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Review: Anaconda Basses Ultra J5 Essence Bass

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A Review of Anaconda Basses Ultra J5 Essence Bass…

By Guest Contributor  Kenery Kent Smith 

As a professional bassist of 40+ years (geez Louise—I said that out loud…), I have owned, played and even built my fair share of a wide variety of bass guitars from many manufacturers. Some have been exotic, handmade and amazing instruments, built by equally amazing small shop luthiers. Some have been very nice, mass-produced instruments which did exactly what they were made to do—make beautiful music; and they did that rather well. And some—let’s just be honest here— some were junkyard dogs that I had to wrestle and fight with on stage EVERY night—just to prove my love (and to prove, despite those instruments shortcomings and challenges—that I could actually play)!

While I have never had a bass collector’s mindset—I have always striven to own enough of the right basses that provided the right tools and the flexibility to do any bass chair job I was called to do; whether it was fitting the sounds of a particular genre of music or needing a beautifully singing fretless to fluidly maneuver a bass line through an equally beautiful song. 

But in all those years, and through all those basses—only a handful have truly stood out as being something REALLY special. Only a few have presented as having that THING that makes a bass perfect for YOU, and that allows you to effortlessly speak in YOUR voice—and not the voice of a brand name or a company sound. Craftsmanship, flexibility, tone, feel, reliability, aesthetics—and a GREAT feeling of communication and support from the manufacturer; these qualities are not always the norm. And even less common, is the ability to find those qualities in a high-end custom bass manufacturer whose entire line of instruments don’t break the bank; yet still has offerings of which you can truly and confidently know that the benefits of their higher-end basses’ build standards, quality, and “trickle down” technology, is reflected in every bass they build—from the top of their line to their more affordable (yet still high-quality) instruments.

Enter Andrew Taylor-Cummings, and his UK-based ANACONDA BASSES. More specifically, enter their latest offering; the amazing ULTRA J5 ESSENCE BASS.

And yes—I am getting to the actual review of THAT specific bass. Please—indulge me for a few more moments—it’ll be well worth it!

I first met Andrew in 2018 at NAMM through a mutual friend and amazing fellow bassist Vuyani Wakaba. This was only a year before Anaconda Basses made its stunning official US debut at the 2019 NAMM Show. And of all the places at NAMM for me to meet an aspiring luthier was on the OUTSIDE of the convention center (Andrew was not new to bass building; he had been doing his thing in the UK since 2013 and was simply in the process of bringing his wares to we low enders across The Pond). It felt very clandestine, geeky, and mysterious to me at the time; but I had great trust in the quality of product of anyone who Vuyani introduced me to; his track record is stellar! And like me, he is a very discerning person and musician, and he doesn’t give his stamp of approval lightly!

And so—outdoors—in the middle of the promenade between convention buildings, I was introduced to Andrew Taylor-Cummings. I was immediately struck by Andrew’s friendliness, character, and humility— not always the attributes of many instrument builders. Yet here, there was an unspoken pride and confidence in the quality of the product he had created. Next, after formal introductions, came Vuyani’s declaration of, “Kenery—you have GOT to try this bass!” Andrew had with him, a lone gig bag slung over his shoulder, in which Vuyani insisted the bass guitar equivalent of Mjolnir or the Infinity Stones was contained. Totally geeked at this point, I outstretched my hands as if awaiting the gifting of a bazillion dollars. What actually got placed in my hands turned out to be equally as valuable (yes, figuratively!) to a bassist like me.

What was placed into my hands, was a beautifully exotic and unique, high-quality, and ergonomically friendly bass guitar.

It was lightweight, yet solid; a well-balanced and resonant groove-making instrument. One that paid a well-deserved homage to the legacy of Leo (all hail Leo!) yet possessed a uniqueness and individuality that separated it greatly from anything Leo—or any other bass builder for that matter—had available for the offering. Without even being able to plug it in, I knew that this bass sounded phenomenal. Playing it unplugged elicited an immediate connection to it via both a comfortable familiarity and a sense of innovation. This bass SPOKE through its beautifully symbiotic choice of woods, its hardware, and its overall master craftsmanship. There was a true LOVE of the bass guitar and music— and a commitment to high standards of quality—that were defined within this instrument. And I didn’t need to plug it into an amp to recognize that.

