1. Aria SB 1000 RIB (£2,199)
BASS WEEK: The bass that John Taylor and Cliff Burton made their own returns once more.
As you’re paying over two grand for a mass-produced bass guitar, you justifiably expect the SB1000 to be a truly world-class product, aesthetically and functionally.
Fortunately, that’s what you’re getting. Thick, glossy and bringing out the wood’s natural features, the finish feels impenetrable. While the standard tone control does its job just fine, with a range that is easily accessed and usable, the rotary control delivers a particular, distinctive tone made up of crunchy mids and a snappy top end. It’s pure Duran!
However, this isn’t just a bass for New Romantics - it offers something for everyone.
"Very playable; excellent tone options; replicates classic feel and tone."
5 out of 5
2. Ernie Ball Music Man Caprice (£1,999)
With one passive model already released, hot on its heels comes a two-pickup instrument from Ernie Ball.
The instrument looks sleek, with clean lines, a simple design and enough familiar touches to recognise it as an Music Man, but with notable differences from the existing models we know and love.
Although the Caprice doesn’t have the sonic sledgehammer of, say, the Stingray or Sterling, what it does have is a vibrant passive tone that bubbles along very nicely. Don’t be fooled into thinking the pickups won’t be up to much due to the lack of an active circuit: these units cover all the necessary ground.
“A classy instrument with a strong passive sound.”
4 out of 5
3. Mayones Patriot Custom 5 (£,2199)
Mayones guitars are steadily becoming more visible in bass stores around the country, and with good reason: the company is producing some seriously top-notch instruments.
Straight away, you’re impressed by how comfortable this bass is to wear. The pair of Aguilar DCB pickups are obviously well matched to the Aguilar 18-volt three-band preamp circuit, with controls for Volume (active/passive push/pull facility), Pickup Pan, Middle, a stacked Bass/Treble control, a Passive Tone control and a mid-frequency selector switch.
The flat response slap sound is very good, the fingerstyle tone is rounded but vibrant, and there is an inherent throatiness that is subtle and not too intrusive.
“A great-looking five-string with some pleasing woody tones, highly playable.”
4.5 out of 5
4. Marvit Apofi PJ4C (£2,430)
There’s no lack of playability with this bass.
The level of finishing is first class, with no sharp frets in evidence on the underside of the neck, and across the whole instrument it is clear that significant attention has been paid to every detail.
The Marvit builders have tried to match the output levels whether the bass is in active or passive mode, and it’s clear they have succeeded. The passive mode, with the passive tone control, is very usable in its own right.
String volume across all four strings is pleasingly even, and with this circuit and pickup pairing, there are plenty of tonal options available.
“Great looks, well finished and plenty of tone to play with.”
4.5 out of 5
5. Warwick Corvette $$ 5 LTD 2016 NT (£2,899)
With state-of-the-art technology at its disposal, Warwick’s limited edition basses continue to thrill.
The 2016 instrument is no different. For this particular bass, Warwick has returned to using the Corvette body shape and turned to USB technology to charge the lithium battery that supplies the active circuitry instead of requiring standard 9-volt batteries.
The curvaceous Corvette body with its elongated top horn lends itself well to this limited edition, while the natural beauty of the satin-finished black korina and black walnut burl timbers is a real winner. As this bass is equipped with passive Nordstrand Bigman and Jazz pickups and a Nordstrand 2-band EQ, there are plenty of tonal options.
“A finely-crafted instrument worthy of the Warwick stamp, with great visuals and tone options.”
4 out of 5
6. Spector NS2 (£3,395)
Stuart Spector and his team in Woodstock, New York continue to produce the NS2, the company’s flagship model.
The famous curved body, rounded horns and curvaceous profile front and back are as comfortable and inviting as they ever were. Although the neck feels long, the placement of the bridge ensures that this bass has a highly playable 34” scale and the full, rounded neck profile gives the player some substantial timber to work.
All of the reasons why the NS2 was such a hit when it was first launched, and continuing right through the 80s, when it seemed that almost every bassist on the planet was playing a Spector at some point, still stand today.
"Player-friendly design, consummate craftsmanship and high attention to detail."
5 out of 5
7. Stonefield 1-4C (£3,395)
With its marriage of exotic timbers, invention and ingenuity, this four-string from New Zealand has much going for it.
For lovers of natural, organic-looking and -sounding instruments, the 1-4C posts its colours to the mast in no uncertain terms. Timber has been used in the bridge as a counterpoint over which the strings pass, as on an acoustic instrument, while the tuning system is a superb piece of engineering.
Unsurprisingly, the instrument resonates and sustains in an impressive fashion: vibrancy is definitely what this bass is all about. A Stonefield bass requires a leap of faith - but if you make that leap, you will be rewarded with a highly enjoyable instrument.
"Ergonomically different, but everything works, with a varied tonal palette."
4.5 out of 5
8. Anaconda Crusher CXZ5F Zenith (£3,500)
Previous review models from Anaconda have all been tasty specimens and this bass is no exception, with the timber, hardware and electronics combination a real winner in all departments.
As a five-string unlined fretless with a 35” scale, this bass will be a slightly daunting prospect for the uninitiated player, but it’s highly playable. A pair of Bartolini humbucking P45CBC pickups have been matched with a three-band Glockenklang preamp, so there’s plenty of tonal variation on tap.
The fundamental bass response is smooth: if you want a familiar bass tone with only a hint of fretless character, you can have it immediately.
"Top notch materials matched with a fine electronics package."
4.5 out of 5
9. Neubauer Phoenix (£7,000 - approx)
Master Viennese luthier Andreas Neubauer’s contrabass celebrates his decade-long working relationship with Latin Grammy nominee and Global Music Awards gold medallist Juan ‘Snow Owl’ García-Herreros, whose signature instrument this is. The Phoenix looks sensational.
Its spectacular high-gloss coating and beautifully book-matched tiger maple top make up pretty much the definitive collaboration of wood and finish. What is truly remarkable about the Phoenix, though, is its ability to embrace the musician. Despite the intimidating 36” scale, at no point does the performer ever feel overwhelmed by the instrument’s stature. On the contrary, you can’t wait to explore the vastness of its tonal versatility.
“Astounding piece of bass technology.”
5 out of 5
10. Enfield Lionheart (£1,650)
Centred around the unique Super Quad pickup concept, the Lionheart bass range sits at a price point that will make the pickup options more affordable.
Build quality is very good indeed: this instrument is well built, well finished and balanced beautifully. The groundbreaking Super Quad pickups each comprise four separate coils which can be split horizontally as well as vertically, enabling the player to switch between split coils, single coils and parallel hum-cancelling options.
These are activated by three-way toggle switches, and the active setting is indicated by a tri-colour LED mounted within the pickup casing. The result is that you effectively have several basses in one. Incredible!
"Almost limitless tonal options. What’s not to like?"
5 out of 5