The new Satin Series of instruments coming out of Roger Sadowsky’s New York workshop are turning heads - and with good reason.
For those who prefer a satin finish on their instruments they’re an obvious winner. Featuring the finest luthiery and understated but stunning looks, these basses feel positively indulgent. At a snip under £3500, this one doesn’t come cheap. Does it justify its price? Allow us to investigate...
The familiar Jazz shape and styling are clearly on display, although the elegantly curved Sadowsky headstock offers some refinement. The ’59 Burst satin finish is a great choice of colouring alongside the 4A flame figuring of the maple top timber. There’s effective contouring front and back, while the white three-ply scratchplate and chrome control plate lend an old-school aura to what is very much a 2019 instrument. The lower cutaway is extensive, while the body dimensions offer a degree of comfort and stability in terms of size. The chambered swamp ash body-core naturally aids overall balance.
The 21-fret pau ferro fingerboard fits in nicely with the warm colouring of the body, while the chrome hardware, consisting of a Sadowsky high-mass bridge, Hipshot Ultralite machine heads and five-control setup, work visually without drawing too much attention away from the overall aesthetic. The hardware is high quality; the machine heads turn smoothly and offer stable tuning, while the Dunlop straplocks fulfil their role reliably. Both the fingerboard and the side of the neck feature white dot position markers. The neck also incorporates graphite strips to aid stability.
The neck profile offers much to the overall playability with its slim, rounded C-shaped profile, and the four-bolt attachment is tight and solid. The fretwork is immaculate with no sharp fret ends whatsoever and an action that simply demands to be played.
The Satin Series is aimed at the working bassist, so none of the components have been compromised to fit into a budget. £3499 is a hefty wad of cash, but this instrument has much to impress. The acoustic tone is smooth and solid with an impressive sustain, and the chambered body allows the bass to ‘breathe’. Balance is impressive; there’s little headstock bias and the bass hangs effortlessly on a strap.
Armed with a pair of hum-cancelling single-coil pickups with 60s winding, and a stacked-control two-band Sadowsky circuit, this bass covers a lot of tonal ground. The signal is strong and clear and with no EQ boosted, the natural tone is full from both pickups. The bass and treble controls are boost-only, so adding EQ a little at a time is probably the best way to go. Without the extra EQ, there is already plenty of spring and bounce. Panning between each pickup yields distinctive results, with plenty of pleasing tones on offer.
Adding some bass and treble opens up the palette, and slap and tap fans will no doubt love the tones achievable with the treble control. With a little experimentation, this bass is capable of quite an array of tones, from a full, ballsy sound to delicate, crisp finesse and detail across the whole register. All of this is before we even mention the Vintage Tone Control, which is accessed by a push/ pull facility and offers further tonal options for players who prefer some passive colour.
In terms of playability, we’re hard pressed to find any negatives. The 20mm (0.79”) string spacing and comfortable neck dimensions add up to an effortless playing experience. At 3.2kg (seven pounds) many a player will be keen to test one of these - and they may be surprised to find just how comfortable it is, although bear in mind that this particular deluxe example features chambered swamp ash and therefore a weight reduction compared to standard models.
The Satin Series will no doubt prove popular; it’s a fine instrument, and offers great sounds and a versatility backed up with the looks, comfort and playability for which Sadowsky basses have become renowned. All this comes at a significant cost, but if you take into consideration the volatility of the money markets and the poor current state of the pound, it starts to look more appealing. Prepare to be impressed... we were.