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project_c

what makes 70s J's sound so good?

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Played an all original '75 Jazz today, way too heavy and far too expensive but the tone was amazing, it sounded ridiculously good. Punchy, responsive, full of character and life, I rolled the tone back a bit and it sounded great in every position, tone perfection. How come these things sound so good? I'm not a big believer in vintage anything but I was really surprised by this bass, I'm trying to work out if it's the pickups, or the old wood or if it's just all in my head.

I listened through my usual headphone amp and using my usual headphones so I can't even blame the amp or room acoustics, that tone was coming out of the bass itself.

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Many have said that it's because they are heavy, therefore high mass and huge sound (insert counter arguments here about sound versus mass).

Others like the bridge pickup position. Also, many have Ash bodies so that may do it tone wise (insert argument here about tone woods).

A friend of mine has a Custom Shop Jazz that has to be the biggest sounding Jazz I've ever heard.... it's mid ranged heavy but not 70's heavy, and I'm fairly sure it's an Alder body. Sometimes it's just all in the mojo.

:)

Edited by Chiliwailer

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Single coils, (and the way they wound them) thickness of the wire. and 70's spacing. The old wood may have something to do with it.

And a little bit of nostalgia of course. Also, our brain does have a tendency to see things differently, when there is something expensive involved. All these put together are a recipe for bass love. I don't believe in the word MoJo.

Edited by bubinga5

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[quote name='bubinga5' timestamp='1495474194' post='3304024']
I don't believe in the word MoJo.
[/quote]

How about 'Je ne sais quio'? :)

Edit - not sure I believe in the word mojo now either... a magic charmed bass?.... :)

mojo1
ˈməʊdʒəʊ/
nounUS
noun: mojo; plural noun: mojos
a magic charm, talisman, or spell.
"someone must have their mojo working over at the record company"
influence, especially magic power.
"the name has no mojo"

Edited by Chiliwailer

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Ash bodies and 70s spacing. Ash lends itself - at least in my experience - to have less low-mids, giving a more aggressive sound, and being tighter sounding in the lows. Couple that with the 70s spacing of the pickups and there we are, that fantastic scoopy 70s Jazz sound.

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And there's me thinking it was all in the fingers :D

(I'm a massive fan of Jazz type basses for the avoidance of doubt)

Edited by ead

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I think it is timing. I started bass in the 80s and the prevailing wisdom was 'don't touch those recent mid 70s Jazz basses as they are all rubbish'

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Have all, or perhaps many, of the sh*tty ones been parted out, or otherwise been weeded out, and the good ones are still players?

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Thanks for the replies. So let's say I want to get as close to that tone as humanly possible, but without spending 3 grand on a bass that's too valuable to leave the house.. Would an ash / maple 70's spacing jazz with single coils get me there? I've played a few more recent Fender USA Jazzes, which were nice but none of them had a tone that matched this one in terms of 'airy-ness' - not quite sure how else to describe it, aggressive but woolly, not harsh, and no hollowness on the front pickup or upper-mid honk on the back with the tone rolled off. I have a Tony Franklin P and the bridge pickup on that bass also has the same qualities so I know it's potentially doable.

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I heard mojo can improve tone by 20%!

I've played probably around 10, and most of them have had the same sound quality. It's honky but there's lots of depth and warmth to it but still focussed unlike the 60's which are overly woolly for me. It's not necessarily just the ash and maple combo because the rosewood boards have a similar sound. I haven't found a single bass that can replicate it but the closest I've tried was the Sire V7 which has a 60's position and an alder body!

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As everyone said above

Seasoned and worn in body wood and neck, 70s spacing of pick ups.

