Archive for October, 2010

Status: Sold
Born: ???
Owned since: 2006
Made in: USA
Serial number: 0400
Type: Seven string fretless EUB
Body: Honduran Mahogany
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Fingerboard: Honduran Mahogany
Scale: 42″ scale
Electronics: Piezo, misc (see below)
Tuning: F# B E A D G C
String spacing: Hovering around 18mm
Typically strung with: Jessie’s default strings
Misc: LED’s and plexi wings…!

I believe my first post about this thing on talkbass started with “holy fooking donkey balls”.  That pretty much sums it up, this thing is (was) crazy.

I had been wanting to get an EUB (electric upright bass) for some time, but hadn’t found what I thought was a good combination of sound and money.  That’s to say most of what I’d seen and heard was either crap, or way over priced for the sound.  It wasn’t until I came across Jesse Blue and his Ergo instruments that I found what I was looking for.  After going back and forth with Jesse via email, I decided I was going to purchase an 8 string at some point in the near future.  8 strings…I figured if I was going to go for it, why not go for it?

Whilst in limbo about pulling the actual trigger, Jesse ended up selling one of his personal basses…and I ended up as the happy winner via Ebay.  Since it was his own bass, it has a few things that he doesn’t typically offer:

- Rotary tuners, like the ones on the Gary Willis bass. They are very well made and quite attractive, with blueish inlays around the edges.

- Plexi/ceramic headstock wings and nut.

- Blue LED markers. Powered by a battery on the back side with a flat toggle switch. Very, very cool, and people seemed to go ga-ga when I’ve turned them on. Sometimes I would just turn the lights off at home, flip the LED’s on and stare at it for 5 minutes :-)

In addition to the craziness that Jesse provided, I ended up making a few mods of my own.  When I first got the bass, I noticed the output across the strings wasn’t entirely even.  I started screwing around with the bridge, and eventually replaced the bridge and pickup.

My bass looked like it had the standard Radio Shack style piezo buzzers, which had been cut a bit to fit under the bridge posts.  The first thing I tried differently for electronics was my K&K Bass Master Pro that I used to have for a real doubles. It was OK, but didn’t handle the real lows (B, F#) or highs (C) very well.  I did more research on piezo’s in general and found that there’s a huge frequency and sensitivity response difference between the copper plate style piezo buzzers and, well, all the other styles out there. There’s even a huge diffence between say the Radio Shack plates and the one’s you’d get from K&K or other vendors.

I started buying all sorts of different ones online, none very expensive so I didn’t mind the trial and error.  The PVDF piezo film tabs showed the most promise due to their incredible frequency range, but were very difficult to work with.  In the end I settled on a combination of piezo pickups from Artec (you can find them on Ebay for cheap, under $20 a piece).  I went with are the PC-85 (flexible) and the PP-637B (solid). The PP series is notably more sensative to ambient vibrations.  The flexible unit didn’t seem to have the same output, as I believe there is an impedance difference.  I cut and spliced both of them to work with 1/4″, as they come with a 2.5 “pipe jack”, and there weren’t any viable options at the time for off the shelf adapters.  One is a flat copper one that runs between the body and the bridge, and the other is a flexible ceramic one that is mounted on the bridge, closer to the saddle grooves.

There’s a huge difference in response with these elements. The long and short of it is that my pizz had way more depth to it, and arco sounded much richer. Is it the same as a double? No. But it doesn’t sound like a fretless either. It’s kind of something unto it’s own…think Eberhard Weber (not that I can play like him).  Obviously Jessie is able to keep his prices down by not investing too much in the electronics, and I certainly don’t fault him for it. I like to screw around with this stuff, so was happy to land a beautiful instrument as a serious discount (as compared to other vendors) and work out the electronics on my own.

Another modification was the bridge.  I ended up trying two things:

- One/simple: Modified the existing bridge and increased the height. I carved some little pieces to add height at the feet. I wood glued them and clamped them overnight. I actually ended up with more height than I wanted, but it works out great for a more authentic “thud” sound down in the first and second positions. I’d use this bridge when I wanted that sound.

