I have a passion for music, have done since i was 3 years old – i love bass guitar and have played since i was 11! These blogs represent my ramblings on bass guitars, amps, music gizmo’s and whatever takes my fancy!

I Love Bass Guitar and Bass Amps!

I love bass guitar, bass amps, music, music technology. I still remember my custom made 1965 Jazz Bass – great bass guitar – it had enough space on each side of the neck where it meets the body to fit a small Car! – I was very specific when I had it rebuilt regarding the neck structure. I however didn’t think about the expense. I figured they’d think about that. Actually, it never crossed my mind. The shop used a standard Fender Jazz Bass body and as i asked, did a full refit of the electronics, with bass boost and all and the neck was set up to my specification .It was painted a fantastic cherry red like the 1958 Fender stats – too cool for words! I still love it!  I currently own a 1978 Fender Precision Bass with a maple neck. I have two DiMarzio pick-ups on it with a polarity switch. I can’t say enough about it! I love it and honestly can’t say I can see myself playing anything else. I did try a G&L bass the other day while trying out a David Eden combo amp and it felt and sounded really nice. I don’t know how much of that was the bass or the amp…. always a muso’s dilemma!

The Standard – The Fender Precision:

Ok, so Fender keep switching the standards around. Why not just keep them standard and leave the new mods for specials! Too many Sales gimmicks I think. The S1 switching was the same and it never really caught on either. When is a precision bass not a precision bass? (when its a S1 jazz bass of course).1987\8 onward was good for fenders there were not a lot of them made in the US in those years,but not so good in 84\85 I had a new elite anniversary strat back around that time I am not exactly sure of the date but the neck developed a huge twist from side to side. How it got out of the factory I don’t know. Fender were really good about it they sourced one and sent it to me right away.

The Fender Precision - Beautiful Indeed!

2003- Bass Players Paradise – Well for Me!

My delta tone Fender is 2003 so I think they got even hotter. I had a spell when 6 strings bit me, so i had to get a 2003 Strat. They deliberately put an over the top bridge pickup in and gave you the option to dial it down via the tone control which works for both the middle and bridge pickup. That’s the bit I don’t like if you lower the tone in the middle position you also alter the bridge pickup so you have to remember where you are and what you have done when switching between them. The bridge and middle pickups are no load at 10 so the sound bypasses the pot until you dial it down and they are harsh to say the least. I was at a little session about 2 weeks ago and usually I will take my tele and an sa220 which I play thru a princeton reverb ll, but since the tele was out of action I took the strat. And no kidding I was playing with two acoustic guitars and they told (not asked) me to put the strat away they didn’t like it. I finished the session with the sa2200. Having said that I can use the tele thru that amp. Check her out:

 

Black Beauty - Fender Strat 2003!

I had 2 Reissue Vintage Strats in the early to mid 80s. They both sounded fantastic. It was what I used to get back on my feet musically. Big problems with the necks though. I had to adjust them every 10 minutes. Any Temp or Humidity change would make them bend like pretzels. Before I realized the problem I had fretjobs and in NYC at that time they were already over $200. I finally sold one and smashed the other in a drunken rage. I felt good after. It was like I had a boil removed. God, I loved the sound but hated the guitar. The bridge saddles also sucked. They all vibrated and the set screws were very loose so the action would change there also. Talk about high maintenance. The Rosewood Strat was a great guitar for someone who kept it at home and never took it our to play. I forgot about those guitars. Your right about the Quality Issues. I had the worst time with Fenders at that time. Never thought about it. (in the unlikely event you don’t know the history of the famous strat , check this link out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fender_Stratocaster )

Ask any musician why we love Fender Strat`s.  My first reason why I wanted one was because, that was the guitar Hendrix played. Also as a young kid the style was real cool… I grew into loving the sound. As you know the Strat has
a sound all to it self. A has a very bright trebles and deep bass sounds. I also have a Gibson SG Standard that I love to death and play more than my Strat, but still I cant go very long without picking it up. Also, if would like to know how much time i play in a day, well i would guess 1hr to 5hrs – yes – a lot! My biggest problem is that I try to play 15 songs at once, if you know what I mean. I have a stack of music but hardly ever give much time to any one thing, like most guitarists!

Bass – Accompany Only?