As it turns out—and validating everything that I felt about that bass when I played it unplugged outside the doors of NAMM in 2018—it was the VERY SAME bass that would later that year, go on to win the prestigious Bass Guitar Magazine “Best Bass of 2018” Award (£1000-£2500 Category; then roughly $1300 – $3300 US). And that award-winning bass, my friends— was Anaconda’s Ultra J4E-Elite. The rest as they say, is bass-ic history (no one really says that, but you get the point). This FINALLY brings us to the present day, and the heirs of that “trickle down” build quality and technology that I spoke of earlier; the brand-new second generation of Anaconda’s amazingly successful import line of basses, aptly named the Essence Series. And more specific to this review, their Ultra J5 Essence bass.

THE BASICS

The Ultra J5 Essence review model is a 5-string, 34.5-inch scale bass, featuring the star of this story IMHO: an amazingly comfortable and amazingly fast 20” radiused, beautifully bound 21-fret Indian Laurel fingerboard, mated to an elegantly grained and “rock solid” Rock Maple bolt-on neck reinforced with dual carbon fiber rods, and a smooth turning dual action truss rod—which is conveniently accessible at the neck heel via a generous but handsomely finished truss rod access slot routed into the body. Other neck options available are a maple fingerboard with black or pearloid rectangular position markers with either black or white binding—and on the Jahmal Nichols Signature Model, pearloid block markers with white neck binding. This lovely satin finished neck also sports a new “C” profile with softer shoulders than the previous generation, making it thinner and easier to navigate up and down the entire neck, even considering that the 1.89” nut, and 19mm string spacing at the bridge may in one’s mind, present as a possible challenge for some who may be used to shorter scales and tighter string spacings. But let me tell you—you won’t even notice! As a player who recently went back to all 34” scale basses because 35” plus began to feel literally like a stretch, the 34.5” scale, “C” shape and 20” radius of the Ultra J5 is an absolute joy and effortless to play. Andrew Taylor-Cummings has found that magical, mystical “sweet spot” for bass guitar necks of strength, playability, feel, and tone. 

The Indian Laurel fretboard isn’t a species of wood I have personally owned on a bass before, but it is a pleasant surprise to play. Without plying the murky waters of the infamous “tone woods do/don’t make a difference” argument; to my ears (the ears of both a 30+ year professional player, an experienced producer and sound engineer, and amateur luthier), Indian Laurel features the best of both worlds; the clarity and brightness of maple, and the warmth and tonal character of rosewood. The increased denseness and hardness of Indian Laurel over Indian Rosewood makes the fretboard woods feel slightly different from one another, with Indian laurel feeling smoother as compared to rosewood. Thus, you benefit from both its warmth and ease of playability. And the perfectly cut and seamlessly inlaid pearloid rectangular position markers, in combination with the flawless matte black binding with inlaid white dot side markers that frames the fretboard, are indeed of a look and quality the belies this bass’s humble price tag.

The body of the Ultra J5 Essence is a wonderfully resonant and back pleasingly light Alder wood. Alder has been the wood of choice for fine electric bass building, in addition to Swamp Ash, for as long as electric basses have been built. It not only looks great as a standalone wood (the grain is quite a bit less pronounced than in ash in most cases, but is still quite attractive), but it also pairs well with almost any figured wood top you may choose to have on a bass. That said, this Ultra J5 flaunts a lovely flame maple veneer, which adds just the right amount of high-end deliciousness beneath the flawlessly applied gloss Cherry Burst finish of my personal model. That flawless finish is protected around the plucking area, by a perfectly transparent, perfectly cut clear pickguard. This allows the full beauty of the flame maple top to be seen in all its glory, while still being well protected from the rigors of normal playing use. Other finish options include Island Blue for the 4 String, and Gen 2 adds Satin Black, and Arctic White (Jamal Nichols Signature bass) to the palette. The available body finish/fingerboard/hardware combinations are listed at the end of the review but include the aforementioned pearloid or black block position markers on either the Indian Laurel or Maple fingerboards, and either black, chrome, or gold hardware.

BUT OH, MY GOODNESS—THAT TONE THOUGH!

