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Thread: Hex/Round Core Strings & Relationship to Tension/Stiffness

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    Hex/Round Core Strings & Relationship to Tension/Stiffness

    Curious...given two identical string core diameters, one hex core & the other round core both with identical wrap thicknesses, why does the hex core tend to have more tension or feel a bit stiffer?

    I noticed this but haven't a clue why (or where) the hex pattern affects this...always thought the hex pattern was simply utilized to maintain a tighter wrap.

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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    I'm not sure about the reason, but the hex core has less material compared to a round core, since it's just the edges of the hex that come to the full diameter.

    I would think that would mean the slightly thinner hex core would need more tension to get to the same pitch than the core with more mass.
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    Thanks David...I looked into this topic a bit further & got some feedback from DR Strings. I've always found round core strings to be a tad easier to play with a slightly fuller tone. Here is their explanation & it makes sense to me.

    According to DR:
    Round core wires have more even contact with the windings. Imagine wrapping a piece of wire around a piece of round pipe. The wire, like the windings on guitar strings, contacts the pipe with equal pressure throughout the entire circumference of the pipe.

    Now imagine wrapping a piece of wire around a rectangular piece of lumber, like a 2 x 4. The wrapped wire will 'dig in' to the square corners of the lumber. The wrapped wire contacts the 'flat' sides of the lumber with a lot less pressure.

    Imagine the same thing happening with guitar strings. The outer windings, when wrapped around a hex shaped core, will contact the 'points' with more pressure than when they contact the 'flats'. But do the same thing on a round core wire and the contact pressure will be equal everywhere winding meets the core.

    More evenly distributed pressure in the windings typically results in:

    1 - Lower overall tension

    Round core strings have lower tension than hex core strings. The perceived 'work' required to fret the strings is less with round core strings. If your fretting hand is bothered a bit by what you perceive as a lot of string tension, switching from hex cores to round cores will reduce that tension a bit.

    2 - More sustain

    Because all of the stresses of core to windings are more equally distributed, round core strings can use more of their physical energy to produce SOUND. Hex core strings produce more friction between the core and the winding. That means that some of the physical movement of the string is wasted in producing HEAT instead of SOUND.

    3 - Even Harmonic Overtones

    Like the difference in tube vs solid state amplifiers, round core wires emphasize the even or 'sweet sounding' harmonic overtones. This characteristic will be a little harder to sense than the other two above. But we can measure it on a spectrograph. The resulting tone is a little more 'bell like'. Consider that orchestral bells are made of tubular material. Vibraphone bars are made of rectangular material. A subtle but noticeable difference

    The initial reason for my inquiry was that I was demo'ing some GHS EJ Boomers (hex core) after years of using the 'standard' round-core GHS Boomers. Aside from the nickel plated (over steel) wrap on the standard Boomers vs the all nickel hex core EJs & their slightly flatter wrap, the string tension difference between the two was noticeable & I actually preferred the cheaper, regular Boomers even though they don't last as long tonally.

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    There would be pros and cons to either type of core. certainly anyone using a wound string would like some assurance that the windings are equivalently distributed along the total length of the string (i.e, precisely the same number of turns around the core per unit of string length), and because of that extra grip, hex core provides greater assurances of that, and the intonation you would expect. Of course, as DR correctly notes,, you lose some string suppleness in the process.

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    Old Timer defaced's Avatar
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    One of the things I remember reading in some GHS (?) literature was about the core size to wrap size ratio. I wonder if they're different for a given gauge between the two core types? That would definitely make a difference in the feel, tension, timber - you know, everything.
    -Mike

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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    I like the feel of the hex core D'Addario strings. I use 9's on guitar and 45's on bass, and with those gauges I prefer a string with a little more tension, especially on bass. I find they have a punchier tone. I have no problem bending those gauges.

    I tried a few low tension strings and didn't like the feel for the way I play.

    As far as more sustain on a round core, I don't buy it at all. That sounds like market speak. Less contact area on the core would mean less friction, not more.

    DRs are OK strings, but I find them to be inconsistent, and when I tied them they didn't have a very long life. D'Addarios last forever, even with them being machine wound and with hex cores.

