Enfield Antoinette: What is it?
At a certain remove, first impressions of the Enfield Antoinette are all about the headstock. Or rather, all about the lack of one.
This, of course, is not that radical on a bass guitar. The headless bass was fashionable in the ‘80s, and when you hear bassists complaining of neck dive it remains a reasonable tactic to rebalance the instrument. But when you plug in you’ll realise that it’s all about the pickups.
Manufactured by Sims Guitars, made to order with a bewildering array of custom appointments, the Antoinette is not for the casual player but is absolutely perfect for the well-heeled and indecisive.
Those pickups are Super Quads, which are tonal chameleons that, at the flick of a switch, can turn the voice of this future-forward bass into a Precision or Jazz bass, or access beefy humbucker tones. It’s very clever. The whole build is.
The Antoinette has a 32” scale, a neck of five-piece laminate with premium North American quarter-sawn hard rock maple and phenolic stringers, which joins a solid mahogany body with five bolts. The Hipshot Headless System not only facilitates the Mary Antoinette look up at the nut, but applies a sturdy bridge unite with tuners positioned to the rear of the unit.
This bass is for low-end futurists but retains some sense of history, displaying a decorative rose on the rear of where the headstock almost is. The London Red finish extends to the neck and gives the Antoinette the hue of a post box, but altogether, with the domed metal controls on the red paint job and the LEDs on the pickups, it’s kind of prog sci-fi.
There are a lot of dials and three small switches to get acquainted with. One switches on the fretmarkers. The other two are for the pickup voicings. The five dials control the Glockenklang active preamp and correspond to volume, pan-pot and a three-band EQ – though the standard configuration offers a two-band EQ.
Passive mode can be activated via a push/pull function on the volume control, in which the treble control serves as a roll-off tone control for old-school tones. In active mode, however, you’ve got heaps of control over the EQ.
Enfield Antoinette: Performance and verdict
For all its aesthetic largesse and feature-packed preamp, the Antoinette is a very welcoming bass guitar. The phenolic fingerboard – selected for its stability, tone and durability – feels incredible, with 16.5mm string spacing unlikely to alienate anyone. It is effortlessly playable, well-balanced, and yes, you needn’t worry about swinging it around and knocking a vase over with the headstock.
If the preamp and switch combo seem a little bewildering it helps that the pickups have colour-coded LEDs that let you know which mode is active. Red mode is as good a place to start as any; after all, it replicates the sound of the first mass-produced electric bass, the Precision Bass.
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Strip away the custom options of the other Enfield models, get the fundamentals right and let the Super Quads do their job, and you have an instrument that works on many levels without the precious boutique tag.
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Worth considering if you have £2,000 to spend thanks to its broad tonal palette, fine craftsmanship and great electronics.
As a core sound goes, it’s hard to beat, but what you have is a P-Bass with an enhanced control set-up and you can dial in all kinds of variations on the theme. Usable tones are found across the spectrum of the EQ; awesome and inspiring tones are frequently found.
Part of the pleasure to be taken from a bass such as the Antoinette – well, besides the fact that you have a custom build and something off-menu to help define your sound – is in the discovery. Tone chasers will love the hunt for sweet spots.
They’ll find more in the Blue and Green modes, where more slap-happy sounds come to the fore, with extra heft and bounce applied in all the right areas. The former is particularly effective when sitting in a mix, but your mileage may vary. Combining the modes complicates the scene further, yielding more happy discoveries. This is the sort of bass you wish had presets.
Maybe that is the next step in pickup evolution. Something for the clever people at Sims Guitars to think about – the Super Duper Quads, complete with user-programmable sounds? Well, who can say? It’s a nice thought. Most players will find this bass advanced enough. There's not much it can't do.
MusicRadar verdict: If the aesthetic works for you, then the Antoinette will cover so many musical styles that it’ll feel like a more than worthwhile investment both of your money and all that time spent happily tweaking tones.
Enfield Antoinette: The web says
“Regardless of the tone wizardry under the hood, the Antoinette plays like a dream. The short-scale phenolic fretboard has a bounce and smooth solidity that rewards all levels of playing intensity, and the bass feels at home whether you pluck gently for some quiet subtlety, or apply enthusiastic pick downstrokes in the name of volume. Of course, its looks are pure funk, but don’t let that put you off deploying it for other uses.”
Bass Player Magazine
Enfield Antoinette: Hands-on demos
Enfield Antoinette: Specifications
- PRICE: From £2,300 (price dependent on custom spec options)
- MADE IN: UK
- BODY: East Asian mahogany
- NECK: Five-piece laminate with premium North American quarter-sawn hard rock maple and phenolic stringers, 32” scale
- NECK JOIN: Bolt-on, five bolts
- FRETBOARD: Phenolic, 16.5mm string spacing, 24 jumbo frets
- PICKUPS: 2 x Sims Super Quads
- ELECTRONICS: Three-band non-stacked Glockenklang preamp
- CONTROLS: Three-band EQ, volume, tone, 2 x Super Quad microswitches, LEDs on/off
- HARDWARE: Nickel and black, Hipshot headless system
- WEIGHT: 7.3 lbs
- GIGBAG/CASE INCLUDED: Hiscox flight case
- LEFT-HANDED MODEL AVAILABLE: Yes
- CONTACT: Sims Bass Shop