I did a blind listen between various basses including a 76 Fender jazz all properly A/B'd and there was just something about it in the way it sounded compared to newer Jazzes, non Fender Jazzes, PJs.
We'll say the same about our current new basses in 30-40 years time

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[quote name='project_c' timestamp='1495496887' post='3304276']
Thanks for the replies. So let's say I want to get as close to that tone as humanly possible, but without spending 3 grand on a bass that's too valuable to leave the house.. Would an ash / maple 70's spacing jazz with single coils get me there? I've played a few more recent Fender USA Jazzes, which were nice but none of them had a tone that matched this one in terms of 'airy-ness' - not quite sure how else to describe it, aggressive but woolly, not harsh, and no hollowness on the front pickup or upper-mid honk on the back with the tone rolled off. I have a Tony Franklin P and the bridge pickup on that bass also has the same qualities so I know it's potentially doable.
[/quote]

£3k? Wow, that's high. You could get a refinished one for much less than a regular asking price too. That'd help scratch the itch.

What's your budget?

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[quote name='Chiliwailer' timestamp='1495554940' post='3304758']


£3k? Wow, that's high. You could get a refinished one for much less than a regular asking price too. That'd help scratch the itch.

What's your budget?
[/quote]

It's certainly not 3 grand, that's for sure. The bass is not worth that much, but it's a shop in London so their prices are not going to be too reasonable. I went back and had another play just now and tried to listen as analytically as possible to see what it was I like so much about it. I actually played a late 90s usa jazz to compare the 2 and it was night and day. The 90s one was neck heavy, hard to play despite having lower action than the 75, and it sounded dead. The 75 has a skinnier neck, and having listened to the tone again, I think what makes it so good is that the pickups are so hot that the bass almost sounds slightly over-driven, even without digging in. There's loads of energy to the tone even with it rolled all the way off, I could not get a dead sound out of it, no matter what I did. I could get it into normal j territory by turning up the tone to fully open, but rolling it back a bit made the bass come to life. I know these things usually sound scooped but this one is really focused on the high-mids, not much scoop going on at all.

Don't know.. could even be some slightly faulty pickups, who knows..

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I dunno about weight being an arbiter of tone...or 70s, per se. I had a 78, all original down to case and ahtrays, and it not only weighed as much as a boat anchor that's let itself go and put on weight, it was also one of the worst, most lifeless basses I've ever played. It sounded...brown. And not a good brown, like you get from a rich walnut; more a runny, beige brown, like you get from a poorly spaniel... :( :)

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If you think outside the box then a Sadowsky Metro UV70 is a possible alternative.

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[quote name='obbm' timestamp='1495566801' post='3304951']
If you think outside the box then a Sadowsky Metro UV70 is a possible alternative.
[/quote]

I had a Sadowsky Metro, looked beautiful, played really well, but I hated the tone. The polar opposite of what I look for tonally. Wanted to love it but just couldn't handle the lack of mids.

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[quote name='project_c' timestamp='1495496887' post='3304276']
Thanks for the replies. So let's say I want to get as close to that tone as humanly possible, but without spending 3 grand on a bass that's too valuable to leave the house.
[/quote]

I've taken to gigging my '66 Precision. I purposefully went looking for a non-pristine item as I felt that having been played a lot it would hopefully/probably be a good'un. As such I feel it needs to be played (as it clearly has been all its life).

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Sandberg MarloweDK

Superb bass, well made, thinner than usual Jazz size neck, more like a 70s pick up placement and Sandberg in house pups are the business

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[quote name='ead' timestamp='1495574508' post='3305062']
I've taken to gigging my '66 Precision. I purposefully went looking for a non-pristine item as I felt that having been played a lot it would hopefully/probably be a good'un. As such I feel it needs to be played (as it clearly has been all its life).
[/quote]

I think you're right about looking for a non-pristine one. Here's a pic of the one I'm talking about, whilst it's not pristine it's definitely all original, but there's discolouring on the wood, chips on the headstock and body, hairline cracks in the binding, and the pickguard is pretty warped. The neck is straight enough but the action definitely needs to come down a bit, and I couldn't really gauge the state of the saddles and bridge because of the cover. But as it is all original, and sat in a posh shop, it has an almost 3K price tag which I can't justify.

