Author Topic: Different Voices in Similar Alembics  (Read 572 times)

edwardofhuncote

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Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« on: February 04, 2018, 03:12:31 PM »
If I've paddled too far out, somebody reel me back in here...

This is a great big, fairly subjective question - why do these four basses sound so different yet retain the basic similarities common to Alembic instruments? It's not a complaint, it's actually a BIG compliment. I'm impressed at consistency... it's remarkable how much alike they really are, but there are definitely some un-subtle differences between them that I can't quite understand.

Two of them are Distillate models, made within 4 years of each other. ('81 and '85)  Both are equipped with AXY pickups and presumably the same preamps and circuitry, but weirdly, when I set the controls the same and A/B them played through my home rig set the same, they can easily be told apart.

In an even stranger twist, my Custom fretless 5-string shares a same-same neck layup, scale, and body core with its inspiration, a Persuader 5-string from almost 30 years ago. The pickups are nothing alike, and the controls are somewhat different too, yet in plug-n-play mode... danged if they don't sound more alike than the two Distillates do!

Even more weirdness - neither of them sound like the Distillates, which have a more 'raw', 'cutting' sound. The 5-strings instead, have a more 'pillow-y', 'scooped' tone.

Just trying to assign some logic to all that... and I have a couple theories going, but I'm curious what you all come up with. Feel free to relate similarities and differences you hear in your own fold too.



edwardofhuncote

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #1 on: February 04, 2018, 03:19:11 PM »
The Subjects:  :)


David Houck

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #2 on: February 04, 2018, 04:36:30 PM »
The fretted instruments should sound different from the fretless instruments because of the fret material which acts as a filter between the string and the neck.

Top woods can have a significant effect on tone; and it looks like you have three different top woods.

The pickup magnets in the Persuader have a significantly different shape than the magnets in the other three instruments.

The placement of the magnets within the scale length of the instrument can have a significant effect on tone.

The greater mass of the five string neck over the four string neck will have an effect.

The three Purpleheart laminates versus two Purpleheart laminates will have an effect.

The difference in body shapes, mass again, will have an effect.

And, as a generalization, even woods of the same species will differ to some degree; two otherwise identical instruments can sound different if the Mahogany in the bodies is from two different trees.

So yes; all four of those instruments should have their own distinct sound.  And all four should sound like Alembics.

growlypants

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #3 on: February 05, 2018, 06:37:59 AM »
My Sig. Deluxe 5-string, "Superb Walnut"... built in '09...which I bought new in '11 (go figure!) almost three years after THAT, suddenly sounded different.  It was if the wood stopped thinking it was a tree, and realized it was a tone monster.  And it is, trust me.
I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2018, 01:35:14 PM »
Dave pretty much covered most of what I've been assuming...

One thing I did not mention - the weight of all 4 basses is within an ounce or two. 10-1/2 lbs each, give or take.

I guess what surprises me (and maybe it shouldn't) is how the two 5-string models sound so much alike while the only common denominator is the build woods... mahogany cores, maple tops, and three purpleheart neck laminates. I would have thought the pickups and electronics would have had more influence than they apparently do. I used to wonder what my Persuader would sound like with AXY's instead of the P/J set, but having heard what that combination sounds like on a similar build... I believe they say if it ain't broke...

On the flip side of that, those two Distillate basses sound shockingly different... even with identical electronics, and necks, I guess the fretless-ness and bubinga top of the one may be what imparts a more focused midrange, where the walnut-topped fretted one seems to be a bit more balanced.

Impressive though, how that fundamental resonance common to all four of them just screams - ALEMBIC. I'd know it anywhere.

Maybe the best idea is to just play 'em and not think about it so much.  :D

5a quilt top

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2018, 11:57:10 AM »
IMO, it's the wood.


I work part time at a guitar store and we are a dealer for McPherson acoustic guitars. McPherson offers a limited variety of body depths, two different body styles and two different sizes for the sound holes. Otherwise, their guitars are made to the same technical spec, except with different wood combinations.


Over the past 10 years, I've played dozens of them and no two sound exactly the same - even if they have the same body depth, sound hole size and wood combination.


All McPhersons (and all Alembics) exhibit similar inherent tonalities and responsiveness - they both offer an even and balanced response from low to high while delivering a clear ringing tone with excellent sustain - and these qualities are inherent in each brand's basic design and technical spec's.


So why does each individual instrument sound different?


Because no two pieces of wood are identical.

charles_holmes

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2018, 01:05:51 PM »
I know that you've got a great collection of basses there! A 4 string  and 5 string fretted and a 4string  & a 5 string fretless!!!

keith_h

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2018, 01:16:49 PM »
It was hearing Dave's similar Series 1's when he was playing out one evening that showed me how much the top wood effects the tone of a bass.

mario_farufyno

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2018, 03:24:51 PM »
Yeah, that's why we all should be able to afford 10 Alembics, at least... ha
Not just a bass, this is an Alembic!

pauldo

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2018, 05:45:58 PM »
My Sig. Deluxe 5-string, "Superb Walnut"... built in '09...which I bought new in '11 (go figure!) almost three years after THAT, suddenly sounded different.  It was if the wood stopped thinking it was a tree, and realized it was a tone monster.  And it is, trust me.


 ;D   I like that.


There is merit to the statement.


Another aspect is that even though the instruments are similar, subtle differences can make the musician play it different.  Ergonomic positions of arm, wrist hand, fingers and this then impacts the 'attack' of notes
1984 Distillate Zebrawood

jazzyvee

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2018, 03:20:01 AM »
Sometimes when I've described the tonal differences between basses I often try to use the analogy of  national, regional or local accents.

To me all alembic bass models have what I will refer to as an "alembic accent" which is why in most cases you can tell it is an alembic. Just like you can hear for example a "British" accent in someone's speech and the difference when a French person is speaking English.

If you are not familiar with regional British accents then we all sound pretty much the same so, as I was once told on a visit to the states we all sound like Prince Charles"..!!!

However just like people from a particular part of your country you can hear that accent even though their voice may sound tonally different to another person from the same country.  Once you become familiar  with the accent of a country or region because you live there,  you can hear more of the finer points of that accent and maybe tell if someone lives in a particular part of the country for example, the north or south part etc.
To me that would be like hearing the differences between in each alembic model of instrument from the entry level to the series models. Then as you break it down you find people in one part of the country sound different if they live in a different part of a city. So that would be like hearing differences within the same alembic model due to woods, pickups, pickup  location, strings etc.

Over the years I have started to understand the subtle differences in how they sound, but not the why as much, and use that specifically when I have to choose a bass for a gig.






The sound of Alembic is medicine for the soul!

edwardofhuncote

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Re: Different Voices in Similar Alembics
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2018, 11:02:46 AM »
That's actually a very good analogy, Jazzy... I hadn't really thought about it that way.

It may also explain why the McVie-inspired "Chain-Links" favo(u)rs a Coventry accent over Brummie.  ;D