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Thread: New Cutlass RS SSS tone question

  1. #1

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    New Cutlass RS SSS tone question

    Hello all. Glad to be an official (no longer just lurking) member of this forum.

    Just bought a Cutlass RS SSS—my first EBMM—and think I may have a tone issue. The sound coming from the guitar is like the tone knob is rolled back a bit, rather than the 10 position it is set on. I have 3 other SSS guitars (2 Strats and a Silver Sky), and the Cutlass tone has nowhere near the amount of treble as the others across all pickup positions.

    I live in a somewhat rural area with no other EBMM guitars in stock within 200 miles of me, so no apples-to-apples comparison is possible. So I must rely on subjective opinion and online sound samples, the only ones available to me (I understand the subjectivity in them also—unknown signal chain, video file compression, etc.).

    All 3 guitars above have been directly compared to the Cutlass across all pickup positions. All comparisons played clean, no effects, through a Fender Mustang GT200 (amp speakers and headphones) and Line6 Helix (various amp and cab iterations with FRFR speaker and headphones). Also directly compared as above using effects like overdrive, reverb, etc.

    Result: Very little if any of the glassy high end (especially in positions 2 and 4) single coil tone that vintage output pickups like these should produce. Treble settings must be maxed out on the amps I used to test to even approach the treble in the tones of the other 3 guitars mentioned or the sound samples I have heard. Like the high end has been rolled off.

    I have determined: 1) Pickup height is to factory spec. 2) All pole pieces in all pickups are functioning (tap test). 3) Tone knob appears to function normally.

    Is this simply the way the Cutlass pickups are voiced? Or do I have an actual issue? I love every aspect of this guitar, just really bummed about the current tone. Any ideas?

    Thanks for reading...

  2. #2

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    No - definitely not normal. I have 2 Cutlass SSS guitars and usually roll off the tone a little as they tend to be on the brighter side. If you bought it used, have you tried changing the battery? Hopefully it's as simple as that.
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  3. #3

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    Welcome to the forum! What you describe certainly doesn't sound like what I've experienced with the Cutlass. (My son has a standard Cutlass.) It can certainly put you right where you'd expect a typical Strat, or a Silver Sky, to be with the tone turned up.

    Can you post a short comparison clip? There are a number of really smart folks here who might have suggestions for you.

    Either way, though, I would certainly give MusicMan Customer Service a call and see what they come up with. Contact Us They will help you get it sorted out.
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  4. #4

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    That certainly doesn't sound like my Cutlass.
    I'd change the battery first, then adjust the pickup heights.

  5. #5

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    Hi Snickelfritz, and welcome to the forum!

    It's possible there is a problem with one of the pots but there is one thing to rule out first: are you using a short cable with the other guitars?

    Comparing the Cutlass to other instruments is a little difficult (aside from the inherent differences between pickup models) because most other guitars have unbuffered electronics. The buffered output of the Cutlass is an advantage in that cable length makes no difference to the tone of the Cutlass and there is no need for treble bypass mods. But with short, low capacitance cables, the *other instruments* will sound brighter than the Cutlass. With longer, higher capacitance cables, the other guitars will sound closer to the Cutlass. With very long cables (40ft or 50ft), the Cutlass will sound brighter.

    For example, I have DiMarzio Area singles in my Silhouette Special. That guitar is noticeably, obviously brighter and glassy-er than the Cutlass IF I use a short cable (Planet Waves, 10ft). The Cutlass is warmer and creamier in the mid frequencies. But with a longer cable (30ft Klotz), the two guitars are much closer in treble output.
    Last edited by DrKev; 11-06-2019 at 01:29 AM.
    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
    Cutlass HSS (2018 Roasted Special, Ivory White)

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  6. #6

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    I concur, I would say something not quite right there as that doesn’t resonate with how mine sound.
    Albert Lee HH - White
    Cutlass RS SSS - Ivory White
    Cutlass RS HSS - Firemist Silver
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    American Vintage 59 Strat - Sherwood Green

  7. #7

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    Thanks all for reading and offering the helpful replies!

    Thanks to you, DrKev, for the great perspective and reminding me that the battery powers not just the silent circuit but also the buffering feature.

    My tests were indeed run with short cables as well as the Line6 Relay G10S wireless system, which has its own simulated capacitance settings. I will definitely re-run the tests with longer cables and appropriate settings.

    However...

