Although it might not be your primary instrument of choice, an electro- acoustic bass can be a very useful piece of kit to have in your armoury.
But be warned: although there are quite a few to choose from on the market, their quality and performance can differ quite radically.
This particular five-string model from Boulder Creek in the US has some interesting innovations, such as dual soundholes for improved resonance and projection and the Suspended Bracing System (SBS) in its construction.
The dimensions and body depth make this bass a bit of a lapful, so wherever possible, we would advise playing this sitting down as opposed to standing up with a strap – but after a little playing time, the bass has a familiar, if sizeable, feel to it.
The Tobacco Sunburst finish is pleasing and the visible mahogany grain, black and pearloid binding and matching headstock all contribute towards an impressive visual display.
The comfortably full neck profile coaxes the player to dig in, while the 45mm nut width means this isn't a hand-killer of a five-string, quite the opposite in fact. The 19mm string spacing contributes to the playability and makes it a highly playable five-string instrument.
Pearl position markers adorn the rosewood fingerboard while white dots have been used on the side. Die-cast chrome tuners have been fitted and operate smoothly. A blot on the copy book is due to a few sharp fret ends on the underside of the neck, but otherwise the set-up is very good.
The internal SBS is visible through the ports: this incorporates aluminium rods, which add solidity, stability and structure, as they vibrate better than traditional wooden bracing without affecting the resonance of the instrument.
The aluminium is also unaffected by changes in temperature and humidity, so the instrument's construction remains stable. With the ports located on the upper bout and upper body edge, the player can hear the full upper, lower and midrange frequencies from a playing position, while the sound projection going forward is strongly reinforced.
A 1⁄4" jack output and balanced DI output are both provided, and access to the battery compartment sits alongside the outputs via a fliptop panel. The EQ and volume controls of the Active Balanced Acoustic System (ABAS) are seated along the top body edge and offer boost and cut with a centre detente on the bass, middle, treble and brilliance controls, the chromatic tuner has an on/off switch below its display and a low battery LED sits below the phase in/out switch.
Sounds and Playability
Acoustically, which is obviously a big part of the deal here, this bass is quite splendid. Its tonal delivery is full, rounded and ballsy, which is a very good sign.
Some electro-acoustic basses can be overly twangy – which goes against the idea of being a bass, right? The low B isn't quite as distinct as it might sound on a solid-body instrument, but the extended range is conveyed very well, helped by the considerable body depth and dual ports. Although you couldn't use this bass in a gigging situation to convey the full range of bass frequencies without it being plugged in, its overall performance is of a very high standard.
Plugged in, the acoustic response is replicated, but with more of everything: a rounded bottom end, improved presence and resonance in the midrange and a very pleasing top end that doesn't sound harsh or forced.
Conservative use of the EQ is well advised. A little goes a long way: overdo it and you risk awakening the feedback monster, although the phase switch should help to counteract any persistent feedback and phasing issues.
The controls operate well enough, although sliders can always be a little fiddly, and the brilliance control adds enough clarity and sparkle to make the low B sound defined and the upper midrange shine through more. The tuner is especially helpful and Boulder Creek should be complimented on providing a first-rate control set-up.
This really is a very impressive instrument – and although it represents a sizeable investment for an instrument that you may not use on a regular basis, it is a solid performer with a very good tonal character that would sit well in a band mix.
Your choice of strings on an electro- acoustic plays a big part in how the instrument sounds, so experiment and take that into consideration when assessing any acoustic instrument. This bass is most certainly worth checking out – what are you waiting for?