Frequently Asked Questions
Where is the pickup?? Mouse 30, Mb-2 and Deep4/5 models have a piezo pickup under the saddle in the bridge.
How are magnetic and piezo pickups different? magnetic pickups sense the steel in the string, piezo pickups sense the dynamic movement of the string, I think of them as vibration sensors.
What do hollow chambers do? by removing material from the body, it makes the body lighter and more flexible, as the wood flexes once the note is plucked, the movement creates a richer more complex tone. In essence, hollow chambers move an instrument more towards an acoustic type of design.
What does an f-hole do? like the hollow chambers, the f-hole lets the top of the instrument be even more flexible, adding more complexity to the sound, and a small amount of acoustic volume too (maybe 10%). As the whole instrument flexes more, it softens the attack slightly and produces a fuller tone.
Are there side dots? yes, all necks have side dots. Unlined fretless necks have the dots right on the position, F, G, A etc.... Lined fretless necks have the dots between the lines, replicating the same visual pattern as a fretted neck. This makes going between a lined fretless and a fretted instrument much more comfortable.
Do I play right on the line? yes, the lines replace the frets (they are in fact maple strips inlayed in the fret slots), so by playing right on (over) the line, you will have proper intonation. Of course all fine tuning of hitting the sweet spot for intonation is ultimately done by ear, but these are the guides. and will get you most of the way there!
Can I convert a fretless to fretted, or vice versa? in a word, no. Fretless basses require a very hard, dense fingerboard to create the proper sustain and tone (ebony, cocobolo, goncalo alves). These woods will sound too bright with frets in combination with a piezo pickup, and be too brittle sounding. On the other hand, Indian rosewood, which is considerably softer, sounds very good with frets, but is not dense enough to make a good fretless neck.....in addition to the issue of wood choice, the intonation points and bridge height are also different.
My amp is distorting, how come? 1) Mb-2, Mouse 30 and Deep 4/5 basses are very high out put (roughly 2x that of a passive bass) therefore you will need to adjust the gain on your preamp to where it does not cause distortion. After you have set the input gain, adjust your master volume for overall level. 2) your battery may be failing. A low 9v battery will cause distortion. Plugging a cord into the bass turns the circuit on, so when not in use unplug the instrument. This should give about 3 years of service under normal use.
Is there a tone control? yes, Mb-2 and Mouse 30 basses have a passive high trim control located in the back cavity. Youc an access this through a small hole in the back plate with a small straight screwdriver. Wide open (full clockwise) is "flat", and as you back it off (counter clockwise), you will reduce high end. This is a subtle control, and is mostly to fine tune how much finger noise and articulation you want in your sound. I think of it as a master control, a "set it and forget it" that you can fine tune the overall sound with.
What does a truss rod do???? a truss rod is a metal rod within the neck, which when tightened, pulls in the opposite direction of the strings. Think of it as a counter balance. The strings want to pull the neck forward, and the truss rod will pull the neck back (towards perfectly straight). All wooden necks need periodic adjustment of the TR to keep the instrument playing in top form. You will not hurt the bass by adjusting it, and you do not need to be a repairman to make this adjustment. In fact, every musician should be well versed in TR adjustment, as it is necessary to dial the action in to your exact taste.
I will be creating a video on truss rod adjustment in the coming months, which will give a detailed and easy to understand demonstration of how they work.
My output volume is very low, what's wrong? piezo pickups are vibration sensors, so if the bridge saddle is hampered, or muted in any way, it will not transmit the vibration to the pickup. In some cases, in extremely dry or moist environments, the saddle slot in the wooden bridge can shrink slightly and grip the saddle, causing the volume to reduce. If you remove the strings, you should be able to easily lift the white bridge saddle out of the bridge, if there is any resistance to this, this is the cause of the reduced volume. Contact me for further details on how to remedy this.
Can I add a magnetic pickup to my bass? this is possible in theory, but not practical or cost effective. The work for this needs to be done at an earlier stage in the construction of the instrument. In addition, special electronics are needed that can blend a magnetic pickup with a piezo. If a highly skilled repairman wants to do this work it can be done, but I do not offer this work as a modification.
How often should I change the strings? I'm glad you asked! depending on the type of player you are, maybe never. Ok, maybe every 10 years or so......the La Bella 760n strings that come stock on the Mb-2, Mouse 30 and Deep 4/5 basses are a steel string with an outer nylon wrap on them. This nylon wrap protects the metal from moisture and finger oils, so the strings do not wear out, or break, even after many years of use! they do however become less clear and more diffuse sounding. If you are going for a more upright kind of sound, this may be just the ticket. For a clearer, more defined and singing fretless tone a new set of strings every 1~3 years should be about right. Its' a matter of taste.
Can I switch to round wounds, or another type of string? it is not recommended. Round wound strings will chew up the fingerboard of a fretless bass, and wear out the tiny mandolin frets on a fretted model. Mb-2, Mouse 30 and Deep 4/5 basses are designed with La Bella 760n strings in mind. These strings are part of the sound of these basses, plus cause little to no wear on the fingerboard or frets. In addition, the smooth outer layer makes playing a fretless in tune much easier than with any type of other strings that I have tried. The nylon wrap allows you to roll your finger slightly to change tuning, which you cannot accomplish with wound strings.
Can I visit your shop? I am not currently hosting shop tours.
Cleaning and upkeep, what do I need to do? your instrument is well sealed. The body has a poly/oil finish on it, with a wax top coat. To clean any grunge off of the body simply use a damp/warm cloth, then dry well with a cotton cloth. If you want to add wax to the body, use pure Carnuba wax, and follow the instructions on the can. Never use cleaners of polishes of any sort. The neck back is finished with nitrocellulose lacquer, and can be cleaned the same way, if needed. The fingerboard can be oiled periodically with Minwax Wipe On Poly Satin (this what I use here at the factory), or any high quality fingerboard oil.
Questions about ordering a bass:
How do I purchase a bass? coming in May of 2017 there will be an online store as part of this website. There you will find finished instruments ready for immediate delivery. I plan on producing the full variety of models, with various options. Rob Allen basses are only sold direct from this website. Until early May I am not able to make any sales, as the site is being re-tooled for this new business model and the inventory is being created. Thank you for your patience during this short down-time.
Why do you no longer take custom orders? over the past 20 years I have built basses to order. Managing the orders, book keeping and planning production all take a considerable amount of time, that will now be repurposed for the actual production of instruments. This new style of making finished basses for sale will allow me to produce more quality instruments, plus you will see exactly what the finished product looks like prior to making a decision. This was not possible in the past, and it is my hope that it will give a higher level of service in choosing an instrument.
If I see a bass in the store that I like, can you add options? the basses featured in the upcoming store will be sold just as they appear. They will be completely finished instruments, set up, ready to play, for immediate delivery. If you require other options keep checking back, as new models will be produced and added to the store on a regular basis.