Let’s start with acoustic and unplugged; the Ultra J5 Essence has that very same type of wonderful resonance and voice that its fancier sibling had when I played that very first Anaconda Ultra J4E-Elite Bass. The Ultra J5 Essence speaks clearly and authoritatively as an acoustic instrument, which is a portent of all things to come electric. Once I finally stopped geeking out on its unplugged tone and put cord to jack, the Ultra J5 Essence did not disappoint! As a matter of undeniable fact, it delivered in SPADES! And here’s why…

New for 2023 are Anaconda’s very own proprietary AC-TN Jazz bass style pickups for 4-string and 5-string models. The AC4-TN pickups are hum-canceling split coils, while the AC5-TN feature a stacked coil hum-canceling design. Both configurations quite effectively eliminate the dreaded 60-cycle hum that is the typical tradeoff for owning that revered single-coil J bass pickup sound. But the AC-TN pickups deliver a gloriously noise-free playing experience, without sacrificing that trademark single-coil punch, warmth, and clarity. For 6-string Ultra J Essence basses, the AC6SB-TN dual coil soapbar (P2 shape) comes as standard ware (NOTE: the ACSB-TN soapbar configuration is available as a retrofit option for 5 stringers as well when ordering your Ultra J5 or J6). And the ACSB-TN soapbar pickups are of course, traditional humbuckers, having their own unique tone derived from the wider string sensing aperture of two parallel pickup coils. According to the man himself, Andrew Taylor-Cummings: “The 4 string pickups have different resistance values to the 5 strings, so they will sound a little different. To my ear, they are more aggressive, with more mids. The 5 & 6-string ACSB-TN pickups are dual coil soapbars. They don’t sound like the AC-TN pickups. [They have] sweeter mids, less output, a fuller bottom end.” But bringing the focus back around to the subject of this particular review, my Ultra J5 Essence bass came equipped with the stacked coil AC5-TN pickup configuration.

Regardless of which of the available pickup configurations you choose, they all punch well above their weight with a string-to-string evenness due to being designed around their large 9.5mm Alnico pole pieces, which are near perfection in their ability to capture attack and to convey note dynamics clearly and concisely. What you hear is the entirety of the ecosystem of the Ultra J Essence Bass from tone woods to string choices. Most importantly, you will hear YOU as a player—and all the nuances of what you put into every plucked, thumped, popped, and picked note. This bass is perfect for any and every style and technique of playing. And you hear it all with an uncanny clarity and tonal girth that makes you want to play the bass even more. The end result is that the Ultra J5 Essence gives you permission to express yourself as fully as you choose to. Play softly, and the AC5-TN pickups respond in kind with a mellow smoothness and a sweet tonality. Dig in, and they reward you with plenty of high-end clarity, mid-range growl, and low-end authority. There is no musical style these pickups cannot handle, from Rock to Gospel; Jazz to Country; Hip Hop to New Wave and Dance—the Anaconda AC5-TN pickups allow the Ultra J Essence Basses to do it all.

And the sound of every Ultra J5 Essence Bass is all neatly tied together and managed by one of the quietest, most versatile and non-intrusive onboard preamps I have heard in a long time; the Anaconda AC3-TZ Active 3-Band Preamp. On top of giving you the player, and access to your uniquely personal sound and not some brand’s pre-chosen “house sound”, the AC3-TZ’s clean and ergonomically friendly layout is easy peasy to use and allows you to dial in a tone that works in any room, the one that’s in your head, or the tone that gives you exactly what each and every song calls for. The AC3-TZ controls are as follows; Volume/Passive Tone concentric pots, a Pickup Blend, all mated to a push/pull Mid Boost/Cut pot set at 250Hz pushed down or 800Hz pulled up, giving you +/-11dB of range; and a Stacked Treble/Bass pot set at frequencies of 3KHz and 60Hz respectively, both having +/-15dB of boost and cut. Both an optional Bright switch (+6dB @ 8KHz) and a Battery life LED Indicator are also available as add-ons.

Even beyond the apparent benefits of having a bass with articulate and powerful pickups and a versatile onboard preamp system, the Anaconda Ultra J5 Essence is at its heart, a fantastic jazz bass. But it’s a jazz bass that is on steroids, offering a welcome fresh take on a much-loved traditional style. Its pickup spacing seems to split the difference between a 60’s and 70’s configuration: being that the scale length is 34.5”, I would have to do some fancy math to figure out which the Ultra J5 Essence leaned closer to. But either way, the end result is the best of both worlds; clarity and prodigious low end from the neck pickup, Jaco-eques growl and midrange openness from the bridge pickup, and classic, funky modern scoop and thump from both pickups set wide open. The tonal landscape in between is infinite, as it is with most great Jazz Bass pickup configurations. And all of this is available even while in passive mode, with no preamp engaged— because the AC-TN pickups just sound amazing! They possess a rock-solid low end that never sounds muddy or bloated, a sweet but not overly pronounced midrange center, and an openness to their highs that is never too bright or brittle. On their own merit, the AC-TN pickups give you everything you need tonally, that they give you with the preamp engaged—minus of course the flexibility to further shape the sound beyond the basic balance settings and tone control roll-off of a passive J Bass.

