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Bass necks

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Been off the bass playing scene for quite some time. Now I'm back playing a little, I like the idea of a brand new top quality bass.

So, what's the deal with through necks and bolt-ons? Back in my day bolt-ons where a poor man's through neck, but I've just been looking at the ACG basses and they are bolt-ons.

 

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Bolt-on necks are great for mass-produced basses, as they allow any neck from the production line to be attached to any body.

There is supposed to be a tonal difference. There is a sound clip somewhere on line of three very similar Fodera Basses made with bolt-on, set and through necks which is about as close to a proper scientific comparison as you are going to get (there are massive design and construction philosophies between most bolt-on, set and through neck instruments that make comparisons based on the neck joint alone meaningless) and it does reveal some differences in the sound between the three construction types but nothing you would notice in a band mix.

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For a price of a Status replacement bolt-on neck, you may find a decent 2nd hand neck-through today, so...

- active or passive - both can be very good (like John East) or really bad

- 1...4/5/6...18 strings? 4 and 5 are still the most common

- graphite or wood? (if you are not aware of CITES, there are many exotic wood species that are protected, so maple fretboards are becoming more popular)

- short (up to 32"), long (34"), extra long scale (35" and up) or all of them (fanned frets)?

- there are very light instruments (from around 6-7 lbs) available nowadays that are made that way and sound great, i.e. you do not have to buy an anchor anymore

I myself hate these somewhat popular relic instruments, although I have played few very good (although expensive!) ones. I think, that I can buy a used, worn one but if new, it has to be in impeccable condition. It is my job to wear it out and make mine.

One thing to consider is a custom instrument from a local luthier. Choices are practically endless, so an active dialogue is in order before starting and during manufacturing.

Read through Thomann.de, classifieds here, in Reverb.com et al. and you will certainly build up a serious GAS sooner than you think. Remember, the right amount of instruments is "one more".

EDIT: I did not know, that you own a Vigier Arpège. She is the top. Discussion ends.

Edited by itu
new information received

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As I understand it, a through neck would supposedly offer more sustain, but as I don't think I've ever played one I'm none the wiser. I certainly think they look better, but that's just personal taste. 

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Even if a neck through sustains better, ( which I don't think they do, so many other factor's) when in music are you going to hold a note for that long.? Go bolt on, then if your neck gets damaged you order a new one. Break a neck through neck and its an expensive repair (which will hurt resale) or worse write the bass off. 

Edited by bubinga5

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9 minutes ago, bubinga5 said:

Go bolt on, then if your neck gets damaged you order a new one. Break a neck through neck and its an expensive repair (which will hurt resale) or worse write the bass off. 

I've never seen a guitar or bass with a neck so badly damaged that a simple (and probably invisible) repair wouldn't have sufficed that didn't also have a badly damaged body in need of replacement as well.

Replacement of a damaged neck on a vintage Fender (and remember that now includes everything up to 1980 and will probably include instruments made in the 80s as well very soon) will hurt it's resale value just as much as a repair if not more.

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A neck-through like a Rickenbacker 4003 or a Thunderbird will have a different sustain. A Fender will fade like a bass drum and is more "regular tone " that folks are used to hearing. Maybe true ? 

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6 minutes ago, grenadillabama said:

A neck-through like a Rickenbacker 4003 or a Thunderbird will have a different sustain. A Fender will fade like a bass drum and is more "regular tone " that folks are used to hearing. Maybe true ? 

But the tree basses you cite are massively different in overall construction, pickups, their placement and general hardware.

How do you know it's the neck joint that makes the difference in sound?

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The e. q. is way different, yes. I just meant what a V.U. meter would 'see'. The extra mids of a 'bird is not what I meant, although that is the sound that sets it apart. I suppose a compressor could make them all sustain the same. 

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Much prefer a thru neck. IMO they look and feel better plus I feel like it’s better craftsmanship, not that some bolt-ons aren’t quite tidy. 

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30 minutes ago, ped said:

Much prefer a thru neck. IMO they look and feel better plus I feel like it’s better craftsmanship, not that some bolt-ons aren’t quite tidy. 

Better craftmanship is how perceive basses with through necks too

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I'm a big fan of the aesthetics of a neck-through build - I own several - but I don't think the construction makes any appreciable difference to tone.

