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Gear Impressions and Luthier Spotlight With Jake Wolf: Roscoe Century Signature 5 String

Review by Jake Wolf
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Intro/background

A few months back, Roscoe Guitars sent us their Century Standard 5 to review; essentially a no-frills, American made Roscoe that sells at a much lower price point than the top shelf exotic offerings they’re known so well for. We were very impressed, not only by the bass itself, but by their ability to domestically produce such a high quality handmade bass with all the top shelf trimmings (Bartolini electronics, hipshot hardware etc…), at a price point that gives a lot of the newer import models some serious competition. Well, we thought it would be cool to swing the pendulum in the other direction and review the tricked out, high brow sibling to the Century Standard, the Century Signature. For those not familiar, the Century line is the newest addition to the Roscoe stable. Its similar to their SKB body shape, but with updated lines and a slightly longer upper horn for balance and aesthetics.

Construction

Roscoe’s are well respected in the bass community for their impeccable construction, excellent fit and finish, and killer tone. This particular Roscoe was no exception, the woodworking and finish work was exemplary. The high gloss finish was among the best I’ve seen, with no ripples or dips anywhere (this bass could double as a cosmetics mirror in a pinch). This Roscoe sports a 2 piece Spanish cedar body topped with an eye popping Amboyna burl top. The Century Signature models include Roscoe’s “wedge neck”, a new option from the Roscoe shop. Compared to a standard Roscoe neck, they taper the center laminate, so that all the outer laminates’ run parallel to the edge of the fingerboard, and hence, match the lines of the neck as it gets wider, towards the body. The neck and the fingerboard on the Signature are both made from Wenge wood, a very porous and dense African hardwood known for its structural rigidity and dry, focused midrange snap. The bass came loaded with Roscoe’s custom spec’d Hipshot A style bridge, and ultralight tuners. The satin black hardware looks sharp and really showcases all the gorgeous woods.

Playability

Roscoe has been cranking basses out for almost 30 years, and when you first pick up the Signature, you can tell. Everything feels smooth and streamlined. This bass really feels like the ergonomic and mechanical culmination of 30 years of refinement in bass building. Its neck shape offers just enough meat to feel substantial, but is super sleek and fast. The body shape similarly feels very comfortable, whether seated or standing with a strap. In typical Roscoe fashion, the bass arrived with a fantastic setup, flawless fretwork and action that was almost impossibly low.

Electronics

Roscoe’s Bartolini pickups are custom made to Keith Roscoe’s specs. These proprietary pickups are only available on a Roscoe. This particular bass features an Audere 4 band on board preamp. A newcomer to the preamp market, Audere has been getting a lot of attention for its pure transparent tone, and excellent versatility. 4 band preamps are not very common, but the dual mid controls on the Audere worked wonders on the Century Signature. This bass has quite a strong natural midrange, due mostly to the woods used in it, and the Audere did a great job of offering ample control of the bass’s midrange qualities.

Sound

I was fortunate enough to get to play the Roscoe on a couple of gigs, and it performed beautifully. With the preamp set flat. The tone was big and fat, yet still sounded nimble and punchy. It had just the right amount of bark and snap in the treble frequencies to compliment its girth in the lower mids. In an R&B setting, my favorite preamp setting was with the Audere in mid Z mode, a little bit of bass and treble boosted, and a small cut in the upper mids. This setting yielded a thick and powerful tone with just enough zing up top to handle modern R&B duties. With the bridge pickup solo’d, gobs of muscular heft spilled out of the bass. I found myself cutting mids more often than not with this bass, and the clean electronics were a blessing in situations that required some quick and surgical EQ choices. Initially, the bass arrived with D’addario nickel strings, which brought out some warmth. I tried a set of DR hi-beams, but they tended to bring out more upper mids, and I liked the warm tone and feel of the D’addarios better for this particular bass.

Sum up

Because of the preamps versatility, this is a bass that I could recommend for many different types of players. It seemed perfectly at home playing fusion, jazz standards, R&B, and even blues and rock (although it was so clean and transparent sounding, that I preferred to dirty it up a little with amp gain or a bit of drive to get a really appropriate rock tone). Everything about the build quality is second to none, the fit and finish was far superior to some of the basses I’ve played in the same price range. Speaking of price, a base model Signature starts at $4495, which includes the wedge neck feature and an exotic top. This Century Signature was a bit more, due to upcharges for the amboyna top, wenge in the wedge neck, wenge fingerboard and Audere preamp.

For more info, visit Roscoe on the web at www.roscoeguitars.com

Jake Wolf welcomes your comments and questions… drop him a line

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