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Manson John Paul Jones Signature E-Bass and Manson Standard E-Bass review

How does the Led Zeppelin bassist's signature model stack up against Manson's Standard elite four-string?

  • £1699
Manson E-Bass
(Image: © Manson Guitar Works)

Our Verdict

Versatile, playable and beautifully balanced, Manson's E-Bass series is a crowd-pleaser. The John Paul Jones Signature has got a little extra wow factor – but that comes at a price. Either way, these are high-quality contemporary basses for serious players.

Pros

  • Great looks, fine body shape.
  • Tones are great. The Aguilar update is a winner.
  • Very playable.

Cons

  • No passive options.
  • No dedicated mids control.

What is it?

Signature bass guitars tend to attract a little more attention. It's only natural. You see the name of, say, Geddy Lee or John Paul Jones, as we have here, on the headstock and expectations are inflated.

Often that name comes at a premium, too, with extra artist-inspired spec to sweeten the deal. But is there really that much difference? Here we have the new signature John Paul Jones signature E-Bass from Manson Guitar Works and the Standard E-Bass for comparison.

The Standard is priced from £1,699, arrives in Satin Black or the more disco-amenable Night Sky Holosparkle finishes. The JPJ model has a similar silhouette, is priced from £2,399 and comes in either book-matched flamed or quilted maple in Trans Satin Black or the high-gloss Aged Vintage Red Sunburst lacquer [as reviewed].

The Standard and JPJ models share a lot of DNA. Both are Czech-built and set up in Ashburton, England. They have the same bodyshape – a pointed doublecut profile with exaggerated horns – and through-neck construction. The body is mahogany, the neck, three-piece maple. 

We've got a rosewood fingerboard on the Standard and ebony on the JPJ, while both have two-octave necks and a truss rod adjuster conveniently placed just beyond that 24th fret.

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Manson E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)
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Manson E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)
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Manson E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)
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Manson E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)

Both have a familiar 34” scale and 19mm string spacing from a nut width of 40mm. The body contouring makes them fit nicely against the body.

Manson has used some quality hardware in the form of Gotoh machine heads and Hipshot Kickass bridges – the JPJ model has a Hipshot Bass Xtender for on-the-fly drop tunings.

A pair of Aguilar pickups are controlled in an active circuity by volume, pan and stacked treble and bass knobs. We would have liked a passive mode but that's no biggie for most players. The wiring job is neat and tidy, with shielding in the compartments to keep noise to a minimum – just what you would expect in a premium instrument.

As is Manson's want, there are options. For an extra £100 you can get a Luthier's Choice maple top. 

Performance and verdict

At first blush, the JBJ bass has a little more heft to it, but there's certainly a consistency of feel across both basses.

With its ebony 'board and maple on top, it's maybe no surprise that the JPJ is a bit more upfront and present in the attack. It is a more forthright tone – full and resonant, the JBJ sustains beautifully. With the EQ set flat, there is noticeable difference in the two basses' tones.

That is not to say that one is better. There is always a subjective aspect to judging sound, but it is interesting how the different 'board and top represents itself in the JPJ's tone profile.

 

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Manson John Paul Jones E-Bass 
The 2017 model is very similar but comes with EMG humbuckers.

There is width in both basses' tones. Their respective neck pickups are good and fat, with some chewy lower mids to get excited about. Turn the pan control and the bridge control might surprise you – again, it's the width. Having a humbucker there puts some meat on the bones.

Mixing the pickups opens up a number of possibilities, but it is quite exceptional how much clarity and richness in the midrange you will find. The electronics are exceptional, too. From a flat response, it's a cinch to dial in a more lithe, bouncy tone profile for slap or something warm and plummy for R&B fingerstyle.

The Aguilar nine-volt OBP-2 circuit is all about definition. Up and down the neck, these prove to be articulate instruments, and there's a good range on both bass and treble controls. A little goes a long way here.

The E-Bass format features a shallow D-shape neck profile that feels superb. It'll encourage adventurous bassists to cut loose. Manson has got the weight just right on these instruments, too. The balance and ergonomics are hard to beat.

But perhaps their greatest feature is their versatility. Whether you choose the Standard or the JPJ model, the design is something you can impress your style upon. All the tones are there; just dial them in.

MusicRadar verdict: Versatile, playable and beautifully balanced, Manson's E-Bass series is a crowd-pleaser. The John Paul Jones Signature has got a little extra wow factor – but that comes at a price. Either way, these are high-quality contemporary basses for serious players.

Specifications

Manson Standard E-Bass

Manson E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)
  • Made In: Czech Republic
  • Colour: Night Sky Holosparkle
  • Body: Mahogany with maple top, gloss finish; Night Sky Holosparkle option costs £1899
  • Neck: Maple, three-piece laminate, gloss finish, matching headstock 
  • Scale and string spacing: 34”, 19mm (adjustable)
  • Neck Joint: Through-neck
  • Nut Width: 40mm
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: Aguilar DCB humbuckers x 2
  • Electronics: Aguilar OBP-2, 9-volt, 2-band EQ
  • Controls: Volume, pickup pan, stacked bass and treble (cut/boost) Hardware | Black hardware, Gotoh machine heads, Hipshot Kickass 3D bridge
  • Weight: 4.1kg / 9 lbs
  • Case/gig bag included: Gig bag (upgrade to a Hiscox case for £109 extra)
  • Left-hand option available: No

Manson John Paul Jones Signature E-Bass

(Image credit: Manson Guitar Works)
  • Made In: Czech Republic
  • Colour: Aged vintage cherry sunburst
  • Body: Mahogany with quilted maple top,gloss finish
  • Neck: Maple, three-piece laminate, gloss finish, matching headstock 
  • Scale and string spacing: 34”, 19mm (adjustable)
  • Neck Joint: Through-neck
  • Nut Width: 40mm
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 24
  • Pickups: Aguilar DCB humbuckers x 2
  • Electronics: Aguilar OBP-2, 9-volt, 2-band EQ
  • Controls: Volume, pickup pan, stacked bass and treble (cut/boost) Hardware | Black hardware, Gotoh machine heads, Hipshot Kickass 3D bridge
  • Weight: 4.1kg / 9 lbs
  • Case/gig bag included: Hiscox case
  • Left-hand option available: No
  • Contact: Manson Guitar Works