- Two/more challenging: I carved new bridges out of purpleheart (eek, a pain to work with).  They had a flat bottom, as opposed to the two point arch of the original. To my knowledge, the age old arch design came from fine tuning the ability for the bridge to flex and resonate against a hollow body, which eventually moves against the bass-bar and the sound post. The vibrations are asymmetrical in their acoustics in the body I believe. Because of this, sound gets transmitted through the bridge via the extremes of the bridge; the bass end and treble end. I believe this was to balance out the overall tone. Given the lack of mechanics in our Ergo’s, all this stuff really goes out the window in my opinion. You need to get all the strings vibrating evenly across the pickup device, period, just like any other electric instrument.

I ended up selling it because I finally purchased a double again, and I found myself not putting it down any time soon.  Coupled with the fact that I had just landed a Veillette Mk 4 fretless, I just really wasn’t playing it at all anymore.  I really didn’t want to sell the Ergo, as it’s obviously one of a kind. I recall Jessie saying he’s not going to be making one the same way for the general public, I think because the LED’s were a huge PITA.  I’m hoping the person I sold it to is spending more time with it than I and having a blast.

Status: Sold
Born: ???
Owned since: 2006
Made in: Germany
Serial number: ???
Type: Six string fretted
Body:2 piece ovangkol
Neck:Ovangkol, single truss (headstock)
Fingerboard:Wenge fretted, ??? radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics:Active MEC Gold Soapbar Pickups & MEC 2-Band
Tuning: B E A D G C
String spacing: Fixed 20mm
Typically strung with: D’Addario XL 6′s (EXL170-6); .032 .045 .065 .080 .100 .130

I had always wanted a Warwick.  I’m a fan of many player’s tone that have them, and I think they are beautifully simple, elegant looking instruments.  The only problem I had with them is the string spacing on the 5+ string ones, it’s just too tight for me.  So I figured I wouldn’t be getting a Warwick unless I suddenly decided to get another 4 string for some reason.

Everything changed while browsing the Bass Central site one day.  They had a 6 string Thumb “broadneck”, which I had never heard of before.  20mm spacing!  What could be better.  I sent an email off to BC and got a quick response from Beaver Felton.  It turned out he was willing to give it to me at an “old” price, and at another small discount if I ordered before the week was out (I think it was the end of the month).  Anyway, I ended up with the bass about a week later.

Pulling it out of the box, I was not dissapointed.  It was as beautiful as I had hoped.  I plugged it in and the sound I had hoped for was there; the distictive Warwick “growl”, but with plenty of flexibility.  Build quality and playability was just as great as I expected.  I played with it for several hours before putting it down.

Two things I noticed that I didn’t expect though:

  1. The spacing actually felt wider than 20mm.  I had gotten used to wide spacing with my TRB-6p over the years, which is why the broadneck was appealing.  My TRB measures at 20mm at the bridge as well, but the nut is slightly narrower than the Warwick.  I imagine this is why the Warwick felt wider.
  2. The body top to string height was deep.  As a slapper, I’m kind of picky with the way this area feels on a bass (between the base of the neck and the neck pickup).  I’ve typically found most production basses are either fine or they don’t have enough depth to dig in under the strings.  The Warwick was a first with almost too much…it was kind of an awkward feeling reaching under the strings and feeling like there a giant hole there.  It went away after playing for a while, but it was definitely different.

Although I loved the bass, in the end it just didn’t make sense to keep it.  I feel most at home with my TRB, and having two fretted 6 string basses just didn’t make sense.  I found myself almost always taking the Yamaha with me.  I was wanting to buy a Stick again, so I ended up selling the Warwick to fund that excursion.  I’d still like to have a Warwick again some day, but I’ll have to either justify having more than one of the same type of bass, or do something completely different.