Think bass is just to back up the guitars / keyboards / vocals – no way! Check out this classic bass solo from the amazing John Entwistle

 

Amplifiers – BIG Subject!!

Leo Fender, founder of Fender guitars (if you didnt know!!) was a Radio repair guy and built pick ups and AMPLIFIERS for starters! AMPLIFIERS were the start of Fender! Leo carved out the FIRST Telecaster in his Garage! I have no  idea where the neck came from. Someone told me it was an Epiphone neck and another said it was a Gibson neck. They were separate companies at that time. A blank with frets. Leo carved it out to be a silhouette of a classic stringed instrument. All six strings in one line in perfect balance after several tries. Leo Fender made great Amps before he made GREAT Guitars! I think the Mustang Amp is the beginning of a new age in Fender Amps. Something to have and use and value. A reminder of what made Fender as great as it is. It started with the fucking AMPS! My dual Bassman! My Dual Showman! Can NOT beat that sound! Even with that goddam Fender hisssssssss. I can go on and on and on about the in’s and out’s of what makes a GREAT amplifier AND what makes a dud – stay tuned!

 

The Jands 200E audio power amplifier is a great amplifier. Originally built way back in 1986 it was one of the first solid state amplifiers made available for bass players that had an output of 500 watts r.m.s.

Background Of The Jands 200E Amplifier

Notable bands claimed to have used the amplifier include Black Sabbath, The Who and a host of ’80′s Australian rock bands. I acquired my 200E in 1990 for the pricely sum of $600. The amplifier originally sold for $3500 so it was an absolute bargain. The amplifier has increadible sound and has the best bass boost i have encountered and has a very simple console consisting of master volume, treble, bass and equalise function.

How To Save Output Transistors

The 200E used Japanese made 2sC457E transistors in a push pull arrangement. They are a TO3 packaged transistor and generally robust however will blow if there is no load (as in loudspeaker) connected. In testing the amplifier i have found that by connecting 6 200 watt power resistors wired in series of 27 ohm resistance, that the amplifier runs seamlessly  without the risk of damaging the output stage. The Ho power resistors purchased from Australian resistors are huge and hardly heat up when dissipating 200 watts of audio power! Wire wound resistors are perfect for audio applications as they have excellent electrical inpulse tolerance and are generally ‘rugged’ both electrically and mechanically. More details at http://resistorspecialists.com.au/power-wire-wound-resistors/

 

Wire Wound Potentiometers Provide Excellent Tone Control On Bassman 200

The Bassman 200 valve amplifier has been a favourite amplifier for a select group of bass players since 1972 when they were first developed in a small factory in Marrickville, Sydney Australia. The have a power rating of 90 watts rms output and have an excellent warm tone and ‘punchy’ mid range sound. They have one common problem – scratchy potentiometers. The original carbon taper potentiometers were fine in the 1970′s and 1980′s but most Bassman owners have experienced their electrical deterioration over the last 20 years or so. This is caused by wear in the carbon track and the resultant crackling, hiss and noise makes the amplifier virtually unusable which is unfortunate given the quality of the overall build of the amplifiers.

Replacement Potentiometers

AW 3 watt Wire Wound Potentiometer

AW 3 watt Wire Wound Potentiometer

I have found a very workable solution to the noisy potentiometers by replacing them with a wire wound potentiometer from Resistor Specialists who are located just outside of Sydney in an industrial estate in Minto, N.S.W. Their range of AW series potentiometers have a nice linear taper, making it ideal for audio applications and the electrical rating of 500 volts (end terminal test) means that the potentiometer is ideally suited to valve circuitry where voltages in excess of 400 volts may be present.

Installation Into Bassman 200 Amplifier

I have found that the replacement of the ‘pots’ is fairly straightforward on the Bassman 200. I have replaced all of the following potentiometers with the AW potentiometers of the following values:

  1. Master Volume Control. I have used a 330 ohm value here and it works faultlessly
  2. Bass Tone Control. Here a 270 ohm works nicely – the original circuitry called for a 220 ohm potentiometer but i have found that a higher value gives a deeper bass range
  3. Treble Tone Control. A 560 ohm potentiometer works well for the treble control
  4. Pre Amplifier. Here i tried several values and have fornd that either a 330 ohm or 470 ohm potentiometer will work equally well.

