Music Man Big Al Bass

A big, bassy brother for MM's Albert Lee

Renowned for impeccable build quality, enviable necks and playability, as well as a top-notch roster of guitar and bass players, Music Man's styling is unique. You tend to love them… or not quite know what to make of them.

Typifying this situation is the Albert Lee model a quirky, angular design that looks like nothing else and is a perfect fit for the great rocking country player whose name it takes. As he rattles out those unfeasibly quick licks on it, the two are one.

For 2010 Music Man has used the same outline for the Big Al bass. Certainly, in Music Man's world, quirky is in!

"The Big Al is designed to offer maximum versatility. Its three single-coil pickups are every bit as bold in action as they are in looks."

It was only a question of time before the distinctive Albert Lee signature guitar was given the bass treatment. Music Man has given us unusual body designs before with the Bongo bass and this angular shape works just as well.

The generous forearm chamfer also makes this more comfortable to play than expected and, with four and five-string versions available, fretless models and a choice of triple single-coil pickups (as here) or a regular Music Man humbucker, everyone is well catered for.

The usual high standard of manufacture is evident throughout. Five screws secure the seriously slinky oil-finished neck to the bass's body with a sculpted joint that allows easy access to those uppermost frets.

Enhanced electronic shielding makes this bass noise-free and there are several finish options available, plus a variety of pickguard materials, so you can mix or match to an almost custom degree.

Sounds

The Big Al is designed to offer maximum versatility. Its three single-coil pickups are every bit as solid and bold in action as they are in looks. Electronically this is a very sophisticated machine (with on/off push switches for each pickup) but mercifully the only way it can be silenced is with the volume control - when all the switches are in the up position you get the middle and bridge pickups wired in series, which provides seriously punchy delivery.

Also, thanks to this individual on/off switching arrangement, it's immediately obvious to the player which pickups are engaged and whether you're in active or passive mode.

It also allows you to select the neck and bridge pickups together and, due to the physical distance between them, this is where you'll find those honky nasal tones and lovely sweet spots.

Of course you can also use all three pickups together for a full-on tonal affront, which is really quite something. Even as a passive instrument (with just a single tone control), you soon realise that having three pickups offers tremendous tonal variation.

But the moment you punch in the four-band active circuit, this bass really comes alive. With the benefit of the stacked EQ there's an almost overwhelming variety, especially with the plethora of honky sounds from the different pickup combinations.

So, the Big Al: another worthy addition to the Music Man bass range, built to high standards, eminently practical and with loads of great sounds via the wide reaching pickup, EQ and active/passive options.

There are also numerous formats available to choose from - if you think this one might be too complex, for example, it's available with Music Man's lone humbucker too.

Music Mans have never been expensive for what they are The Big Al reflects that. But here's a company that continues to push forward and certainly isn't content to dwell on its past alone. If you're not already a convert, it's time you tried one.

MusicRadar Rating

4.5 / 5 stars
Pros

The stunning variety of top-quality blended sounds; slinky neck; overall quality.

Cons

Not everyone will think the outline is as cool as we do.

Verdict

With a great feel and a huge selection of sounds, we recommend everyone try this bass.

Country of Origin

USA

Available Finish

White, black, vintage sunburst, true gold and sterling silver

Body Style

Angular double-cutaway, solidbody electric bass, alder.

Hardware

Chrome-plated hardened steel bridge, Schaller tuners with tapered string posts

Neck Material

Maple, bolt-on

No. of Frets

22

Options

Maple fingerboard. Range options: The Big Al is available in various formats: four-string with ceramic humbucker (£1750), five-string with three single-coils (£1995), five-string bass with humbucker (£1925). Fretless versions will be available soon

Pickup

Three single-coil Neodymium pickups, passive volume and tone controls, stacked active four-band EQ, three individual pickup selector push buttons and a fourth for active/passive switching

Review Policy
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.