Status: Own
Born: July 2001
Owned since: 2009
Made in: USA
Serial number: 142
Type:4 string fretless
Body: Chambered poplar with a quilted maple top and “smoke” polyurethane finish
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Ebony, ??? radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics:Piezo electric element, Alvarez 500B, 3 band, 9 volt preamp
Tuning: BEADG
String spacing: Fixed 19mm center-to-center
Typically strung with:La Bella tape wound roundwound (.060, .070, .097, .115, .125)
Misc:African blackwood tailpiece, bridge and piezo modifications

In 2009 I was perusing the Interwebz and came across a for sale ad for this bass at the Bass Emporium site.  Immediately struck by its design and looks, I headed over to the Veillette Guitarssite in addition to finding several reviews online of their instruments.  It wasn’t long before it arrived at my doorstep.  In speaking with Joe and Martin from Veillette, the bass was shown at the summer NAMM in 2001 and then sold through Bass Emporium in Austin, TX.  I’m guessing it made its way back there via the original owner, and then I landed it.

This bass has quickly become one of my all time favorites.  It’s also single handedly made me sell off all my fretless lined basses.  After playing the Veillette for a while, lines just completely throw me off now (I suppose playing more double bass in recent years helps as well).  The Veillette is just so effortless to play, and anyone who has heard it is amazed at the tone.  I’ve had several other musicians tell me “that is the soundof bass”.  I’ve had band mates tell me I can’t play any other bass or they will disown me.  I had a recording engineer offer to buy the bass from me on the spot.  Yes, it’s that cool. 

Interestingly it’s not your typical fretless sound, which is why I’m going to keep a solid-body, metal strung, pickup laden fretless around for the foreseeable future.  While not really having the typical fretless ”mwah“, the Veillette offers a tone and color that, well, only the Veillette can offer.  To me it’s somewhere between a fretless vintage P and Jazz, with flatwounds, combined with a double bass thud, that still has the definition of a regular electric bass…while staying warm all the time.  Sounds too good to be true, but it is.  I have found in my opinion that “the sound” is most at home and alive through an amp and cabs.  Straight into a board it can tend to sound a bit odd, and even tweaking the signal with the onboard pre doesn’t quite cut it.  But plug it into a nice pre or even better yet a mic’d rig, and it really comes alive.  Martin Keith, who was involved in the original build, told me “…the ebony board and very dense Blackwood tailpiece, along with a slightly heavier-than-usual body gave this bass a lot of depth and low-frequency content.  I remember the instrument having a very thick, wide low end.”  I tend to agree ;)

The only issue I ran into with the bass was the bridge configuration and the piezo’s.  Not long after getting the bass, one of the La Bella tape wounds broke, so I bought a new pair.  After re-stringing the bass, it wasn’t the same.  The output was very different string to string, and I starting getting what sounded like preamp clipping/distortion/compression from a few of the strings.  I tried different amps, bypassing the on-board pre, playing with the saddles, all sorts of stuff.  It wasn’t long before I reached out to Joe Veillette, who put me in touch with Martin Keith who does all the electronics work.  Martin and I spoke on the phone for a while one day and he gave me some ideas.  I turns out the stock piezo element was actually divided in two sections; one for the B and E strings, and another for the A, D, and G (if I’m recalling correctly).  He explained there were several reasons they took this approach, which all made sense.  What seemed to be happening was the individual saddles (bone pieces I think, you can see them in the last two pics when the bass was “original”) needed to be sitting “perfectly” in order for things to be kosher.  Long story short, I screwed around with it for hours but just wasn’t having any luck.

Not being too far from the Veillette shop in Woodstock, NY, I figured I’d probably end up bringing it to them.  I then thought back to my days of screwing around with the electronics on my Ergo upright, and what I had achieved with the Artec piezo’s.  I once again ended up spending a whopping $19.95 on a piezo element and went to work.  With the purpleheard wood I had left over from the Ergo bridge project, I carved two different one piece bridge saddles (different heights) and worked on routing the slightly thicker cabling through the underside of the dovetailed African blackwood tailpiece.  I’ve been extremely happy with the results and very glad I spent the time to get it dialed in.  It’s basically become my go-to fretless bass, a la my Yamaha TRB-6p.

