Dingwall instruments is certainly on the up, gradually growing in visibility and being adopted as the instrument of choice by bassists of all genres.
The Combustion range is the 'entry level' so to speak, made in China but assembled back at Dingwall HQ in Canada. So are we looking at this as an example of extreme cost cutting to get the name out there or is this a high quality instrument worthy of the Dingwall moniker?
Dingwall basses have an enviable reputation for quality craftsmanship, so rest assured that this instrument shows no signs of lacking in the manufacturing, construction or assembly departments. At 4.4 kg, this particular bass isn't super-light but it isn't overbearingly heavy either, it feels solid and well-balanced, inviting the player to dig in and play it.
The Translucent White finish over the swamp ash body timber (the grain being visible through the gloss lacquer) works very well in conjunction with the light coloured three-piece maple neck and fingerboard, while the body shape and three-ply scratchplate really enhance the visuals.
Contouring front and back makes the bass very comfortable to wear and although the low B string has a 37" speaking length, the length of the neck isn't inhibitive or detrimental to the Combustion's playability.
The fanned frets, 19mm string spacing and slim neck profile combine to provide an effortless neck to play, and considering this is a five-string instrument, it's reassuring to see that the Dingwall reputation for highly playable five-string necks is firmly intact, even with a nut width of 52mm. The four-bolt neck attachment is solid and tight and along with the set-up and fret detail, it is clear that a great deal of attention to detail has been afforded to this bass before it left Dingwall HQ - the overall level of finishing is top notch.
Chrome hardware has been used throughout, the Hipshot-licensed machine heads are securely attached and turn reassuringly smoothly, the strings being guided by an 'all in one' string tree before crossing the bone nut. The Neodymium pickups are well spaced and positioned to offer a good variety of tones and are of the rectangular variety unlike the rounded pickups used on a lot of the Canadian-manufactured models.
The V-shaped control layout is intuitive and effective with controls for volume, pickup selection (neck pickup, both in series, both in parallel, bridge pickup) and an active/passive switch. The magnetic backplate covering the battery cavity makes battery changes effortless as always and a quick peek inside the well-shielded control cavity showed a very tidy cabling arrangement.
The layout of the fanned frets feels as natural as ever (to this player at least) and coupled with the overall dimensions of the neck and body, this particular Combustion is a real joy to play.
Acoustically, the bass sustains impressively and resonates like a bell; string volume and clarity are of equal weight across all five strings. If projecting your sound is paramount, have no fears of lost notes with this bass! Even before plugging in, the tone is warm but defined with a great solidity of tone with no evident 'sponginess' even on the B string.
Plugged in, the B string is loud and proud, throaty with plenty of definition, a good start. Running across all four pickup options, the performance of the B string is equally impressive, not that we're surprised having played several Dingwall instruments in the past, but it's reassuring that the quality remains.
The pickup switching firmly illustrates the tonal colours on offer; the neck pickup is what you would expect, fat and rounded but still tight (the scale length helps in this respect) with plenty of natural bottom end but running to both pickups in series gives the whole bass a turbo boost.
The mids are accentuated while the overall tone has more power and grunt with a sparkly top end. With both pickups in parallel, the underlying tone has slightly less attack and aggressiveness but is replaced with a smoother character that would certainly appeal to fingerstyle players simply laying down a smooth groove.
Moving to the bridge pickup, you're presented with a naturally twangy tone with plenty of honk if you require it - but don't be fooled, there is still plenty of power in the signal.
Bringing the EQ into play, the EMG circuit does a great job at accentuating the natural character of the bass without ever sounding extreme, the mid EQ providing some extra punch when it was needed while the bass and treble EQ provide the bass with a great slap tone as well as some extra power and definition when played fingerstyle or with a pick.
We're happy to report that this bass is well deserving of the Dingwall reputation. It's built to last, ballsy and lively with plenty of bounce, vibrancy and great sustain, all you would want from a five-string bass really. We can't recommend it highly enough - this is why so many bassists are adopting these instruments into their bass arsenals. Buy with confidence!