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Ken Smith Chat - (NBD inside! Black Tiger 6)

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1 hour ago, OliverBlackman said:

For me, in my head it is no longer a Ken Smith. I’m sure the end result is probably no different but Ken earned the reputation as a builder and its one of his basses I desire.

If you saw the factory tour vid on youtube from the mid 90's, you would see Ken has an assembly line set up.  All the wings are preshaped with dowels to slot into the neck.  The control cavity is routed and the only real handiwork is shaping of the neck joint.  Line up 5 Smith BSR basses and you'll see there's a lot of variety in how much wood has been taken out. 

The point is, there is no such thing as a pre and post Ken age any more than a pre- and post-Fodera Smith bass. Ken has never had very much personal involvement in the making of the basses apart from design/spec and the final set up/QC.  None of which is changing.
 

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3 hours ago, Mastodon2 said:

 

I would guess an awful lot of other shops do this and keep it hushed up.  

 

 

This is exactly what I'm finding out about my pending Bogart build (when and if it finally gets finished .

Surprised me

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11 hours ago, Kiwi said:

If you saw the factory tour vid on youtube from the mid 90's, you would see Ken has an assembly line set up.  All the wings are preshaped with dowels to slot into the neck.  The control cavity is routed and the only real handiwork is shaping of the neck joint.  Line up 5 Smith BSR basses and you'll see there's a lot of variety in how much wood has been taken out. 

The point is, there is no such thing as a pre and post Ken age any more than a pre- and post-Fodera Smith bass. Ken has never had very much personal involvement in the making of the basses apart from design/spec and the final set up/QC.  None of which is changing.
 

This is the only vid I could see on YT which I guess is part of the video your referring too. Ken Smith has actually just added some new vids to their channel. In one he explains how he outsourced the gloss coating finish to a piano company.

Am I correct in thinking you had a few Smiths but moved them on after a disagreement with Ken on this forum? I half remember it really kicked off. 

 

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1 hour ago, OliverBlackman said:

This is the only vid I could see on YT which I guess is part of the video your referring too. Ken Smith has actually just added some new vids to their channel. In one he explains how he outsourced the gloss coating finish to a piano company.

Am I correct in thinking you had a few Smiths but moved them on after a disagreement with Ken on this forum? I half remember it really kicked off. 

 

I had three BSRGNs at one point,  two fives (fretted fretless) and a six.  There wasn't a disagreement so much as I just didn't expect or like being communicated with in the way that he did.  I felt it was ungracious at best and arrogant at worst.  It wasn't just me though, Ken ended up posting a video addressing his preferred communication style because it had become such a topic for discussion. I'm not sure whether it actually helped him very much. 

I had a look for the factory tour video that I remember and it didn't come up in any searches.  Perhaps it's been removed or has become so obscure that it's hidden behind higher ranking but less relevant noise.  I definitely remember seeing a tech carving away at the neck joint of a bass with a rasp,  with a load of parts stacked in the back.  I also recall Ken pointing out the locating dowels to ensure a consistent fit of the wings. 

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Today’s Q & A with Ken suggests that they had been carving the woods in house until only a couple of years back. He did also say though that throughout the years various build stages had been sub contracted to help cope with demand. 
 

might be of interest - 

 

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4 hours ago, OliverBlackman said:

Today’s Q & A with Ken suggests that they had been carving the woods in house until only a couple of years back. He did also say though that throughout the years various build stages had been sub contracted to help cope with demand. 

It kind of reinforces my point about how irrelevant any pre-this or post-that mythology that develops will be to the actual instruments. 

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4 hours ago, Kiwi said:

It kind of reinforces my point about how irrelevant any pre-this or post-that mythology that develops will be to the actual instruments. 

Possibly or possibly not. We’d have to wait and see how Brubaker’s turn out I guess and I think it just reinforces how important it is to try before buying (although pretty difficult with these instruments).

In one of the other videos when discussing wood selection he said how they built five identical 6 strings and 2/5 had different characteristics to the other 3, although the preamp and pups will give the same flavour.

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11 hours ago, Kiwi said:

It kind of reinforces my point about how irrelevant any pre-this or post-that mythology that develops will be to the actual instruments. 

I tend to associate a boutique bass with the direct involvement of the "named" founder - it's his reputation and brand that we're buying into. That would certainly be true of a Shuker or an ACG, and clearly boutique basses are not mass produced a la Fender, Yamaha or Ibanez etc. 

But Wal has successfully continued since the departure of Ian Waller in 1988 and more recently since co-founder Pete Steven's death in 2011. It's great that it continues to thrive.

I guess a brand doesn't need to fold the moment it's original creative inspiration leaves the field of play - surely that's what creating a successful legacy is all about.

And there's no greater example of leaving a massively successful legacy, albeit only partly in the world of music, than that provided by Steve Jobs.

 

 

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On 20/05/2020 at 15:23, OliverBlackman said:

In one of the other videos when discussing wood selection he said how they built five identical 6 strings and 2/5 had different characteristics to the other 3, although the preamp and pups will give the same flavour.

My own experiences would support that.  The fretted five had mahogany wings with quilted maple facings.  The fretless 5 had flamed maple wings with walnut facings.  The six string had walnut wings with maple facings. 

