Ellio Martina’s instruments have a cult following across Europe, so we were interested to see what all the fuss was about.
Luckily for us, Ellio himself had a number of fine offerings on display at the LBGS 2017 - so we headed to his stand and were presented with this fine, if understated, instrument for review.
First impressions last: we bore it to our secret review bunker at the show, and gave it a thorough going-over...
To the casual onlooker, this bass is the equivalent of a grey suit. We were almost tempted to pre-judge, saying ‘We’ve seen it all before, there’s nothing special here’... but then we sat down with the bass and played it. The ‘Never judge a book by its cover’ maxim has never been so well applied!
Traditional visuals and fine craftsmanship go hand in hand, and while this bass will hardly rock the boat in the looks department, it’s very impressive when picked up and played. Smooth, rounded body curves are backed up with front and rear contouring, while the tulipwood and flame alder body timbers benefit from a smooth satin finish - as does the five-piece maple and purpleheart neck.
This bass can hardly be described as ‘in your face’, but it doesn’t need to be. It is all about the sum of its parts, so the flame figuring offsets the horizontal guring of the alder top, while the dark wooden pickup covers give the bass an organic slant.
There is some headstock bias, but this is rectified once placed on a strap - and once wearing the instrument, you begin to feel what this bass is all about. A smooth playing experience in physical terms seems to be guaranteed.
With 19mm string spacing, a shallow D-shaped neck pro le and a 41mm nut width, the strings are easily navigated, while the level of nishing and attention to detail is very high indeed. Everything about this bass feels right, and though the visuals may not be blowing your socks off, the overall feel is fantastic.
Pearl dots have been used on the front and side of the neck, while an abalone inlay with Ellio’s initials has been inlaid into the headstock. All of the black hardware works as it should; the lightweight Schaller tuners operate smoothly and sturdily, while the controls for volume, balance and tone are effectively laid out and also operate smoothly. A three-way switch offers normal operation and a 30 per cent boost to each pickup, depending on its position.
So the BS4 feels great - but how does it sound? Well, we’re happy to report that this bass has a naturally warm character, and being passive, we’re spared the tonal extremes that active circuitry can provide.
However, be under no illusion that this instrument might be a drab affair - it isn’t. String volume across the neck is consistent, and whether you play lightly or like to dig in, this bass responds very well to changes in playing style and string attack. Panning between both pickups illustrates plenty of tonal light and shade, with each pickup doing what it should; the neck unit provides a solid, ballsy tone, while the bridge pickup adds a degree of bite and articulation.
The tone control offers a pleasantly usable tonal palette. Rock playing sounds just as convincing as the tighter funk tones and honky bounce delivered from the soloed bridge pickup. The bolt-on construction and the multi-laminate neck contribute a sturdiness and clear-sounding tone, reinforced by the tight neck-to-body connection.
The boost switch provides additional tonal options should you find you need them, and helps to define certain aspects of your tone, depending on your playing style.
After some time with the bass, we had to give it back, much to our disappointment - as it truly is a highly playable and comfortable bass. The standard of finishing across the instrument is such that it already feels played in, almost like putting on your favourite slippers. This is a welcoming and enjoyable bass, if ever there was one.
Ellio should be congratulated for producing such a great all-round bass with very thorough tones, suitable for all styles. Although it doesn’t scream ‘bling’ at you, what it does offer is a refined playing experience, and it does this very well.
For almost two grand, you may want a little more sparkle for your money but for many players, this bass may well hit the nail firmly on the head. If you’re looking for a high-quality passive bass which calls you back time and again, look no further.