    I used to use GHS Boomers on bass for many years, and not too long ago replaced a six month old set of D'Addario bass strings with a new set of Boomer, and the new strings sounded duller than the old strings! I took them off the next day.

    I've tried just about every brand of string out there on guitar and bass over the years. I think the bottom line is find a string that sounds and feels good to you. There is no better string, just different. But some cheap strings do suck.
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Schwab View Post
    I'm not sure about the reason, but the hex core has less material compared to a round core, since it's just the edges of the hex that come to the full diameter.

    I would think that would mean the slightly thinner hex core would need more tension to get to the same pitch than the core with more mass.
    Possibly Dave. It really depends on the reference point as compared to round wire, i.e. the inside or outside of the hex.

    I too agree that hex wire is stiffer, and my theory has always been that, due to wire profile, the apex' of each adjoining side act as stiffening bars.

    BTW- I like D'Addario strings for all the same reasons. The hex core really keeps the windings tight and strings go dead less. I don't think I've EVER gotten one dead out of the package. Also, if you have toured the D'Addario factory like I have (they are local, and our Italian grandfathers were actually friends!), you will never see a more modern factory, or people dedicated to building/upgrading/modernizing application-specific machinery as they are.
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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrfrond View Post
    I don't think I've EVER gotten one dead out of the package.
    I got a dead D string from a bass set last year. I emailed them, they asked for the batch number from the strings, and sent me two replacement strings.

    I've been wanting to visit the factory, since I'm not that far.

    As far as the hex diameter... if the overal string is the same diameter, and the wraps are the same, then the inner core would be measured from the corners of the hex. The flat areas are missing mass compared to a round core.

    Unless they squeeze the core into that shape of course!

    On another example, I have a set of the half rounds on one of my basses. These start off as round wounds, and then are ground to make the surface semi flat. They are MUCH stiffer than the same gauge round wounds. So I'm assuming it's because they start with a heavier gauge or something. I'm not sure what's going on.
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Schwab View Post
    On another example, I have a set of the half rounds on one of my basses. These start off as round wounds, and then are ground to make the surface semi flat. They are MUCH stiffer than the same gauge round wounds. So I'm assuming it's because they start with a heavier gauge or something. I'm not sure what's going on.
    They take stuff like that VERY seriously. I am not surprised. They are sticklers for perfection.

    That is PRECISELY how Half-Rounds are made Dave, starting with a thicker string. However, part of good string-making is the relationship between the core gauge and windings. For instance, one of the reasons that their Chromes bass strings are so stiff is that they have a three-layer compound winding. They are a compound RW that is then wound with a stainless-steel ribbon winding. Pretty cool, and makes for a longer-lasting, brighter flat.

    You should definitely head East and tour the factory. It's an education in itself. As a tangent, D'Addario Strings, and their adjacent Evans drum head operation, are totally autonomous. Even the packaging is printed and cut in-house.
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    I'll also put in a good word for D'Addario. I've been using their Chromes flatwounds exclusively on all of my basses for about 12 years. I order them in bulk (144 sets at a time) in a special custom length. As a business, D'Addario are wonderful to deal with. Their prices are very reasonable, they complete orders and ship on time, and they rarely make a mistake. I've bought maybe 600 sets of bass strings from them over the years. During that time, I remember one bad A string, which had obviously gotten nicked in the outer wrap. And once I found a single D string in a bag of G's.

    Like David said, string preference all depends on the design of the bass, how it's set up, and the players' technique. For the type of basses I build, and the style of music they're mostly used for, the Chromes are just right. A very warm tone, smooth surface, and stiff feel. The Chromes also last many years. Almost all of my customers are still on the original set shipped on the bass. On my own various basses, I've got sets that are almost 15 years old and still going strong. If the bass isn't played often, they will start to tarnish and lose some high end and sustain. But if maintained, they seem to last indefinitely.

    In my own playing history of about 75 gigs and sessions per year, I think I've only replaced one string in a Chromes set. It was an A string that somehow got caught on something at a gig and broke the outer wrap.

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    Nice work Bruce!

