Many musicians dream of having their own signature instrument, but Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassman Flea goes one better with his own brand of bass.
His own model is the appropriately named Fleabass Touring Bass, which has already proved very popular in the USA. And although that example isn't expensive by any means, a more affordable version was created: the Street Bass.
It's offered in a selection of finishes (that are a little more conservative than the Touring Bass's options) and built to a good enough standard that telling the original from the budget version is tricky, even from a short distance.
The body is basswood rather than alder, and the pickguard is a lower-grade plastic, but pretty much everything else is the same. This includes the bridge, pickup and that striking black circular scratchplate, which swallows up the pickup in a black hole - distinctive styling indeed.
While displaying this striking and arresting look, the Street Bass, like the Touring Bass, definitely offers a polite nod to the Precision Bass and, of course, the Music Man StingRay. Lovers of both these classic instruments will feel right at home playing a Fleabass.
Some of the new features are immediately obvious, such as the extended upper body horn (for improved instrument balance) and the headstock being finished in the same colour as the body.
But things such as the sturdy neck joint having a lower edge chamfer for more comfortable playing at the dusty end of the fingerboard, and the chunky bridge that offers both through-body or surface-anchored stringing, are only revealed on closer investigation.
The neck is well proportioned and nicely tapered to allow easy fingering over the 'board while providing generous string spacing at the bridge. This aspect certainly favours slap players, and when you consider Flea's bass leanings that makes perfect sense.
All in all, this is a no-nonsense design that will appeal to any bass player wanting a good workaday instrument with a modern visual twist.
Flea and his technician Dave Lee had a lot to do with the development of the pickup here and we think the time spent on it has paid off. Certainly for a single-pickup passive configuration this is one very funky sounding bass indeed.
As you rotate the tone control from full bass a series of cool hollows are unleashed for the first quarter of a turn that just beg you to dig in and set up a groove. So, from a tonal point of view it's far more Music Man in character than Precision and, for those of you that like the Flea connection, this is far more like his sound in the early days of the Chili Peppers.
As you progress with the tone control the sounds smooth down for a more solid rock sound before arriving at the harder-edged end where the sound penetrates for a tougher delivery.
So although passive circuitry offers relatively little tonal variation, compared to many other passive bass guitars this does exceptionally well. Overall there's a bright delivery, with a slightly hollowed character - a modern and distinctive voice.
A more affordable version of Flea's Touring Bass, the Street Bass has only subtly different specifications. Although it doesn't come with the Touring Bass's DVD extras, it's a great starter bass at a very reasonable price with distinctive solid sounds and a roadworthy gig bag.
Younger players should check the Flea Junior Bass that offers a shorter 30-inch scale length. Time to get Street Bass-wise? Funky bones at the ready…