.👍🏼

It's weird that I've played bass for 20yrs now and I've still never come across one to try or even have a proper look at a gig or in a shop. Nothing.. Bad luck I guess.

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I can remember in the 1980's when plenty of UK retail shops had Wal basses in stock, especially in the Greater London area. That's when I played a fair few and I distinctly remember the substantial feel of the necks on all of them.

When I see the eye-watering prices of a new Mk 1 Wal, how I wish I could go back in time! Lovely basses, but five grand? They were never that expensive back in the day, even allowing for inflation. I've never had one of my own, and I suppose now I never will. Such a shame as I would dearly love one.

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