    As an old "P-Bass & Flats" fan, I can really appreciate what you are doing with the Ampeg design, and turning it into a multi-trick pony.
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    Thanks, John! Yeah, I'm off in my own corner of the bass world...

    One other note about D'Addario Chromes bass strings:
    They have a break-in time. Right out of the package, the Chromes usually have a funny tinny overtone. I'm not sure what causes it. It could be a coating of protective oil, or the way the outer wrap is seated, or something else. But if you play them for a half hour and let them sit overnight, they start to sound better. A few hours of playing and a week, and they're pretty good. After a month, they sound beautiful and will stay that way for ten years. Maybe it just takes some finger grease and some corrosion to seat all the layers together.

    D'Addario ships the bulk strings in sealed bags, but I always immediately open them and let them sit on the shelf exposed to the air. They may sit there for a month to two years before they get used or sold. This helps to reduce the break-in time.

    In comparison, LaBella's flatwounds usually sound beautiful right out of the package, and stay that way. The LaBellas and the D'Addario Chromes are very close in tone and feel, once the Chromes are broken in.

    I mention this because I think that's a big reason why you hear some players say that they tried Chromes and didn't like the tone. They probably didn't give them a chance, or tried a fresh set on a store instrument.

    LaBella makes wonderful strings, but I long ago gave up trying to deal with the company out of frustration. I'm staying with D'Addario.

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    Bruce, not only did I notice that with Chromes, but with their Half-Rounds as well. Not quite sure what it is, and I never asked them. It is accompanied by a "grabby" feel on the surface of the string. Once it breaks in, yes, they last forever.

    As long as we are on the topic of flats, my favorites are, ironically, Rotosound RS77LD Jazz Bass. They remind me a lot of the Chromes, without the break-in period, and have a definite, yet subtle "edge" in their tone. They sound great on maple FB basses for the 70's slap-funk vibe, but do fingerstyle well too.
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    Yeah, I had Rotosound make up some RS77's for me in the special length, back around 1998. I call them Nasty Flats. They have a harsh twang in the upper mid range that can sound funky and cool on a P-bass type instrument. On my Scroll Basses, they were too much; too nasty.

    GHS Brite Flats are up in the Nasty end of the spectrum, but not as much as the Rotosounds.

    At the opposite end are Thomastiks, which I call Pillow Flats. The feel is very flexible and springy, and the tone is soft and dominated by the fundamental. They're great for getting a thumpy bottom end out of a bass that's normally twangy and harsh. On a bass that's designed for flatwounds, they're overkill. Too much fundamental and not enough of the rest of the range. To me, they feel rubbery and clumsy to pluck, but that's just my own preference.

    That about covers flatwounds. There aren't too many choices. The business model for manufacturing them isn't too promising. Flatwound players are a small minority, and they only need strings when they buy another bass!

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    Y'know Bruce, you left out Fender flats, which are very old-school, being very flexible and thumpy. There's also the pricey Pyramid, standard on all German Hofners.

    I can see why you don't like the RS77's on your basses. They aren't that vibe. However, on my Ibanez Roadstar RB650 that has a 1pc. maple neck, BadAss II and DiMarzio's, you can slap da sh*t outta them!

    From what I have seen, flats are on the upswing again. Hey, I recently saw a Rick 4001 strung with flats! As hard as it is to believe, Ricks and even Alembics all originally came with flats (Alembic used Pyramid Gold).
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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    I put flats into two categories, the traditional type, and the newer brighter type. For the traditional tone, I used to use either Fender or LaBella strings.

    For the brighter type I used to love the LaBella Deep Talkin' Bass stainless steel 760FL set. They almost sound like round wounds without the ringing top end, and stay sounding that way. I had a set on one bass for about 4 years, and then broke a string. I find the Thomastiks are more in the brighter category. They aren't overly bright, but they aren't thumpy either. More like upright strings.

    I like the half-rounds once then break in a bit and get that choked attack on the low strings. D'Addario used to make two kinds, and I preferred the originals. The Half Rounds II were too bright. I guess they think people use flats because they are smooth, but I like them because of that choked attack tone. I don't know how else to describe it, but it's that thump due to the strings not vibrating as well as round wounds.

