Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

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Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by Unsolo » Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:22 am

Hi folks, I've got this weird issue where I can't seem to get a useable tone from my JM. It is more than just 'tone', it's like the entire frequency spectrum is profoundly unbalanced. The trouble is I am not (by any stretch of the imagination) a guitarist, nor do I have a second guitar to compare it to. For years I just thought I just sucked at getting a decent guitar tone - or that it was the amp sims I was using - but I'm now starting to think it is the guitar and not my poor gain staging (or whatever).

It seems to be massively overbearing in the low mids (around 200hz) while lacking any body and twang in the upper mids (say 500 - 2K). The result is a 'wumphy' (yet simultaneously scratchy!) sound which kind of blows up the amp/ pedal as soon as you try to drive it (due to all that low frequency energy presumably).

I've tried EQing the DI before hitting the amp (sims) which has helped me to diagnose the problem, but never solves it. If I cut at 200hz it just sounds super thin and scratchy. Whenever the signal is driven I am also plagued with weird resonances, whistles and 'tweets' across the spectrum (but mostly around the 1K - 3k region) which need surgically EQing out (which further destroys the tone).

The whole thing is driving me absolutely crazy :fp:

The neck pickup is the worst culprit, but the bridge/ both/ rhythm circuit is hardly any better. I can't get a satisfactory amp tone from ANY configuration. There's no life, no sparkle, no chest, no zing .... and in a mix you just end up with this mud around 200hz and a bunch of nastiness around 3k - take that out there there's nothing left in between (ie where the bulk of the guitar tone should sit).

The guitar is a 70's (?) Jazzmaster (Fender proper) bought from a major guitar store on Denmark Street - so presumably it passed their QC. It is set up just fine and plays perfectly (even if I can't). The pickups (original) seem to be where they should be based on my research (I've never adjusted them). The only work I've done is to re-solder the 1/4" jack after it got loose. I don't think I f'ed that up! Otherwise I've not touched it. I assume the pots are the originals too.

I've recorded a short example (hope links are allowed here) in case anyone wants to give me their expert opinion :)

Here is a DI as I normally record it. The same strums are repeated in this order 1. Neck 2. Both 3. Bridge (vol and tone at full throughout). Yes the strings (10's) are old (about six months) but the problem is more profound than that. Changing them makes no difference, other than what you'd expect.

JM Test DI
https://mega.nz/#!EToTmSjJ!mA1a-2S_kXPl ... Fzl7wfY3vA

This is the same recording through the free amp sim Boogex using the default amp setting with no tweaks (for easy comparison, in case you have it). It's a very nondescript clean amp setting but you get the picture.

JM Test AMP (Boogex default)
https://mega.nz/#!QL5zHKyA!HCkq2Xx_MFgz ... jw1zOxrmBM

Sorry for super long post. Any input is massively appreciated! ::)

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by ChrisDesign » Mon Dec 16, 2019 6:47 am

Take it to a guitar tech for a setup and TLC session.

I would replace the pickups with new vintage ones: https://www.seymourduncan.com/pickup/an ... r-bridge-3.

Bad wiring and pots can do it too. A tech is the best answer as 50 years of sitting around can leave a lot of funk to correct
"I own a '66 Jaguar. That's the guitar I polish, and baby - I refuse to let anyone touch it when I jump into the crowd." - Kurt Cobain

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by MechaBulletBill » Mon Dec 16, 2019 6:58 am

assuming everything’s working as it should, just altering the pickup heights can make a huge difference. also, what works with a decent amp might just sound bad through DI?

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by mgeek » Mon Dec 16, 2019 9:15 am

Sounded to me like the pickups were a bit close to the strings on the bass side, but otherwise, that's just what a guitar sounds like DI-ed, imo. It can be a bit hit or miss going straight in, I've found brighter pickups work best.

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by Unsolo » Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:50 am

Thanks for all the feedback so far. It's an annoyingly vague issue I know. Sorry :unsure:

According to another thread (really helpful forum BTW) it's a '66-'68 model based on the headstock design, so a bit older than I thought .... so yeah, I guess I should get the insides checked out and possibly replaced by a proper guitar tech. But I live in the middle of nowhere so that's not going to be possible for months, realistically.

But like I said, I'm still not 100% sure if the guitar is at fault or it's something I'm doing wrong (or both!) .... externally at least it's always been set up perfectly (intonation, tuning, action etc), but sonically there's just no richness or vibrancy and it always seems to 'blow up' any amp with a bunch of 'mud' and 'honk' as soon as you drive it beyond clean... and even the clean tones sound flat and lifeless.

As for the pickups, I just measured them .... both neck and bridge are about 3mm (low E) and about 2.5mm (high E) with the strings fretted on the last fret. I'll try lowering and see what happens....

One last thing - if anyone can make that DI sound half decent (either through a real amp or amp sim) then I'd love to know, even if you don't record it. Just "Yeah that would be acceptable at a tracking session"... or "Nah, we'd definitely swap your guitar out with another at a tracking session". But I know that is a big ask (especially for a noobie poster like me) so don't anybody feel obligated. I might try asking at a dedicated mixing forum instead.

Any other thoughts much appreciated :)

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by Steadyriot. » Mon Dec 16, 2019 1:08 pm

Sounds like a DI'd guitar to me... not particularly good but not bad either.
I'd lower the pickups on the bass side.
What are you listening to the signal with? Speakers? Headphones? Those things can influence your sound too.
If you can, try playing it through a real amp (maybe at a music store) to see if it's not just your setup.

