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Thread: Bi Sonics, Dark Stars & Humbuckers. How do I tell them apart ?

  1. #11
    My current #1 funkenstein bass sports a Hanson ChiSonic in the most-neckward position. These are also used in many Lakland basses. Here is the Hanson site: http://www.hansonpickups.com/chisonics.htm
    I'm a big fan of them and the nice thing is that for a boutique bisonic-esque pickup they are a lot cheaper than the alternatives. They don't look very much like a traditional bisonic though (a few different style options) and they do require a pretty big hole to be carved into the bass. In any case, I think they're definitely worth considering in your build.
    I have had quite a bit of experience with these ChiSonics, vintage Hagstrom Bisonics (in and out of Guild basses), DarkStar pickups, and the Novak Bisonic. I really love them all, though my favorite (so far) was the original unmodified single-magnet Bisonic in my old 1966 Starfire bass. Next would be the Novak Bisonic (wound to vintage specs) which came very close to that 1966 pickup, aside from it having two magnets. Fred Hammon (the creator of DarkStar pickups) was nice enough to make a custom single-magnet Bisonic for me some years ago, which was also great.
    Aside from the aesthetic differences, the ChiSonic is a bit of a deviation from the Bisonic/DarkStar design tonally as well. I've owned a few, having had them in both solid and semi-hollow basses. The one in my current bass, I bought second-hand and was supposedly technically wound to for the bridge position, but I like it just fine where it is. It has a very warm, tone, with a little more mid-emphasis than a traditional Bisonic pickup. I have never had one in a "bridge" position, so I can't speak to how they sound there.

    Last edited by mellowgerman; 11-13-2016 at 07:27 PM.

  2. #12
    Also, in regard to distinguishing between the tone of the Hagstrom Bisonic, Novak Bisonic, Dark Star, etc... I think it would be tough unless it was a very controlled experiment, where you would have to have the same bass, with the same strings, through the same amp, recorded the exact same way, with the pickups in the same position(s), to be able to truly and accurately identify exact differences. They are all in the same family. As I mentioned above though, the ChiSonic is a bit of a deviation though, so that might provide some slightly more obvious differences. The Guild humbucker from the 70's and the Guild Humbucker from the 90's are both completely different animals when compared to all of their single-coil counterparts so far discussed in this thread. They sound good to some folks and bad to others, but they definitely don't sound like anything in the Bisonic family.

  3. #13
    Having not played either, I would be interested to know (in general, descriptive terms) how the Guild humbuckers and the DeArmond "Gold Foils" found in some Starfires differ sonically from the Bi-Sonic-type variations already mentioned.

  4. #14
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minnesota Flats View Post
    Having not played either, I would be interested to know (in general, descriptive terms) how the Guild humbuckers and the DeArmond "Gold Foils" found in some Starfires differ sonically from the Bi-Sonic-type variations already mentioned.
    My JS II has a pair of the 70's humbuckers. I use words like fat and boomy. I don't think there is much midrange and the treble can get screechy. In the days of my youth, I would select the neck PU only, set the suck ('deep/hard') switch to the bassier position and dial the tone back to zero. I could then get away with playing wrong notes because the sound coming out of the amp was boomy and it was really hard to tell what the pitch was.

    Note that is in a solid body bass and after many, many years of believing otherwise, I am now of the opinion that body time and wood do effect the sound of an electric instrument.

    The Bisonic in the '67 Starfire is not as boomy, not screechy and sounds fatter (more mid-range). I attribute most of these difference to the PU and not the body type.

    My reference tone is Jack Casady, circa 1967 and "After Bathing at Baxters" is the best example. In my mind the '67 comes closest, the BS-DS is next and then the Newark Street. If I want that tone I don't even pick up the JS II or the Pilot. While there are differences any one of the Bisonics would be close enough that I would choose between them using other factors besides tone.
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.

    '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.

  5. #15
    Thanks, fronobulax.

    "My reference tone is Jack Casady, circa 1967 and 'After Bathing at Baxters' is the best example."

    It don't get much better'n that, IMHO. Saw him play his Yggdrasil bass live a couple times (through a Panoflex?) back in the day, once sitting in with Hendrix and again just when Hot Tuna first started performing. What a sound!

  6. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by mellowgerman View Post
    Also, in regard to distinguishing between the tone of the Hagstrom Bisonic, Novak Bisonic, Dark Star, etc... I think it would be tough unless it was a very controlled experiment, where you would have to have the same bass, with the same strings, through the same amp, recorded the exact same way, with the pickups in the same position(s), to be able to truly and accurately identify exact differences.
    I had a cool experience as a Guild bass enthusiast (and Grateful Dead fan), not exactly the experiment Mello describes, but it was at least the same band, in the same venue, with the same bass player, maybe using the same amp and/or strings (playing some of the same songs, or at least a couple id guess)...