    I like both bright round wounds and thumpy but bright flats, and keep different sets on different basses.
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    You're right, John, I don't think I've ever tried Fender or Pyramid flats. I had an old Hofner here for some repairs a couple of years ago. It had flats on it, which I figured were Rotosounds, but I don't know.

    I do have a sweet '76 Rick 4001F fretless in my own collection, which I believe has Rotosounds on it.

    My own evaluations of flatwounds have been on original Ampegs and my own Scroll Basses. Both require special Super Duper Extra Long strings (40 1/4" windings; 45" overall), which are longer than anything stocked by anybody. So, I was limited to companies that were willing/able to make up special sets for me.

    David, the LaBellas that I'm familiar with are the Deep Talkin' 760FL and 760FM series. I tend to think of them as "traditional" because that's what came on Ampegs from the factory in '66. But, I'm not a Fender guy, so I don't have that baseline to compare to. I think of the LaBellas and D'Addarios as traditional and the Rotosounds and GHS as modern and bright. But, again, that's from my own testing in my application.

    Historical note: All Ampegs, fretted and fretless, were shipped with LaBella flatwounds, with LaBella black tapewounds as the only option. Everett Hull, Ampeg's founder/boss hated roundwounds and refused to sell his basses with them. He thought they sounded terrible and were a passing fad. Oops. A major part of why the Ampeg Scroll Basses were a marketplace failure and became a niche market.

    I'm surprised that you think of the Thomastiks as bright. That wasn't my experience, at least with the ones they made up for me. They were boomy fundamentals, and weak everywhere else. Cool in some ways, but not right for my basses.

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    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Johnson View Post
    I do have a sweet '76 Rick 4001F fretless in my own collection, which I believe has Rotosounds on it.
    The original Rick flatwound strings were made by Maxima. I have two '74 Ricks. I liked the stock strings a lot, but I was looking for that prog rock tone, so on went the Roto Swing bass strings (oh the poor frets!)

    David, the LaBellas that I'm familiar with are the Deep Talkin' 760FL and 760FM series. I tend to think of them as "traditional" because that's what came on Ampegs from the factory in '66. But, I'm not a Fender guy, so I don't have that baseline to compare to. I think of the LaBellas and D'Addarios as traditional and the Rotosounds and GHS as modern and bright. But, again, that's from my own testing in my application.
    When I started playing I used LaBellas, but they were the standard 0760M "Original 1954" (a.k.a. James Jamerson) set. I guess people will have to call them the "lawsuit" set now. ( James Jamerson’s widow sues La Bella Strings ) They are more like the Fender flats, and aren't as bright and don't vibrate as well as the 760FL Deep Talkin' set.

    Historical note: All Ampegs, fretted and fretless, were shipped with LaBella flatwounds, with LaBella black tapewounds as the only option. Everett Hull, Ampeg's founder/boss hated roundwounds and refused to sell his basses with them. He thought they sounded terrible and were a passing fad. Oops. A major part of why the Ampeg Scroll Basses were a marketplace failure and became a niche market.
    Yeah, he didn't like loud music either, which cracks me up when I see an SVT! I just loathe that damn amp!

    I'm surprised that you think of the Thomastiks as bright. That wasn't my experience, at least with the ones they made up for me. They were boomy fundamentals, and weak everywhere else. Cool in some ways, but not right for my basses.
    Maybe it's not so much that they are bright, as they aren't thumpy. Listening to this clip, they certainly aren't bright, but because they were low tension they vibrated cleaner than some flats.

    This is a sample recording for my pickups I did with with Thomastik flats. They were a used set that someone let me borrow, so they weren't at all new when I recorded this.

    neo pickups with flatwounds

    Nice strings, but I'd rather use LaBellas or D'Addario Half Rounds. I've tried Chromes a few times, and liked them, except the D string sounds out of place, and is stiffer than the rest. I found that annoying.
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    The folks at LaBella told me that the strings that they originally supplied to Ampeg for the Scroll Basses in '66-'69 were a similar formula to the Deep Talkin' 760FL's currently made. Of course, that was 44 years ago, and there have been refinements over time. I have a couple of NOS LaBella flats still in the original Ampeg packaging in my collection. I've also played several near-mint Ampegs that had the original strings on them. After all those years, they were tarnished, but still playable.