But here’s the kicker; depending on where you have the internal volume of the preamp set (adjustable via a trim pot on the preamp board), the Ultra J5 Essence sounds EXACTLY THE SAME in passive mode, as it does when you have the preamp engaged and all tone controls set to flat. THAT is a testament to the beauty of Anaconda’s preamp design, and to the lack of unwanted coloration, the AC3-TZ preamp introduces to the bass. There is none. It really and truly gives you exactly what you ask it for; nothing more, nothing less. And that is how a great onboard preamp is supposed to operate.

View Sounds Samples Below:

It pays off in spades and checks every box most any professional player could ever desire—all in a GAWJUS, solid, well-built, high-quality bass guitar. Pricing for the Ultra J Essence line starts at around $1,110.70 retail USD for the Ultra J4. The retail price of the Anaconda Ultra J5 Essence Bass is $1,352.17 USD with my Cherry Burst Ultra J5 clocking in at around $1600 USD total, including taxes, shipping and import duty charges. With that in mind, the Ultra J5 Essence is THE five-string bass to own if you want or need one of the highest quality, consistent, versatile, and well-thought-out basses on the market, bar NONE. That sentiment extends to basses even well above its price point. And what you get for that price, besides ALL the goodies mentioned above—is the quality, integrity, support, and customer service and satisfaction of Andrew Taylor-Cummings and Anaconda Basses. And in today’s overly saturated cookie-cutter musical instrument market—being able to build a relationship by owning a quality bass guitar from a company that takes its products, its customers, and its reputation quite seriously; a company that even in its meteoric success, remains both personable and professional—is invaluable.

EVERYTHING important which makes Anaconda’s higher-end Elite Series handmade basses so special and highly coveted, is “in Essence”, fully distilled into their Ultra J Essence Series of basses. The feel and playability are really where it’s at. Andrew Taylor-Cummings made certain that the very same build specs he created for the Elite Series Basses were reflected in the Essence Series; feel, measurements, tolerances, and all. He left no stone unturned, no spec to chance. And he created the Essence Series with the same pride and level of performance he demands in every hand-carved bass that leaves his shop. As a testament to that fact, Andrew won’t ship ANY of his Essence basses without his hands having been on them for QC and final setup. THAT’S how much he cares about his basses and his customers. And THAT’S what makes the Anaconda Ultra J5 Essence THE best mid-priced professional five-string bass guitar on the market today. It is also why, after all those years ago, on that late evening outside of a NAMM convention hall—catching my first very glimpse of that award-winning Ultra J4E-Elite, Andrew Taylor-Cummings and Anaconda Basses had me at “here— you have GOT to try this bass ….”

SPECIFICATIONS: 

  • Body: Alder 
  • Neck – Maple Bolt-on 
  • Dual carbon fiber rods 
  • Frets: 4 & 5 string – 21 Frets, 6 String – 24 Frets. 
  • Scale length: 4 string – 34″, 5 & 6 String – 34.5″ 
  • Fingerboard: Maple or Indian Laurel 
  • Fingerboard radius: 4 String – 16″, 5 String – 20″, 6 String – 20″. 
  • Block Markers: Pearloid or black 
  • Binding: White or black 
  • Pickups: 4 String (Anaconda AC4-TN), 5 String (Anaconda AC5-TN), 6 Strings (Anaconda AC6SB-TN) All Hum-cancelling. 
  • Preamp: New for 2023: Anaconda AC3-TZ Active 3-Band Preamp. Vol/Passive Tone, Pickup Blend, Mid 250Hz/800Hz push/pull, Stacked Treble/Bass, Bright switch (optional), Gain Trim Pot, Battery life LED Indicator (optional). 
  • Tuners: Lightweight Gotoh GB528 RES-O-LITE 
  • String Tree: Hipshot 
  • Bridge: Sung Il BB009 Bridge (4 string), Sung Il Monorail Saddles (5 & 6 String). All 19mm Spacing 
  • String Spacing: 19mm spacing at bridge (4, 5 & 6 String) 
  • Tusq Nut: 40mm (1.575”) Nut width (4 String), 48mm [1.89”] (5 String), 52mm [2.047”] (6 String) 
  • Strings: D’Addario EXL165 Nickel Bass Strings 
  • Finish: Range of Bursts, Solid color, Gloss or Satin 
  • Gig bag: Anaconda Gig Bag, 25mm padding 
  • Weight: Approximate weight 4.0-4.4 Kg. (8.818 – 9.7lbs) 

