What is it?
From a distance, the Lakland Skyline J-Sonic looks like another J-alike five-string electric bass guitar – it doesn't exactly hide where the design influence is coming from.
There is that the slightly squeezed offset waist, the familiar chrome control plate housing volume controls for each pickup and a master tone control. But take a closer look. It's the pickups. Here is the twist, with Lakland fitting a pair of Chi-Sonic Jazz single-coils inspired by the Hagstrom Bi-Sonic.
The thinking behind this unorthodox electromagnetic ordnance is that you'll get a little more personality in the upper mids. Sounds good. Elsewhere, the build is quite conventional. It's a solid ten-pounder, built from an ash body with a bolt-on maple neck, a rosewood 'board, chrome hardware, dual-access bridge, and HipShot Ultra-Lite tuners.
Attached to the body with a five-bolt joint, the neck is carved into a very comfortable shallow D profile, with the J-Sonic having a 35" scale length. The 44mm nut width makes it very approachable. As does the body, with contouring that helps the instrument sit tight against the body.
Performance and verdict
The J-Sonic is a handsome looking instrument, most commonly spotted in Aztec Gold, but this review model wears its Candy Apple Red finish nicely, contrasting the mint 3-ply pickguard and oval-shaped bridge plate are accustomed to seeing on Lakland basses.
Plugging in, the tone profile of the Chi-Sonics immediately makes its presence heard. You don't need to turn the tone dial to 10 to get a taste of that extra upper-midrange presence.
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Here, Lakland has found the right balance between detail and warmth, and the Chi-Sonics do a good job of presenting an aggressive bass tone that's light on the metallic clatter of an overly treble-biased pickup.
Of course, with the tone fully on, you can really bloody the audience's nose, and for busy note playing or those who use a pick, that extra heat in the high-end can come in very handy. Getting a sound of it is easy.
In keeping with the vintage looks, the tone circuit is passive, simple and straightforward. That said, we'd be tempted to swap out the volume pots for something with a little more precision – they tend to taper off too quickly.
Barring the odd sharp fret edge towards the top end of the fingerboard, the feel of the J-Sonic is a treat, especially for those who shy away from five-strings for fear of that low B flub. There's none of that here. The 19mm string spacing is generous enough to avoid confusion without too much stretching.
Again, that clarity is superb. It is not just the Chi-Sonics; the build is geared towards an articulate instrument, as you can hear when you play it unplugged. Price-wise, it's about right, and while Lakland has stopped producing the J-Sonic, you should not have too much trouble tracking one down online.
MusicRadar verdict: You can teach an old bass new tricks. Just throw a fresh set of pickups on it and build it with a sound and feel in mind, and what Lakland does with the J-Sonic is blend traditional stylings with a fresh, upfront passive voice.
- PRICE: £1299
- MADE IN: Indonesia
- COLOUR: Candy apple red, gloss fi nish
- BODY: Ash
- NECK: Maple, 35” scale, satin finish Neck Joint | Bolt-on, fi ve-bolt attachment
- NUT WIDTH: 44mm
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
- FRETS: 22
- PICKUPS: Lakland Chi-Sonic Jazz single-coil pickups x 2
- ELECTRONICS: Passive
- CONTROLS: Volume, volume, tone
- HARDWARE: Chrome hardware, Lakland dual-access bridge, Hipshot Ultra-lite satin chrome machine heads
- WEIGHT: 4.5 kg / 9.9 lbs
- CASE/GIG-BAG INCLUDED: No
- LEFT-HANDED OPTION AVAILABLE: No
- CONTACT: Lakland