    Yeah, the whole SVT thing was a drastic U-turn by the new owners of Ampeg to try and save the company from collapse. It worked, and Ampeg survived.

    I've got an SVT-3, which served me well during my days of outdoor gigs with rock bands. I still have it, but I don't think I've powered it up in 5 years. I can't say that I really love it or hate it. I always played it fairly clean, never really pumped the preamp. I've never been a tube crackler. I've always preferred to make the tone at the bass and play through a clean system. These days I almost always play through a solid state amp with a flat EQ. But I hang on to the SVT just because many of my customers have them.

  20. #20
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Johnson View Post
    After all those years, they were tarnished, but still playable.
    The FLs are stainless steel, so they shouldn't tarnish.

    Yeah, the whole SVT thing was a drastic U-turn by the new owners of Ampeg to try and save the company from collapse. It worked, and Ampeg survived.
    Well they did go out of business. This is a new company using the name.

    I've got an SVT-3, which served me well during my days of outdoor gigs with rock bands. I still have it, but I don't think I've powered it up in 5 years. I can't say that I really love it or hate it. I always played it fairly clean, never really pumped the preamp. I've never been a tube crackler. I've always preferred to make the tone at the bass and play through a clean system. These days I almost always play through a solid state amp with a flat EQ. But I hang on to the SVT just because many of my customers have them.
    My dislike of the SVT is based on the preamp. You cannot set the amp flat. They have a fixed low end roll off set about 75Hz which was to stop the amp from being boomy in a large arena. Then they have a big hump at 250Hz, which is to make up for the lack of low end. The Ultra Lo switch doesn't boost the lows, but cuts the mids, etc. It's just a very boxy sounding amp IMO. The low end sounds very cluttered.

    I used to have a mid 60's B-15N which was a pleasant sounding amp. Not much in the way of lows or highs, but it didn't sound bad.

    I prefer solid state, but I like using a clean tube preamp for some warmth. I have an all tube Mesa 400+ which sounds great, but weighs a ton. I can't life that stuff anymore!

    I just want my bass to sound like my bass, not the amp.
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    In my experience, stainless-wrapped flatwounds like the 760FL's and Chromes do tarnish over time if they're not played regularly. The good news is that it isn't deep corrosion, and can be cleaned off. I use a pad of the white (non-abrasive) Scotchbrite with a few drops of WD-40 on it. That usually makes them feel smooth and slippery again without hurting the aged tone.

    Yeah, Ampeg has been through a string of owners. Most of the folks who worked there in the '60's are dead or in retirement. That was a long time ago. I'm the keeper of the flame for the Scroll Basses. I occasionally get calls from the current Ampeg guys with questions about their own old products.

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    The old guard may be gone (though Jess Oliver and Dennis Kager are still with us), but in their heyday, Ampeg was the sh*t! Not only some of the best guitar and bass amps ever built (in my opinion, of course), but between the Scroll Bass and Dan Armstrong lucite guitars, they had some cool instruments. I'll bet even the Stud guitars would become collector's items nowadays.

    I'll take a V-4B (with the 2- 15" V-2 cab) over just about any other 100W tube bass amp out there, and the original SVT, aside from weighing a ton, is a masterpiece of engineering and sound.
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  23. #23
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrfrond View Post
    The old guard may be gone (though Jess Oliver and Dennis Kager are still with us), but in their heyday, Ampeg was the sh*t! Not only some of the best guitar and bass amps ever built (in my opinion, of course), but between the Scroll Bass and Dan Armstrong lucite guitars, they had some cool instruments. I'll bet even the Stud guitars would become collector's items nowadays.
    I used to use an Oliver amp. That was a great sounding amp! Not very loud though.

