Saturday, December 4, 2010

Building the uber-J. Part fortheen - at last!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Über-Jay is finally here. Actually it has been here since October. My bad for not updating the blog.

It weights 3.6 Kg. or 7.7 lb. A comparable bass I own - also a 4 stringer, Mahogany body and Rock Maple neck - weighs 4 kg or 8.8 pounds.

Having said so, it's obvious to me that the absence of tuners on the headstock makes the biggest difference, changing the overall weight distribution. This makes the bass feel very neutral and a lot lighter than numbers would suggest. The sense of fatigue on the left shoulder is basically gone.

I have rearranged the knobs order to suit my playing style. From p-up to bridge: Balance/Tone/Volume.

It reflects the way I believe players prioritize controls. I have asked around a lot and I found out that Volume is actually the least used of all. It also reflects the way I use them - with B being the most important and V the least.

I then decided to make brass knobs to replace the plastic ones. The knobs are plain, no dot marker or line. I think it's unnecessary. The thing is, if the mark is placed on the top I won't be able to see it and I usually don't look at them anyway.

From the side the Allen would be visible enough; better yet, my fingers would feel it more than they would a dot. That together with the center indent does the trick - to me that is.

I mounted the knobs so as the Allen screws are all facing the player when T/B knobs are in center position and V knob is at max vol.

It looks so much better with such a little change, doesn't it?

Click here to listen to a sound clip.

I recorded it with:

Digital recorder Zoom H4. settings in flat. Stereo microphone at about 50cm from amplifier.

No effects whatsoever. The sound is straight from the amp - setting in flat. One 12" speaker. Not the best for the sound I like. But I basically wanted to recreate the conditions one usually faces when playing a bass at the shop.

As you listen to the clip you should hear - in this order:

1 - finger style, only neck p-up. Tone at zero - basically full treble cut. Right hand moving from bridge to neck position. Progressive increment of trebles.

2- f/style, only bridge p-ups selected. Right hand playing from bridge to neck. Tone at 50%

3 - p-up blend in center position with slight variations +/- 20%. Tone at 50%

4 - slap with 2 p-ups center position and variations +/- 20% mix. Tone on bass at 50%. Mid cut on amp between 500Hz and 2Khz.

Strings: roundwound stainless steel .40/105. The action is impossibly low

At 1:30 and around 2:20-2:30 you can hear bending on open strings and harmonics. That's possible because this anchoring system - as opposed to using tuners - positions them at an angle sharp enough to do without string retainers.
So, I use my left hand to bend one or more strings anywhere between nut and the h/stock ferrules.

In my experience, this is possible only on some basses with tilt back head stock and usually only on the second and third strings. Notable exception being the Status Kingbass with optional Bendwell.

To wrap it up.... I am used to playing boutique basses. I have owned or played long enough some of the best basses around. I still own five of them. I can humbly say that I can tell a good - or bad - bass just by lifting it up or playing it unplugged.

So, how does the Über-Jay compares with the cream of basses? Trying to be as detached as possible, I'd say very very well.

There are areas where it can be improved - and it will. The neck can be thinner. The body can be chambered. An accent line would have been nice. It doesn't display the same level of craftsmanship as the others I own... yet ;)

But the bottom line is, I am a very fussy player. The bass I pick is the best I can put my hands on. Since October, that bass has been the Ü-J.

Thanks for reading this far.


ps: Future projects.

I have started a new build. It's called the Mark II. Simply because it pushes the Ü-J design forward and implements ideas I had while building the first one.

The overwhelming response this build has met with - from fellow bass players all over - has been extremely encouraging. The next build is already spoken for and I am discussing two more builds as we speak. I never thought it would get this good :)

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