The Vintage range of guitars and basses has always provided good instruments for beginners, but from the moment they received the benefit of Trev Wilkinson's excellent pickups, hardware and design input, they've been catapulted into a whole new level of quality and esteem.
Now with the addition of this new deluxe four-string bass into the range the Active Series has taken another step forward by offering the sumptuous looks that can now parallel the solid sounds.
Better still it's still done very cost effectively - on paper, a lot of bass for your money.
In the flesh the first impressions are exceptional. It seems that no expense has been spared, yet somehow the retail price is kept down.
The highly figured birdseye top is not a mere slither of veneer, it's a proper cap providing half the thickness of the body wings, making the forearm chamfer and (in this particular example) the lower cutaway, exceptionally attractive.
Of course, as this is 'real' wood each instrument produced is uniquely figured so some will look more stunning than others.
Better still, the headstock also features this figuring (veneer this time) and the tilt-back design means there's no need to obscure the beauty with any string trees.
As a complete contrast the fingerboard is a particularly dark rosewood slab and sports large abalone-alike pearloid dots.
The through-neck is constructed from a five-ply sandwich of nato and maple that increases to seven sections when it enters the body, offering both stability and resonance.
The outer wings of the body are mahogany, making this a practical and attractive combination of woods, and in order to keep this natural wood quality and feel the V1004DX comes with a smooth satin finish.
In keeping with this quality design the hardware is gold-plated - seemingly the most popular hardware finish for natural wood basses.
The raised tail bridge is neat, solid and smoothly functional; the domed knobs are also well chosen and the split shaft, sealed gear, Wilkinson tuners are the practical choice to top this bass.
The pickups are by Wilkinson: a humbucking MM-style unit in bridge position and a single-coil unit, mid-placed towards the neck.
This is to offer a wide range of source tones and combined with an active circuit for support, the bass and treble controls offer boost or cut, with a blend control and a master volume.
This Vintage is an attractive through-neck bass with the means to make it a reliable and versatile working instrument.
Looking at that super slim and extended upper body horn coupled to the compact headstock, you know this bass is going to be beautifully balanced.
With a forearm chamfer, nicely sculptured body and manageable weight, this bass feels good and adopts a natural rest position against you that keeps the lower frets very comfortably in range.
Taking advantage of this through-neck design there's an additional scoop at the back where neck becomes body and this makes playing those upper-most frets easier than it already looks.
The intonation is good throughout, the string spacing is very generous indeed and, although the fretboard is relatively flat, the slim profile of the neck, with well-dressed frets and edges, is a real joy to play.
For us, however, the nut seems a little sharp at the corners and although that can easily be addressed in just a few minutes with a fine file it illustrates the lowly price-point.
By total contrast, however, the adjustment screws on the bridge are all well below the surface of the saddles, making damping and close bridge playing with a pick very comfortable - other manufacturers please take note!
When firing up, it's obvious that this deluxe model has simply loads of gain on tap, and with fully active electronics you can rest in the knowledge that the two tone controls will allow more than adequate tonal adjustment.
And thanks to this particular pickup pairing, there's always solidarity when shifting your sounds.
Being loaded with two pickups this bass can naturally produce sounds with a Jazz flavouring but it's a lot more expansive having the humbucker in the equation.
Particularly impressive is the sweet spot produced using the blend control and slightly favouring the single-coil pickup, with the bass on full boost and the treble on about half boost.
This combination unleashes a thick, warm and focused sound that you can feel, as well as producing a plethora of aural delights.
But the sounds can still go a lot further, and thanks to this review model being set with a low action it even strays into Rickenbacker territory by producing a degree of clank when you dig in with a pick.
Overall, this Vintage is a sonically versatile bass and thanks to the active nature of the electronics, all the tools you need for finding other classic sounds are here with enough variation to finely hone and enhance your choices quite dramatically.
While the bass control really lays on the bottom end (or effectively defeats it), the nature of the treble control is much more subtle.
Even at full cut the bass retains clarity, when flat it provides a cleaner edge to the notes and when fully boosted it gains a pleasing edginess rather than becoming brittle.
As such it enables the bass to deliver some forceful and biting tones from the humbucking unit in particular, and with the bass control mixed in you can expect some seriously robust and heavy delivery. All in all this is very funky, very playable and very nice indeed!
With a recommended retail price just a shade under £400, who exactly is this bass aimed at?
It's probably a little pricey for beginners and first time buyers though there's no doubt it would be an excellent instrument for committed novices to discover and develop their playing styles.
It offers a comfortable and practical playing experience that provides ample opportunity for multi-tonal experimentation. This bass certainly has the ability to produce an impressive, wide range of classic sounds.
Basses with boutique looks and this degree of figuring on the body wings and headstock don't usually come cheap. Even in today's market of Far Eastern manufacturing, matching the beauty of this bass is not going to be easy, regardless of cost.
If it is outside the reach of first time buyers, it also makes an excellent upgrade purchase from a cheapo copy, or a second instrument for more seasoned bassists.
With this model the Vintage bass range has taken another step forward and throws down the gauntlet for other low-and mid-price names to pick up.
Natural feel of the wood. Great balance. Powerful, biting tones.
Nut rather sharp at the corners.
This versatile active bass is a seriously affordable boutique-inspired instrument.
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Country of Origin
Natural Satin, Cherry Sunburst, Tiger Eye
Guitar Body Material
Left Handed Model Available
No of Strings
Mid-placed Wilkinson WJBE900 single-coil and WSME4 double-coil at bridge, volume, balance, active treble and bass controls