Conversely there are various reasons (many of which have been mentioned already) why a bolt neck is a more practical & versatile choice. I've owned & seen several through-necks where a low action was either difficult or impossible to achieve, either because of a poor construction decision (insufficient height between body & top of fretboard) or because a neck has moved over time. Early Rick 4001s are prone to this - the position of the neck pickup route creates a weak spot where string tension can cause the bass to effectively bend at this point.

These issues don't affect bolt-necks because the neck angle can always be changed with a shim; or in extreme cases, the neck can be replaced.

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My understanding, and to some degree experience, is that bolt-ons can also occasionally develop issues in the area of the bolt on which may lead to a fret or fretboard dress (in the case of a fretted bass removing the frets first) in that area.

My experience of bolt-ons and neck throughs is that they sound quite different, but as the designs have also been quite different, how much of that is attributable to the bolt-on or neck-through I don't know, and no two instruments sound exactly alike anyway. Generally bolt-ons, to my ear, have a certain immediacy. However, I typically prefer neck-throughs, for all sorts of reasons. Not least is that to me they simply feel better.  I'm sure much of it is psychological. A friend who prefers bolt-on guitars once told me he felt that the join "feels" more solid, whereas to me it simply "feels" like two different and unconnected pieces of wood bolted together, rather than one unified instrument. And I'm also sure that some of it is simply what you're used to. He learned to play on a bolt-on, I learned to play on a neck through. People who use bolt-ons often refer to shimming, for instance, as if it's the most inconsequential job in the world, but the very idea appalls me. Build it right in the first place!😉

 

 

Edited by 4000
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As has been previously stated, thru-necks look nice. 😉

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ACG will actually do set necks or bolt on - your choice. The set neck being a separate neck permanently glued in to a tight pocket. Status now call a set neck a through neck, even though it only goes as far as the bridge pickup route.

I believe there is a difference tonally and also appearance wise but I have to say that bolt on joints have come a long way since the basic Fender type.

I like both but chose bolt on for my recent ACG build because the sort of sound I was looking for it to provide has in the past most regularly been produced by bolt on basses as far as I can tell.

I would suggest you buy what you want, after all, it'll just sound like you playing anyway! 😀

(runs for cover)

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OK, thanks everyone.

Bolt-ons are not inferior....but through necks DO look like a nicer piece of craftsmanship

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Just adding my 2p here.
To my ear, a bolt-on bass has a quicker attack, and really works well with a fretted bass.
A set-neck has a slightly more organic, ever so slightly softer attack, and lends itself more to a fretless bass.
A neck-through, sounds like a set-neck only with those characteristics even more pronounced.

As far as sustain goes, there's no difference between a well designed and well executed bolt-on, set-neck or neck-through these days.

If you are thinking of going for a brand new top quality bass, I would thoroughly recommend speaking to Alan at ACG :)

Eude

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there’s never been a time in the history of electric bass where bolt-on necks were seen as a hallmark of inferior instruments

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4 minutes ago, Bob Lord said:

there’s never been a time in the history of electric bass where bolt-on necks were seen as a hallmark of inferior instruments

Yep, that's fair. It was just my perception, which I have now learnt not to be true.

 

You see, we didn't have Forums like this back i my day to discuss this kind of thing! LOL

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As a builder - and one who generally builds through-necks - I'm actually in the camp that says it makes no discernable difference to the tone or quality (assuming each has been built to the same standard, woods, etc).

As someone above inferred, I don't think many people grumble about the tone of a Fender P bass.  On quality, all I can say is that one of the nicest basses I ever had the pleasure to work on - a beautiful old Wal - was bolt on and was top drawer and a half! :)

I personally think it's more horses for courses:

I think getting elegant heels is easier with through-necks; it is certainly easier to achieve the super-slim lightweights I've started experimenting with using through-necks...but those aren't everyone's bag. 

But then for bolt-ons there is more flexibility to get the geometry just-so.  And - for a volume manufacturer - much better flexibility to be able to offer alternative woods and configurations at an affordable price.  It could even be argued that the chances of a visual aberration (knots etc) is lower for bolt ons - a through-neck on a full scale bass is a long, long piece of wood to guarantee not running into any kind of natural void or ripple!

Just my tuppence worth... ;)

 

Edited by Andyjr1515

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