    Quote Originally Posted by DrKev View Post
    The Cutlass is warmer and creamier in the mid frequencies.
    I think this may also be some of what I’m hearing, if I read DrKev correctly. I take this statement to mean that the Cutlass factory pickups are voiced a bit warmer/creamier in the mids than the other guitars I mentioned. Please correct me if I’m mistaken.

    I’ll post an update when next tests are complete. Again, I’m grateful for everyone’s time and trouble.
    Last edited by snickelfritz; 11-06-2019 at 06:11 AM.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by snickelfritz View Post
    ...if I read DrKev correctly. I take this statement to mean that the Cutlass factory pickups are voiced a bit warmer/creamier in the mids than the other guitars I mentioned.
    That is definitely my impression. Bear in mind that I am comparing to some of the brightest single coils that DiMarzio make (the Area pickups). But to my ears, it's a little like having 15% of a tube screamer-like mid boost built into the pickups. I love it! I also love that I have a cleaner, sparklier, 50's-ish tone from my other guitar with the Area 58 in the neck.

    FWIW, the Cutlass buffer circuit does have some sort of simulated capacitance built in but my contacts in EBMM are forbidden from telling me more. But my guess is that they went for something similar to the capacitance of a long cable run that many of their artists would be using on stage.
    Silhouette Special (2005 Buttercream Limited Edition)
    Cutlass HSS (2018 Roasted Special, Ivory White)

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  9. #9

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    I had owned a Strat and a Suhr when I bought my Cutlass. I’m a home player so a 10’ cable is the normal length I use. My Cutlass was brighter than the fat50 pickups in the strat and sounded almost identical, pretty much the same, as the Suhr with ML pickups.
    BTW, the two mentioned were both sold shortly after buying the Cutlass. MM necks are just much more comfortable for me.

  10. #10
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    Daniel is offline Ernie Ball, Inc. Ernie Ball Customer Service

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    Quote Originally Posted by snickelfritz View Post
    Hello all. Glad to be an official (no longer just lurking) member of this forum.

    Just bought a Cutlass RS SSS—my first EBMM—and think I may have a tone issue. The sound coming from the guitar is like the tone knob is rolled back a bit, rather than the 10 position it is set on. I have 3 other SSS guitars (2 Strats and a Silver Sky), and the Cutlass tone has nowhere near the amount of treble as the others across all pickup positions.

    I live in a somewhat rural area with no other EBMM guitars in stock within 200 miles of me, so no apples-to-apples comparison is possible. So I must rely on subjective opinion and online sound samples, the only ones available to me (I understand the subjectivity in them also—unknown signal chain, video file compression, etc.).

    All 3 guitars above have been directly compared to the Cutlass across all pickup positions. All comparisons played clean, no effects, through a Fender Mustang GT200 (amp speakers and headphones) and Line6 Helix (various amp and cab iterations with FRFR speaker and headphones). Also directly compared as above using effects like overdrive, reverb, etc.

    Result: Very little if any of the glassy high end (especially in positions 2 and 4) single coil tone that vintage output pickups like these should produce. Treble settings must be maxed out on the amps I used to test to even approach the treble in the tones of the other 3 guitars mentioned or the sound samples I have heard. Like the high end has been rolled off.

    I have determined: 1) Pickup height is to factory spec. 2) All pole pieces in all pickups are functioning (tap test). 3) Tone knob appears to function normally.

    Is this simply the way the Cutlass pickups are voiced? Or do I have an actual issue? I love every aspect of this guitar, just really bummed about the current tone. Any ideas?

    Thanks for reading...
    Sorry to hear that you're having an issue with your new Cutlass. Feel free to shoot me an email at customerexperience@ernieball.com and I'll help you out. If you have any video clips of what you're hearing, those could help.

  11. #11

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    Here is an update. After changing the Cutlass battery and testing all guitars with a 25’ instrument cable, I have witnessed a clear example of capacitance. The 3 other guitars’ treble levels all dropped very close to the Cutlass (to my ears). The Cutlass, thanks to the buffer circuit, seemed to sound unchanged.

    These results have me rethinking whether an issue exists. Unfortunately, work travel will prevent me from posting audio/video samples or making further evaluations in the near future. If I think it necessary I will send customer service an email. Thanks Daniel for your post and willingness to help a first-time customer.

    Thanks also to all who have read and offered suggestions. Not only is it a nice welcome to the forum, but it also says a lot about the character of folks online here. I look forward to giving back as the opportunities arise.

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