Installation Guide

The potentiometers come with a standard ‘solder lug’ with a hole in the centre. I simply removed the mounting nuts from the original potentiometers and unsoldered the wires from the terminals of the old ‘pots’. It is then a simple matter of looping the cables (ensuring the wiper wire goes to the centre contact of the ‘pot’) into the terminals on the new potentiometers and soldering them. Then, simply install into the front amplifier control panel – easy!

Worth The Effort!

My Bassman 200 now performs fantastically with a wonderful sound that only wire wound potentiometers can offer, in my opinion. If you have any questions email me at rodbirch@bigpond.com. The AW series 3 watt wirewound potentiometers are available via http://resistorspecialists.com.au/

 

Sound Quality and Bassman Volume controls – Wire Wound Potentiometer replacement

Nothing kills the sound of the Bass Guitar like a scratchy volume potentiometer. With inbuilt electronics in most modern bass guitars the need for a quality potentiometer for the volume and increasingly the tone controls is never more important. When i started playing bass guitar the cheap carbon ‘pots’ were the order of the day – the linear and logarithmic types of pots were commonly used as no internal electronics was built into the guitars. With the early inbuilt high impedance f.e.t. amplifiers, the need for a better quality ‘pot’, as potentiometers are widely referred to in the industry, became apparent . Over the last few years wire wound potentiometers have been used by some of the more ‘upmarket’ bass guitar manufacturers, not because they need to handle high power (the traditional realm of the wire wound ‘pot’), but because of their durability and their inherent ‘quiet’ electrical qualities.

 

3 WATT WIRE WOUND POTENTIOMETER

The above image of a fairly standard 3 watt wirewound potentiometer shows that, physically, these ‘pots’ are virtually identical to their carbon counterparts. I have retro fitted my 1979 Bassplayer with a w/w pot. and am very happy with the results.

Thanks to Australian Resistors – details at http://www.australianresistors.com.au/Product/G/g.html

Innovation in Guitar Amplification – Go Solar!

I came across some neat stuff today. I was at Kmart, and found 2 nice dvd players, one with one 7″ 16:9 screen, and one with two 4.5″ 16:9 screens. Now, why were these neat? because not only did they play dvd, and cdr/cdrw/mp3, but they had av inputs for other a/v inputs like xbox, vhs, tv/satellite tuner, etc., and were 12vdc native with 120vac adapter. Great for keeping the kids occupied on long trips, or in their bedroom at night when the generator is off. Both are less than $200. second cool thing was at BJ’s. We all have seen those portable air compressor/jump starter packages, but one with a 400 watt inverter intregrated? It’s a 12vdc power pack, a 400 watt 120 vac power pack, jumper cable and air compressor package, with service light (not fluorescent like the jump pack I got previously with no inverter. This one is “Hummer” branded, and costs $99. Last cool thing, which I purchased a while back at sears, was a 15″ LCD TV (not hdtv 16:9). 12vdc native (44watt), with 120vac brick. IIRC, it was about $389. With with PC SVGA input, $599. So where is this all leading you ask? Well a Fender amp is a mains powered device , so you might say how can i run it, like the gizmo’s above, from 12vdc when we are gigging in the bush? Good question well I think that solar panels is a great way to power your amp if you are REALLY remote. They are just too expensive to get power put on in remote properties like my mate Grahams so I will be doing research in  ways of powering the old Fender amp so we can jam on solar power . You need, i am told a solar inverter which will convert the electricity that the solar panels make into a.c. electricity that the trusty Fender amp runs on . I got this info from his website , where they have useful information on solar power in Melbourne and solar rebates etc. About solar- what people tend to forget is  prevention is better than cure. So many buildings are build without proper insulation or considering window placement, front, overhangs, ect, ect. If you do this properly  you can bring the electricity load down dramatically and then your solar power system and the number of solar panels needed will be a lot less. My mate Phil Green ( a great player and solar techie) and I will be going more into solar power for our uisic applications. Phil has 30 solar panels on his Melbourne home and reckons his power bill has dropped 80 percent since he installed it. He got a solar rebate from the Vic Government and the 3kw system only cost him $4K – pretty impressive considering that solar power in Melbourne used to set you back over $20k 5 years ago!! Heres the link to the solar power Melbourne site – here