For pricing and more information, visit online at anacondabasses.co.uk/essence-series-basses


About Kenery Kent Smith

As a music industry veteran, Chicago-based Kenery Kent Smith is an accomplished professional bassist of 40 + years. His musical résumé includes performances with artists ranging from Neo-Soul diva (and former Erykah Badu background vocalist) YahZarah, to Acid Jazz pioneers Liquid Soul; from world-famous comedian Bernie Mac to Grammy Award-winning Gospel recording artist Darius Brooks. He has toured extensively throughout both the US and Europe, helmed a successful New Jazz band Detour JazFunk for 15 years, and has left his groovalicious low-end mark on many an artist’s recordings and projects.  Being a world-class musician was not enough self-expression for him, so Kenery has also become a self-appointed “Worderer” as well, sharing words of encouragement and enlightenment as a co-author in the Amazon Best Seller book, “Lessons for The Little Boy” by author Jaime Gill— and he will do so again in his forthcoming memoir and self-help-ish book entitled, “I Said What I Said.”

Visit online at k2sproductions.com

Bass Videos

Review: The Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps

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Review: The Fuchs FBT-300 and FBT-700 Bass Amps

Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps…

Much like our original ODS amps were initially inspired by the legendary Dumble amps, the new Fuchs FBS-1 bass amps have found their inspiration from the iconic Walter Woods © bass amps, but with Andy’s own enhancements.

Andy tapped his years of experience as a working musician, as well as servicing and tweaking guitar and bass amps for many famous clients as diverse as Carlos Santana through jammers like Jimmy Herring, including jazz legends like Dave Stryker for over 40 years as inspiration for our new bass amps. Fuchs’ 20-year list of reviews and endorsers is truly impressive to say the least.

Not unlike the iconic Walter Woods © amps the FBS-300 and FBS-700 amps are designed for maximum power at minimal size and weight. For years, the rare and coveted Woods amps have built a following amongst industry professionals. They were literally the first switch mode class-D style lightweight bass amps ever. Due to Walter being reclusive and now retired, these amps found their way to Andy’s shop to be repaired. While servicing them Andy was able to reverse engineer the preamp and power supply. Mated to a modern lightweight ICE power digital power module we have produced an amp that Woods owners agree, is equal (if not better) than their predecessors.

The FBS-1 bass amps (and our FBT tube bass amps) share identical panels and chassis and are available in 300 and 700-watt models, they feature a solid-state preamp inspired by the infamous Walter Woods © amps, but with improvements like a steep-slope subsonic filter and a DI output using high-speed audiophile op amps and a regulated power supply. The DI output is electrically balanced pre/post switch, ground lift, DI Phase, and a global mute switch.

Small and light, (downright diminutive) at less than 5-lbs and 12 x 3 x 9, they are loud and clean. Want some dirt? Raise the input gain and lower the master volume. Want total clean, lower the input gain and raise the master. They are super easy to operate, and the FBS-1  amps will easily fit in a gig bag, run ice-cold, and feature a well-thought-out, simple configuration for the working musician. A Fuchs gig bag designed for all models is coming soon.

These amps feature an input gain control allowing both passive and active bass use, Baxandall (shelving eq) high and low controls, a parametric rotary midrange control with level and frequency control and an output master volume. With the midrange pot in the ‘0’ position the circuit is flat. In this mode the bass and treble pots emulate the classic Woods and B-15 style amps we know and love. Use the mid circuit for boost and cut of up to 20 db at a fully adjustable frequency.

All models use the industry-standard Ice power modules, which are known for their rock-solid reliability and excellent cool-running, audio performance. These amps feature a buffered patch loop between the preamp and power amp. All amps offer worldwide automatic line voltage selection. Wherever you are, they automatically set their own line voltage. All amps are CE and RoHs compliant.

FBT-300 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis. FBT-700 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis.

