Despite the scarcity of new Gibson bass designs in recent times, there is no denying it has several iconic basses to its credit.
Where would we be without the EB basses of the 60s and 70s - the coveted Thunderbird, Grabber, Ripper and Les Paul bass designs? This year’s new EB bass is a more contemporary, up-to-date design with a clean look, high-quality hardware, a simple control layout and a pair of hefty humbucking pickups. Sounds enticing, doesn’t it?
This bass looks quite understated: the warm swamp ash timber figuring is clearly visible below the satin finish, although the finish is quite minimal, so the timber feels almost bare to the touch.
The body is comfortable to wear, although with contouring only on the rear of the instrument, the front looks a little neglected in that respect. The lower cutaway offers good access to the upper regions of the 24-fret neck, while the extensive upper horn provides good balance.
The set neck offers a smooth transition from the neck to the body at the point of attachment, and once placed on a strap, the bass balances well and has a compact feel - although the old-school headstock doesn’t do the player any favours in that respect.
The three-piece maple neck is comfortable and playable, with a full D-shaped neck profile that harks back to older Gibson bass models. There’s plenty to grab hold of in the midst of battle, and the substantial feel is completed with a 42mm nut width and 19mm spacing. Slinky it isn’t... but that’s not what this bass is about.
The setup is adequate, although a few rough fret edges were detected and the overall feel and vibe is a little underwhelming. Mother-of-pearl front-facing position markers are consolidated by white dots on the side of the neck, while the black Grover machine heads feel solid and operate as you would expect. The solidly designed Babicz bridge certainly looks very capable, while the Gibson humbucking pickups are flanked by two volume controls and an overall tone. A push/pull operation activates the coil-switching of the pickups.
Sounds & Playability
Acoustically, this bass is resonant and vibrant: you can actually feel its responsiveness before even being plugged into an amp. A passive Gibson tends to conjure up a certain tonal blueprint in your head before you even play it, so it’s not that surprising when you plug the bass in and it basically sounds how you expect it to sound; which should be a good thing, right?
Well yes, to a certain extent, but you’d hope that Gibson might offer something more in this day and age. Soloing each pickup shows the tonal performance you would expect based on their position: with two volume controls, you can obviously mix different degrees of signal from each pickup.
Opening up the tone control provides some light and shade, so those who want the traditional fat and throaty Gibson sound won’t be disappointed. The coil taps help to push the tonal display forward and in operation, they do offer some colour, giving the player the thinner tone of single-coil pickups.
However, with only a passive tone control to play with, there isn’t a vastly different character to the overall signal, which comes across as a bit one-dimensional. Then again, if that one-dimensional sound works for you, all well and good...
Rockers will no doubt enjoy the tones on offer, with both fingerstyle and pick players benefiting from the warm core tone. Soul, dub, reggae and funk players may also enjoy the rounded, ballsy sounds - but those players who need more tonal flexibility may find the tones on offer slightly limited.
At £849, this is not a bass that will break the bank, but you still expect high quality. As it has the Gibson name on the headstock, the instrument should hold its value fairly well, although being US-made shouldn’t instantly instil a ‘wow’ element these days - and indeed, to our ears it doesn’t.
But this is a solid enough performer: a competent rock bass without much visual and tonal sparkle. In this midrange price bracket, there is serious competition for your hard-earned cash, so consider other options.