Gear4Music Electro-Acoustic Bass Guitar
Compared with the evolution of the acoustic guitar, the acoustic bass is a relatively new development. History tells us that it was Ernie Ball - yes that Ernie Ball - who first developed the concept back in the early 70s, but classical and even Mexican music has long been used to the sight of a player virtually hidden behind the huge body of such an instrument.
The bassist of just about any band that trots out an acoustic album or showpiece will usually dust off an acoustic bass. Who can forget Kiss four-stringer Gene Simmons during the band's MTV Unplugged session in 1995 hunched over his Kramer Ferrington bass, quizzically bashing away for all he's worth.
There's a healthy market for acoustic basses these days and this Gear4Music electro version certainly looks the part. The construction methodology is just about identical to that employed in the manufacture of a traditional acoustic guitar, so there's internal bracing for stability and sound transference, and crenulated kerfing to bolster the joins between back, sides and top.
All body woods are laminates, with the top made of spruce and the back and sides of sapele. The latter is a wood that's part of the mahogany family and thus resembles that material in both looks and tonal properties, up to a point, at least. It also means that sapele can be used without incurring the same costs or dirty looks from conservationists that utilising mahogany could cause.
The neck is made of nato, the rosewood fingerboard features 21 frets, and the scale length is exactly that of a Fender Precision bass; 860mm (34 inches). Sadly the frets on our review model hadn't been finished especially well and we did need to turn attention to the truss rod to get rid of some dead spots.
The bass is loaded with a straight-forward four-band preamp and under-saddle piezo pickup for when amplification is required.
The bass comes strung with a set of phosphor bronze wires just like those used on traditional six-strings, albeit of a heavier gauge, and sets are easy to find. As an example, a set of D'Addario EPBB170s will cost around £20.
Don't expect the basic tone to be similar to that of a double bass, though; in fact it's bright, brash and overly exaggerates finger and string squeaks. Switching to flatwound strings might cure this, but be warned: subtle it's not.
Within the realms of an acoustic trio or quartet, the low-end performance would be acceptable as it's woody and fat; a happy combination with the zingy highs.
Put through an amp, the electrics work well and the EQ goes a long way to smoothing out the brash edges. You could also consider a compressor pedal to aid sustain and boost the lows; Behringer produces an option for just £18, also available via G4M.com.
The instrument is easy to play and, of course, weighs much less than the more traditional electric basses. It's a little neck-heavy when strapped on, but that's par for the course and you'll find you can drastically alter the timbre of the tone by plucking along the length of the string. Closer to the bridge means more harmonics and a toppier tone, while towards the neck equates to more actual note and increased warmth and low end - all good stuff.
This is another example of a so-called niche instrument being made available at a frankly great price and £114.99 represents superb value. OK, so you might not use it on every occasion, but to add the right sound to an acoustic track, or even to get a strong reaction from camp-fire jam mates, this is just the thing.
Good price, decent build-quality and passable tones.
Certain set-up niggles.
This great value-for-money four-stringer would be a worthy addition to any bass player's arsenal.
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.