So now I’m contemplating what a 6 string fretless Veillette with metal strings and their Citron pickup sounds like…I hope to find out sooner than later…

Status: Own
Born: ???
Owned since: 1989
Made in: Likely USA
Serial number (neck): Likely 5OCT79B (hard to read black stamp on heel, “J. Torres” on back)
Serial number (body): I43440793 (carved into body)
Type: 4 string fretless
Body: Likely ash
Neck: Maple
Fingerboard: Ebony, ??? radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics: Typical J style controls, Fender highway 1 USA 048612 (neck) and 048613 (bridge) replacement pickups
Tuning: EADG
String spacing: Fixed 19mm center-to-center
Typically strung with: Rotosound Swing Bass (.45 .65 .80 .105)
Misc: Schaller tuners, unknown bridge

More to come…

Status: Own
Born: May 2002
Owned since: 2006
Made in: Italy
Serial number: QSL0502589
Type: Six string lined fretless
Body: Kaya mahogany, rosewood top
Neck: 5 piece marple and purpleheart
Fingerboard: Phenolic resin with graphite inside the neck, ??? radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics: Active circuitry (bass + /- 12 db 40 Hz , treble +/- 13 db 4kHz, Mid 0 – 14 db 400 Hz), battery housed in the control cavity, custom wound Kent Armstrong pickup
Tuning: B E A D G C
String spacing: Fixed 19mm center-to-center
Typically strung with: D’Addario XL 6′s (EXL170-6); .032 .045 .065 .080 .100 .130
Misc: Unique string retention design, Neutrik locking jack

Sound clips: Sample 1, Sample 2, Sample 3

Here is my left-of-center Laurus Quasar T400, built in Italy by Pierluigi Cazzola.  I purchased it used from Brian Barrett at The Low End Bass Shop, and I highly recommend checking out his site for both new and used gear.  I wrote Pierluigi not long after receiving the bass and he responded promptly, answering all my questions (and providing most of the info above about the bass).

The Laurus is unique in many ways.  Besides some of the interesting design features (headstock, upper horn, neck profile, tuner/string locking/bridge), it has a fretless tone all to itself and not something I’ve heard on another bass.  The regular fingerstyle tone is kind of dark and complex, and different from what I’d call the typically fretless “mwah”.  When slapped, this thing sounds positively diabolical, especially on the low B.  I’m assuming the make-up of the fingerboard has something to do with it.

Getting back to the upper horn and headstock, the bass balances like nothing else I’ve ever played.  Sitting down is particularly comfortable as the bass balances almost perfectly in your lap, and seems like it could it there forever.  The thin, wide neck profile probably isn’t for everyone, but I find it very comfortable and easy to play.  The wide string spacing is one of the main reasons I bought it, and on this bass I find the 19mm spacing perfect.  I believe the person that had it before me played it quite a bit, as the fingerboard does show signs of wear.  In particular, whatever material was used to fill in the fretlines has deteriorated slighly in a few places, though I’ve come to find this has no structural impact on the instrument (unlike a wood fingerboard), since there is zero flex/give to the resin board.  Regardless, none of the wear has effected playability or performance.

Moving on to my dislikes, of which there are only two, but they do keep me from playing the bass as much as I’d like:

  1. String to body depth – The Laurus is a bit challenging for me to dig in for slapping and popping, due to the shallow depth between the string and the body.  I imagine this design is due to the fingerboard being relatively thin by most standards, probably because the resin doesn’t need to be as thick as a wood fingerboard to be as strong.  It’s not the end of the world, but it certainly feels different than any other bass I’ve owned.  For someone that plays with a ramp though, they may actually prefer this feel.
  2. The fretlines – I’ve come to find that the more fretless basses I’ve owned, the more I prefer not to have fretlines.  I don’t know if it’s because I got used to no lines on double bass back in high school, or perhaps the Fender fretless I’ve had forever, but in general fretlines tend to be visually confusing to me.  In the case of the Laurus, they are particularly irritating, and I don’t know why.  I’m guessing it’s the contrast of the filler color on the lines against the odd colored resin fingerboard.  It’s a shame that the bass is so comfortable and relatively effortless to play, but the fretlines on this bass just confuse the hell out of me…and I have no illusion that this is my problem and not really a problem with the bass per say.