    But sorry, Ampeg was never the sh!t. I like to point out that Ampeg went out of business for a reason! Back then the bass amps the big names used were the Acoustic 360 and the Sunn Coliseum. Show me some players that used SVTs back then. They were lucky to have the Stones lose their amps and they gave them a bunch. The only person I can think of is Jack Casady, who even named his band after the amp. And that was the worst tone he ever got. He sounded much better with the Versatone amp he used in Hot Tuna. Carol Kaye used one of those too.

    I'll take either of those over an SVT.Talk to my guitar player... he had a V-4 back in the day and thought it was the worst amp ever. I never saw any guitar players who liked Ampegs, except maybe a Gemini II. That was a nice sounding amps. All the people I played with in the 70's had Marshalls, and Hiwatts, and Orange amps, and Fenders. No one wanted Ampeg guitar amps.

    I'll take a V-4B (with the 2- 15" V-2 cab) over just about any other 100W tube bass amp out there, and the original SVT, aside from weighing a ton, is a masterpiece of engineering and sound.
    What are you going to do with a 100W tube amp? No one is going to hear you! That was the problem with those damn amps. The guitar amps were too clean and the bass amps were underpowered.

    I got the Mesa 400+ with 12 6L6 power tubes, it it couldn't keep up with my GK 800 RB. And the Mesa blows the SVT out of the water both in features tone and power.

    The current owner of Ampeg is riding on a sea of imaginary hype that never existed. But younger players don't know any better.
    Last edited by David Schwab; 05-04-2010 at 12:42 AM.
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Schwab View Post
    What are you going to do with a 100W tube amp? No one is going to hear you! That was the problem with those damn amps. The guitar amps were too clean and the bass amps were underpowered.

    I got the Mesa 400+ with 12 6L6 power tubes, it it couldn't keep up with my GK 800 RB. And the Mesa blows the SVT out of the water both in features tone and power.

    The current owner of Ampeg is riding on a sea of imaginary hype that never existed. But younger players don't know any better.
    100W works fine for me. There was a time when that was pretty much the standard wattage for a tube bass amp. If you match it up with an efficient cab, it will carry most gigs. Then again, we DO live in a time where far too many musicians have forgotten all about dynamics.

    I would use a Mesa product if you paid me. Besides their poor serviceability, I have a personal issue with the company, who really seems to think their sh*t doesn't stink. Anyway.....

    I know ALL about Ampeg and it's heritage from Linden, to Magnavox, MTI and the first Japanese SVT's, as well as the current Crate-called-Ampeg crop. All I have to say is that, after servicing virtually everything on the market in the last 30+ years, I still haven't found anything that sounds as good as an old SVT. And though you can't gig with it, have we forgotten about a little gem called the B15N? We could all count the recordings it was used on until tomorrow morning and still not be done. ThAT says something, to me anyway.
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    Sadly, I have to mostly agree with David. In the early to mid '60's, Ampeg built up a cool vibe with the Baby Bass, small tube amps like the B-15, and then the Scroll Basses. It was an electrified version of the upright bass sound, that deep warm thump. I think they got it better than Fender did. Bassists in jazz combos and old-time bands loved the Ampeg sound. But, that was a small niche market. In the mid '60's, jazz had disappeared into the corners, and the world of rock was exploding with a whole new type of bass sound. After Everett Hull sold the company in '67, Ampeg tried to get into rock music, but they completely missed the boat. A couple of rock artists like George Biondo and Rick Danko made their names with the Ampeg look and sound, but they were oddballs.

    Meanwhile, over the next few decades, the Baby Bass became the official sound of Salsa music, and spawned a whole field of electric uprights.

    The SVT was a dramatic move, and when it came out, it was an engineering marvel and a milestone in amp design. But everyone else quickly over ran it, and through the '70's it survived through legend more than real technical merits. My mid-90's SVT-3 is a good reliable amp with some nice character, but I wouldn't claim that it's the greatest thing around. Ampeg doesn't build junk, but they've stayed conservative and mostly relied on their legendary name. It'll be interesting to see if the new owners Loud start to take Ampeg in a different direction. I knew most of the guys at St. Louis Music from back in the '90's when we worked together, but I haven't talked to the Loud folks yet.

