Why do we need intonation adjustment?
On string instruments, the fret spacing along the fretboard is calculated according to a mathematical formula. This formula is theoretical, though, and doesn’t take into account variables, such as string tension (tuning), string thickness (gauge) and string height (action). These variables make the actual pitch of a string, which is pressed down against a fret, deviate from the theoretically correct pitch. To compensate for this pitch offset, you need some sort of intonation adjustment that sets the correct intonation (or octave compensation) for each string.
On acoustic guitars correct intonation is achieved by an angled bridge saddle, often carefully shaped to fine-tune the compensation further.
Early electric guitars were basically modified archtop acoustics, which carried on using traditional rosewood (or ebony) archtop bridges with carved ”steps” presetting the intonation. Overall intonation adjustment was carried out by moving the whole bridge carefully closer to (or further away from) the neck.
The advent of the – much clearer-sounding – solidbody electric guitar necessitated a more precise approach to the problem of intonation adjustment.
Leo Fender’s novel Esquire/Broadcaster/Telecaster-bridge featured a mounting plate for the bridge pickup, as well as individual action adjustment for each string, and octave compensation in string pairs.
Fender’s Telecaster bridge assembly plays a huge part in this model’s distinctive, twangy tone, laying the foundation for the model’s classic status.
Over the course of the 1950s and 60s, Fender experimented with different saddles – smooth brass, smooth steel, threaded steel, and steel saddles with a single notch per string – but the basic, three-saddle formula stayed firmly in place. You got fantastic tone, but not perfectly spot-on intonation.
Twenty years after the original launch of Fender’s first solidbody electric, things had evolved.
In 1952 the original three-saddle bridge was less of a compromise, because the regular string sets of that time (012s or 013s) had a wound g-string. With a wound g-string the biggest step in intonation adjustment was between the b- and the g-string, and, as they were catered for by different saddles, a good, working compromise could be found.
By the late Sixties, ”slinky” string sets with plain g-strings had become the norm. This shifted the intonation step between the highest wound string and the lowest plain string onto a single, rigid bridge saddle (for the D- and g-string).
Fender retained the traditional three-saddle bridge on its standard Telecaster, but introduced six-saddle bridges on many of its new models in the Seventies. Pictured above is the six-saddle bridge from a (second version) Custom Telecaster (introduced in 1972).
Although this bridge finally offered perfect intonation, some players criticised this type of bridge for ”sounding” thinner (or brighter) than the original version. This might also have been due to changes in the precise specifications of the bridge pickup at that time, though.
More recent six-saddle designs by makers like Hipshot, Gotoh or Fender are based on a thicker bridge plate. These are perfectly serviceable, modern designs, which offer precise intonation. Many Tele-anoraks still steer clear of these bridge types, however, because the more rigid bridge plate tends to tame the bridge pickup’s twang noticeably.
Another approach to better intonation on a Telecaster is to keep the twang-enhancing three-saddle ashtray bridge in place, but modify the saddles.
These three approaches (Barden, Wilkinson, and Graph Tech) work very well in providing good intonation, while keeping the Telecaster-tone intact, as long as you use string sets with a plain g-string.
If you want to retain your three-saddle twang, but want to have more freedom in choosing your string gauges, the best way to go are saddles with an angle adjustment. Good examples are Wilkinson’s replacement brass saddles (above), or this stainless steel Tele-bridge by Mastery.
How come that the vintage-type Fender Telecaster, with all its intonation flaws, is still in production and still very successful? The answer is that people have always been creative in working out solutions to design shortcomings.
In the Telecaster’s case this means finding a way to ”sweeten” the guitar’s slightly flawed intonation.
Here are three (of a myriad of) possible approaches:
1.) The fifty percent approach
After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation correctly for both E-strings, as well as the g-string (I call them the most critical strings). Then tune your guitar by tuning the open E-strings and the g-string to pitch. The remaining three strings (A, D, and b) are then tuned, so that the pitch at the seventh fret is correct (giving you E, a, and f#).
The A-, D-, and b-strings will be a little off in their intonation going up (or down) from the seventh fret, but overall the pitch will be much sweeter, than if you had tuned these strings to their correct open string pitches. You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.
