Acoustic basses are a breed unto themselves, a fact well known to German luthier Jens Schönitz after 20 or so years of experience in the field.
Having brought some of the most stunning acoustics to the London Bass Guitar Show last March, he enthusiastically handed over his magnum opus, the Ellipsis, into the mitts of this reviewer. On unlocking its Fort Knox-like hard case, we instantly understood the reputation that surrounds Schönitz as a master craftsman. This was to be a very interesting afternoon indeed.
Handcrafted in Germany, all the materials for the bass are locally sourced and handpicked by Schönitz himself to ensure the finest quality. The result is that the Ellipsis has the best of both worlds in terms of its modern design and a traditional aesthetic. With a solid red cedar top embraced by olivewood back and sides, the body is a mix of both style and performance.
One obvious feature catches your eye - the deep cutaway. This expertly shaped groove has apparently been engineered so that you can have your cake and eat it too, as the inner bracing structure within the body has been redesigned to accommodate it. The uniquely shaped plum wood soundhole is equipped with its own mute and is a little smaller than usual for a guitar of this size; again, this relates back to the interior.
The details are all in place. Veneered olivewood is used for the headstock, equipped with accurate and stable Schaller machine heads. The set neck joint is firmly lodged within the guitar’s body, making for a sturdy instrument.
Unplugged, the Ellipsis it isn’t a belter by any stretch of the imagination, but its volume will be sufficient for a small room. When you mute the soundhole, you’re insulating all those mids and lows within the body, allowing the lower frequencies to dominate; you’re left with a fulfilling, if woolly, tone. Opening it up brings the bass to life, of course, and leaving tonal considerations aside the volume difference is extraordinary.
It’s outfitted with a passive pickup system, so a wide tone range isn’t what we’re expecting; still, if you’re looking to customise your model, electronics can be added. Fortunately, the neck of the Ellipsis gives you a helping hand when it comes to tone. Thanks to light maple fret lines, the standard 34” scale is very manageable. As soon as it’s resting in your lap, all you’ll be wanting to do is slide around that kingswood fingerboard for the rest of the day.
The Ellipsis has an unusual, intricate composition that does everything in its power to give you the best possible sound. Other than the seriously hefty pricetag, which is to be expected on a labour of love such as this, trying to find any negatives with this bass is a challenge; it sounds sublime and it plays amazingly, and that’s really all there is to it. If you’re after an acoustic that combines superb engineering and an unorthodox look, this beauty has got you covered and then some.