The fretted five was the warmest and growliest but the bottom end response was a little boomy.  The fretless five had a tighter lower end and slightly flatter mids,  a more even response generally.  The fretted six was pretty similar to the fretless five.  I was surprised about the impact of wings on timbre because they were neck through instruments.  

Also Ken respecified the pickups (made by Kent Armstrong) when the BSR line was introduced.  The BT pickups sounded much more growly with a tighter low end to my ears than the BSR versions. I preferred them. 

The other thing that Ken mentioned to me is that he mades sure the necks are not too stiff.  That whacking great slab of ebony for the fingerboard helps to keep things playable.  This was a revelation and made me reflect on the role of stiffness in the necks of all the wood and graphite necked instruments I'd ever played. 

 

14 hours ago, OliverBlackman said:

ken’s quoted here saying Vinny just did the carving separately. 
 

https://www.talkbass.com/threads/did-vinnie-fodera-backstabs-ken-smith.802514/

I think it's clear from that quote that my issues with Ken's preferred communication style are not isolated. If Brubaker takes over the customer service side from Ken, it might be the best business decision Ken has ever made. 

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8 hours ago, Kiwi said:

I was surprised about the impact of wings on timbre because they were neck through instruments. 

You’re saying the timber affected the timbre.

Sorry, we know wood affects tone, but I couldn’t resist the play on words.😂

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1 hour ago, ezbass said:

You’re saying the timber affected the timbre.

Sorry, we know wood affects tone, but I couldn’t resist the play on words.😂

Aha,  you have a father's sense humour! 

lol

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19 minutes ago, Kiwi said:

Aha,  you have a father's sense humour! 

lol

I feel you’re poking the bear, but it was a particularly bad pun on my part, so I’ll let it pass 😁.

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4 hours ago, ezbass said:

I feel you’re poking the bear, but it was a particularly bad pun on my part, so I’ll let it pass 😁.

A quick distraction is required then to defuse tension....OH! LOOK!! THREE SMITH BASSES!

DSCF0232.jpg

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1 hour ago, Kiwi said:

A quick distraction is required then to defuse tension....OH! LOOK!! THREE SMITH BASSES!

DSCF0232.jpg

Mmm 🤤

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1 hour ago, Kiwi said:

A quick distraction is required then to defuse tension....OH! LOOK!! THREE SMITH BASSES!

DSCF0232.jpg

What’s the top on the right one?

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6 hours ago, OliverBlackman said:

What’s the top on the right one?

Quilted maple,  it was very soft wood and hardly protected by the varnish finish. 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Kiwi said:

Quilted maple,  it was very soft wood and hardly protected by the varnish finish. 

Ah ha! A quality quilt, tender timber affecting the timbre. Ooh, is that my coat? S’alright, I get it myself.

 

Yeah, it doesn’t make much sense, but it’s the low level of my lockdown humour* (*for a value of humour).

Edited by ezbass
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On 17/05/2020 at 15:38, ezbass said:

@ped’s old KS getting its own YT video here, together with a BC shoutout...

 

I just watched this video and that sounds killer and must be nice to get a wee shout out @ped.

So for those of us who can't afford a Smith, how do I get close to that tone? He made that sound killer! 

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9 hours ago, BassApprentice said:

I just watched this video and that sounds killer and must be nice to get a wee shout out @ped.

So for those of us who can't afford a Smith, how do I get close to that tone? He made that sound killer! 

I've seen it said that the old US Peavey Cirrus basses were close in tone to a Ken Smith, but I don't hear it. I've never played one, but no recording I've ever heard of them had that Smith sound.

My experience of Smith tone is super balanced and even sound, with all notes on the fretboard being equal in volume and no particular frequencies standing out obtrusively. I feel like Smith's have a natural compression which is just so musical and they're very flattering to play. Ken has talked previously about his desire to make a live Smith bass sound like it has the "studio" sound already applied.

I don't think there is any bass, inexpensive or otherwise, that really sounds like them. 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Mastodon2 said:

My experience of Smith tone is super balanced and even sound, with all notes on the fretboard being equal in volume and no particular frequencies standing out obtrusively. I feel like Smith's have a natural compression which is just so musical and they're very flattering to play. Ken has talked previously about his desire to make a live Smith bass sound like it has the "studio" sound already applied.

I don't think there is any bass, inexpensive or otherwise, that really sounds like them. 

That's really nicely put!

I love the different tones on my bases - they all have their own personality.

Whereas when my missus first heard the KS she described the tone as having a greater clarity than any of the other basses in my herd and considered it to be head and shoulders better than the rest; which, given how much these buggers cost, was very reassuring to hear!

But what she heard does very much tie in with what you're saying and seemingly what KS was seeking to create. 

Edited by Al Krow

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4 hours ago, Mastodon2 said:

I've seen it said that the old US Peavey Cirrus basses were close in tone to a Ken Smith, but I don't hear it. I've never played one, but no recording I've ever heard of them had that Smith sound.

I've heard the same but the Cirrus in my hands feels dead.  It's all mid range and very little crispness or fullness.  Most of the Smith sound comes from the coils in each humbucker wired in parallel, plus the softer maple in the neck.

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13 hours ago, Mastodon2 said:

I don't think there is any bass, inexpensive or otherwise, that really sounds like them. 

Ah the answer I was afraid of! But it does make sense as to why they are so revered. 

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So do the current Kent Armstrong soap bars (Claymores) have any of the Smith flavour about them? 

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