2.) Tuner sweetening
After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation, so that each string pair is slightly off in an approximately even way. With the E- and A-pair this would mean that the E-string’s intonation comes out slightly sharp, while the A-string’s intonation is a tiny bit flat. The next pair would see the D-string a bit flat, while the (plain) g-string is a tad sharp. The last pair would have the b-string a bit sharpish, with the e-string a little flat. Then tune the guitar by tuning all strings, so the pitch is correct at the seventh fret.
Now all strings will be a little off in their intonation going up (or down) from the seventh fret, but overall the pitch will be much sweeter, than if you had tuned them to their correct open string pitches. You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.
3.) Sweetening to the A
After you’ve put on a set of new strings, use your digital tuner to set the (12th fret) intonation, so that each string pair is slightly off in an approximately even way. With the E- and A-pair this would mean that the E-string’s intonation comes out slightly sharp, while the A-string’s intonation is a tiny bit flat. The next pair would see the D-string a bit flat, while the (plain) g-string is a tad sharp. The last pair would have the b-string a bit sharpish, with the e-string a little flat. Then tune your guitar by first tuning the open A-string to pitch. Next, tune all the other strings by ear, using the A-string as your reference:
• E-string at the fifth fret against open A
• D-string at the seventh fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)
• g-string at the second fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)
• b-string at the tenth fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)
• e-string at the fifth fret against open A (or A-string 12th fret harmonic)
You can then fine-adjust your sweetening by ear, using first position chords as a reference.
Remember, none of the above tuning tips is set in granite. Tuning and intonating a three-saddle Telecaster is a dark art, and most players have developed their own way of sweetening their guitar’s intonation. Let your ears be your guide!
The good people of EBS Sweden are now bringing a healthy dose of fuzz to the bassist’s toolbox.
The EBS FuzzMo (current price in Finland: 169,90 €) is a fuzz-type high gain distortion developed especially for bass.
This stompbox is made in China to the EBS’ exacting standards. It’s a sturdy pedal with very positive feeling controls.
The FuzzMo can be powered in three ways:
If you use an EBS amp from the Drome-, Gorm-, HD- or TD-series, you can use a TRS-cable (aka a stereo cable) to feed phantom power from the amp to the effect pedal.
The FuzzMo pedal also runs off a standard 9 V battery, but you will need a screwdriver to take off the base plate first.
The third alternative is to employ a Boss-type power supply (9 V DC, centre negative) to fire up the stompbox.
Even though the EBS FuzzMo looks somewhat similar to the company’s Billy Sheehan -pedal, the controls on the fuzz work in a different way.
The FuzzMo doesn’t do ”nice and sweet” – the Gain control offers fuzz from medium-crunchy to balls-to-the-wall-fuzz. Shape adjusts the tone of the fuzz effect – not in the way a traditional tone control does, but rather by changing the waveform of the fuzz signal. At seven o’clock the sound is quite warm and organic with the waveform approaching a square, while five o’clock is far brighter and more aggressive with the waveform resembling a triangle.
The mini-switch underneath the FuzzMo-logo (called Character) also plays an important part in the stompbox’ sound:
Switched to the left no EQ’ing is applied to the signal (FLAT). In the middle position there’s a slight attenuation of the mid-range. SCOOP on the right side results in a very Metal-style scooped-mid tone with plenty of bite.
Modern bass effects often split the bass signal at the input. One half is fed through the effect, while the other half is kept dry and mixed into the wet signal before it reaches the output. The advantage of doing things this way is that it enables you to keep your bottom end and dynamic attack intact.
This is just the way EBS’ FuzzMo works, too:
You use the Volume knob to adjust the fuzz signal’s volume level, and then use the Blend control to add the desired amount of dry bass. This feature is especially important in fuzz pedals for bass, because the hard clipping of a fuzz effect practically negates all your playing dynamics by design. With the FuzzMo there will be no problems with your tone becoming mushy, clogged up and indistinct, because the Blend control lets you restore your bass guitar’s punch and low end.
Here’s a bit recorded with a Jazz Bass (both pickups on) and a relatively low Gain setting:
In this clip I added some more fuzz and bite to a Rickenbacker played with a plectrum:
Thanks to the ability to blend in the dry signal, the EBS FuzzMo also works extremely well with a five-string (in this case a Yamaha BB with active EMGs):
Note that on all these audio clips the Gain control stayed below one o’clock. If you want you can take things much, much further with this EBS-pedal!