The Laurus is a very unique and rare bass to see in the US, and I do very much enjoy the tones I can get out of it.  Only time will tell if it sticks around or if it gets filtered out along with my other lined fretless basses…

Status: Own
Born: ???
Owned since: 2008
Made in: Japan
Serial number: 570096
Type: 10 string (5x) fretted
Body: Ash with translucent blue 5A flame maple cap
Neck: Maple set-neck design
Fingerboard: Ebony, ??? radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics: 2 custom-wound humbucking SGC bar-magnet pickups, 18-volt active pre; Volume, Blend, Bass (+/-15 dB @ 90 Hz), Treble (+/-17 dB @ 8 KHz), and Notch Filter (-20 dB @ 850 Hz) with adjustable Midrange (+/- 12 dB @ 350 Hz – located in control cavity)
Tuning: bB eE aA dD gG (octave strings first)
String spacing: Fixed 18mm center-to-center (5 mm between octaves)
Typically strung with: Godlyke provided light gauge
Misc: Custom 10-string bridge by Gotoh, dual battery box

More to come…

Status: Own
Born: May 18th 1992, unit 003
Owned since: 1992
Made in: Japan
Serial number: 2L18003
Type: Six string fretted
Body: Quilted maple
Neck: 5 piece maple and mahogany, neck through body with dual truss rods (body)
Fingerboard: Ebony, 1000mm radius
Scale: 33 7/8″ (860mm) scale
Electronics: 2 single coil pickups, bridge piezo system, magnetic pickup blend, 2 band EQ, magnetic / piezo blend, piezo low cut, 9v active
Tuning: B E A D G C
String spacing: Fixed 20mm
Typically strung with: D’Addario XL 6′s (EXL170-6); .032 .045 .065 .080 .100 .130
Misc: 9v battery cover signed by John Myung of Dream Theater

What can I say, this is my favorite bass of all time. If I had to be stranded somewhere with only one instrument, this would be it…though I suppose I’d need an amp too ;-)

I had started playing bass years before (@1988?) after hearing Steve Harris on Iron Maiden’s “Invaders”. At the time I wanted to play guitar like my other friends, but after hearing the Harris sound, I knew that was what I was really after. Steve stayed as my primary influence until a friend got me into Rush, and I joined the ranks of bass players amazed by Geddy Lee. Shortly thereafter, I started getting into jazz, and came across John Patitucci by way of Chick Corea. At that point (1st year of high school?), I had moved from 4 string to 5 string (Ibanez SR), and was ga-ga for John’s Ken Smith on the cover of his first album. My 5 string actually had the high C and a Hipshot on the E (to D), so I was really digging the low B sound I was hearing from Patitucci.

I came across the Sketchbook album, and later discovered him playing the TRB-6p. Around the same time, I had kind of become disillusioned with bass. My mom actually suggested I write one of my hero’s, so I wrote John (not thinking I’d actually get a response). I was amazed when I got a letter back a few months later! He addressed all the questions I had, and really put some thought in to it. I knew at that point I needed to find a way to get myself the Yamaha. I saved up money for a while and somewhere around 1992 my dad and I went to a music store that actually had one in stock. He came up with the difference, and I had my dream bass. Not bad for a kid still in high school.

The TRB became my main and favorite bass up to this day (and probably the only thing the color red I own that I love). It wasn’t always easy taking out into the world, especially in the earlier days when you rarely saw a 6 string, much less a young kid with what looked like a nice expensive bass. I’m kind of amazed I made it through college with it, considering where I lived part time (a frat house) and some of the clubs I ended up playing in.

I’ve obviously acquired a number of other basses through the years, but I always fall back to the TRB to feel at home. I’ve gotten so used to the wide spacing that most production ERB’s don’t feel right. Meeting with a band for the first time? TRB. Sitting in on a gig? TRB. Unfamiliar recording session? TRB. The only other bass I’ve owned that I almost have the same level of comfort with now is my Veillette Mark IV fretless 5 string.

