Bass Bench

This not-so-special-looking Mustang bass sold for $384,000. Introduced in 1966 at just $189.50 (about $1,600 today), that’s a big markup for the historic and collector’s value it accrued on tour with the Rolling Stones.

Photo by Julien’s Auctions

In his final Bass Bench, our columnist ponders what innovations will come next.

Roughly 70 years into the history of the electric bass, I find myself wondering: Is there a target in the evolution of our instrument? Are we aiming for superb playability, the highest tuning stability, tonal superiority and versatility, ergonomics and comfort, or even all of these things?

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For at least a decade, the classic Ampeg SVT was the dominant bass amp for power and tone.

Photo courtesy of ampeg.com

From the giant, hefty beasts of yore to their modern, ultra-portable equivalents, bass amps have come a long way. So, what's next?

Bassists are often quite well-informed about the details of their instruments, down to the finest technical specs. Many of us have had our share of intense discussions about the most minute differences between one instrument and another. (And sometimes those are interrupted by someone saying, "It's all in the fingers.") But right behind our backs, at the end of our output cables, there is a world of tone-shaping that we either simply ignore or just don't want to dive into too deeply. Turning a gear discussion from bass to amp is a perfect way to bring it to an abrupt end.

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Photo 1: Despite the ornamental look of this golden Celestion speaker from 1924, its main components are essentially the same as today's.

Courtesy of Wikimedia

A rumination on the history of bass speakers and how they compare to their guitar-amplifying kin.

Musicians rarely see the huge effect a speaker or cabinet has on their sound, as our relationship to our instrument is way more emotional and intense than with what comes after the output jack. In 1915, Peter Jensen perplexed those who attended his Magnavox speaker demonstration with the amplification of a human voice. The construction of that speaker—a conical membrane and a voice coil in a magnetic field—is principally the same as what we use today, although the Celestion speaker from 1924 looks quite different to what we are used to seeing (Photo 1). The tonal goals in the world of hi-fi speakers are pretty clear: a wide frequency range and high linearity, which is far from what our rigs require.

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The 1976-issued Schaffer­–Vega Diversity SVDS Model X-10 Transmitter & 63EX Receiver system was discontinued in 1981, but a reproduction is now available.

Photo courtesy of wikimedia.com

Wireless technology is thriving in all parts of the techno-sphere and it's time for bassists to catch up.

What were the most dangerous times for bassists, guitarists, and singers? Surely the '60s. Not because of wild backstage parties, drug abuse, or high-risk early international travel, but simply because of electrocution caused by amateurish electrical installations with missing grounds.

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