    Ive seen the band JRAD (Joe Russo's Almost Dead) at Brooklyn Bowl a few times. The first time I saw them there, the bass player Dave Dreiwitz was using a 70s Guild SF II bass with humbuckers. He had it dialed in, but his style, and that bands style, is not really the Guild humbucker sound. he was playing great lines, and his tone was really great, it just wasn't dominating in the mix (in that regard, basically the opposite of Phil Lesh). now he sounded good, i mean really good, but still, I thought to myself "now here is somone worthy of upgrading to a Bisonic." Even so, maybe he had before, and didnt like it ( which is not out of the question for a professional if a Bisonic is buzzing or humming in a particular venue).

    the next time I saw JRAD at Brooklyn Bowl, a few months later, of course the first thing im looking for is the 70s SF Bass...and Dreiwitz walks out wielding an Alembic Series 1!! i couldn't believe it. and... WOW! what a game changer! just crushing Lesh bombs every note. i was just on missle lock watching him all night, geeking out so hard on his bass and the fact that he swapped out the SF. i just couldnt beleive how unreal that Alembic sounded. i have listend to countless hours of Phil and the Dead, seen him/them live hundreds of times. it wasnt anything I hadn't heard before, but with Dave playing, in that venue, with that band, it sounded so nasty, and I had just heard him play an entire show with the Starfire Humbuckers before that. heres a couple pics, ill try to come back here with some vids. sorry for the epic veer, u kinda had to be there i guess. was thinking of u guys at the time!





  7. #17
    Man I've been jonesing for an Alembic. But first I need to get back into a vintage bisonic'd Starfire

  8. #18
    Senior Member adorshki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Minnesota Flats View Post
    Thanks, fronobulax.

    "My reference tone is Jack Casady, circa 1967 and 'After Bathing at Baxters' is the best example."

    It don't get much better'n that, IMHO. Saw him play his Yggdrasil bass live a couple times (through a Panoflex?) back in the day, once sitting in with Hendrix and again just when Hot Tuna first started performing. What a sound!
    As a true believer who thought for years that "Baxter's" was done with a Guild, I must remind folks that it (and the first 2 albums) were done with a Fender Jazz Bass and a Versatone, according to Jack's recollection to MGod, and other sources.

    Capsule history/interview here:
    http://www.flyguitars.com/interviews...yGuildBass.php
    (Ok, he says "I don't think I recorded with it.." and I still wanna believe that "Spare Chaynge" and "Won't You Try" might actually be the Guild, but it looks like we'll never know for sure... )
    Last edited by adorshki; 11-15-2016 at 07:30 PM.
    Al
    "Time May Change the Technique of Music But Never Its Mission " - Rachmaninoff
    My 1st Guild: '96 Westerly D25NT "Hally" (10-31-96 stamped on heelblock)
    #2: '01 Westerly F65ce "Blondie"
    #3: '03 Corona D40e Richie Havens "Richie"
    All bought new!

  9. #19
    Super Moderator fronobulax's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adorshki View Post
    As a true believer who thought for years that "Baxter's" was done with a Guild, I must remind folks that it (and the first 2 albums) were done with a Fender Jazz Bass and a Versatone, according to Jack's recollection to MGod, and other sources.

    Capsule history/interview here:
    http://www.flyguitars.com/interviews...yGuildBass.php
    (Ok, he says "I don't think I recorded with it.." and I still wanna believe that "Spare Chaynge" and "Won't You Try" might actually be the Guild, but it looks like we'll never know for sure... )
    Warning - Snark attack

    Would you point out to me where I ever stated that my reference tone was equipment specific? I have found it is extremely difficult to discuss tone when all you can use are words. One way I have adopted to counter that is to refer to something that is recorded and widely available. People may not understand what I mean when I say a "woody growl" but they can all listen to Baxter's and get an idea of what sounds I am trying to describe.

    That said, I can certainly try to remember and clarify that I am not saying Baxter's was played on a Starfire even though that is what I am trying to make a Starfire sound like.

    However I think the video below is clearly uses a Starfire and to my ears the sound I strive for from Baxter's is also here :-)



    I also need to note that if I were absolutely committed to sounding like Jack I would be doing a lot more with amps and would be studying his hands and technique.

    :-)
    Quote Originally Posted by mgod View Post
    What he said.

    '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.

  10. #20
    "I also need to note that if I were absolutely committed to sounding like Jack I would be doing a lot more with amps and would be studying his hands and technique."

    Attire and hair style as well! Appearance is 90% of it !!!

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