I’m not sure there’s much I can add review-wise to what has already been said about the TRB. It’s a fantastic instrument, with its own sonic character. I think the preamp and pickups offer tonal versatility, but the bass does really have a sound of its own. It’s lasted well over the years; I think the only thing I’ve replaced is the instrument jack. The pots are a bit scratchy at this point, and I’m just about needing a refret…not too much to ask for an 18 year old bass that’s seen a whole lot of beating. I’m looking forward to 18 more :-)

Status: Own; for sale
Born: 2004-2006
Owned since: 2006
Made in: USA
Serial number: g089-04
Type: Six string lined fretless
Body: 5 piece “Lupis” body style; khaya core with maple accents, burly cocobolo top and back
Neck: 3 piece cherry and jatoba, neck through body with a single truss rod (headstock)
Fingerboard: Macassar ebony lined fretless, no radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics: 1 Bartolini xxM56CX solo humbucker with active/passive select switch, 3 band EQ, 9v active Bartolini NTBT preamp
Tuning: B E A D G C
String spacing: Variable 16mm – 17mm
Typically strung with: DR Lo Rider Medium 6′s (MH6-30); .030 .045 .065 .085 .105 .125
Misc: Claro walnut peghead overlay, gotoh tuners, figured sapele back-of-neck cap

Sound clips: Sample 1

This bass is simply gorgeous. I recall the first time I saw it on the FBB bass site and knew I needed to play it. It wasn’t yet complete, so I had a chance to make a few minor decisions on some of the finishing touches. Matt Schmill of FBB had this to say about it:

“This bass started as a prototype for the 5-piece body with integrated cover plate. The cocobolo top is absolutely stunning, with intense swirls and burl figure. It also features a stunning macassar ebony fingerboard and is my first no-radius fingerboard. At first the feel of such an instrument may seem strange. It does not take long to accomodate and most players will find that it is completely compatible with their playing style, if not beneficial.”

This is one of the most effortless playing intruments I have ever come across. I can’t pinpoint it to one thing in particular, and I would imagine it’s a combination of several things. The no-radius thing intrigued me quite a bit. I had previously played another players flat fingerboard double bass for about 10 minutes after a show one night, but I wasn’t sure what to expect from the FBB. The result has been nothing but love for the flatness. It is just an exceedingly natural feeling to play fretless on the flat fingerboard. I’ve also been able to keep the action extremely low on this bass year round (no easy task in the Northeast, I can assure you).

The bass is incredibly solid, feeling as though it was carved from one piece of wood. Perhaps this is the primary contributing factor to the basses amazing sound. Fretless players often talk of “mwaah”, and this bass has defined that sound for me. I have yet to play another fretless that sounds so inspiring to me. Despite the solid, dense feel of the bass, it doesn’t feel all that heavy to me when strapped on. The feel of the wood throughout the bass is wonderful, and the mini-ramp at the base of the neck is fun when going for that Willis-style thud.

The electronics Matt put in the bass are flexible yet focused enough to give the bass its own sound. They were originally slated to be 2 band, with a coil select switch. After speaking with Matt, we decided on a 3 band with the active/passive switch for greater tonal variety, in my opinion. The result is a bass that sounds very earthy, yet can be dialed in to cut through any type of music.

As much as I love this bass, there are two major factors that have kept me from playing it as much as I’d like:

  1. Spacing – I feel most natural on my Yamaha TRB-6p, so going from 20mm to 16.5″ spacing is quite an adjustment. Given all the other contributing factors of the FBB, when I sit down and play it for a good long stretch, I get quite comfortable on it. The spacing keeps it from feeling like “home” though. Quick finger style can be quite fun, but thumbing and popping get quite cramped, quite fast. I’ve been able to progressively space it a bit with the help of the laterally adjustable Hipshot bridge, but it’s still not enough to be 100% satified with the spacing. I recall Matt saying this was one of two narrow spaced 6 strings he made together.
  2. Fret markers – While not as distracting as the contrast of my Laurus fingerboard (the fret slots appear a bit deeper in color when played), I’m generally thrown off by fret lines on fretless basses. Sure, it certainly helps as a reference point in the upper registers, but I tend to rely on side dots for general position and familarity with a bass for final finger placement. My Veillette is a great example of this.

