Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #138722  by jalevinemd
 Thu May 01, 2014 8:53 pm
Rick Turner wrote:Turbo Tom was a Phil roadie at one point. He'd previously worked for the McLaren F-1 team. He did a pretty great job destroying the face of Mission Control. I suspect that it happened in the days of too much Peruvian Army marching powder...days that went on way too long.
Thanks for the info.
 #138723  by tatittle
 Thu May 01, 2014 9:03 pm
Come on now...there were clearly bugs living in the guitar that had to be removed by digging them out. The fact that everyone cant see them is only evidence of my extraordinary senses. Is the sun coming up already?
 #138724  by zambiland
 Thu May 01, 2014 9:19 pm
tatittle wrote:Come on now...there were clearly bugs living in the guitar that had to be removed by digging them out. The fact that everyone cant see them is only evidence of my extraordinary senses. Is the sun coming up already?
 #138762  by moonliner
 Fri May 02, 2014 11:10 pm
Very exciting news. I'm so glad this bass was found and is in your hands again. Thanks for letting us know about it!
 #139076  by Grouse
 Fri May 16, 2014 2:58 pm
I may have to get a subscription to Fretboard Journal just for this! Super cool news...
 #139189  by zambiland
 Wed May 21, 2014 7:40 pm
Grouse wrote:I may have to get a subscription to Fretboard Journal just for this! Super cool news...
Fretboard Journal has already featured some great early Alembic in the David Crosby issue. Excellent article by Rick about his 12 string with good photos which include Phil's Starfire undergoing modification.
 #142902  by Rick Turner
 Thu Nov 20, 2014 1:21 pm
I've started in on replacing missing wood. I got some Osage orange and duplicated the neck laminate layup...Osage, walnut, and maple...and inlaid it between the neck and past where the original tailpiece was mounted. Next I'll inlay two pieces of koa to fill in the top on either side of the central neck beam. I decided not to completely replace the top, even though some of the repair seams will inevitably show, but better that than doing more horrendous damage to what is left of the original top. I think I can match the color and grain reasonably with some koa I got from my pal John Reuter ( Roberto Venn School of Lutherie...major Deadhead ).

Still mulling over pickups and electronics. My thought is to bring this bass forward about 40 years and honor much of the original intent while allowing what I've learned in that time to come forth. Yes, it will get a quad pickup, but this time it will be one of my piezos, and the full quad output may wind up as an option. The neck and bridge pickups will be self-hum canceling, and they will be mono/stereo pickups, that is, in mono mode, each will be a hum canceller with coils that sort of overlap for the A and D strings. The effect in stereo mode is a true stereo pan, and in this mode, the pickups buck hum from neck to bridge, neck to bridge. The magnetic arrangement is:

I'll use some filter electronics from John East, and the two channels will stay separate at the normal output.

I'm not even going to try to duplicate all of the micro-processor pickup assignment switching that was touch switch operated on the original setup. That was all the white circles on the bass side of the face. I'll just do inlays there and maybe pop LED's in next to them for kicks.

I am documenting the hell out of this process, and I'm writing this all up for an article for Vintage Guitar Magazine.

Much thanks to George Gruhn for finding Mission Control and sending it to me for the restoration.

OH, it's in the original case as well.
 #142906  by TI4-1009
 Thu Nov 20, 2014 3:02 pm
Thanks Rick! Saw you quoted in the VG article on Stanley Clarke this month.
 #142907  by Rick Turner
 Thu Nov 20, 2014 4:16 pm
Mission Control is a "short scale"... 30 5/16" nominal scale without any intonation compensation. It was based on the Guild Starfire scale.

How does it get the sound? Everything, starting with the neck construction, then the pickups, then electronics, and, of course, the strings. Playing it through 36 D-140s with four McIntosh 2300's driving them didn't hurt, either.

But the magic ingredient? Phil. Don't get overly hung up on the gear. It helps, but the player is the thing.

I always wondered how other amplifier companies would have rated the Macs if they'd be their amps. That 300 Watts per channel would have crept up quite a bit, I'd bet! The biggest problem with those things is that the slew rate isn't very good by modern standards, but for low end, they sure delivered the goods. The older 3500's...the tube amps...did better with highs which is why they remained as the EV tweeter amps in the Wall of Sound.
 #142916  by Rusty the Scoob
 Fri Nov 21, 2014 8:26 am
Thank you for the info! No disagreement about gear vs. playing here, I look at tinkering with gear as a secondary hobby and playing as what really matters. But gear is easier to talk about online since it's based on concrete facts and specs, and hearing from you is awesome!

I have a modernized version in the works, Wenge neck , mahogany body, EMG pickups, 30.5" scale. Designed as sort of a modern/vintage hybrid with that same tight midrange character. Very happy to hear I was on the right track with the scale as that was kind of a guess... MC doesnt' sound like 34" to me but I worried it might be 32".

I'm not a big amp/PA guy so forgive me if I'm off base: Isn't a slow slew rate a bad thing for low end? Seems like you'd want that quick punch. Any thoughts on Class D power?
 #142933  by Rick Turner
 Fri Nov 21, 2014 3:51 pm
Yes, I'd agree that fast slew rate is essential for real low end impact, but don't forget that all of this was forty years ago, and we were working with the best and most reliable big amps of the day.

One of the things that I've experimented with is winding low impedance pickup coils using 7 x 44 ga. Litz wire, and I may just have to try that for the new Mission Control pickups. With that stuff, you get the expected improvement in high frequency response, but there's also a remarkable tightening up of the low end...beautiful extension and punch...due (according to cable guru George Cardas) to the improvement in group delay...basically phase response.

A while back, I rewound a number of classic pickup cores...humbucker, Tele, Strat, P-Bass, J-Bass, Hagstrom BiSonics...and wound them with enough Litz to more or less match the original physical coil sizes. Naturally, the output was low, but with preamping, that was not a major issue. What was really interesting was that the sonic signature of the original pickups was still there...minus the resonant peak and roll-off characteristics within the audio band that you get so obviously with high impedance pickups. Yet still, the Strat pickups sounded different from either Tele neck or bridge, and there was what I call a magnetic signature tone present with all. LCR is not the only defining tone shaping issue with magnetic pickups; neither is pickup aperture. There's a dynamic three dimensional aspect with how the magnetized strings interact with the physical bulk of the coil(s) that helps define a pickup's signature tone.

"The experts" would have you believe that there is no sonic need or use for Litz wire in the audio band; these pickups say differently. It's really interesting getting the limitations of the coils pretty much out of the way. You can always bandwidth limit and/or add in resonances, too.