The FuzzMo is a typical EBS-pedal – it’s a sturdy, pro-quality stompbox and it sounds great. If you’re a purveyor of sleazy, dirty and aggressive bass tones, you should definitely give this baby a spin!
EBS Sweden FuzzMo
Finnish distributor: F-Musiikki
+ build quality
+ can be powered in three ways
+ sound optimised for bass
+ three-way EQ-switch
+ Blend control
+ offers a lot of gain
– no quick access to battery
EBS Swedenin uusin mausterasia tuo maukasta fuzzia basistin elämään.
EBS FuzzMo (169,90 €) on sähköbassoille suunniteltu fuzz-tyyppinen säröpedaali.
Kiinassa rakennettu efektiloota edustaa EBS:lle tyypillistä vankkaa tekoa, sen jämäkän oloisella jalkakytkimellä ja sulavasti toimivilla potikoilla.
Elektroniikan sähköntarpeen voi tyydyttää kolmella eri tavalla:
Jos on käytössä EBS:n Drome-, Gorm-, HD- tai TD-mallinen vahvistin, voi käyttää vahvistimen tarjoamaa phantom-syöttöä TRS-plugijohdon kautta. TRS-johto tulee silloin kytkeä FuzzMo:n lähdön ja vahvistimen tulon väliin.
FuzzMo-pedaali toimii toki myös perinteisesti yhdeksän voltin paristolla, mutta pariston vaihtamiseen tarvitaan ruuvimeisseliä, koska pohjalevy on ensin irrotettava.
Kolmas vaihtoehto on käyttää Boss-standardin mukaista virtalähdettä (9 V DC, miinus keskellä).
Vaikka EBS:n FuzzMo muistuttaa ulkoisesti firman Billy Sheehan -pedaalia, vaikuttavat fuzz-pedaalin säätimet kuitenkin hieman toisella tavalla soundiin.
”Mieto” ei ole FuzzMo:ssa homman nimi, sillä Gain-säätimen vaikutusalue menee keskivahvasta erittäin rankkaan fuzziin. Shape-nupilla säädetään säröefektin sointia, mutta kyseessä ei ole perinteinen tone-potikka, vaan yliohjauksessa syntyvän aaltomuodon säädin. Vasemmalla äärilaidalla on tarjolla orgaanisempi ja lämpimämpi kanttiaalto, kun taas toisessa ääripäässä lootasta lähtee kirkkaampi ja purevampi kolmioaalto.
Lopulliseen särösoundiin vaikuttaa vielä FuzzMo-logon alle sijoitettu minikokoinen vipukytkin:
Kun kytkin on vasemmassa asennossa, säröpedaalin EQ-osasto on pois päältä (FLAT). Keskiasennossa särösignaalissa vaimennetaan hieman keskialueen taajuuksia, kun taas oikealla laidalla (SCOOP) syntyy Trash-tyylinen, pureva särösoundi.
Nykyaikaisissa bassoefekteissä jaetaan bassosignaali usein heti tulon jälkeen kahteen. Puolet signaalista menee efektin läpi, kun taas toinen puoli miksataan ennen pedaalin lähtöä kuivana efektoituun signaaliin. Tämän menetelmän suuri etu on, että basson alkuperäinen dynamiikka ja pyöreys säilyy miltei ehjänä efektityypistä huolimatta.
Juuri tällä tavalla toimii myös EBS FuzzMo:
Volume-säätimellä asetetaan särösignaalin voimakkuutta ja Blendillä lisätään siihen sitten oman tarpeen mukaan basson puhdasta signaalia. Etenkin bassoille tarkoitetussa fuzz-pedaalissa tällainen ominaisuus on erittäin tervetullut, koska fuzz-piirit leikkaavat toimintaperiaatteensa takia etenkin soittodynamiikkaa melko rankasti. FuzzMo-pedaalilla ei synny ongelmia puuroutumisen kanssa, jollei juuri sitä halua.
