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Thread: String-to-string tonal balance?

  1. #1

    String-to-string tonal balance?

    WARNING: wordy saga to follow!

    So...I use D'Addario ECB 81M Chromes (medium-scale, 45-65-80-100) on my SFs. Over a period of time, I've had a nagging, if minor issue with string-to-string tonal balance. When the lower 3 strings were EQ-ed to my liking, the "G" sounded comparatively brassier and too trebley: not an ideal "match", if you will. But if I EQ-ed for the "G", the lower 3 started losing punch and definition, so I kept ending up feeling like I was having to settle for a compromise. (BTW: the pups in question are the Guild NS Bi-Sonic re-pops).

    I twiddled extensively with my amp EQ section, my pedalboard pre-amp, pole piece height, gain levels etc. but still kept feeling like I wasn't really completely happy.

    Looked at ECB 82 Chromes (50-70-85-105), thinking that heavier strings might help, but those are available in long-scale only. Medium-scale Chromes fit the SF perfectly, with 34" of wound length, putting the start of the string taper on the nut end right between the nut and the tuner posts.

    Unfortunately, the advertised, wound, (ball-end-to-taper) length of D'Addario's long-scale sets (like the ECB 82 Chromes) is 37.1", which puts the un-tapered, flat windings wrapping around the "E" and "G" tuner posts, making those strings more susceptible to breakage.

    I like the feel and generally the sound of Chromes and they don't react to the chemistry of my sweat. Other flats I've tried do, making them feel "sticky".

    So what was a boy to do?

    Fast forward to now: you know what they say: sometimes, when you verbalize a problem, a new, possible solution appears.

    Awhile back, I replaced the rosewood bridge saddles on the Starfire II in question with brass ones. Because I changed some other aspects of my rig at about the same time, I didn't correlate the saddle change with the issue described above, maybe because it wasn't a really severe problem but was one of those that begins to grate on you over time.

    Then, while I was cataloging the stuff (above) I had tried in search of a solution and wracking my brain for something else to try, the brass saddles suddenly snapped into focus: "oh, yeah...what about THOSE?"

    So, just for giggles, I replaced only the brass "G" saddle with the original rosewood one and then dropped the "G" pole piece just a bit. That really seemed to bring the strings into better tonal balance, just enough to take the "harsh", offending "edge" off the "G".

    Maybe, you may say, this is mostly an object lesson in the power of auto-suggestion. But I really don't think I'm imagining the better, if subtle, tonal balance.

    I'd be curious to know if anyone else here has had a similar experience chasing their own tail in this regard...

  2. #2
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minnesota Flats View Post
    I'd be curious to know if anyone else here has had a similar experience chasing their own tail in this regard...
    Not me. There are a lot of things better players worry about that I don't even notice. I also find that, when I do hear things I want to correct, I can often do so with my fingers so tinkering and experimentation is not with the instrument.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stuball48 View Post
    Frono: You are correct----again.

    '67 Starfire I Bass (Cherry)
    '71 JS II Bass (Walnut)
    '82 B-50 Acoustic Bass (Natural)
    '87 Pilot (Black)
    '13 Newark Street Starfire Bass (Cherry)
    '16 Betts Bass "Walnut Bottom"

    LMG I, II, III

    This space available.

  3. #3
    "There are a lot of things better players worry about that I don't even notice."

    I don't consider myself to be a better player than all that many people, so rest easy on that one.

    "...when I do hear things I want to correct, I can often do so with my fingers"

    I agree with that: I've solved many problems of my own by learning to finesse right-hand technique. This particular issue didn't seem to respond that well to that approach, however.

    I also know that sometimes the same gear in the same room at the same settings may sound a lot better to me one day than it does the next (go figure). I know I'm not alone in that regard, because others have told me they sometimes experience the same thing.

  4. #4
    Hello

    Different saddle material for G-string makes all sense. Wish it would be that easy on acoustic guitars with one piece saddles.
    First good guitar - GUILD Duane Eddy 400 - I was 3rd owner - still regret letting it go 25 years ago - used to have Artist Award and Starfire - no regrets here.
    Present guitars - all bought new - F50R 1975 - F512 1977 - F212CSB 1979 - OM-240CE 2018 - Schecter Startocaster
    bought secondhand - B30SB fretless - RED Songbird - White Songbird - D-125 - Gibson 3/4-size acoustic 1957 - Carmelo Gonzales nylon string - old Levin Lute

  5. #5
    "Different saddle material for G-string makes all sense."

    Looks a bit odd, but it's the sound that matters most.

  6. #6
    Hello

    Has anybody experimented with acoustic saddles?
    Cut it in six pieces, so each string gets its own saddle.

    In case the bottom contact is not correct, this might be remedy.
    My otherwise wonderful Red Songbird has a bit lower volume on plain strings, when played electric.
    So - in this case two pieces would be fine - one for E-A-D-G plus one for B-E
    Perhaps it is time to tinker - what´s to loose? Some time plus a piece of plastic.
    First good guitar - GUILD Duane Eddy 400 - I was 3rd owner - still regret letting it go 25 years ago - used to have Artist Award and Starfire - no regrets here.
    Present guitars - all bought new - F50R 1975 - F512 1977 - F212CSB 1979 - OM-240CE 2018 - Schecter Startocaster
    bought secondhand - B30SB fretless - RED Songbird - White Songbird - D-125 - Gibson 3/4-size acoustic 1957 - Carmelo Gonzales nylon string - old Levin Lute

  7. #7
    Sometimes strings also don't even out until they're fully broken-in. This may take months depending on the set and/or how much you play. Still I've had many a set where the string-to-string balance (both in tone and volume) just never even out. Also why I practically never replace just one string.
    That said, I have had basses where string balance issues were inherent to the bass's design in one way or another. The most explored example was my Epiphone Jack Casady Signature bass. I was head over heels in love with the tone and feel, but the A and D strings were notably quieter and thinner sounding than the E and G. My initial theory was that the pickup was to blame. I figured that since the face of it is flat, the unadjustable poles underneath might be as well. I loved overall low-impedance tone though, so I was hesitant to change that. Next I tried to see how close I could get the strings in height by filing the saddles, without there being buzz issues in relation to the fretboard radius. I was able to make them pretty even across with the bass still playing comfortably but the balance issue still existed, strong as ever. In a final attempt to remedy the frustrating quirk, I decided to try the Hipshot Supertone bridge. BOOM! Problem solved. My conclusion was that the greatly improved contact between the bridge and the body was the ultimate solution. The old Gibson bridge design makes two massive posts outside of the string-spread the main contact between bridge and body, with a little post in the middle for tilt-adjustment. It appeared to me that there was more resonance transfer for the E and G strings via the big outside posts and that somehow translated to a stronger signal from those strings. At least this was the only way I could explain the problem. I wasn't the only one who heard it either, so it wasn't just my ears -- though I will admit I can be way too obsessive over little tone-related things.
    That said, I've never had a string-to-string balance issue with a Guild bass that I couldn't solve with a different pair of strings and/or adjusted pickup pole pieces. I think there is an inherent tonal difference from string to string since a thicker string vibrates differently than a thinner string, however I expect that difference to be consistent as one moves from E to A to D to G. I'm actually particularly fond of this tonal difference and use it strategically while playing.
    1970 Starfire Bass
    1968 Thunderbass
    1970 D-40

  8. #8
    "...though I will admit I can be way too obsessive over little tone-related things."

    Ain't it the truth? The nuances we may agonize and obsess over while practicing alone, most people (especially non-musicians) neither hear nor care about in the context of an ensemble setting.

    Just our cross to bear, I suppose...

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