Don't go changing parts around! If it's an unmolested 60's Jazzy you'll regret it down the line. Get it setup at the most, play with the pickup height and try it with a real amp. Then decide how you feel about the guitar.
"If someone duetted with a Bald Eagle, they could rule the Country charts from here to eternity." ~shadowplay

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by mgeek » Mon Dec 16, 2019 2:35 pm

Unsolo wrote:
Mon Dec 16, 2019 10:50 am
One last thing - if anyone can make that DI sound half decent (either through a real amp or amp sim) then I'd love to know, even if you don't record it. Just "Yeah that would be acceptable at a tracking session"... or "Nah, we'd definitely swap your guitar out with another at a tracking session". But I know that is a big ask (especially for a noobie poster like me) so don't anybody feel obligated. I might try asking at a dedicated mixing forum instead.
As a matter of course when DI'ing guitars I set up a channel with a compressor (I use an LA2 plugin) eq and reverb. You probably don't even need much reverb on the wet/dry scale unless you want a noticeably reverby sound, but you could take the best 59 les paul and DI it with no effects and it'd sound like shit. It's just not a flattering situation for any guitar. You need some character! Tape saturator plugins work too, distortion...go nuts. Amp sims don't do it for me personally, some of them sound pretty good, but there's never a time when i want like, 'blues dude 2' sound, it's a bit 'paint by numbers' ;)

Occasionally I'll bypass all the effects on stuff I've recorded and be horrified at how bad it sounds. Naked DI guitars are second only to naked piezo sounds on the 'inexcusable guitar sounds' scale
Last edited by mgeek on Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by andy_tchp » Mon Dec 16, 2019 4:18 pm

Agreed 100% with mgeek. DI guitar has 'a sound' which can be useful on some rare occasions - for effect. But it tends to sound shithouse.

Use a real amp, you'll discover there's nothing wrong with the guitar.

No need to replace your (valuable and desirable) genuine vintage pickups, either.
"I don't know why we asked him to join the band 'cause the rest of us don't like country music all that much; we just like Graham Lee."
David McComb, 1987.

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by BlixaFan » Mon Dec 16, 2019 5:57 pm

i agree with basically everything that has been said here! DI guitar in my experience is rarely a good sound without at least some processing.

i wouldn't swap out vintage pickups, but i would certainly go get it set up, and run it through an actual amp rig (or at the very least, a good simulator when using your DI).

That being said, and this comes from experience with my Jaguar, as much as i love the aesthetics of the jazzmaster and jaguar, i sold my Jaguar because it had a pretty limited range for the kind of music i wanted to play, and more importantly the sound i WANTED to hear when i played it.

sometimes it just doesn't sound like what we would like it to sound like. You can't make a Jazzmaster sound like a Charvel unless you drop a humbucker in it and throw in a Floyd Rose. but at that point, it's only a Jazzmaster-shaped Charvel.

something to consider. But I'd give it more of a chance!

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by ChrisDesign » Mon Dec 16, 2019 11:15 pm

For tracking through DI, here are some workable options:
"I own a '66 Jaguar. That's the guitar I polish, and baby - I refuse to let anyone touch it when I jump into the crowd." - Kurt Cobain

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by Steadyriot. » Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:44 am

Just for fun I threw your DI recording into Garage Band to play around with it.
Listening to it on more high-gain amp models I have the following question:
Have you ever considered another pick? It's really clicky on the strings. Sounds stupid but I'd try out a few different ones.
Looking at EQ your signal IS pretty bass heavy so as said earlier, try lowering your pickups on the bass side.

You can find the tracks (MP3 & WAV) here.
They run from clean to crunch to drive. Every channel is slightly EQ'd to get some honk out of it etc.

Good luck!
"If someone duetted with a Bald Eagle, they could rule the Country charts from here to eternity." ~shadowplay

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by leokula » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:37 am

Maybe you just don't like the guitar?
Jaguar > Jazzmaster :)

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by Unsolo » Sun Jan 05, 2020 9:16 pm

Aha .... just solved it! :)
Steadyriot. wrote:
Tue Dec 17, 2019 12:44 am
Just for fun I threw your DI recording into Garage Band to play around with it.
FIrst of all thanks so much for doing that. Really appreciate it. Your tones sound about as nasty as mine LOL .... so anyway, after a lot more testing and despair over xmas I FINALLY pinned it down to my recording chain. I've been recording my DI signal using an old LINE6 PRO XT (basically using it as a DI box going straight to SPDIF). But for some reason the DI it's been giving me is utter crap.

I don't have a DI box.. but do I have a (hardware) compressor I use for vocals which has an instrument level (hi-Z) input, and so I tried using that and although the DI doesn't sound that different on its own, when you put it through amps it is night and day! Suddenly the amps respond as they should instead of sounding all woofy, hollow and scratchy. It no longer sounds like I'm using an ice pick as a plectrum too!

I can't believe how easy it is to get pleasant tones now - and how much time I've wasted trying to mix terrible guitar tones! :fp: .... and what's weird is that the DI is actually a lot duller sounding now, yet the tones I can get are much more rich, vibrant and full sounding. Funny how that works...

Anyway, thanks for all the advice folks. ::)

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Re: Why is my JM tone so unusable? (or is it just me?)

Post by thirtydirtybirds » Mon Jan 06, 2020 6:30 pm

Probably should get yourself a proper audio interface for whatever rig you are using. Also, even if you aren’t a “guitar player” a practice amp is essential. Even a cheap one. Heck you can get some pretty good sounding sub-10 watt tube amps for pretty cheap if you shop around. I have never liked using a DI for anything, mic in front of amp sounds way better to me, even with a somewhat crappy amp.

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