  26. #26
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    I must be in the minority as an Ampeg bass amp lover. Viva la difference!!!
    For me, Ampeg has always had "that" sound that I hear in my head. Then again, the old Bassman 100's did too (the tube versions, not the SS ones that were made a few years back). I always enjoyed Ampeg GUITAR amps as well. In addition to the ubiquitous Reverberocket's and Gemini's, I like the V-4/VT-22 type amps as well. The were PLENTY of SVT users in the 70's, and heck, the last time I saw The Stones, Darryl Jones dumped his normal uber-rig in favor of a pair of SVT's, which actually made a HUGE improvement over his previous sound.

    Yes, companies like Acoustic and then G-K eclipsed Ampeg early-on, but I have to believe that sheer weight of Ampeg's 300W amp vs. the Acoustic 370 and the G-K 800RB had a lot to do with it.
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  27. #27
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrfrond View Post
    100W works fine for me. There was a time when that was pretty much the standard wattage for a tube bass amp. If you match it up with an efficient cab, it will carry most gigs. Then again, we DO live in a time where far too many musicians have forgotten all about dynamics.
    Dynamics are not possible when your available volume levels are soft and softer. A 100W tube bass amp can't keep up with a solid drummer and a 50W guitar amp. Unless you want a Cream era Jack Bruce tone. I love that tone, but it doesn't work for most music. And now Jack uses a Hartke 7000 head.

    The reason why bass amps all went to solid state, and why the Acoustic 360 was one of the big dogs was because it was loud. Bassists got tired of listening to farts instead of a nice clean deep bass tone.

    Also the fact that Ampeg made the SVT shows that the amps they were making were not loud enough. The problem with the SVT is the tone. It sounds like crap IMO. Instead of giving you a nice clean warm tube tone, like I get from the Mesa, they engineered in what they think your tone should be, an you can't change it easily.

    Even the newer solid state SVTs have that same blurry boxy tone, and they are noisy to boot. I've never heard so much hiss come from a "modern" amp.

    In one of the bands I play with the drummer bought an Ampeg BA115HP to keep in his rehearsal space for me to use. It's not a bad sounding amp, once you get past the dumb "style" presets, and as long as you don't try and play at a volume where you can hear it over the drums. Then it clips like crazy. And that's 220 solid state Watts.

    My little Trace Elliott 150W combo mops the floor with the BA115HP. It's loud enough for me to keep up with my other band's two guitarists, one using a new Fender Twin, and the other a Mesa Mark Five combo.

    I would[n't] use a Mesa product if you paid me. Besides their poor serviceability, I have a personal issue with the company, who really seems to think their sh*t doesn't stink. Anyway.....
    Well they are great sounding amps. When I bought mine used, it was sitting next to a '74 SVT. This was at an amp repair shop. I had been thinking about getting a tube amp, so I tried both amps out through the same cab. The Mesa was smooth and deep and warm and punchy, and the SVT had that boxy gritty tone. The Mesa is a much more hi-fi amp. I've been using that one since about '92, and one of the guitarist I play with had a Mesa combo he used 4 nights a week for the past 25 years with no problems. He just gave it to his son and got a new Mark Five. Damn that's a loud little amp.

    I know ALL about Ampeg and it's heritage from Linden, to Magnavox, MTI and the first Japanese SVT's, as well as the current Crate-called-Ampeg crop. All I have to say is that, after servicing virtually everything on the market in the last 30+ years, I still haven't found anything that sounds as good as an old SVT. And though you can't gig with it, have we forgotten about a little gem called the B15N? We could all count the recordings it was used on until tomorrow morning and still not be done. ThAT says something, to me anyway.
    I used to work in the same industrial park where Ampeg used to be in Linden.

    What does servicing an amp have to do with how well it sounds? it doesn't. Regardless to how well they may have been made (they new ones are not so reliable) they were grossly underpowered for rock music, and except for the B-15, sounded like crap.

    What sounds so good about an SVT? Unless you just want a thick upper bass tone, you can't do much else with it.

    Check out the attached PDF to see how the guy testing the amp could not get a flat response from the tone stack, and the excessive ringing.