However if these mid 70's jazzes really sound this good, I think it would make more sense to look for a refinished one instead, because it seems like a refin reduces the price by almost half. Someone suggested that the the tone I'm after is a result of the 70's electronics as well as the pickup configuration, and they said that a lot of 70's jazzes don't have the typical mid scoop with both volumes up full, they're really focussed on the mid-range. I don't know if this is true or not but I'm going to try a few 70s jazzes and see if that characteristic is there in all of them. If it's not then this bass is a one off.

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[quote name='Chiliwailer' timestamp='1495554940' post='3304758']
£3k? Wow, that's high. You could get a refinished one for much less than a regular asking price too. That'd help scratch the itch.

What's your budget?
[/quote]

Anyone care to assess how close the Squier CV '70s Jazz gets to "that" tone? I've been impressed with the ones I've tried, but I've never had the pleasure of playing an original '70s Jazz (though one guy did bravely lend me his original '60s Jazz for a gig in Berlin a couple of years ago...)

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The 70's was considered the low point of Fenders by many, the CBS era, funny how things change. https://reverb.com/uk/news/fender-and-the-cbs-takeover

I wonder if there are other reasons for the sound difference. The pups will vary, modern pups tend to be higher impedance/over-wound. That will limit the mids. Magnets do fade over time too depending upon the material so that could be a factor. I note some high end guitar manufacturers are baking woods to speed up the chemical cross linking of the wood fibres, old wood will do that naturally, and of course wood is bought in batches from all round the world as timber resources are depleted. Older slow grown and exotic timbers are just getting harder to find as species and habitats are destroyed.

You have the excuse to try lots of basses though, good luck with the quest.

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[quote name='Muzz' timestamp='1495559818' post='3304843']
I had a 78...weighed as much as a boat anchor...it was also one of the worst, most lifeless basses I've ever played
[/quote]

Opposite experience with my 75 Jazz, which is a proper boat anchor (5.5kg!), but is the most resonant, lively-sounding Jazz Bass I've played...Seriously hit or miss period for wood quality, as many others will surely attest!

Mine came with microphonic pickups which, by the sound of it, is the case with the one you've tried. Sounded great when I tried it out (and subsequently bought it!), but squealed like a banshee through a loud amp before I'd even added any additional gain...Stuck some Bare Knuckle PE pickups in it, and now it's just perfect! I'd never sell it.

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[quote name='bakerster135' timestamp='1495616959' post='3305254']


Opposite experience with my 75 Jazz, which is a proper boat anchor (5.5kg!), but is the most resonant, lively-sounding Jazz Bass I've played...Seriously hit or miss period for wood quality, as many others will surely attest!

Mine came with microphonic pickups which, by the sound of it, is the case with the one you've tried. Sounded great when I tried it out (and subsequently bought it!), but squealed like a banshee through a loud amp before I'd even added any additional gain...Stuck some Bare Knuckle PE pickups in it, and now it's just perfect! I'd never sell it.
[/quote]

Interesting, I didn't think microphonic pickups sounded like that but I've not come across many of them to be fair. Could you describe what happens tonally when they become microphonic?

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[quote name='project_c' timestamp='1495619235' post='3305283']
Interesting, I didn't think microphonic pickups sounded like that but I've not come across many of them to be fair. Could you describe what happens tonally when they become microphonic?
[/quote]

You generally get a clearer, fatter sound from them IME, though taps/clicks/other sympathetic sounds that playing generates tend to be emphasised somewhat...The classic test is to put the guitar through a reverb or echo pedal, and shout into the pickup(s). If you can clearly hear your voice in the trail or repeats, you've got microphonics going on!

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From what I've been told, I have a cheap Matsumoku copy. I have very little verifiable information on it, except that it was bought somewhere in the late '70s. It's my only bass, and although it is not very easy to play, it too has that mellow yet clearly defined burpy snap going on. Sounds absolutely terrific.

Funny thing is, the body is made of plywood. The neck, though, seems to be a universal constant. :)

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