What is it?
They don't make 'em like they used to. Well, that's not true. They do. They just don't design them like they used to. Electric bass guitar designs like the Epiphone Embassy just feel part of a bygone era.
The Embassy was originally introduced in 1963. Things were different then; thermonuclear active preamp circuits were not prerequisites for a successful bass tone. C'mon, the year closed with The Singing Nun at number one in the Billboard Top 200.
However, the times have changed over the intervening years, with pop culture going through an evolutionary supernova, bringing the Embassy back for the 21st century was a solid decision. It has a lot to offer.
An asymmetrical double-cutaway with a solid mahogany body and glued-in mahogany neck, the Embassy comes equipped with a pair of ProBucker 760 humbucking pickups, and a passive control circuit comprising master volume, tone and blend controls.
There's no ageing or any fancy pants voodoo like that – not at this price – but the vintage vibe is convincing. You've got Epiphone Historic Barrel knobs mounted on a black pickguard (or white with the Black finish), and a Historic Bass Tune-O-Matic with matching "claw" tailpiece.
On the headstock, aligned two by two, there are sealed nickel-plated tuners. There's a full 34" scale length, with the Indian laurel fingerboard topped by 20 medium jumbo frets. Our review model, resplendent in Wanderlust Green Metallic looks phenomenal, but then the Embassy looks similarly cool in Smoked Almond Metallic, Black, and Sparkling Burgundy.
Performance and verdict
The Embassy feels reassuringly familiar, with its Medium C neck profile offering a generous piece of mahogany to hold on to. The 41mm nut width is easy on the fingers, welcoming pickers and fingerstyle players alike.
It's the strangest thing, for although there is an abundance of comfort, the Embassy surreptitiously encourages careful drivers. This is an early 60s design – there's no need to speed.
This will not suit everyone. Some players need more contemporary get up and go in their sound, the power of an active circuit and a high-performance build. But that's okay. The Embassy is just so charming and playable that you want to work through those Motown sounds, let the bass walk, picking the notes that matter and holding it down in the rhythm section. Very traditional.
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There is a musical analogue thump to the Embassy's tone. Those ProBuckers favour warmth over brittle clarity, but then we would expect that. You can tease some very capable rock towns by selecting the bridge pickup, diming the tone and playing near the bridge, alternatively pluck up by the neck humbucker and there's that plummy Muscle Shoals roundness.
It's that spectrum of electrified bass tone that you'll find the Embassy at its most diplomatic – soul and R&B through pop and rock. Slapping, popping, and all that pyrotechnics is best left to other basses. This is one is a crowd-pleaser; it plays the percentages with a tone that neither visits structural damage on your property through voluminous low end nor all glassy high-end spank that can get a little poky or metallic when you overdo it.
The build quality is tip-top for a bass at this price, and a word again for those finishes – they are pretty special. With limited switching options and a straightforward features set, you could call this a no-frills bass. But in its own way that's kinda thrilling. It's the sort of bass that makes perfect sense when you play it because it's a keeper.
MusicRadar verdict: A stylish passive bass that's simply fun to play and great to look at, don't overlook the Embassy when looking for retro bass at a very sensible price.
- PRICE: £349
- MADE IN: Korea
- BODY: Layered maple with single-ply cream binding, Sparkling Burgundy and Faded Pelham Blue finishes available
- NECK: Mahogany, 34” scale
- FINGERBOARD: Indian Laurel, 20 frets
- PICKUPS: JCB-1 low-impedance humbucker
- CONTROLS: Volume, tone, three-way rotary selector
- HARDWARE: Die-cast tuners, adjustable bridge and tailpiece
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION: No
- CONTACT: Epiphone