Overall, this bass is amazing. For someone into tighter spaced ERB’s and looking for a lined fretless, I don’t think you could do better than this bass at any price. Beyond that, Matt Schmill is an amazing luthier. Easy to talk to and work with, I have no doubt that any instrument he puts out will be of the highest quality. I will likely seek him out for a new fretless that will match all the features I love about this bass, and address the two issues that keep me from playing it 24×7 :-)

Status: Sold
Born: ???
Owned since: 2002
Made in: Korea
Serial number: 9093207
Type: Seven string fretted
Body: Swamp ash body with a figured maple top
Neck: 7 piece wenge and purpleheart, bolt on, dual truss rods (headstock)
Fingerboard: Purpleheart, 16″ radius
Scale: 34″
Electronics: 2 Bartolini single coil pickups, magnetic pickup blend, 2 band EQ, 9v active
Tuning: B E A D G C F
String spacing: Fixed 16mm
Typically strung with: Conklin Power Steel PS7′s (made by SIT); .018 .025 .035 .055 .080 .110 .135
Misc: Locking Neutrik jack

I picked it up used at a Guitar Center. The strings were totally shot (to the point where 2 were unwound), one of the strap locks was broken off and there were some good gouges in the finish. But when I took a closer look…I realized I was getting a bass with a flamed maple top, 7-piece wenge & purpleheart neck, a purpleheart fingerboard and 2 active Bartolini electronics…all for $700. You just can’t beat that. And it’s not like the thing is a piece of crap or put together badly, it’s totally rock solid. There’s not the attention to detail that you see on a custom made or high end / high price bass, but there’s certainly nothing about it that’s unplayable. I was worried at first about the bolt on neck…it’s a monster, and there’s 7 fooking strings! But the action remained fantastic for years, and it’s the only bass I’ve had that the neck didn’t move every summer and winter (ah, the glorious Northeast). All my other basses, neck through or bolt on are definately affected by the seasons. Perhaps because the Conklin neck is purpleheart it’s less apt to move? I know it’s a pretty dense wood. My only few gripes, and I really can’t even call them that, are the following:

  1. Sound – Don’t get me wrong, the bass sounds great. But it doesn’t sound unique. If you are looking for “your own” sound, this is not it. When I play my Warwick, it has a specfic sound. I play my Yamaha, I could pick it out of a crowd. The Conklin is generic. Playing louder rock/metal, it won’t make a bit of difference though.
  2. Body finish – Again, generic. The neck is gorgeous (in my opinion), but the body is just OK. But realize again what you are getting for the money. It’s certainly not a detractor, just worth a mention. I would have rather picked up the natural body that I’ve seen online, as I think it might be more my speed on looks. I kind of hate red to begin with.
  3. Seated playing – This thing was a huge pain the ass to play seated. If you do studio work and like to play seated while recording…it will either take some serious getting used to, or you will just give up (or I suppose you could duct tape it in place to your body ;-) . I typically record standing up (just like a play), so it’s not an issue. But every once in a while when I go to sit down (like to work out some 2-handed tapping thing), I suddenly realize why I always stand up :-) The thing just doesn’t balance well in your lap, I’d guess because of the combo of the extended upper horn, the relatively short lower horn and deep lower scoop (relative to the long-ass upper) and the long, heavy neck. I really like the body design, but it doesn’t do anything for me in the seated position.

I’m really impressed over all with the bass, and I’ve been contemplating getting a custom 9 string made for a while. I certainly will consider Conklin in building it and they obviously know what they are doing. Bottom line here…if you’re in the market for such an item and see this bass used somewhere, BUY IT!!!