A Test Of Some Very, Very Cool Basses

Test Of Very, Very Cool Basses

On this adventure to the local Guitar Center I got my hands on some very wonderful basses, and because it’s a Guitar Center, nobody bothered me, rushed me or even spoke to me as I sifted through the inventory. For the most part, the inventory was pretty predictable in terms of what was available for demo purposes, a nice assortment of Fenders, Squiers, a few Epiphones, a lot of Ibanez and a smattering of Peavey, a used G & L, the L-2000 and a used Traben. They also had two Fenders that I’ve been wanting to try at the same sitting, a Geddy Lee Jazz Bass and a Marcus Miller Jazz Bass. It was also a rare opportunity for me to test Godin’s Semi-Acoustic A4, so I had my four target basses. I played them thorugh a small, excellent Fender Bassman amp and kept the settings the same so sound differences were from the bass, not the amp.

I liked them all and they all had their own signature feel and sound.

Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass:  This very slick bass is on display in almost every music store that I visit that carries Fender, and Fender is one of the most available and widely distributed line of guitars on the planet. When I played the Geddy Lee and the Marcus Miller in sequence, they felt almost identical. The both have slim, C shaped neck, 1.5” width at the nut and a tightly curved neck. I couldn’t find the specs on the radius of the Geddy Lee but the Marcus Miller is an exceptionally tight, round 7.5” radius and the Geddy Lee felt to be the same. If you’re not familiar with the term “radius” as it refers to a guitar neck, I have a brief discussion of that below. The body of this bass is alder, a very fine tonewood, the neck is maple and so is the fretboard with very distinctive black block inlays. Great looking and superb feel to this bass.

The Geddy Lee played beautifully, beautiful tone but not a ton of puch from the passive jazz pickups. The highly regarded bassist, Andy Lalasis showed me his Geddy Lee which he upgraded with a pair of EMG active pickups and altered his beautiful bass from a light, smooth, “smacky” sound to a cannon. Andy has described his Geddy Lee as a corvette, a jet and I’m inclined to agree. At $999, the Fender Geddy Lee is a great selection, especially if you’re looking for a solid jazz bass.

Marcus Miller Jazz Bass: I don’t find too many Fender Marcus Miller basses hanging in music shops so this was a great opportunity to try one. As I mentioned, it felt very much like the Geddy Lee, thin, very fast neck with a slinky 1.5” nut width and a very tight, round 7.25” radius. Like the Geddy Lee, it was very balanced and very easy to play. The big difference between the Marcus Miller and Geddy Lee was in the electronics. The MM had an active-passive pickup system that used a toggle to switch between the two. The passive setting sounded very much like the Geddy Lee to me, the active produced a knockout punch sound. At $1199, or about $200 more than the Geddy Lee, it seems to be more versatile.

In past blogs, I’ve spoken highly of the G & L line of guitars and basses and for good reason: they make great guitars and basses. There is a relationship between Fender and G & L too, the “L” in G & L is for “Leo”, as in “Leo Fender.” After Leo sold the guitar company that bears his name, he worked with Music Man (another incredible line of instruments) and then started G & L. When I played the Marcus Miller it occurred to me that the MM measured up extremely well against similar and awesome G & L basses except in one area: it costs less. If you can tolerate spending a few hundred dollars less, this is a great instrument to put on your wish list.

Godin A4 Semi-Acoustic Fretless Bass: I had fun playing this bass and it’s a wonderful alternative to a typical acoustic bass. This bass doesn’t have a traditional soundhole in the front of the guitar bot a long slot and a group of slots in the upper left corner of the soundboard. One significant plus I noted was that even when close to the amp, there was no feedback, a common problem with acoustic-electric basses. The design is supposed to resist feedback even with onstage noise and that’s a huge advantage over other acoustic basses I’ve tried.

This isn’t a booming sound, not even close. But, if you’re looking for a bass guitar that gives you a remarkable upright bass sound, this one is the winner hands down. The sound is produced by a Lace low profile pickup and a Goding bridge transducer and the body has a two chamber, silver leaf maple body and either a solid spruce or solid cedar top depending on the model. The price range is between $999 and $1249 but I found it difficult to find one to demo. If you’re out and see it, give it a shot for future consideration. If you know of a music store that has them on display, let me know and I’ll put the owrd out. As I write, the New Jersey Guitar & Bass Center in Edison, does have some nice A4 or A5 on the racks.

Used Traben Phoenix Sun 4 String Bass: Urethane finish
Body: alder
Neck: maple, thin “C” shape
Fingerboard: maple
Two vintage Jazz Bass single-coil pickups
Hardware: chrome
Machine heads: standard
Pickguard: 3-ply parchment
Bridge: Leo Quan Badass II
Block fingerboard inlaysMany bassis overlook Traben because of the rather garish appearance of the large bridge, metal patterns over the body and fancy, flowing inlays on the fretboard. The appearance is striking and a Traben signature and people either seem to love it or hate it. I’m blind, so it didn’t matter to me.

This is a nice feeling, fine playing bass. The five piece neck is slim with maple and walnut that is supposed to prevent warping. The oversized Fender style bridge and the ornate metal extension of the bridge combined with a steel nut are intended to improve sustain and the bass certainly doesn’t have any trouble with that. The strings are only in contact with metal, and even old, cruddy strings, like the one on this bass, still had great sustain. The active electronics were loud and had a huge range of tonal options. For about $500, this is a fine choice for a high quality, great sounding bass that looks either magnificent or disgusting, depending on your personal taste. Like I said, I’m blind and don’t really care how it looks.

If you done a test drive of any basses, please let me hear from you and get your opinions. You can write to me at dave@openmindedmic.com or set a reply on this blog. Thanks for reading. Prof. Dave

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