    And before we get into "all the recordings done" with Ampegs, that's a myth for the most part. Everyone cites Motown, but the bass was always recorded direct. They had a B-12 in the studio as a monitor. Jamerson used a B-15 for live gigs, but then he was an upright player originally.

    You can't use a B-15N to play with a live drummer unless you are mic'd! My first good bass amp was a mid 60's B-15N, so I know. It doesn't cut it. I mean, it's what, 25 watts? My computer speakers are more powerful than that! I have never been in a major studio that had me plug into a B-15, or any amp for that matter. DI is the way to go for bass.

    They were made for upright players playing jazz.
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  28. #28
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrfrond View Post
    But I have to believe that sheer weight of Ampeg's 300W amp vs. the Acoustic 370 and the G-K 800RB had a lot to do with it.
    So the fact that they were louder, cleaner amps couldn't have had anything to do with it, right?

    The Acoustic 361 W-bins were HUGE! I always hated the tone of those cabs BTW. I think the Sunns sounded cleaner.

    The 361 cab was easily as heavy as an SVT cab... heck all bass cabs were big back then. I had a Peavy "The Bass" with a 2X15, and then there was my old Vox 4X12 from my first big amp (Super Beatle preamp, Acoustic power amp and the 4X12 cab).

    In the 80's before I got my 800-RB I used a borrowed Acoustic 150B head with my B-15 cab loaded with a JBL. That was a great sounding combo.

    The GK-800RB is in a totally different class. It's a bi-amp rig with 100W to the highs and 300W to the lows. I had a 2X12 and a 1X18 cab. That was a loud sucker. I would play outdoor gigs and you could clearly hear me from about 6 block away. I liked the tone of the Mesa better, but it couldn't keep up with the GK.

    Now bass amps are small, light and loud! Wish they were like that 35 years ago!
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    To each his own I guess, Dave. However, you will find that there is a huge legion of SVT fans. I don't find it to be limited in any way. Then again, I prefer a 2 x 15" cabinet, loaded with Peavey BW's. Place an SVT atop THAT, and you will NOT find a lack of lows, I can assure you.
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  30. #30
    Pickup Maker David Schwab's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrfrond View Post
    To each his own I guess, Dave.
    Yep. I have no problem with you liking Ampegs, I was commenting on them being "some of the best amps." I never liked the post '69 amps, and still don't.

    However, you will find that there is a huge legion of SVT fans.
    Sheep. They are easy to spot through, because they get crappy bass tones. Most of them use Jazz Basses too.

    You will also find a legion of players using MarkBass, SWR, Hartke and Mesa. Some of my favorite players too.

    I don't find it to be limited in any way. Then again, I prefer a 2 x 15" cabinet, loaded with Peavey BW's. Place an SVT atop THAT, and you will NOT find a lack of lows, I can assure you.
    It's the quality of tone that matters, not how much lows there are. I like low end, but there's more to good bass tone than that. SVTs lack high end, and the upper mids are ugly IMO. My Trace Elliott or Mesa will go deeper. You can't get something out of the SVT that isn't there. According to Bill Hughes co-designer of the SVT, in an interview in Bass Gear Mag, the very low end is "an illusion" :

    I had previously developed a style of equalization for bass while working as a freelance recording engineer. Cranking up a lot of low end boost was never a good idea when your target is vinyl. Rather, removing the lower odd-order harmonics (as the SVT was set up to do) does way more to give the right illusion. I guess this is why bass amps with graphic EQ have fallen from vogue.
    Interestingly I see a lot of bass amps with graphic EQ, including Ampegs. Hughes now works for Fender designing power amp sections for SWR.

    You also can't get a faithful reproduction of your bass, which is important to me, but obviously not to everyone.

    With a different tone stack it might be a decent amp. But as it stands now, the designers are telling you what your bass is supposed to sound like based on 1969 standards. That's not a tone I would have used back in 1969, and it REALLY ain't a tone I would use 40 years later. Most recordings are done with the bass DI, and that's the tone I expect from my on stage rig.

    But to each their own.

    (check out the response of the amp with the tone controls set "flat" (12:00), and even when trying to make it flat, it just wont comply)
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