Tässä on lyhyt esimerkkipätkä sormilla soitetusta Jazz-bassosta (molemmat mikrofonit täysille avattuna) ja hyvin miedolla fuzzilla:
Plektralla soitetuille Rickenbackerille lisäsin hieman enemmän, ja hieman purevampaa, säröä:
Puhtaan signaalin annostelun ansiosta EBS:n FuzzMo toimii myös mainiosti viisikielisen basson kanssa (EMG-mikrofoneilla varustettu Yamaha BB-malli):
On muuten syytä huomauttaa, että kaikissa esimerkkipätkissä Gain-säädin pysyi alle puoleksi avattuna. EBS-pedaalista lähtee tarvittaessa vielä huomattavasti rankempia soundeja!
FuzzMo on tyypillinen EBS-pedaali – se on kestävän oloinen laite laadukkaalla soundilla, joka sopii mainiosti likaisten bassosoundien ystäville.
EBS Sweden FuzzMo
+ vankka rakenne
+ toimii sekä paristolla, phantom-syötöllä ja virtalähteellä
+ bassolle optimoitu soundi
+ kolmiasentoinen EQ-kytkin
+ tarjoaa runsaasti fuzzia
– pariston vaihtaminen vain ruuvimeisselillä
Orange Amplification have a long and illustrious tradition in the building of guitar and bass amplifiers, a fact that shows in many of the company’s current products.
But that doesn’t mean that Orange are a backward-facing company – far from it. The brand-new Terror Bass combo, for example, is very much a contemporary product – a compact, yet powerful valve-hybrid amp.
The Orange TB500C is a valve-hybrid amplifier, which in this case means that its preamp section is powered by two 12AX7 valves. The tubes imbue the combo with a warm basic tonality, nicely seasoned with mild and organic compression. I’d also wager that a bit of overdrive will be on the menu at some point.
The power amp, on the other hand, uses modern technology to its best advantage: A Class D amplifier manages to produce lots of volume in a very energy efficient way. Because this technology cuts down drastically on heat dissipation as a byproduct of amplification, manufacturers are now able to build smaller and lighter amps.
Orange’s Smart Power bass cabinets are built according to the isobaric principle.
An isobaric speaker cabinet basically uses two identical speakers – in the TB500C’s case two 12-inch neodymium speakers – mounted one behind the other in a straight line, resulting in fatter tones and more sound pressure than you’d expect from a relatively compact design.
Take a look at Orange’s own video to get more of an insight into their Smart Power cabinets:
But we bassists needn’t trouble ourselves with too much theory, we only have to use the combo.
The front panel is typical of Orange-amps: There are the famous pictograms above the clearly labelled controls for gain and master volume, as well as the three-band EQ section, which make it even easier to know your way around the amp.
The amplifier section is connected to the combo’s speaker using the provided Speakon-lead.
Because the amplifier allows you to daisy-chain two cabinets…
…you will find the necessary impedance switch on the back panel underneath the Speakon-jack.
The other connectors on the back panel are for the effects chain and the balanced DI-output.
Whoa, watch out – this combo is a real shouter!
I’ve got to admit right away that I tend to dislike the use of single 12-inch speakers in bass amps. More often than not I find these designs to lack real bottom end and transparency in their tonal delivery.
But this isn’t a thing that you could accuse the Orange Terror Bass of, by any stretch of the imagination! The isobaric Smart Power cabinet is quite a different beast, sounding large and muscular, with more than enough clarity and punch for most applications.
In terms of its basic sound the Orange TB500C is clearly a dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying member of the Orange-family: If you’re looking for extreme clarity and hi-fi-style response, this isn’t really the right amp for you. We’re talking about earthy and muscular bass tones here. Dialling in more gain gradually adds delicious grit and graininess to proceedings. Above 3 o’clock on the gain control any bass will drive the Orange well into classic, glorious overdrive.
Even though the Terror Bass combo is part of Orange’s cost-conscious Terror-range, I am rather sure this powerful and compact bass amp will find its way into many professional backlines.
I recorded the audio clips using my trusty Japanese 1985 Squier Jazz Bass and my own P-Man bitser equipped with a MM-humbucker and passive controls:
Orange Terror Bass TB500C-212
current RRP in Finland: 994 €
Finnish distributor: Musamaailma
+ valve preamp