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Ashdown Engineering The Grail and The Saint review

A pair of accessibly priced passive workhorses from Ashdown. What's not to like? [Spoilers: not much]

  • £949
Ashdown Grail and Saint review
(Image: © Future)

Our Verdict

With a price that's well within reach of the jobbing bassist, the Grail and the Saint are a pair of vintage-vibe tone machines that would serve any stage or studio well.

Pros

  • Great value.
  • Excellent finish, excellent feel.
  • The Grail nails those passive J-style tones.
  • The Saint's P+J vibe makes it a bass for all occasions.

Cons

  • The Grail loses a bit of definition the low B.

What is it?

Ashdown Engineering has never shown any fear in putting its own spin on classic bass guitar designs, and the Grail and Saint, both launched at NAMM 2020 are case in point.

Designed by Ashdown in collaboration with esteemed US luthier Dan Lakin, both evoke the basses of the early '60s, but come equipped with a host of player-friendly features and a feel that should ingratiate them to those playing more contemporary styles.

There are a number of similarities. Both come with branded gig bags, have high-gloss poly finishes on lightweight alder bodies, Hipshort Ultralite tuners and Wilkinson bridges, and the electronics are passive. The Grail has a pair of Ashdown Custom Wound single-coils with independent volume controls and a master tone. 

The Saint uses a similar setup to control a Custom Wound single-coil in the bridge position and a split-coil in the middle.

At 4.5kg, the five-string Grail is the heavier of the two by half a kilo, and its on-message body shape and will be reassuringly familiar. At 35" it has a longer scale than your typical J-style, but that offset body shape feels well balanced and comfortable.

The Saint's 34" scale and compact body – with an upper-body horn that looks inspired by classic American automobiles – make it a most accommodating bass. 

Performance and verdict

The resonance in both the Grail and Saint is such that they encourage a little noodling before plugging in. The Grail's shallow D-profile neck is seriously addictive, and a riposte to anyone who says the five-string is a dampener on playability and fun. 

Plug it in and it doesn't take long to get to grips with the Grail and Saint tone-wise. The passive tone control has plenty of sweep. The Grail's single-coil pairing is pretty much bang-on for low-mid growl, but dial in a little more treble and its clarity makes it come alive for those elastic tones slap players really dig. 

Whether you are a jazz-funk fusion cat or a rock 'n' roller, or somewhere in between, there are heaps of inspiring tones. The Saint is similarly well equipped. We love the P-Bass-style split-coil; its low-end offers a warm, rounded and extremely musical thump. 

This versatility would make the Saint a good option to have kicking around the studio, or for the gigging bassist who's looking to cover a variety of styles

The addition of the Custom Wound single-coil expands the Saint's range, so you can dial in some of that upper-mid clarity that the Grail does so well. This versatility would make it a good option to have kicking around the studio, or for the gigging bassist who's looking to cover a variety of styles.

While a high-mass bridge with string-through construction would have particularly benefited the Grail, which loses a little definition on its low B string, the Wilkinson bridge found on both instrument is fit for purpose.

Also consider...

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender American Ultra Jazz V
Stunning finishes and smart new features make for a welcome if not radical update for Fender's top-line US production models.

Shecter J-4
This a wholly decent Jazz clone, in feel if not in looks, so if you’re in the market for a new J, do give the J-4 a whirl.

Ultimately, both are supremely playable. The Birchwood-Casey Tru-Oil finish on the necks feels just right. Anyone looking for a workhorse bass for stage or studio and who wants a vintage vibe and passive electronics would do well to check either out.

On balance, maybe the Saint just about edges it. It's a little more versatile, and that body, though unorthodox, is easy to get to grips with. These are well put together, and offer sound value at the price. 

MusicRadar verdict: With a price that's well within reach of the jobbing bassist, the Grail and the Saint are a pair of vintage-vibe tone machines that would serve any stage or studio well.

Hands-on demos

Andertons

Specifications

Ashdown Engineering The Grail (Image credit: Future)
  • Price: £1049 
  • Made In: South Korea 
  • Body: Lightweight alder 
  • Neck: Maple 
  • Neck Joint: Bolt-on 
  • Nut Width: 46.5mm 
  • Scale: 35” 
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood 
  • Frets: 21 
  • Pickups: Ashdown Custom Wound Single Coil x 2 
  • Electronics: Passive Controls: Volume, Volume, Tone 
  • Hardware: Hipshot Ultralite tuners, Wilkinson bridge 
  • Weight: 4.5kg / 9.9 lbs 
  • Case/gig bag included: Gig bag 
  • Left-hand option available: Yes

Ashdown Engineering The Saint (Image credit: Future)
  • Price: £949
  • Made In: South Korea
  • Body: Lightweight alder
  • Neck: Maple
  • Neck Joint: Bolt-on
  • Nut Width: 44.5mm
  • Scale: 34”
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 21
  • Pickups: Ashdown Custom Wound Single Coil, Ashdown Custom Wound split-coil
  • Electronics: Passive Controls: Volume, Volume, Tone
  • Hardware: Hipshot Ultralite tuners, Wilkinson bridge
  • Weight: 4kg / 8.8 lbs
  • Case/gig bag included: Gig bag
  • Left-hand option available: Yes
  • Contact: Ashdown Engineering