FBT-300: 300W at 1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 260W at 0.1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 380W at 10% THD+N, 4Ohm • 450W at 1% THD+N, 2.7Ohm (Approximately ½ half this value at 8-ohms).

For more information, visit online at fuchsaudiotechnology.com

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Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

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Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

A video review of the Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB-115 Cab from the new Venture Series.

For more on the Venture series, visit online at ampeg.com

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Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier Review

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Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier Review

A. review of the Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier…

If you’re looking for the ultimate bass tone, look no further than the Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier. As a bassist, finding the right amp to match your style and preferences can be a journey, but the Katana-210 might just be your final destination. In this review, I’ll look into what makes this amplifier a true powerhouse for bassists of all genres. I used the Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier on quite a few gigs with no issues and was extremely pleased.

After unboxing the Katana-210, I couldn’t help but admire its sleek and robust design. The amp’s construction is very durable and built great for the road. The front panel features a control layout with well-lit knobs and a clear display, making it easy to dial in your desired tones even in dimly lit venues. One of the standout features is its abundance of tones you can get. With a power-packed 160 watts of output and a 2×10 custom speaker configuration, this amp delivers sound quality across a wide range of frequencies. Whether you’re laying down groovy funk lines, thunderous rock bass, or exploring the depths of a fretless bass, it handles it all with grace, or like me, using it with the Church choir and on country gigs!

The Katana-210 has a ton of tone-shaping options. The onboard EQ is highly responsive, allowing you to sculpt your sound precisely to your liking. From booming lows to sparkling highs, it’s all at your fingertips. The built-in effects, including compression and overdrive, are tastefully designed and add a layer of versatility that sets this amplifier apart. Need connectivity? Boss has it with the Katana-210. The amp has plenty of useful inputs and outputs. The auxiliary input lets you jam along with your favorite tracks, while the headphone output lets you practice quietly without disturbing others around you.  The effects loop is a nice touch, giving you the option to integrate your pedalboard seamlessly. The Katana-210 also offers MIDI compatibility, which opens up a lot of possibilities for MIDI-controlled effects and switching. This is a feature that a few bassists may like when looking to expand their tone even further.

In summary, the Boss Katana-210 Bass Amplifier is a great amp in the world of bass amplification. Its many tones and connectivity options make it a great choice for both gigging and recording bassists. With this amplifier, Boss has once again proven why they are a trusted name in the world of musical electronics. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the thunderous roar of the Katana-210—it’s a game-changer for your bass rig.

For more information, visit online at boss.info/global/products/katana-210_bass/

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Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass Review

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Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass Review

A review of the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass…

First off, I love doing reviews, but this one in particular is going to be difficult! Why you ask? Well, it’s really hard to put a great bass down long enough to talk about it, especially the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass. Spector, as far as I know, has always been known as the ultimate bass for rock, progressive, and metal bassists, and I am here to tell you, that it’s not just for that. I know this for a fact, because I used it at a few church gigs, on a classic country gig, and even at a fall festival playing non-other than, wait for it… polkas!!! The Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass is well rounded for any type of musical genre and the compliments were many. Matter of fact, I was told that I have to play the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass at another gig for an event in December. Why? They heard it and I was told that is the bass they want for their performances.

I want to mention, that many bassists have strings that they like to use and prefer, and while it is quite uncommon for me to do this, only for my most recent church gig, I did change the strings to a lighter gauge, which I prefer. There were no needed changes that had to be made, either with intonation or neck adjustment. The strings that do come with the bass are nickel extra long scale, so if you are going to change strings, make sure you get the extra long scale.

Getting into the nitty-gritty of this review, first off is that it is a multi-scale bass. At first, I was a little concerned, but that went away immediately as soon as I started playing it. For myself, the multi-scale neck was instantaneous in getting used to, not even really noticing that it was multi-scale. Secondly, I set the EQ on my preamp and bass amp flat as it does the work for you. It has an exquisite preamp that is going to be hard to beat. Tones are abundant and I think you will find the many tones, even deep dark rich tones that you can get with the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass to your liking. Gigging and recording with it has made it one of my top go-to basses.

