What is it?
Michael Kelly has taken its sweet time in getting into the bass guitar (opens in new tab) market. We've seen mandolins, electric guitars (opens in new tab) and even acoustic basses. But electric bass?
It's only recently that the US-based company has put together a small lineup of electrics, manufactured in South Korea, comprising the Vintage Element 4, Custom Collection Element 4 and Custom Collection Element 5.
All share that familiar offset body shape that we know and love, with the Custom Collection instruments giving it a more contemporary vibe. The Custom Collection Element 4 we've got in for review today is a handsome looking devil, with a body of red cedar topped with striped ebony. Zebraburst and burl tops are options.
The high-gloss finish is complemented by a matt black pickguard and black hardware. It has a rock maple neck, a pau ferro 'board, and a headstock that shows off a nice bit of curl on the maple.
There are a few banner items of spec that we should run through. First up is the MK Stealth Attack Bridge System, which is a rather militaristic way of describing some smart engineering, with the bridge mounted to the body and an aluminium tone block that's secreted inside the body. All this is to improve resonance, and thus sustain.
The Rockfield 4SW single-coils are voiced specifically for this bass, over-wound for a little extra heat. Controls-wise, we've got master volume, a blend and a stacked treble 'n' bass control, with a toggle switch for selecting between active and passive modes.
Performance and verdict
In passive mode, the Custom Collection Element 4 does a fine job of balancing the innate bite of the bridge pickup with the neck pickup – positioned in the middle as per the style – a more mellow, bass-heavy option that's perfect for classic, old-school Motown floor fillers.
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Mixing and matching pickups, there's a lot of variety on offer, and the slim neck is more than accommodating, ideal for zippy basslines that climb and descend the fretboard at 120bpm. Neck dive, the perennial gripe, is not too bad here when lined up against its vintage counterparts.
Active mode kicks things up a notch as you'd expect. If you're looking for that contemporary Jazz style then this is where its add, with all the springiness you could need in the low end. Annoyingly, the pots are a bit scratchy, but it's just a matter of taking the controls knobs off and the backplate and getting in there with the air duster. Besides, it's always a satisfying job.
Ultimately, the Custom Collection Element 4 is an impressive bass for the price. A Jazz variant for under a grand that warrants investigation. For beginners looking to upgrade to a more serious instrument, it'll reward your investment with a versatile, vintage-modern voice and will look good in the band photos.
MusicRadar verdict: The odd noisy pot shouldn't distract from what is a versatile and handsome bass with a quicksilver neck and impressive hardware. Looking for a mid-priced take on a classic? It's a sound option.
- Made In: Korea
- Colour: Striped ebony (burl and zebraburst also available)
- Body: Red cedar
- Neck: Rock maple, bolt-on
- Scale: 34"
- Nut: Bone
- Nut Width: 1.63” / 41.4mm
- Fretboard: Pau ferro
- Frets: 21
- Pickups: Rockfield 4SW custom-wound single-coils
- Controls: Volume, blend, stacked tone
- Bridge: MK Stealth Attack Bridge System
- Hardware: MK Die Cast
- Contact: Michael Kelly Guitars (opens in new tab)