Getting into the specifications of the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass, it is a 3-piece maple neck-through construction with solid alder wings. The fretboard is ebony along with 24 frets, offset dots and the 12th fret Spector logo inlay with a scale of 34-37” and a graphite nut. The electronics consist of EMG 45DC Humbucker pickups, a Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp which consists of +-12dB @70Hz for Bass, +-12dB @500Hz for Mids, and +-12dB @2.8kHz for Hi Mids. Controls consist of Master Volume, Blend, Bass, Mid, and Hi Mid controls. The bridge is individual brass saddles and the tuners are Sealed Die-Cast. All of the hardware is black. It is available in 4 different finishes, White Sparkle Gloss, Gunmetal Gloss, Plum Crazy Gloss & Black Gloss. The bass also comes with a very nice and well-padded gig bag.

Check out the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass at a Spector Music Retailer today near you or online at spectorbass.com/product/ns-dimension-hp-5/

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Gear Reviews

Review: Sushi Box Elementary and More Pedals

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Review: Sushi Box Elementary and More Pedals

I heard about Sushi Box FX the same way I have come to learn about a lot of boutique brands with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic following: good ole talkbass.com.  

As a pedal fan, I kept seeing an increasing number of references to the Sushi Box brand and its diverse line of pedals. I write this, the Sushi Box FX Secret Society (Sushi Box mega thread) has a whopping 18,000+ replies.   Clearly, Nathan at Sushi Box is doing something right, and I needed to investigate!  

Sushi Box sent me two of their pedals to check out, the Hiwatt-inspired “Elementary” and the spartan, aptly named “More.” Both pedals contain at least one tube and are robust, sturdy, and well-built with cool-looking graphics and a slick vented chassis, which shows off the tube inside. Like all Sushi Box products, I was happy to see top-mounted jacks for cables and power supply connectors. I feel like I’m tearing apart and re-doing my pedalboard constantly, and every time I do it, I gain more and more appreciation for the simplicity and compactness of top-mounted jacks.  

Hiwatt’s are known for an aggressive and crunchy tone and were a crucial component of the sounds made famous by The Who, The Rolling Stones, and Pink Floyd. As Sushi Box says, “Elementary is basically the answer to the question, what if Dr. Wattson had a clean channel?” the control layout is relatively simple, with a Gain, Master, and 3-band EQ.   Sonically, I was able to get a wide range of great tones from this pedal. With the gain around 9 or 10 o’clock and the master at 2 or 3 o’clock, the Elementary delivered fat, clean, dynamic tones that certainly felt like I was hearing the bounce and depth of the glowing 12ax7 tube. The EQ on the Elementary is straightforward and well-voiced. Honestly, the pedal sounded great with the EQ flat, but a little bass bump and slight mid-cut fattened things up and made them even more round and beefy.   To be totally honest, for what it is, the Elementary is quite remarkable. It’s a tube preamp in a 9v pedalboard format with a full 3-band EQ and separate gain/volume controls. It sounds fantastic and is very well-built. All that for $180. I’d say the Elementary could go toe to toe with tube preamps costing 2-4x as much (not to mention being 2-4x as large) with ease.   

The More pedal was particularly interesting, as I haven’t seen anything quite like it.

Taking a “two chords and the truth approach,” the More contains, simply, 2 tubes (a 12AU7 and 12AT7) and a single knob. Designed as a tone enhancer to bring more sweetness, complexity, and punch to your sound, many players use the More as an always-on solution for adding subtle tube flavor to an otherwise solid-state rig or pedal chain. Whether at the beginning or end of your chain, the More can be used to warm up Helix-style modeling rigs, solid-state pedals, or class D heads. I’m not sure I’ve seen a pedal of this size (4.75″ x 3.75″) with two tubes. It seems like an engineering feat in itself, and the high current power supply delivers 400mA during regular operation (600-900 mA during the warm-up phase).   In action, the More pretty much does what it promises, delivering not only “more” volume and clean gain but more dynamics, more beef, more punch, and more presence.   I get why people are using it to warm up and sweeten pedals and processors, which may sound great but lack a little of that pleasing dynamic plumpness and envelope that many players crave.

One of the nice things about the internet (and internet bass forums like talkbass.com in particular) is how a brand can acquire a groundswell of interest and buzz.

The more comments on the thread, the more it goes back to the top of the first page, and before you know it, these information hubs become the best marketing tool around.   Sometimes, I think this excitement can create an artificial wave, over-inflating a brand with social capital, and eventually the reality catches up with it. In the cases of makers like Sushi Box, it has launched its cult following into the stratosphere, and their list of great products has garnered a devoted following. Having spent some time with these pedals, it’s very easy to see why. Now, my only problem is that I want to try them all!  

For more info, visit Sushi Box online at www.sushiboxfx.com

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